I finished listening to Janet Jackson’s new album Discipline three days ago, I’m still in shock. Not the kind of shock soldiers get when they witness something so horrific their brain shuts off. No, this is more like the kind of shock you get when – well, when you’re watching a Super Bowl half-time show and suddenly you’re face-to-nipple with one of pop music’s original superstars. You do a double take, your jaw drops, and you slowly turn to the person next to you and say, “Did…that…just….happen?” Why was I so shocked by Janet’s much …
DJBooth Album Review
Why was I so shocked by Janet’s much heralded comeback effort? Maybe it’s got something to do with the fact that Discipline is absolutely overflowing with borderline house music, talking Japanese robot-maids, retro-90’s ballads, odes to S&M, a quasi-cover of a classic MJ song, a handful of supremely danceable singles, and an extended intro featuring Janet masturbating while reading the dictionary. Yeah, you read that right. Go ahead, read it again. It’s still true.
I know Janet (Miss Jackson if you’re nasty) has an army of fans ready to take up arms at a moment’s notice, so before an angry mob appears outside my apartment wielding pitchforks and torches let me make one thing clear. I love Janet Jackson. But I’m in love with Janet circa 1993 - the Janet that sang That’s The Way Love Goes. Consider Discipline the funeral for that Janet. The playful 22-year-old who once sang Love Will Never Do on a white sandy beach has been replaced by a fiercely bold woman wearing a black latex body suit, and her once organic melodies have been jettisoned in favor of a sound so electronic at times she’s almost robotic.
Take the lead single Feedback, a supremely enjoyable track that rides the perfect line between booty-shaking club banger and ecstasy fueled electronica. Label it what you want, just make sure you call it a hit. Feedback’s deservedly leading the comeback album charge, but I bet the first time you heard it you didn’t have any idea it was a Janet Jackson song. Come on. Seriously, you didn’t. In fact that kind of electronic ambiguity permeates the entire album, from the decidedly European-club influenced 2Nite to the Ne-Yo produced Rock With U (which strangely has nothing to do with the MJ classic track, despite the title). America obviously loves them some vocal sound effects, hence the T-Pain dynasty, but I’m not convinced this kind of hyper-production has enough staying power to lead a full-fledged comeback.
At the same time, Discipline strays from the techno-edged formula just often enough to maintain a fully human touch. The Missy Elliot driven track The 1 takes the kind of shaking big band sound Amerie’s made famous, adds an admittedly addictive hook, and plays up Janet’s breathy vocals to full effect. The same goes for Rollercoaster, a track with a feather-light pop vibe. It’s a little strange listening to a 40-year-old woman compare love to a rollercoaster ride, but deep lyrics were never Janet’s strong point. Rollercoaster’s crossover appeal should earn it airplay on both ends of the dial and right now that’s exactly the kind of song she needs.
And then there’s the sex. Maybe you’re asking yourself why the album’s called Discipline? Well my friend, it’s because Ms. Jackson is apparently no stranger to S&M and she’s decided to share her love for whips and latex with us - in song form. To start things off she reads the dictionary definition of “discipline”, getting herself so worked up she nearly orgasms, and then proceeds straight to the title track Discipline, featuring three minutes of her whimpering “Did I upset you Daddy? Take out your frustrations on me.” Lyrically, Discipline is easily the most shocking major label release in recent memory, it’s also musically the best song on the album. Now this is the Janet I remember, using her breathtakingly sexy voice to full effect over some slowly burning slow production. I just wish I wasn’t picturing Jermaine Dupri wearing some crazy leather outfit when I hear her sing “Daddy I disobeyed ya, now come punish me.” You’re welcome for that mental image by the way.
After two disappointing albums Janet Jackson is in the once unthinkable position of needing some career resuscitation, and Discipline should certainly bring her album sales heartbeat some life. But is Janet ever going to rule the charts like she once did? No, sadly those days have come to an end, as all good things must.
DJBooth Rating - 3.5 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on 02/25/08
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