With her newest album Damita Jo, Janet Jackson once again proves her uncanny ability to master the R&B and pop scene.Janet Jackson, who has retained her pop image through previous albums and now continues that track record with her latest effort, successfully merges heavy amounts of sugar and, of course, spice, on Jo.
Working with longtime collaborators Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Janet once again manages to create a sound that’s fresh enough to satisfy while still retaining the sound she has established to this point in her career. Damita Jo may not take the pop queen to any new destinations, but it works wonders with what it has.
The CD is packed with 22 tracks (many interludes, a Janet trait), which range from fast to slow, appropriate to dirty, in no particular order. Songs such as “Strawberry Bounce,” “R&B Junkie” and “All Nite” are sweaty dance floor tracks that emit a silky retro quality.
With “Moist” and “Warmth,” Janet enters into expected X-rated territory equipped with racy lyrics (“My thirst is quenched; Oooh baby we’re so drenched”) and cooing whispers.
“Like you don’t Love me,” which depicts Janet exploring the possibility of kinky sexual escapades with a monogamous lover, manages to succeed as a stand-out track in an area where sensuality and even frank sexual dialogue have already been pushed to the limit in her previous albums such as All for You. Tracks such as “Love me” and “Sex-hibition” manage to put a necessary creative spin on the material.
Occasionally, Janet manages to slip with a few overly sugary ballads such as “Truly” and “The One.” Still, at the same time, one cannot deny the power of the super smooth “Spending Time with You”, which coasts along like an island breeze or even “Thinkin’ bout my Ex,” a touching and unique effort about the hardships of bringing unresolved emotional baggage into a new relationship.
Few tracks manage to capture the energy of “Just a Little While,” which is, not coincidentally, the first single from the album. “Little While” backs itself with guitar and carries the typical stamp of Janet giddiness with lyrics such as “I wanna make it like a dream for you, and turn every fantasy into the truth.”
The album as a whole seems to carry a more laid back R&B sound than Janet’s other albums, and exists as a cross somewhere between The Velvet Rope and All for You. As mentioned before, the biggest flaw, if any, is that Damita Jo really doesn’t take Jackson’s music to any new heights. It’s The Velvet Rope without the extreme intimacy and it’s All for You minus some of the energy. This, however, does not mean the album is not an achievement because it’s quite the opposite.
Though some artists manage to reach a pinnacle and then nosedive off the scene (Mariah Carey), Janet, who may have reached ultimate success with Rope continues a gradual and graceful ascension to the top. Jo is more an example of her exceptional capabilities to use what she already has to create a successful compilation.
Working with Jam and Lewis, the R&B sound feels constantly fresh and only wears out its welcome occasionally Jackson’s voice and lyrics still manage to find a place on the pop demographic without feeling outdated. As always, Jackson consistently makes an effort to make her albums more personable through a series of revealing interludes, which are also present here.
Though the future remains to be seen, there is no doubt that Jackson, pushing 40, is game for whatever comes next. She’s as confident and reassured about herself as she is on what it takes to create a successful pop album, a confidence that clearly flows throughout Damita Jo.