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Youâ€™ve never seen Janet Jackson quite like this before. What she hinted at with 1997â€™s Velvet Rope now takes center stage. A bold, honest and passionate artist, she is revealed in all her gloryâ€”body, mind and soulâ€”on her spectacular new album, All For You. The Janet that was raised in a strict household and groomed through TV roles and an initially sheltered solo career has blossomed into a fiercely independent, newly single young woman. Never has she been more free to reveal her innermost thoughts and desiresâ€¦and never have her fans had a greater reason to revel in that with her.
All For You is yet another prodigious effort in a prolific career, containing 18 original songs, all written and produced by Janet with wonder duo Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. In some ways, Janet is still the same girl we watched grow up with us. You will still hear her familiar toughness and tenderness, her humor and intelligence, as well as her sexy, playful side. But you will also hear sides of her that were previously undiscovered, by herself as well as her fans. 'My life has changed a great deal,' she notes. 'Thereâ€™s a new, freer me. There will be a lot of new meâ€™s, and I look forward to meeting them all.' This new Janet expresses her freedom in every song on this album, both lyrically and vocally. 'It sounds very liberating,' she continues. 'You hear it in [my] voice.'
Janet openly admits that her newfound sense of liberty stems, in part, from recent changes in her personal life. 'Iâ€™m no longer married,' she explains. 'I donâ€™t want that to sound bad, but that was the inspiration. Iâ€™m in a different space now. Iâ€™ve been introduced to a whole new world Iâ€™ve never experienced before. I feel like a kid again. All of this is truly new to me.'
Janet is a constantly evolving individual, and her music has developed just as naturally. 'I want to grow with each project that I do,' she states. '[But] itâ€™s not a conscious decision; it just happens that way. I get inspired from one thing to the next. You never know what space youâ€™re in. You may think youâ€™ve taken a few steps ahead, when really you havenâ€™t taken any. So I do what I do, to the best of my ability and, hopefully, I can see or hear that difference once I step away and come back to it.'
Janetâ€™s continual evolution through the passing years has never been a deliberate act. 'Itâ€™s not that I set out to reinvent myself,' she says. 'Itâ€™s just where I am at that moment in my life. Sometimes boredom comes into play. I like to try different things. Thatâ€™s what you see with each album.' And she resists sticking to a formula merely because itâ€™s successful. 'Everyone else moves on. [People] wanted me to do Control 2, because it worked so well. I didnâ€™t want to do that. I said, â€˜Itâ€™s been done. Iâ€™m in a different space now.'
The â€˜spaceâ€™ that Janet is currently in is a happy one. Obviously, sheâ€™s truly enjoying her life, finally having the fun that she deserves to have, as a beautiful, unattached, young woman should. Thatâ€™s what the albumâ€™s catchy title track is all about. 'Itâ€™s from my experience, going to clubs, having fun with friends. You see someone who might be attracted to you, you can tell they want to approach you, but intimidation pretty much gets in the way. Thatâ€™s happened to me all my life,' she reminisces. 'Anyone who Iâ€™ve ever gone out with, Iâ€™ve asked out. Hopefully that will change. I wanted to write about it because I thought it was pretty funny.'
One of the most fun songs on the record is 'Come On Get Up,' with its irresistible club vibe. 'I love that song!' Janet exclaims. 'It makes me want to dance instantly. It has a little â€˜houseâ€™ feel. I just envision being in a club, asking someone to dance. Everything goes back to sex!' she laughs, then adds, 'Itâ€™s about dancing, feeling free, having a good time.'
And who could forget 'Doesnâ€™t Really Matter,' the sweet song of unconditional love she wrote for The Nutty Professor II soundtrack? Janet asserts she had no idea it would blow up like it did. 'You never really know what people will think. I thought it would be a good summer song, but I didnâ€™t think it would be the hit that it was.'
On the other end of the spectrum are the unflinching 'Truth,' and the outstanding 'Son Of A Gun,' a revealing, 'hell hath no fury' kind of track. The latter features the most biting and direct lyrics on the record, with spoken word by Carly Simon, as well as Carly singing the chorus from her â€˜70s hit, 'Youâ€™re So Vain,' especially for this recording.
Somewhere between these two is the poignant and very real 'Trust A Try,' which Janet describes in her own words. 'Itâ€™s about being in a relationship where thereâ€™s no trust. Because of past relationships, youâ€™re bringing all that baggage into a beautiful and new relationship. But those issues donâ€™t give [it] a chance. Itâ€™s about trusting and knowing itâ€™s not going to happen here, about freeing yourself up to love, which can be a scary thing.'
There are a few very sexy and soulful love grooves, too. 'You have your ballads, which are really sweet,' Janet elaborates. 'Then you have your â€˜baby-makingâ€™ songs, which go beyond the sweetness. They get a little dirty--in a good way. You put them on repeat, to make babies all night. Theyâ€™re definitely on this album.' Two classic â€˜baby-makingâ€™ songs include the oh-so-racy 'Would You Mind' and the tantalizing 'Love Scene (Ooh Baby).'
Some tasty ballads of the G-rated, sweet love variety include the blissful 'China Love' and the heavenly 'Feels So Right,' as well as the hopeful 'Someone To Call My Lover,' which borrows the sunny, opening guitar refrain from Americaâ€™s 'Ventura Highway.' 'I absolutely loved it,' Janet recalls. 'Lyrically speaking, itâ€™s about that next person you want to be with, to be theirs and for you to call your own.'
One thing Janet can call her own is the aura of sexy confidence she emanates. Always physically fit, she looks better than ever now, and sheâ€™s not afraid to show it off a little this time around. 'I guess thereâ€™s a first time for everything. Not that itâ€™s usually a major thing. But for me, it is. I was always such a tomboy. The clothes do keep coming off slowly but surely, donâ€™t they? Next, itâ€™s butt naked!' she jokes.
The healthy sense of humor that has seen her through so much is obviously still alive and kicking. Throughout the album, you can hear it in snippets of the playful banter between takes, thoughtfully left in by Lewis to further illustrate the overall feeling of warmth and intimacy.
All in all, All For You amply proves that Janet is truly worthy of the icon status recently bestowed on her by MTV, though she still can hardly believe sheâ€™s been awarded this distinction. 'I am truly honored,' she says. 'When I heardâ€¦I was speechless. It is an awesome thing. I feel young. Thereâ€™s still so much more that I want and need to do for myself in this business. I was just so surprised. But what a wonderful surprise.'
So how would she advise current and future artists who hope to one day follow in her footsteps? 'Stop and enjoy it,' she responds. 'Donâ€™t just keep going full steam aheadâ€¦They need to sit back and enjoy what theyâ€™ve accomplished.' She says the same valuable advice was given to her by her brother Michael. 'That made me really think about how important life is, what you want to do, where you want to go, where you see yourself in so many years. So many [new artists] have accomplished so much in such a short amount of time. They need time to enjoy it. And to keep their feet on the ground.'
--Dina Snow, SFX Networks
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