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Janet’s latest proves to be just average

Shawtina Ferguson | Wednesday, April 21, 2004

If Janet Jackson’s recent Super Bowl performance was any indication that her forthcoming album, “Damita Jo,” would be sexy and full of surprises then her “wardrobe malfunction” was not in vain. “Damita Jo,” titled after Jackson’s middle name, provides a growing Jackson fan club with a respectable mix of pop, funk, rock and roll and rhythm and blues. Jackson collaborates with long time producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis for her eighth studio recorded project. Most notable for her soft and sultry vocals, Janet does not stray away from her trademark sound. In fact, this “girl-next-door” sound presents itself on nearly every track of the 22-track endeavor. Perhaps this works to Jackson’s advantage as her decidedly sex-themed project attempts to set an innocent but engaging tone. Nearly seven minutes into her project, Jackson grabs the attention of her audience as she warns at the close of “Sexhibition:” “Relax. It’s just sex!” Jackson, after giving her audience proper counsel begins a 65-minute journey down an enticing, old school road that is captivating enough to keep listeners tuned in but not powerful enough to claim a permanent spot in the rotation of your daily discman.Standout track, “My Baby,” featuring rap artist Kanye West, is masterfully laid to mix a conventional sound with contemporary beats. Collaborating with West propels what would have been “just another song” into something that radio fans can bop their heads to. Overall, “My Baby” is a fun track that does not attempt to overuse the guest artist as we have seen in many of Janet’s contemporaries, among them J-Lo, as Jackson does not have to compensate for a lack of vocal ability.At significant points throughout the album, one song camouflages with the next and it becomes almost too easy to multitask while listening. This is especially true post Kanye West until track 10, “All Nite (Don’t Stop),” which is slated to be Jackson’s next release. Opening with the spoken words, “This is sick,” this upbeat, dance mix is made for the club circuit and should receive adequate airtime. Additionally, when Jackson commands, “Work it like you’re working a pole/Shake it ’til you’re shaking the floor/Pop it like you’re poppin’ a cork/Don’t Stop, Don’t Stop” she manages to mobilize an audience that began to drift just four tracks prior.The prominent ballad on this project is “Thinkin Bout My Ex” produced by Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds. The apologetic chorus is telling of a woman, currently in a relationship, who misses her ex. Jackson sings, “When I’m holding you late at night/I’m thinkin’ bout my ex/when I’m kissing you and look at you/I’m thinkin’ bout my ex/and I’m sorry I didn’t mean to hurt you/And I know sorry doesn’t mend your broken heart.” Immediately following this track, Janet returns to what is perhaps the most overt of all of her sex-inspired productions yet. With lyrics that are probably too explicit for this review, Janet does not disappoint fans who expect a musical sequel to her “spontaneous” halftime performance. Both “Warmth” and “Moist” serve too keep listeners with specific expectations satisfied.With a record of accomplishment like Janet’s, it is undoubtedly difficult to create an album that exceeds the masterpieces that were “Control” and “Rhythm Nation.” To her advantage, her vast contribution to music affords her a mediocre album every now and then. Fortunately, most of the world will remember Janet Jackson for her mark on 2004, however, it will not be for this album.