Saturday, March 08, 2008

Prepare To Be Disciplined

Unlike Janet's first day period, "Discipline" isn't a bloody mess. It's just bloody disappointing. First the good news. "Discipline" is a marked improvement on "20 Y.O." and "Damita Jo". The album contains two shiny pop gems and a handful of other respectable tracks that would slot nicely on to Janet's next greatest hits compilation. Unfortunately the project is weighed down by a slew of empty ballads, soulless mid-tempos jams and, at times, almost indecipherable vocals. I really wanted to like "Discipline" and was optimistic that Janet could recapture her old magic after hearing the first single. However, instead of embracing a fresh new sound, Janet is happy to wallow in the same old muck that has been slowly killing her career since 2001's "All For You". While younger rivals like Rihanna and Beyonce have woken up to the fact that pop music cloaked in a thin veil of urban credibility is the way of the future, Janet remains stubbornly mired in the sterile world of over-produced mid-tempo R'n'B.

The ultimate blame for the album's failure must lie with Janet because the hired help is certainly beyond reproach. "Discipline" features contributions from some of the hottest producers on the planet. If anything the whole project is a little too slick - as if it were put together by a corporate committee. It's certainly telling that Janet completely abdicated songwriting duties this time around. She seems to have left everything to the experts and lost herself in the process. My other major concern with "Discipline" is Janet's refusal to move away from the slow jams that strangled the life out of "20 Y.O." and her increasingly annoying whispered vocals. Janet has always had a reed thin voice but usually covers it well with clever production. This time around, Janet is happy to mumble her way through the album. Then there are the pointless interludes. The practice is tired and, in the case of "Bathroom Break", downright embarrassing. It's only a small gripe but symptomatic of Janet's habit of recycling old ideas. I don't want to be too negative because "Discipline" is a step in the right direction. Here is my track by track review.

Feedback - 9/10

"Feedback" was slammed by most critics as derivative rubbish but I loved it from the first listen, hence its appearance in my best of 2007 countdown. After two albums of dreary sex ballads and stillborn mid-tempo jams, the return of dance Janet came as a massive relief. Rodney Jerkins has produced a storming club anthem that can best be described as urban house music. Think of this as the album's "All Nite (Don't Stop)" or "So Excited". The video is an embarrassment but the chorus is fantastically catchy and Janet's dirty mouth never fails to amuse. It annoys me when people say Janet is too old to sing about her gushing period and sleazy bedroom antics. Old ladies need loving too! Many reviewers referred to the track as second rate Britney but I don't see it. "Feedback" is better than anything on "Blackout" and is quite simply Janet's best single since "All For You". If only the album contained more material in this vein.

LUV - 8/10

Another Rodney Jerkins production, "LUV" is something of a grower. I wasn't overly impressed by the song on the first listen but it now stands out as one of the few highlights on "Discipline". A bouncy little pop tune with a catchy hook, "LUV" sounds fresh and contemporary. The lyrics are pretty inane and Janet whispers her way through the track but the production pops and the beats are layered with clinical precision. American urban pop by the numbers but this little ditty is entirely inoffensive. "LUV" is already charting on the US R'n'B charts and is a safe bet for a future single.

Rollercoaster - 3/10

Just when you thought Janet had turned her back on the mid-tempo sludge that polluted her last flop album, "Rollercoaster" drags the listener kicking and screaming back to the aural hell that was "20 Y.O." A headache inducing "jam" with no semblance of a chorus or melody, "Rollercoaster" represents everything wrong with Janet's recent output. It sounds like 50 different samples have been thrown in blender before Janet was dragged into the studio to lay down the vocal after swallowing a bucket of Valium. This is one ride I won't be taking again.

Just chillin'

Rock With U - 9.5/10

Moving from the ridiculous to the sublime, "Rock With U" is the best song on "Discipline" and one of Janet's finest offerings in many a year. Janet must have threatened to throw away her 12" inch strap-on if husband Jermaine Dupri failed to deliver the goods this time around because "Rock With U" is something of a triumph. Following the robotic theme of the interludes, this sleek anthem is an effortlessly cool slice of futuristic disco. I love the vocoder effects and the clear influence of French house. This is also a rare example of Janet successfully walking the line between sexy and sleazy. "Rock With U" wouldn't sound out of place on Kylie's "X" and I mean that as a huge compliment. A video clip has just been filmed and this looks to be Janet's second single in most territories. Expect Janet's string of massive flops to end with this gem.

2nite - 7/10

"Discipline" features contributions from some of hottest producers in the industry including this pleasant offering from Stargate, the Norwegian team behind Rihanna's "Don't Stop The Music" and Beyonce's "Irreplaceable". Sadly, "2nite" fails to match the dizzying heights of those two tunes. The song is another fun dance entry but the endeavour is entirely forgettable. I'm not sure if they were going for a retro vibe or just giving Janet their old scraps but "2nite" sounds very dated. The lyrics are cute and Janet actually bothers to sing instead of mumble but I can't help but feel I've heard it all before.

