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Janet Jackson

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Janet Jackson - Discipline

(Tuesday March 4, 2008 5:23 PM )

Released on 25/02/08
Label: Mercury

There is something unbelievably painful about listening to Janet Jackson being sexy - the fine line between saucy and embarrassing being something she's clearly never been introduced to. Listing her favourite S&M things, "The Meaning" works her into a breathless quiver which must have had everyone in the studio sniggering up their sleeves. Meanwhile, her 10th album's title track is writ large on lines like "Daddy I disobeyed you / I want you to punish me, make me cry", and enough panting and whimpering to make anyone lose their lunch.

It's a relief then, to find that these shuddering examples of Jackson's rampant libido are in the minority on what is, arguably, her most restrained album in years. Despite the suggestive title and artwork, "Discipline" is actually far less graphic an insight into Janet's bedroom antics than anything she's done in the last decade. It's no less sex obsessed, she's just not quite so desperate to shock or appear risqué, which means, the odd over excited S&M detour aside, "Discipline" spends less time being comical and more playing to her real strengths: smiley R&B and pneumatic club tracks.

Of the former, the Nelly-ish synth sunshine of "Luv" and fluffy cloud of loved-up wonder that is "Rollercoaster" - "Runaway" updated for the Timbaland-generation - are as clean, crisp and adorable as anything on her "Design Of A Decade" hits collection. What's more, the hazy Latino saunter of "Can't Be Good" proves that ballads don't have to be inane and that she doesn't have to spell out exactly where she wants it and how to be sexy.

Back on the dancefloor too, the woman who lest we forget practically invented mechanical R&B with "Rhythm Nation", proves she's still got something to offer. And while the likes of "Feedback" and "2Nite" will never rate as inspirational, they're at least keeping pace with the Nelly Furtados and co. At the other extreme, "Rock With U" - not her brother's song, but a very close cousin - marries her sweet and stomping side for an '80s floor-filler that's both genuinely exciting and sounds 100 per cent like Janet Jackson.

On the other hand, the Missy Elliott-starring "The 1" is "Crazy In Love" without a tune, "Greatest X" is simpering nonsense and "So Much Better"'s sleazy techno-grind is so bad it's baffling. Still, if not perfect, there's plenty to like on "Discipline", and while none of it is exactly vintage Janet, there's enough here to keep the Jackson name on pop's A-list for a little while longer.

    by Dan Gennoe

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