Saturday, November 07, 2009

Janet Is Back...For Real

Janet Jackson is on the verge of yet another "comeback". Ever since the Superbowl incident, every project she has been involved with has been labelled as a "comeback" - the 20 Y.O. and Discipline albums, and the ill-fated Rock Witchu Tour. Now, I hope it's for real.

The truth is, she has never been away. In between those two albums, she also found time to act in Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married?, which earned her considerable praise. Discipline became her sixth number one album and she pleased her fans by fulfilling her promise of a tour, albeit a short one.

Now, on the back of what was supposed to have been a great "comeback" by brother Michael himself, Janet finds herself carrying on the torch of the family. As the world has seen from the This Is It movie, it would have been a remarkable comeback for Michael, so let's hope Janet's "comeback" will be equally impressive.

It began with Janet's tribute to MJ during the VMAs. The performance was an important one. It was the first time she ever performed Scream "live" with MJ, and she reminded everyone that she looked as good as ever and she could tear down the stage just like MJ did. That nobody does VMA performances like the Jacksons do.

That same night, her newly-revamped website offered free streaming of a new track, Make Me. At that time, it wasn't known whether it would be the lead single from a new album. But it was later revealed that it will be included in her upcoming greatest hits album.

The song is produced by Rodney Jerkins, who was the chief producer on MJ's Invincible album. Jerkins had previously worked with Janet on four tracks from Discipline, and I thought they were among the best tunes from the album. Jerkins also recently revealed to MTV that he's working on Janet's new album, due to be released next year.

Perhaps due to MJ's passing and Jerkins' involvment, Make Me has more than a touch of MJ in it. The chorus references MJ's Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough, with the line "Don't stop it baby, don't stop 'til you get it up". (I'm sure you know what the "it" means when she says "get it up". It's sooo Janet.)

The music also features a lot of percussion like in MJ's original. Janet and brother Randy played percussion on the demo for MJ's song. You can hear the demo on the 2001 reissue of Off The Wall.

Make Me also has Janet doing a lot of vocal hiccups and panting breaths, just like how MJ used to do all the time. It's a fitting tribute to her brother, and I really hope it does well.

Billboard has just reviewed the single, calling it "her most appealing and high-energy track since the 2001 All For You...", and it "isn't just Jackson's best dance song in years - it's a hit that would make her brother proud". I totally agree. It's been a long time since we had such strong vocals from Janet.

A fan from JanetXone has pointed out that Make Me samples an old song by Fonzi Thornton called I Work For A Livin'. Janet has always sampled other people's songs and while some would say it's lazy, I think it's even harder to live up to expectations when you're using something that has been done before, especially if it's famous. How do you put a new spin on it to make it even better than the original?

You can listen to the 2 songs here:

Janet was also working on the sequel to Why Did I Get Married? and she was halfway through filming when the news of MJ's passing broke. She flew back to LA to be with the family but returned to the set to continue filming so as not to hold up production.

The sequel is called Why Did I Get Married Too? and it will open in the US on April 2nd next year. Lionsgate just released the teaser trailer and Janet looks pretty intense in it.

The original film wasn't released in Singapore but I managed to get the DVD from overseas. It was quite enjoyable and I thought Janet did a good job. I doubt they will release the sequel here too. We shall see.

It will be a busy end of year for Janet, as she goes into promotion mode to support the release of Number Ones. She has a few high-profile events booked and her diary looks like this:

17 Nov: Release of Number Ones in the US
18 Nov: ABC prime-time interview with Janet at her Malibu home
22 Nov: Rumoured performance at the American Music Awards
6 Dec: Rumoured performance on X-Factor semi-finals, where she will be a mentor as well
6 Dec: Performance at the Jingle Bell Ball in London

The ABC interview is her first since MJ's passing and it will be the first time she has allowed cameras into her Malibu home. Needless to say, it will be a huge event because she is the most credible Jackson left and people will be interested to hear what she says. Nobody really gives a hoot about what LaToya, Jermaine or worse still, Joe, says.

I'm sure Janet is doing this for the right reasons and she's not exploiting the memory of her brother. Of course, the interview is timed with the release of the album, but I'm confident Janet will not say anything just to sensationalise the media. I hope it will be an intimate interview and reveal a different side of Janet that most people don't get to see.

Coming back to Number Ones, it is her second greatest hits album, 14 years since Design Of A Decade. Internationally, the album will be called Janet Jackson: The Best. Doesn't make much difference to me.

It will be a 2CD set with 34 songs including Make Me, the only new song. The songs here have all supposedly made it to number one somewhere around the world, hence the title. Unlike DOAD, they're arranged in chronological order.

While DOAD contained primarily songs from the A&M years (with the exception of 2 songs from the janet. album) and 2 new songs (Runaway and Twenty Foreplay), Number Ones contains Janet's A&M, Virgin and Island Def Jam years, but not containing any cuts from her two pre-Control albums.

All of the songs from DOAD are here, except Twenty Foreplay, which wasn't a major hit anyway. But there's more here on Number Ones. It also includes a few collaborations that were not included on Janet's albums.

Diamonds is a song by Herp Albert featuring vocals by Janet and Lisa Keith, and it is taken from Herp's 1987 Keep Your Eye On Me album. The Cool Summer Mix Edit of this song was included in the bonus disc of the limited edition version of DOAD, but otherwise, it has never appeared on a Janet album before.

What's It Gonna Be?! is a 1999 single by Busta Rhymes featuring Janet. It had an expensive music video directed by Hype Williams (who later shot Janet's equally expensive Call On Me video). It hit #1 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks and Hot Rap Tracks charts, and was nominated for four MTV VMAs.

Then there's Scream, her only duet with MJ, taken from the HIStory album. The video remains one of my favourite of all time, and I'm so glad that the song is on this album.

It's a pretty comprehensive package choke full of hits with no filler, and it's a testament to Janet's legacy as a hitmaker throughout the past 2 decades. It would have been perfect if there was a deluxe version of the album with the 2CDs plus a DVD of all the music videos. Nevertheless, it's still a fantastic collection.

Here's the tracklist in full:

Disc 1
1. What Have You Done For Me Lately
2. Nasty
3. When I Think Of You
4. Control
5. Let's Wait A While
6. The Pleasure Principle
7. Diamonds [with Herp Albert]
8. Miss You Much
9. Rhythm Nation
10. Escapade
11. Alright
12. Come Back To Me
13. Black Cat
14. Love Will Never Do (Without You)
15. The Best Things In Life Are Free [with Luther Vandross]
16. That's The Way Love Goes

Disc 2
1. If
2. Again
3. Because Of Love
4. Any Time, Any Place
5. Scream [with Michael Jackson]
6. Runaway
7. Got 'Til It's Gone [featuring Q-Tip]
8. Together Again
9. I Get Lonely
10. Go Deep
11. What's It Gonna Be?! [with Busta Rhymes]
12. Doesn't Really Matter
13. All For You
14. Someone To Call My Lover
15. All Nite (Don't Stop)
16. Call On Me
17. Feedback
18. Make Me



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