ALBUM REVIEW: Janet Jackson, Damita Jo – BLACKLISTED

Since I cannot quite get through Justin Timberlake’s new album, I have continued to listen to Janet Jackson. Partly in protest to his halftime show, and partly because she is exceptional.

It’s really a shame though. Since 2004, Jackson has released 4 studio albums of brand new music. Not one of these albums has reached the success it deserved. Like I’ve stated before, it’s not her best work (because you can’t top Janet or The Velvet Rope), but it’s not shabby. It’s the classic R&B Jackson has always provided for us with each album.

To continue my series of blacklisted albums by Janet Jackson, I decided to look at her immediate follow up to “Nipplegate,” Damita Jo. 


Damita Jo was released 5 weeks after the Super Bowl performance. Viacom and Clear Channel’s ban of Jackson’s singles and videos contributed to its underperformance. I’m not going to be a Jackson purest. Damita Jo is not Jackson’s best work, but there are some incredible gems within this album.

The album opens up with another one of Jackson’s classic interludes that introduce you to the tone of the album. We are then met with the upbeat and autobiographical “Damito Jo,” before heading straight into an uptempo sex scene with “Sexhibition” and “Strawberry Bounce.” All three songs are incredibly aesthetic to the ear.

Next, we come into the album’s groovy and funky portion with the songs “All Nite (Don’t Stop),” “R&B Junkie,” and “I Want You.” What’s fun about these songs, besides the beat, is Jackson’s vocal tone. She isn’t using her normal sensual purr, but she is dancing with her voice. They slightly compare to “Scream,” her duet with Michael Jackson, in the fact that they push Jackson out of her comfort zone.  The same happens with the closing song “Just a Little While.”

The last takeaway I had from this album is “Thinkin’ Bout My Ex.” With the song’s beginning guitar rift to its smooth chorus, this song returns Jackson back to her sensual side with a flush of vulnerability.


What I really took away from this album is how every one of Jackson’s albums since Rhythm Nation 1814 listens like a novel. Each album is perfectly curated into themes (scenes) with narrative introductions (interludes) while cumulating in a resolved ending.

This album deserves a lot more praise then what it received in 2004. The reviews were tainted with “Nipplegate” influences, instead of objective musical reviews. Although this album did not get its time in the light and greatly underperformed compared to Jackson’s previous releases, it still went on to be certified platinum.

This album shows, even in the face of adversity, it’s hard for Jackson to make a flop.


Check out my first article in my Jackson Blacklisted series here.

Check out my halftime protest playlist of Jackson’s music here.


ALBUM REVIEW: Janet Jackson, Discipline – BLACKLISTED

In my last article, I discussed how there needs to be justice for Janet Jackson. The entertainment industry has blacklisted Jackson since her Super Bowl performance. In a recent conversation, I was challenged on whether I could prove that she had truly been ostracized by Hollywood and the music elite.

And yes, yes I can. Since the wardrobe malfunction, that was in part caused by Justin Timberlake despite the conspiracy theory you subscribe too, here are a few ways Janet has been blacklisted:

  • The NFL, CBS, and MTV asked that Jackson make an apology, but not Timberlake
  • The Grammys were the next week. Jackson and Timberlake were scheduled to present and perform. Jackson was banned from the show, but Timberlake was allowed to perform
  • Clear Channel Communications, who owned MTV, removed all of Jackson’s singles and videos from rotation, but you could still see JT’s latest video, “Rock Your Body”*

Needless to say, the Super Bowl mishap  resulted in the mistreatment of Janet Jackson. Now you can disagree with this statement, but you cannot disagree with the FACT that Timberlake came out nearly unharmed.

Disclaimer: I am a Timberlake fan and thoroughly enjoyed his performance. The argument is that Janet was treated harsher and is ultimately unforgiven to this day, while Timberlake got a free pass.


 

Since the 2004 Super Bowl Janet Jackson has released 4 studio albums. Although I cannot claim these are her greatest works (How do you get over The Velvet Rope and Janet?), they are still excellent mid-2000’s R&B. I have decided to write over a few of these albums to provide some Jackson insight.

First, I would like to start with my favorite from the blacklisted era, Discipline. This album was released in 2008 and was given lukewarm reviews. Four singles were released from the album.

The album opens with an interlude from Janet. During this interlude, it sounds like she is entering a hyperbolic chamber with a digital assistant who is much more inept then Siri. The album then goes straight into “Feedback,” the lead single. This song is heavy on percussion and bass, while providing a futuristic tone through selective autotune on Jackson’s vocals. The song went on to chart at number 19 on the Billboard Hot 100 and has become a staple in her live performances.

After a few more compositions and a “bathroom break,” we are met with “Rock With U.” Personally, this is my favorite track off the album. Jackson delivers another pounding club ready composition with slow and sultry vocals. With hints of disco, this song should rank amongst her best.

 

Discipline is heavy on the club bangers, but it also has its fair share of ballads. The songs “Can’t Be Good” and “Greatest X Ever” are again met with Jackson’s sultry purr. These are a reminder of the iconic sound she has created throughout her catalog.

Now I can’t leave out “The 1” feat. Missy Elliot. Every song these ladies touch together is irresistible. Missy’s candor mixed with Jackson’s vulnerable, yet sexy tones, always create a classic.

Janet closes the album with “Discipline” and “Curtains.” “Discipline” is the sexiest track on the whole album and I don’t even feel comfortable typing half its lyrics. Needless to say, it’s my second favorite track. This is one of Janet’s sexiest tracks since “Rope Burn” in 1997. “Curtains” takes on this same vibe, but with a faster tempo.


