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Janet Jackson – The Best

2010-03-07 15:00
The Best

Such is the case with the tracks off Jackson's third album – some would say the start of her true career – Control (1986). It's vintage 1986, on the cusp of the New Jack Swing explosion that elevated singers like Bobby Brown and Keith Sweat to the top of popular consciousness. But somehow Jackson's work has aged better, perhaps because it has a very direct angle to it. Jackson was not a "new" artist when Control was released, but her new music was innovative, energetic, young, and had pedigree and lots of talent behind it. That still shows 24 years post.

Don't let Jackson's latter-day image of a laid back R&B songstress fool you. Of a family of HUGE potential (and numbers), she is the only true challenger to her brother's crown as the king of pop, even if she is a little more private in the handling of her personal affairs. At one time, even Wacko himself offered a veiled concession that his sister was a seriously gifted performer. Somehow they managed to steer the press clear of what should have been inevitable comparisons.

Even so, from that point, Jackson has notched up a barrel full of hits and chart-toppers. Most if not all are on "The Best" – incidentally, all the tracks are certified number ones on one chart or another. Throughout there’s been some sort of artistic or personal evolution ascribed – From Control through Rhythm Nation 1814, janet, The Velvet Rope, All For You, Damita Jo, 20 Y.O., and Discipline – they’re all there.

Critically speaking, the second disc’s span is a little harder to swallow for non-fans, primarily because Jackson’s work tends to get more indulgent and introspective as she gets older. That’s not a criticism – any artist who has sold as many records and survived as long as Janet Jackson is entitled to produce anything she wants, I suppose. I mean, nobody gets up in Prince's face for doing what he feels like, right? Fortunately there’s the triple play of "Scream" (with Wacko), "Runaway" and "Got Til its Gone" to provide a backdoor to the collection if you need it.

But if you really want to understand what got her this far, best to pop in CD1 and use your best quality set of high-end headphones. If you can resist the groove that locks in "Rhythm Nation", you're probably dead from the neck down.

Great producers produce to great purpose. Though work from a certain musical age or genre sometimes sounds period, great production is pleasurable to listen to even many generations later. Terry Lewis and Jimmy Jam were personally chosen production partners for Miss Jackson when she broke her family ties, and on the evidence of this double CD retrospective, they were great investments.

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