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Opinion – Janet Jackson: Three Strikes, You’re Out?

Posted by ThatsMyJamRadio on June 18, 2008

By That’s My Jam

Janet Jackson recently made public her frustrations with her label, Island Def Jam, who she claims has discontinued promoting her latest effort, Discipline. The album has moved nearly 400,000 copies since its release in February, dismal numbers based on her label’s expectations and by Jackson’s own standards. Additionally, Jackson and IDJ reportedly had disagreements about which songs should be released as singles, and Janet has said she’s cancelled the European leg of her Rock Witchu Tour because of the lack of promotion.

It goes without saying that Ms. Jackson has experienced a number of challenges in her career since the Super Bowl Halftime Show in 2004, where one of her breasts was briefly exposed on national television during a performance with Justin Timberlake. What has remained constant since then is her music, 2004’s Damita Jo, 2006’s 20 Y.O. and the previously mentioned Discipline, though, that isn’t necessarily a good thing.

Take into consideration how well Janet executed her thematic albums. Control was about growing up and declaring independence. Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814 explored topics of race, social justice and education. janet. was a record devoted to sexuality. The Velvet Rope delved into the darker side of Jackson’s emotions brought on by her then-recent divorce. All For You was simply about being happy, having fun and feeling good. Each of the albums are very clear-cut and difficult to not notice their themes.

Casual fans ― and even Janet die-hards ― will experience less ease in doing so with Damita Jo, 20 Y.O. and Discipline. To guess, one would likely think the theme of each is “sexy.” While never a dull subject, how many times and how many ways will Janet explore the topic before those same casual fans, and especially die-hards, get bored? Additionally, many of the tracks display an interchangeable quality, as in “Strawberry Bounce” (from Damita Jo) could easily be on 20 Y.O., “So Excited” (20 Y.O.) could easily find a place on Discipline and “Discipline” would fit smoothly between Damita Jo’s “Warmth” and “Moist.”

This isn’t to say that there weren’t some great cuts on all of these albums (That’s My Jam is still in a love triangle with “All Nite (Don’t Stop)” and “Rock With U”). The problem is that Janet’s albums have become more hit-and-miss, with a few songs grabbing recognition rather than the entire albums maintaining attention. Could this be due to Jackson working less and less with Jimmy “Jam” Harris and Terry Lewis? No one expects an artist to stick to a formula, but when Jackson, Harris and Lewis teamed up, they proved their own ability to produce original music that was both timely and timeless, as well as consistent with the tracks that surrounded it. As time progressed, specifically with the three albums discussed here, that chemistry was very much missed by fans and definitely lacking on the efforts. (Jackson’s contributions were missing entirely from Discipline, as she did not write any of the songs on the disc.)

It appears that we will see no further videos from Discipline, with the number produced (“Rock With U” and “Feedback) matching that of 20 Y.O. (“Call On Me,” “So Excited”) and falling short of those from Damita Jo (“I Want You,” “Just A Little While,” “All Nite (Don’t Stop)” and the unreleased “R&B Junkie”). This is sad considering Rhythm Nation had seven videos, nearly as many as these three albums combined.

What will it take for Janet to regain her status as a solid songstress? Some will say it’s all in the hands of radio and video outlet programmers. Others will say she needs to expand her fan base and embrace current sounds. Others still will demand a return to the Harris-Lewis formula that worked for 15 years. Whatever it is, That’s My Jam would like a solution to be found before we see a fourth option: a complete write-off of Ms. Jackson because of the forgettable “sex” strikeout we’ve been subjected to for the last four years.

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