After albums of unfulfilling (but brazenly upfront) material, Janet Jackson reminds us again how incredible her 1997 album The Velvet Rope was. Her new album Discipline sounds like Ms. Jackson is nasty again, but it's a nonspecific collage of slow jams, near-falsetto, and junior year sexual fantasies. It's not for lack of trying; crunchy new single "Feedback" sounds as fresh as anything TLC did in '99.
Nothing is quite as distinctive as Rope or the choice cuts from her most recent, less exciting albums (Download: "Trust a Try," "All Nite (Don't Stop)," "Someone to Call My Lover.")
The Missy Elliot cameo seems calculated and obvious, the nonsensical interludes (which she insists on including in every single album) fail at adding any depth or diversion, and most of the songs--even with the interludes--blend together. It's hard to name a song right off the bat, but I'll try.
"Luv" is a harmless, mid-tempo number that kind of loses some of the energy that "Feedback" tried far too hard to accomplish, the title track is the lesser man's "I Get Lonely," and "Greatest X" is borderline embarrassing as she crowns a former flame as The Best in a sickly, sentimental coo. Towards the end she all but stops singing, instead breezing through the vocals in a near inaudible soprano pant that makes her sound like she's singing flat on her stomach. She might be.
There are some bright spots, make no mistake, as Janet has yet to release an album that didn't have at least a few gems; ironically they are titled as if by a fifteen year old. "Can't B Good" isn't bad at all; "2Nite" is an energetic romp that sounds like she stole a goodie from Ciara; and "Never Letchu Go" suffers from the whisper-vocals, but otherwise comes off as damn sweet.
Sadly all those tracks appear in the first half hour of the 53 minutes, so it's probably best to leave it at side A. The final number, appropriately titled "Curtains" is no grand finale and putters out like 1/2 the disc without warning or satisfying climax. If she was attempting a snuggle-record with jelly after jam of slow numbers, she could have at least ended it like she was into it. Maybe she said it all with "Throb."
10 years after Rope, it would be an excusable slump if it came right after and was followed by a stronger, less self-conscious album mix of raunch and beats like she's been touting she is. But girl hasn't been focusing properly since the fade-out of "Together Again."
Check Out Instead: Justin Timberlake's FutureSex/Lovesounds