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MUSIC REVIEW

Back and Better Than Ever

Janet’s ‘All for You’ Lives Up to Expectations

By Devdoot Majumdar
ARTS EDITOR

Janet Jackson

‘All For You’

Virgin Records

$18.97

Either Janet Jackson has her own unique style that seeps into each of her albums or she’s got an incredibly consistent production crew that does it for her. Either way, she epitomizes all that is lacking in this new age of Brittneys and Christinas, for better or for worse.

Sporting this carefully crafted originality, Jackson’s never shrill, ever-silky voice graces her latest album, All for You. Named after her latest MTV entrance, the album follows standard Janet features and format, delving into experimental beats and rhythms that require a listening or two before setting in.

Despite her newfound “icon” status, Janet delivers vocals with the same awesome range and control characteristic of only the Jacksons. All for You takes that sublime voice and packages it into some memorable songs, and others made for mediocrity.

After successfully proving that even depressing themes can produce good music (but not fun music!) with her tear-jerking The Velvet Rope (1997), she seems now to have abandoned the depression she once knew. With songs entitled “Come On Get Up” and a duet with Carly Simon bearing the famous lines “I bet you think this song is about you,” All for You is all about self-righteousness, happiness, and Janet’s ebullience thereof.

But once the happy Janet surfaced, the angry Janet (“what about the shit you done to me? what about that? what about that?” from an album ago) got stuck with the “ooh baby oooh baby (X8)” genre. Entering that realm known to many of us as “sex music,” Janet is now but the lovechild of SadÉ and Barry White, spawning “sex music” for a new generation.

And yet, All for You as a whole makes for fun listening. Bouncing from orgiastic sex music to bubble gum pop music to soulful ballads, the album contains a true range of music.

The “pop” on the album is definitely not standard fare. All for You brings tingly, disco-esque sensations to the listener, but perhaps more importantly, hip-shaking, head bobbing music. Where it might be lacking in the lyrics department (the words “all for you” are repeated 30 times), it makes up when it comes to innovative instrumentals.

The Carly Simon duet, “Son of a Gun,” brings Janet Jackson the rap artist back from her “Rhythm Nation” days. The song ventures into the realm of the utterly cacophonous (much like Aaliyah’s “Try Again”), with Carly Simon muttering on about clouds in her coffee. Oddly reminiscent of the sampling of Joni Mitchell in “On and On” from The Velvet Rope, “Son of a Gun” is bound to make a splash due to the sheer celebrity power behind it. As with much of the rest of the CD, “Son of a Gun” took a few repetitions to become enjoyable.

Aside from the easily identifiable “pop” on All for You, many songs begin with the casual pattering of a jazz organ, a characteristic element of Jackson’s songs. A pleasant break from the meticulously edited, complex, and saccharine melodies of recent MTV regurgitates like J. Lo and Destiny’s Child, Jackson’s melodies for the most part are simple, pleasant tunes. In truth, they end up being a demonstration of the versatility of Jackson’s voice, proving that she can sound perfect without a herd of backup singers and overpowering background music.

The ballads, emotional and unabashedly sexual, are numerous and catchy. Lacking the signature elaborateness of “All for You” or other radio-ready material, they each have unique instrumentals (undoubtedly computerized) with organic sounds, melding Janet’s smooth voice with the music. Though seeming initially unremarkable, Janet’s slower songs are distinct and bubbly in character. Her producers also have a predisposition to releasing dance mixes of everything, so I presume many of the slower ballads will find themselves reincarnated on the dance scene, with obscenely fast and unfitting techno tunes.

In general, the album doesn’t have any ingenious lyrics to boast. But the music industry abandoned the quest for good lyrics ages ago, so I suppose we review these days simply on sound and rhythm and leave the lyrics business for the Ani Difrancos and Sarah McLachlans out there. Aside from the lyrics, there are a series of odd interludes (a regular element of Janet’s CD’s) that are especially irritating after listening to the album a few times. It is basically Janet imitating Fran Drescher, Janet commenting that “guys are lame,” and other such meaningful moments.

At any rate, bubble gum pop, easy as it comes, gets a twist with Janet, elegantly escorted with acoustic guitars and the whole gamut of computerized yet natural-sounding instrumentals. Perhaps what sells the album, more than the songs, is Janet’s voice and her innovative (and frankly, courageous) use of beats and harmonies. Janet’s voice is as pristine as ever, and, never outshined backup singers, she overpowers every track.

Her sizzling voice in this new, effervescent mix of 14 new songs, with sex music, good pop, and soulful ballads, is ideal for fans and head bobbers alike.