Can't B Good - 4/10

What an appropriate title. Janet reverts back to dreary ballad mode with a fairly typical slow jam, complete with soulless beats and whispered vocals. I miss the days when Janet actually attempted to belt out a tune. Lord knows, she's no La Toya but Janet can do better than this. "Can't B Good" is reminiscent of the ballads on Michael's "Invincible" album - ie. boring and uninspired.

Hey y'all!

Never Letchu Go - 3/10

Jermaine Dupri's second offering is a complete stinker. Obviously "Rock With U" was a fluke because, quite simply, this track stinks. Another weak ballad with almost indistinguishable vocals, "Never Letchu Go" sounds like a reject from "20 Y.O." only with an embarrassing guitar solo that is very 80s and not in a good way. When is Janet going to learn her lesson? Whispered ballads, plodding beats and empty lyrics just aren't good enough. This shit is more tired than Janet's gimp.

Greatest X - 6/10

Many fans have selected "Greatest X" as their favourite song from "Discipline". One critic even had the nerve to compare it to Timbaland's "Apologize". Sure, and "Nu-Di-Ty" is the new "Can't Get You Out Of My Head". Produced by R'n'B superstar The-Dream, "Greatest X" is one of the sweetest slow jams on "Discipline" but it still lacks the emotional punch to be anything but mediocre. Unlike the two proceeding ballads, this effort is well constructed and Jan at least tries to sound invested in the lyrics. This has grown on me with each listen, so maybe I'm being too harsh. I just think three generic ballads in a row is too much of an ask, particularly after the fine selection of dance tracks at the beginning of the album.

So Much Betta - 4.5/10

After three ballads, "So Much Betta" changes the tempo again. Unfortunately the results are less than impressive. Continuing with the album's robotic theme, this misguided effort features grating computer effects and a lazy Daft Punk sample. Kanye West has a lot to answer for. There is no chorus to speak of and the lyrics are a repetitive bore. Think of this Jermaine Dupri produced mishap as little more than an extended interlude.

Do you like my style? Yeah that sexy, sexy, sexy

The 1 - 6/10

I gave this generic effort an extra point for Missy Elliot's amusing opening rhyme: "Tell me how long is it, boo? 7 inches, yep that'll do!" Unfortunately, it all goes downhill from there. Another Jermaine Dupri production, "The 1" is an uptempo song in desperate need of a chorus. Missy Elliot's appearance is a welcome distraction but even she can't compensate for the overbearing production and complete absence of anything resembling a hook. It really is hard to believe that the same man produced "Rock With U". Perhaps a remix could breath some life into this stale offering.

What's Ur Name - 3/10

Another expedition into the wasteland of mid-tempo R'n'B previously explored on "20 Y.O." This time around Janet repeats the song title 30 or so times against a hollow groove courtesy of her career killing husband. "What's Ur Name" isn't awful. It's just insipid and utterly pointless.

Discipline - 1/10

I would rather drink Janet's first day period than listen to this creepy exercise in disturbing mental imagery ever again. Actually, I'm not sure what's worse. The song or the preceding interlude where Janet moans breathlessly about using a whip for "self-mortification". At least the interlude only lasts for a minute, while this drags on for a seemingly endless 5 minutes. Janet begins the song by apologising for touching herself before begging to be punished. I'm all for sleazy lyrics but moaning "Daddy, make me cry" turns my stomach - even if she is referring to her troll like husband instead of her abusive father, Joe. Annoyingly, the production is spot on. This would be one hell of a sexy affair with a little less information and a different singer. As it stands, "Discipline" is a cringeworthy trainwreck. I'm all for Janet exploring her sexuality but she's already covered this particular fetish on "The Velvet Rope". This has definite so bad it's good potential.

Her swag is serious

Curtains - 7.5/10

I feared this was going to be an ode to Jan's meat curtains but it turns out to be a fairly pleasing sex ballad about fucking a fan backstage after a concert. Unlike the other slow jams littering "Discipline", "Curtains" displays some soul. The music delicately wraps itself around Janet's whispered vocals and the trumpet-like hook is a treat. Janet finally comes across as fun and sexy instead of demented and desperate. Rodney Jenkins really stands out as the superior producer on "Discipline" and should be the only contributor Janet calls on for her next sex porn soundtrack. An unexpected delight.

Let Me Know - 5/10

It's somehow fitting that "Discipline" bows out with another exploration of Janet's prodigous sexuality. This is an entirely inoffensive affair. Janet promises to "play your favourite song, wear your favourite thong" before boasting about her familiarity with the karma sutra. We've heard it all before. This was tacked on in some territories as a bonus track, which is pretty reflective of its quality. Give this a miss and download the fabulous "Feedback" remixes instead. Like most of the album "Let Me Know" is sadly underwhelming.


