In a new interview with Gary Graff for the New York Times syndicate, Janet speaks about Discipline, her love of touring and much more. Read the article below:
Janet Jackson finds freedom in ‘Discipline’
“This album is very up,” she says. “It’s very dance, It’s very hopping, it’s very feel-good. And it has some moments of some thought-provoking things … but, still, it’s a very nice mood.
“I think it’s a fun album.”
And fun is something that Jackson says she has recaptured after some trying times in recent years.
Now four years removed from “nipplegate,” the Super Bowl “wardrobe malfunction” fiasco that effectively harpooned the commercial prospects of her next two albums, “Damita Jo” (2004) and “20 Y.O.” (2006), she’s also more than four years into a relationship with producer / songwriter / record-company executive Jermaine Dupri after two sensationalized, initially secret marriages, to fellow singer James DeBarge in 1984 and to Rene Elizondo from 1991 to 2003.
All these positive developments, she hopes, are conveyed on “Discipline.”
“It plays an important role,” says the 41-year-old Jackson, who has sold more than 100 million albums since her self-titled debut in 1982. “I’ve always been the kind of artist that sings about life experience and where I am at that very moment of my life, from ‘Control’ (1986) on. So once again your (music) really reflects where you are in your life.
“And if I was in a funky, very down space,” she says, “that’s what I would probably be searching for musically. But this time it’s really just the opposite.”
Fans have certainly responded to that good feeling. “Discipline” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart after its release in late February, marking the sixth chart-topper of her career and her first No. 1 debut in seven years. The first single, “Feedback,” made her best chart showing since “Someone To Call My Lover” (2001).
“Damita Jo” and “20 Y.O.” each debuted at No. 2, but ironically each sold better in its first week than “Discipline” did. Jackson isn’t letting that fact, which reflects an industrywide sales decline, rain on her parade. She’s simply happy to have a No. 1 hit.
“It’s always a thrill,” she says, “and I haven’t gotten tired of it yet. It’s always exciting.”
“Discipline” marks another major change in the musical life of Jackson, who as the youngest member of the famed Jackson clan initially came to prominence as an actress on the television shows “Good Times” (1977-1979) and “Diff’rent Strokes” (1980-1984): She and Dupri have fled Virgin Records, her home for her past five albums, in favor of Island Def Jam, and she credits the new label for the album’s initial success.
“I think the energy you feel really is the new label and having the support of the whole company,” she says, “vs. the support of only half the company for the last two projects.”
There were extensive personnel changes at Virgin, Jackson explains, and she felt that her place at the label had changed.
“We just didn’t see eye to eye anymore,” she says. “It wasn’t my family anymore. Before I knew it, everyone was gone except for one person, and that’s when things started to change. And then my contract was up, and I went to Island and finally got support from the entire record label. There’s a family atmosphere there that feels like Virgin in my beginning years with them.”
Island was so excited to land Jackson that company executives asked her to return to the recording studio immediately, even though she was in “full-blown tour mode,” rehearsing to support “20 Y.O.” The quick decision to move forward caught her without any songs of her own ready to go, so for the first time since “Dream Street” (1984) Jackson has released an album without any of her own songs.
“It was very different for me,” she admits, “but I was OK with that. I’m not the kind of person that has to (write) just so that my name is seen somewhere. If it’s great, then it’s great. If it’s great without me, that’s totally fine. I just want to put the best thing I can forward.”
Once word got out that Jackson was returning to the studio, there was no shortage of material for her and Dupri to consider.
“I just started listening to stuff that people had written for me,” the singer says, “and I started liking things, and those were the things that I picked and that’s how I first started recording this album.
“(A song) just had to have a life connection to myself, something I could relate to in some sort of way,” Jackson says, “or else I didn’t want to do it. I’ve heard songs that were written for me that were given to other artists and were hits for those other artists, and I could hear that they were hit songs, but I couldn’t relate to it.”
Her primary creative goal for “Discipline,” she says, was to create something that was “all about classic me but with a modern twist to it.” She also wanted something with a beat.
“I missed dancing, so it was about getting back in the dance,” Jackson says. “But you still get a feel for a couple of midtempos and slow stuff, and even what everybody calls the ‘baby-making songs.’ But it’s still classic me.”
Part of that “life connection” Jackson sought surfaces in the title song, a pillow-talking track on which she coos about an affinity for sexual sadomasochism, singing “I misbehaved/and my punishment should fit my crime.”
It’s not the first time she has touched on the topic, including previous songs such as “Someday Is Tonight” (1989), “Any Time, Any Place” (1993), “Rope Burn” (1997) and “Would You Mind?” (2001), Jackson points out, so she’s a bit surprised that “a lot of people seem to be focusing on, ‘Oh, this is … wow!’”
“It’s not something that I haven’t done before,” she says. “It’s very sensual and it’s, like it says, wanting to be disciplined by that person you’re really feeling or in love with. It shocks me that people are taken aback because, like, the whole ‘Janet’ (1993) album was really about being liberated and coming more into my womanhood … so I don’t know why they’re paying more attention to it now.
“If they want to call me freaky,” she says, “then so be it. I guess I’ve been that way since the beginning.”
Then again, being part of the Jackson family and particularly being Michael’s younger sister, “freaky” is one of the more polite terms she hears from time to time.
“People pay very close attention to my family,” Jackson says, “and I guess there’s a pro and a con to that. There’s always that scrutiny. I’ve seen other people get it. I don’t know if they’ve gotten it as strongly as my family has, but it is what it is.”
Jackson will be putting herself out to be looked at this fall when she launches a world tour in support of “Discipline.” The tour, which Jackson promises will be “big, it’s always been big,” will kick off in North America in mid-September and move on to territories such as Australia, Asia, Africa and Europe.
“It’s been seven years,” Jackson says, “and I have missed it. It means a great deal to me. When I’m creating music or singing the music (in the studio), I think about the stage performance. I think about the tour. The idea starts that early on for me.
“And I love being able to see the sea of faces, to have that connection, to feel that love,” she says. “That’s exciting for me.”
Jackson also plans to publish a book about her struggle with weight issues and about “being an emotional eater,” co-written with nutritionist David Allen, that she hopes to have out by the end of the year.