The Times reviews Damita Jo


Here is a very positive review from The Times which gave Damita Jo a four out of five star rating! The newspaper edition also prints a previously unseen photo of Janet performing on her UK promo tour.

JANET JACKSON is The Most Looked Up Lady On The Internet. The question is not how did it happen to the sweetest-sounding member of the Jackson clan — think of Super Bowl, Justin, wardrobe malfunction — but how come it took so long?

It has been more than a decade since Jackson first tried to outrage Middle America. In 1993 she posed for the cover of her fifth album naked from the waist up, jeans unzipped and with a bloke’s hands on her breasts. But when the CD hit the shops, the shot had been cropped at the shoulders.

What the censors couldn’t hide, however, was Jackson’s obsession with sex. The album was packed with tracks about her bedroom exploits and even spawned a hit, If, that was an ode to oral sex.

Ever since, Jackson has been doing the dirty in public, although few people noticed and none ever seemed to take offence. Her last album, All for You, in 2001, may have been musically patchy, but there were lots of steamy lyrics and, on Son of a Gun, the standout collaboration with Carly Simon, even hardcore swear words. By then, Jackson was stripping off as often as possible, but at worst, she was seen as a little bit bad. Naughty perhaps, but still nice.

So you can hardly blame her for flashing an impressively decorated nipple. How else was she supposed to make people listen? And if you still can’t understand why she did it, Damita Jo might explain. Jackson’s eighth album (the title, apparently, is her middle names) is a 22-track masterpiece that, if you don’t pay enough attention, you might dismiss as frothy dance-pop. On first listen, admittedly, there’s little that gets up and grabs you. It’s all perfectly pleasant, slickly produced and toe-tappingly catchy, but there’s no new musical ground broken and no songs that sound like a No 1 single.

Two plays later, however, and Damita Jo reveals itself to be something rather special. Suddenly, rather than sounding like a take on Jazzy Jeff’s Summertime, the opening title track turns out to be a clever, classy, hip-shaking song with a groove that’s hard to get out of your head. Singles are popping up everywhere: the gorgeous, guitar-backed Island Life, with its mid-song strings break, the Evelyn “Champagne” King sampling, peak-era Prince-style R&B Junkie, and My Baby, featuring the hot new hip-hop star Kayne West.

Her vocals have taken an adventurous turn — rather than just sounding sweet, she trips out lines in time to a beat, half-raps, hits high notes like her brother Michael and gasps as though she’s singing while, well, having sex.

And while we’re on the subject (again) there’s hardly a song here that Jackson keeps her clothes on for. On Strawberry Bounce, she’s teasing a man on his knees, Warmth is an explicit description of the act of arousal and on Moist, well, enough said.

Ironically, these are Jackson’s least personal lyrics for years. In the past her albums have had some sort of relationship story. On Damita Jo, she seems to be having random action all over the place — on a beach in Island Life, or on a weekend at home in Spending Time with You. Good God, the girl can’t even go clubbing without getting X-rated over the vibrations of the bass — the superb Herbie Hancock-sampling All Night (Don’t Stop).

On its own, of course, singing about sex isn’t enough to make a great album. It didn’t work on All for You. This time though, Jackson’s longtime collaborators, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, and those old R&B hands Dallas Austin and Babyface, have all stepped up to the challenge.

Their style may sound a little dated — there’s no nicking from the Neptunes here. Rather than the sparse beats most R&B stars demand these days, Jackson has encouraged them to throw layers of keyboards, bass, handclaps, brass, strings and backing vocals or raps into the mix. So it doesn’t sound like typical 21st-century R&B, but then there’s enough of that around already.

Now here’s the odd part. Tacked on to the end of the album is an average, uptempo pop song called Just a Little While. And it’s the first single. Why? Probably because Jackson’s nipple caused such a fuss, it was thought too risqué to release a sex song. Talk about missing the point.