D'luv said...

This pile of shite got one spin in my car, and the only one that stood out was "2Nite." When she's done sandblasting her taco and shoving Barbie doll legs up her chimney, she should get back to making fun pop.

johnny d said...

I'm a huge Janet fan, but she sure knows how to try a fan's patience.

i just wish I could shake her and say, "please more songs about escapades and love never doing without you, and less songs about being wet or moist!!!"

Like most Janet albums the first half is great and the second half is awful.

The Feedback mixes are great though.

Mike said...

Hey Robbie, I felt the same the first time I heard the album. It is a bit of a grower but there's no denying that "Discipline" is a bit of a stinker. Jan's dirty sexcapades don't bother me as much as the endless slow jams that Monica and Brandy rejected in 1997. Is it really so hard for her to work out that her sales plummeted when she turned her back on good, old fashioned pop?

Johnny, I feel exactly the same. As much as I hate to admit it (as La Toya's self-appointed #1 fan), Janet's output from "Control" to "The Velvet Rope" was excellent. It's really quite baffling that she has spent almost a decade making the same mistake over and over. I totally agree about the first half being WAY better than the second half.

I can't wait to hear the "Rock With U" remixes!

Me said...

I really cannot find anything remotely appealing about Discipline - from the artwork to the production, lyrics, delivery and tracks themselves nothing is worthy of praise. Even Rok Wit U is substandard and only sounds good because it is placed amidst such utter shite that even Sticktoria would be embarassed to be associated with...

And the less said about her vile depraved and sickening incest fantasies the better - why the fuck she thinks anyone wants to hear about that...

This "album" is a massive stinking aural turd of epic proportions. At least 20CopiesSold for all its many faults had Khia to inject a bit of life into it.

Scarlett said...

I never really paid much attention to Janet before, but I really like "Feedback" and simply adore "Rock With U" so I checked out the album. I'm afraid I agree totally with your review - Discipline is ultimately pretty weak. Ah well, the good stuff on it inspired me to seek out her previous work, so there's one good thing about the album! ;)

Sure, and "Nu-Di-Ty" is the new "Can't Get You Out Of My Head".
Shut your mouth! "Nu-Di-Ty" is brilliant. :D

Lexy said...

^ Speaking of Khia she has a song on her new album called "Ass Talk". I can't wait!

Hmm I was really hoping for this album to be good. I still haven't heard it yet but hopefully Rock With U will do well on the charts.

Martin said...

I love Feedback, but I love the pics in your review even better. Hilarious as always..

tim said...

Great review... Well it's not as bad as the previous two CD's and there are at least some sparks on this CD.. but you guys are right! How long are we going to hold on until she does a great CD again?... maybe never..

Mike said...

Jay - 20CopiesSold made me laugh! I love "Rock With U" and I don't think the album is a total disaster but it's very mediocre. The Janzis will want your blood!

Hey Scarlett! We really do have the same taste - those 2 songs are by far the best tracks on "Discipline". Janet does have a decent back catalogue, so I'm sure you'll enjoy her older albums. Just steer well clear of 20YO. Oh and "Nu-Di-Ty" still makes me laugh every time I hear it, which is a good thing!

Lexy - "Ass Talk"!! Khia is such a fabulous bitch! I think "Rock With U" is Janet's best chance for a decent sized hit in years. It's a shame she looks like an unconvincing transvestite in the otherwise great video clip.

Martin - thanks! The pics were made by the artist known as MoistSexBox and were part of a series called "Where's Janet?" The one with the royal family is genius.

Thanks Tim. I'm not sure what's going on with Janet. There's half a decent album on "Discipline", maybe she'll get it right next time. I hope so because I miss the woman who made "Together Again" and "Escapade".

bro said...

I love Rock With U - best song she's done in ages. Feedback is also really good and the first listen to 2nite sounds good. The rest of the album doesn't sound too interesting.

I also get sick of people talking about how she is 'too old' and that she is trying to compete with the Britneys and Rihannas. Bull***t. She's just doing what she wants to do. Sure, if every song is about sex it gets a bit tired, the same way it would if she was singing about breaking up on every song, or any other topic. I hope she makes another amazing album (like control thru velvet rope).

D'luv said...

Bro, I hope she makes another good one, too...before she's too old.

Ro Ro said...

Well i loved her picking the most tranny looking pic of herself for the cover. She looks rank and manly on it. I woulda chose the royal family spread instead. I really think she's lost it. I loved Janet in the 80's and early 90's but nothing since.

Brooke said...

It's definitely better than Damita Jo and 2YO, but still light years away from the genius of her earlier albums. Will we ever see Control v2.0? What's her damage?

Adem With An E said...

Oh I miss it when Janet was a bit more fun and not so moist.

This album is very, very moist.

tommie said...

Can't B Good has now been sent to radio. Maybe they're hoping to attract the illiterate radio programmers?