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Archive for Wednesday, April 25, 2001

All for You’ doesn’t deviate much from Jackson formula

April 25, 2001

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By this point, five albums into her lucrative dance-pop reign, Janet Jackson and her longtime producers, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, have the drill down. When it's time for a new album, just throw together a couple of basic floor-thumping tracks aimed at clubs, some suggestive ballads that fall into the category of aural foreplay, a few songs that appropriate their hooks from legendary singles and maybe the odd rock-guitar track.

"All for You" doesn't deviate much from that formula. It's the same 74 minutes of impeccably produced, obsessively clean rhythm-pop, some of it built on the agitated Minneapolis funk that made "Control" a 1986 blockbuster.

Jackson, whose vocal performances have grown more adventurous, handles it all like a pro, bringing poise even to the risque ballad "Would You Mind," which requires her to moan and groan like Andrea True's beatbox-obsessed little sister.

She and her team of more than 15 years are understandably reluctant to rock the boat. But they know Jackson can't keep trotting out endless variations on "Rhythm Nation," especially considering the competition from new-soul singers, the teens who have copped her choreography and the Jennifer Lopez types who have borrowed her chanted hooks.

So on the too-long "All for You," Jackson, Jam and Lewis gently enlarge the palette. The backing of "You Ain't Right" is a collage of sampler riffs; "Come on Get Up" starts with an Indian percussion loop, then morphs into a shooping electronic pulse that forces her to sing in clipped bursts; "Better Days" ventures into a sizzling electro-samba beat.

Jam and Lewis have obviously kept up with the techno fringe, and while the songs' refrains are fastballs down the middle of the plate, they find ways to embellish them with all sorts of unlikely curves and unexpected dissonances.

The up-tempo pieces have to sparkle, because elsewhere Jackson seems determined to corner the market on ultra-explicit bedroom rhythm and blues. She offers several exotic fantasy scenes ("China Love"), a step-by-step lesson in how she likes to be undressed ("Would You Mind"), and tender descriptions that leave little to the imagination ("Feels So Right").

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