Janet Jackson - UNBREAKABLE Vinyl


All four of Janet Jackson's albums released during the 2000s debuted near or at the top of the Billboard 200, as ensured by a legion of devotees. They lacked the staying power of the Control-to-Velvet Rope run, however, and quickly slipped out of view. Jackson left two labels during the decade and dealt with personal matters that included the death of brother Michael. Seven years after Discipline, Jackson returns recharged, and on a BMG-supported label she established, with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis -- the demigods central to her best work -- as well as a small crew of additional associates, as her collaborators. The three singles that immediately preceded Unbreakable were clearly chosen for their range. "No Sleeep," unfortunately present here in its longer form that involves a J. Cole verse, is a first-rate rippling slow jam, ideal for her re-emergence. Second was the title cut, the album's lead track, where Jackson expresses thankfulness over a relaxed and wistful groove, her lead and background vocals in the chorus arranged to stellar effect. And then, to increase the intensity and anticipation even more, there was "Burnitup!," a simultaneously hard and light dance track with Missy Elliott hyping the crowd. Those three songs only hinted at the number of angles worked on Unbreakable. While the album is unrelentingly positive and clean-cut -- a relief for listeners who winced at the lurid content laced through Discipline and certain earlier points in the discography -- it's a little erratic in style and quality. The probing synthesizers, booming bass, and relatively detached vocal in "Dammn Baby" come across as conscious concessions to commercial radio, and a couple cuts are structured like contemporary dance-pop singles disconnected from soul. A greater amount of the productions are better suited to Jackson. She covers romantic contentment and inner strength most frequently, highlighted by the grooving "Broken Hearts Heal" and "Black Butterfly" descendant "Black Eagle," and veers into societal turmoil, as timely now as Rhythm Nation 1814 was in 1989. There are dashes of classic Philly soul and Minneapolis funk, and it ends with a more explicit link to the past -- a whirlwind funk blast liable to prompt Jackson 5 and Sly & the Family Stone flashbacks, all the way down to Tommy McClendon's Larry Graham-style low-end interjections. No one but Jackson can directly reference previous triumphs, address her audience, and yet move forward quite like this. ~ Andy Kellman

  • Format: Vinyl
  • Genre: Pop