Tuesday, March 04, 2008


After one week, Discipline has finally reached our shores! I was so happy to see it on the shelves that I bought it immediately, but had to resist the urge to listen to it at work cos I know I wouldn't be able to concentrate for the rest of the day.

And I wanna give the album a fair assessment by listening to it properly without distractions. And after the first listen, I would say that this album is much more accessible than 20 Y.O. Whereas the previous album was heavily slanted towards R&B and hip-hop, Discipline definitely pumps it up in terms of the dance numbers and is more pop-oriented.

First single Feedback is a stomper and it's one of the best songs on the album. The album immediately follows with Luv, another track that is serviced to radio at the moment and it's quite a catchy song. Not catchy in the hummable and singable sense, but the beat is bouncy and it sounds very fresh.

Another Rodney Jerkins contribution follows, and it's Rollercoaster. It sounds ok to me at the moment but I think it needs more spins to hook on me. Second single Rock With U is another fantastic track. I love the running keyboard notes and the beat, and coupled with Janet's breathy vocals, I can really picture myself on the dance floor with strobe lights everywhere.

An immediate standout track is 2Nite. It's another track made for the dance floor and I can't wait to see Miss Jackson shoot a kick-ass video for this song.

After the first 5 tracks of high energy dance numbers, Janet slows it down with Can't Be Good. And contrary to the title, it's actually pretty darn good. I liked it the first time I heard a snippet of it. Potential single material.

Another potential single is Never Letchu Go, which sounds very familiar to a lot of the R&B ballads that have done well on the charts recently. Not that it's a bad thing. It's a sweet ballad with a nice melody and I hope it does well.

Greatest X follows in rapid succession and the chorus is quite nice too. By this time, I can safely say that the ballads in this album are not too bad!

Another memorable track is So Much Betta, which is produced by surprise, surprise, Jermaine Dupri. It features a kiddish sounding vocal track trading verses with Janet and it sounds a little strange, but quite cool. It's the type of song with not a lot of lyrics, quite repetitive, but it works because of how the song sounds. If you understand what I mean.

Missy makes a guest appearance on The 1, and I was quite skeptical at first when I learnt that she would be guesting on the album. But after 2 spins, I think that Missy's rap is quite hot. Though I think overall, the song's beat can be improved. It reminds me a little of Beyonce's Crazy In Love, but without the horns.

What's Ur Name is mid-tempo and I don't quite understand why the song is only 2 and a half minutes long. It's like they turned the fader down early. It's not too bad a track, but the sheer short length of the song makes it feel like a filler track.

Discipline is the much talked-about "dirty" and "baby-making" love song on the album, and it's soft porn for the ears. I'm sure the song will come in handy one day. The album closes with Curtains, nothing very outstanding with this track at the moment.

Overall, it's a satisfactory first listen and it's definitely better than 20 Y.O. There are more hits in here and more club bangers. I really hope this will translate to more hits for Janet and hopefully she'll have a crack at the top 10 singles chart. But anyhow, Discipline is going to open at #1 on the Billboard 200 this week, so congrats Janet on returning to the top!

Besides Discipline, I also finally found the Thriller 25 album in Singapore today. I have already bought a copy of the regular edition in Jakarta last week, but it has only been released here today. So I bought the zombie edition as well. Waiting for the deluxe edition to come out. (UPDATE: Deluxe edition is out already. See first pic)

Maybe it's because of Rihanna's sampling of Wanna Be Startin' Somethin' on her Don't Stop The Music, coupled with Akon's new version of the track, but I'm really feeling Michael's original version of WBSS, Thriller's opening number. MJ's vocals are really strong here, and the beat is insane. The chant is genius also, and I'm liking this track more than ever before.

That said, I also like Akon's new version. I like how he tries to change the feel of the song by starting with a piano and adding new verses to the song. The only irritating thing is that he changes the chant from "Mama-sey-mama-san..." to "Ahma-sey-mama-san...". It's not a big thing, but it irritates me. But I still like the song.

Will.i.Am contributed 2 tracks here. The Girl Is Mine 2008 is quite good and I don't miss Paul McCartney's part at all, which is a good thing. The original is a duet by MJ and Paul, so it's great that the song still worked despite losing one half of the original vocals.

Will's version of P.Y.T. is a totally remake of the original. I don't even know where he got those vocals of MJ from. They don't sound like they were taken from the original because the melody has been changed totally. It's a major reworking of the song and it's surprisingly good too.

Fergie's take on Beat It is the weakest of the new tracks offered here. Fergie tries too hard to match MJ's grit, and the final result just shows how strong a vocalist MJ is. Fergie can try really hard, but MJ doesn't even need to try. He just does it. The thing I like about this new version is the instrumentation, courtesy of Will once again. It's like a remix for the new generation.

Kanye West also contributes a remix of Billie Jean, which at first listen sounded weak. But after a few more spins, I think it's quite good as well. He removed the track's most signature feature - its bassline, and replaced it with his own signature drum sound. I think his intention was to not over-produce it, but let the strength of the song and vocal performance shine. And now, I think it works, so good job Kanye!

The other "new" song here is of course For All Time, an unreleased song from the Thriller sessions. It was wisely left off the final tracklisting because while it's an ok song by itself, it wouldn't have fitted into the powerful 9 songs that made the cut eventually. It would have stuck out like a sore thumb because it was just that bit weaker.

Then there's the DVD containing the 3 most famous music videos in history. The Billie Jean video was important because it was the video that broke MTV's self-imposed rule o not playing videos by black artists. MJ was simply too big at that time for MTV to ignore him.

Beat It marked the beginning of how music videos could be treated as an art form rather than just a promotional tool. It was heavily inspired by West Side Story in terms of cinematography and choreography. And MJ gave a preview of his immense dancing talent towards the end of the video.

Which brings us to the #1 video of all time, Thriller. It was the most expensive music video ever produced at that time, and it had a running length of 14 minutes, which was unheard of then. MJ got John Landis, the direcotr of An American Werewolf In London, to direct this masterpiece.

The makeup and choreography was superb, and it had a storyline, rather than just having the singer miming to the song as if it were a karaoke track. It completely revolutionised the way artists made videos. At its peak, it was shown in its entirety twice an hour on MTV. That's how crazy it was then.

The 4th video included in the DVD is the famous Billie Jean performance on the Motown 25 show, where MJ moonwalked for the very first time on public television, to an audience of 47 million people around the world.

All in all, it's a great package and you should get it if you don't already own a copy of Thriller in some form. Even for a fan like me, who has seen all the videos a million times before, it's quite an attractive package because of the new tracks. I'm glad it's not just a remix, but rather a remake. A new take on an old classic. And that's fantastic.


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