Discipline is not the top-notch in Janet’s belt, but it’s in no way the last. It seems there was a lot of drama behind the scenes of this album, causing riffs between Janet’s camp and Island records. The promotion was stopped shortly after the album’s release by Island, causing the album to quickly lose commercial traction.

Jackson said she named the album Discipline because of all the work she had put into her career thus far. Nobody can get as far as Jackson without a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. I think this album could have been a smash if it wasn’t for two reasons. First, was Island dropping promotion. Second, was the industry’s and public’s non-forgiving nature to the 2004 Super Bowl just four years earlier. 

Personally, I think everybody was just being nasty.

*https://www.billboard.com/articles/news/super-bowl/8007041/janet-jackson-justin-timberlake-2004-super-bowl-what-happened

PLAYLIST: #JusticeForJanet

To be blunt, I think it is wrong that Justin Timberlake preformed the Super Bowl half-time. Don’t get me wrong, I like Justin Timberlake and think he is one of the most innovative modern artists, but I don’t understand how Janet Jackson gets blacklisted from not just the Super Bowl, but Hollywood in general because she “flashed” her boob during the halftime show.

In the end, we have to remember, Justin ripped the costume. If we are going with the “it was planned conspiracy,” it’s both of their faults.

I think Bette Midler said it best:

In celebration of Janet and everything a superstar is meant to be, I am compiling my favorite Jackson songs….during the Super Bowl.

1. “Together Again”

My first Janet Jackson album was Velvet Rope. I bought it my senior year in high school. My cousin is a huge Janet fan and she had always told me to buy this specific album. The album hooked me from the beginning, but when I made it to “Together Again,” it was the hook, line, and sinker.

2. “Control”

The “Control” era of Jackson’s career cemented her as a superstar. I’ve always related to this song and respected her for recording it. While many of the Jackson family seemed to stay under the families musical thumb, she decided to be different.

3. “Come on Get Up”

I don’t want to stick with just Jackson’s hits. After I really began to get into Janet’s career, I purchased her concert DVDs. The way she entered the stage and commanded the attention of every attendee during her “All For You” tour proved her star power.

4. “Rock With U”

This song came out my senior year of high school. This was her second single off of Discipline, one of three albums she released after the Super Bowl that was perfect R&B/ Pop, but due to the sexist nature of pop culture, they were not a hit. “Nipplegate” blacklisted these albums. Her material during this time isn’t her best, but is worth a listen…..many listens.

5. “That’s The Way Love Goes”

And what’s a Janet Jackson playlist without “That’s The Way Love Goes.” Nothing can be said about this song…it’s simply the best (***Cue Tina Turner).


So as I sit here and watch the Super Bowl, I have been trying to converse with everybody my displeasure for the halftime show. It turns out that everybody at the party is actually into the game. Odd. I’ve always watched it for the Half Time Show.

In the end, it’s time for a full apology to Janet from the NFL. She has more than paid the price and has apologized. It’s time to let the vendetta go, deal with the sexism that still exists, and give Janet one of the biggest stages in music history.

And most importantly: #TimesUp

ALBUM REVIEW: Sonny and Cher, The Wondrous World of Sonny and Cher

Some artists music has a timeless tone. Whether you were born when they originally made the music or are listening to it years later, there is a hint of nostalgia that follows their albums. One of those artists is Sonny and Cher.

 

I have been going through my vinyl collection and revisit old favorites that I haven’t listened to in years. While I was cleaning records the other night, I came across The Wondrous World of Sonny and Cher. This album is the iconic duo’s second, right after Look At Us, which contained the hit single “I Got You Babe.”

Although this album was not as popular or successful as their previous, it still contained the top twenty hits “But You’re Mine” and “What Now My Love.” The album also takes a deep dive into the groove that Sonny and Cher moved too. Even in the liner notes Sonny and Cher Write:

In our first album we introduced our family to you …on this album we thought it would be nice if we got to be friends personally.

The album opens with the Gershwin tune, “Summertime.” Cher’s vocals are very jazzy and I would love to lift them off this recording and set them to a piano or jazz quartet.

 

Unlike some of their previous recordings, Sonny had his own verse in nearly every song on this album. He often gets slack for his perceived lack of vocal talent, but he carried “Summertime” and many of the other tunes. The same can be said for “I’m Leaving it Up to You” and “Set Me Free.”

Side 2 opens with “What Now My Love.” This is one of my favorite songs, but I usually fancy the more ballad-esque version. Their version of this classic tune was the only version that reached the top twenty in the U.S. and U.K. Sonny and Cher made this song their own by giving it a 1960’s pop twist while leaving the ballad elements behind.

The shining moments on this album were Sonny and Cher’s solo pieces. Sonny sang “Laugh at Me,” which he also wrote, while Cher sang Harry Belafonte’s “Turn Around.” Sonny’s “Laugh at Me” is an anthem of self-acceptance, basically saying that “normal” doesn’t exist. Sonny is telling people to do what you want and express yourself. You have just as much right to be yourself as they do to criticize.

Then there are Cher’s haunting vocals on “Turn Around.” This is a gem of her early career that gets overlooked. It is a heavy Phil Spector inspired ballad that I think could have been a hit.

What I take away from this album are Sonny’s vocals. Although we know him as always being the butt of the joke and second when it comes to Cher’s vocals, he really is underestimated in what he can do. I’m not saying he’s Pavarotti, but he shouldn’t be tossed under the table. Read my article over his only solo album here.

Sonny and Cher will always have that special nostalgia. No matter where you are, or what song you hear them singing, it reminds you of something. From memories of watching the Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour to having just pure joy when you hear their voices, their music is timeless and affects every age. They truly created a wondrous world that has stood the test of time.