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Music Review

Janet Jackson: 'Discipline'

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Janet Jackson: 'Discipline'
Released on Monday, Feb 25 2008

After two flop albums in a row, Janet Jackson has ditched the deadwood, replacing Jam & Lewis, her collaborators of the past two decades, with a bevy of contemporary hitmakers. Norwegian duo Stargate (Rihanna, Beyoncé), Rodney Jerkins (Destiny's Child), Christopher 'Tricky' Stewart ('Umbrella') and Jermaine Dupri, who twiddles Jackson's knobs at home as well as in the studio, have been charged with steering Discipline, her tenth studio album. Ironically enough, given the title of her 1986 breakthrough, the main thing Jackson's sacrificed by drafting in the new boys is control: having co-written most of her songs for most of her career, here she bags just one songwriting credit. Perhaps, in view of recent form, she's doubting her ear for a decent hook?

At first, Jackson's new-found fondness for hiring and firing pays off. From the libidinous strut of lead single 'Feedback', to the cosmic house-pop of 'Rock With U', a song that wouldn't disgrace itself as a Kylie single, Discipline's opening stretch is sleek, catchy and bracingly modern. These songs will sound great on the dancefloor, especially 'Rollercoaster', a thrilling combination of bolshy, near-industrial beats and white-knuckle tempo changes, and '2Nite', which cleverly updates Jam & Lewis' "bubblegum funk" sound. The initial conclusion? Just in the nick of time, Miss-Jackson-if-you're-nasty has rediscovered her bite.

Sadly, after this promising start, Discipline slips into the gloopy, dated sex balladry that's marred her recent career. The likes of 'Can B Good' and 'Never Letchu Go' are filled with eighties keyboard sounds and cooing harmonies, presumably in a bid to recall classic Jackson ballads like 'Come Back To Me' and 'Let's Wait Awhile', but they're hampered by a crippling lack of melody. Worse still, Jackson's attempts to play the uber-nympho are beginning to sound very, very desperate. The title track, a creepy, Velvet Rope-style bondage ballad, finds her purring: "Daddy I disobeyed you, now I want you to come and punish me", while 'Curtains', on which Jackson fantasises about bedding one of her fans, features a stream of double entendres that would shame Julian Clary. "I promise you, you'll be screamin' encore when I'm through," she vows, desperately trying to suppress a wink.

Discipline contains plenty of nods to vintage Janet, from the vocodered "Gimme a beat!" that opens 'Feedback' to the nine (!) spoken word interludes that pad its track-listing, but, after briefly showing a willingness to update her sound, Jackson bottles it, reverting to her safety blanket of tired, nineties-style beats and embarrassingly lewd lyrics. Jackson's released three albums in four years in a bid to regain her musical relevance; she shed 70lbs back in 2006; it's not discipline that's the problem – it's bravery.


> Click here for more album reviews, including Michael Jackson, The Feeling and Duffy

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