Album Track Listing
Release Date: 25 September 2006
Reviewed By: Jeevan Panesar
Janet Jackson makes her anticipated comeback with ‘20 Y.O.’, aptly named to celebrate her 20 years in the music business. With a career that has spawned hits as such as earlier work ‘Control’ spanning through to ‘That’s the Way Love Goes’, it is no wonder she is in the mood to commemorate. And as no Janet Jackson album is complete without her long term collaborators, funk legends Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis also make a return but with one significant addition to the mix: Janet’s beau and super producer Jermaine Dupri, who comes in to do what he does best as executive producer of the project.
On the back of his spectacular success that was the resurrection of Mariah Carey’s then flailing career with last year’s biggest selling album ’The Emancipation of Mimi’, Dupri is hot property at the moment, so it is not surprising that he is enlisted to attempt to recreate the same magic with this production - especially since Janet’s last release ‘Damita Jo’ was a commercial flop.
Unfortunately it doesn’t happen: the mellow voiced R&B singers like Janet require extra bags of personality and slick characteristic production. Aaliyah angelically flew over Timbaland’s heavy beats and oozed mysterious cool; Ciara is Crunk to the core. On ‘20 Y.O.’, gone is the Janet who was in the midst of rebellion and full of sexual assertion on tracks like ‘What Have You Done for Me Lately’ and the calmer, socially conscious and sultry singer who’s personality kept her high in the early Nineties with the album ‘Janet’. Instead we are offered faultlessly slick production and the odd high profile guest appearance with Janet taking a back seat with her saccharine sweet and inoffensive voice.
We are introduced to the indifference that becomes the backbone of this release at the beginning ‘20: Intro’ when she states, reflecting back on her career: “There is something to be said for not saying anything/ I’ve talked about racism, spousal abuse, empowering women, children/ I’ve talked about a lot of things/ I’ve covered a lot in my 20 years/ And uncovered a lot in my 20 years/ But I want to keep it light/ I don’t want to be serious/ I want to have fun.” The problem with this is that Janet, like Mary J. Blige, has always produced her rawest most significant work when there is angst in her life.
Tracks such as the current release ‘So Excited’ and ‘Get It Out Me’ show Janet having the fun that she wants and will be the current club hits, as is their purpose. Rapper Khia injects some much needed fuel to the fire on ‘So Excited’, the track most reminiscent of earlier Janet work, with her sexual prowess over a minimalist and synth laden setting: “Act bad/ Don’t hurt me/ Look sexy/ Talk dirty.”
‘Call On Me’ featuring Nelly is, with its playful melody and warm energy, easy listening but also easily forgettable. ‘This Body’ is a bizarre ode to the male fans who are most likely to appreciate her in the physical sense: “Just had to buy me… you’re in love with the hottest girl in the magazine”. The album displays much needed strength in the form of tracks like ‘With You’ and ‘Enjoy’.
Although Janet retains her signature sexual valour on ‘20 Y.O.’, she has lost her edginess. This release is easy to listen to but is void of any shining personality from the star, with its monotone production and lack of direction leaving the listener unstirred.
Top three tracks: 2) So Excited 9) Call On Me 8) With You
Top three tracks:
2) So Excited
9) Call On Me
8) With You
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