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Pop - Released January 25, 1986 | A&M

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
Although Janet Jackson had released two records in the early '80s, they were quickly forgotten, and notably shaped by her father's considerable influence. Janet's landmark third album, 1986's Control, changed all that. On the opening title track, Jackson, with passion and grace, declares her independence, moving out of the gargantuan shadow of her brother Michael and on to the business of making her own classic pop album. The true genius of Control lies in the marriage of her extremely self-assured vocals with the emphatic beats of R&B production wizards Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. The duo was already well established in the music industry, but the practically flawless Control showcased Jam and Lewis' true studio mastery. For the better part of two years, Janet remained on the pop chart, with two-thirds of the album's tracks released as singles, including the ever-quotable "Nasty," the assertive "What Have You Done for Me Lately," the frenetically danceable "When I Think of You," and the smooth, message-oriented ballad "Let's Wait Awhile." Jackson achieved long-awaited superstar status and never looked back. © Jason Thurston /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 25, 1986 | A&M

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Although Janet Jackson had released two records in the early '80s, they were quickly forgotten, and notably shaped by her father's considerable influence. Janet's landmark third album, 1986's Control, changed all that. On the opening title track, Jackson, with passion and grace, declares her independence, moving out of the gargantuan shadow of her brother Michael and on to the business of making her own classic pop album. The true genius of Control lies in the marriage of her extremely self-assured vocals with the emphatic beats of R&B production wizards Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. The duo was already well established in the music industry, but the practically flawless Control showcased Jam and Lewis' true studio mastery. For the better part of two years, Janet remained on the pop chart, with two-thirds of the album's tracks released as singles, including the ever-quotable "Nasty," the assertive "What Have You Done for Me Lately," the frenetically danceable "When I Think of You," and the smooth, message-oriented ballad "Let's Wait Awhile." Jackson achieved long-awaited superstar status and never looked back. © Jason Thurston /TiVo
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R&B - Released January 1, 1993 | Virgin Records

After Control and Rhythm Nation 1814, Janet Jackson had quite a lot to live up to. Anyone who expected Jackson to top Rhythm Nation -- her crowning achievement and an incredibly tough act to follow -- was being unrealistic. But with janet., she delivered a respectable offering that, although not as strong as either Control or Nation, has many strong points. As before, Jackson is joined by the prolific Jimmy Jam/Terry Lewis team, and their input is valuable on everything from the angry "This Time" and the hypnotic "That's the Way Love Goes" to the '60s-flavored "What'll I Do" and the sociopolitical "The New Agenda" (which features Public Enemy leader Chuck D). But perhaps the CD's most exciting track is "Funky Big Band," which samples jazz legend Lionel Hampton's 1938 big-band classic "I'm in the Mood for Swing" with thrilling results. There are a few throwaways (including the lightweight ballad "Again"), but despite its shortcomings, janet. is a welcome addition to her catalog. © Alex Henderson /TiVo
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R&B - Released October 7, 1997 | Virgin Records

Where janet., Ms. Jackson's third blockbuster album, implied sexuality with its teasing cover and seductive grooves, its sequel, The Velvet Rope, is sexually explicit, offering tales of bondage, body piercing, and bisexuality. Not that you'd necessarily know that from listening to The Velvet Rope, since the album sags with endless interludes, murmured vocals, and subdued urban grooves. Working with her mainstays Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Jackson essentially reworks the hushed atmosphere of janet., neglecting to put a new sonic spin on the material -- for an album that wants to push the limits, it sounds surprisingly tame. Similarly, Jackson's attempts to broaden her sexual horizons frequently sound forced, whether it's the references to piercing or her recasting of Rod Stewart's "Tonight's the Night" as a lesbian anthem. Furthermore, the album is simply too long, which means the best moments sink into the murk. And that's unfortunate, because there are good moments on The Velvet Rope, but at its running time of 70-plus minutes and 22 tracks, it's hard to work up the patience to find them. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop - Released October 10, 1995 | A&M

Design of a Decade: 1986-1996 is a misleading title. The bulk of Janet Jackson's greatest-hits collection concentrates on Control and Rhythm Nation 1814, simply by contractual necessity. That is far from a fatal flaw. The hits from those two albums were state-of-the-art dance-pop productions at the time of their release, filled with bottomless beats and memorable, catchy hooks. None of the songs has lost any of its impact, from the funk of "Miss You Much" and "What Have You Done for Me Lately," to the ballads "Let's Wait Awhile" and "Come Back to Me." In addition to all 13 Top 40 hits from Control and Rhythm Nation -- all but one went into the Top Five -- Design of a Decade includes the biggest and best hit from janet., the sultry "That's the Way Love Goes," and two new songs, "Runaway" and "Twenty Foreplay." It's a credit to Janet that the two new numbers feel like genuine hits, not tacked-on filler, and help make the album a compulsively listenable greatest-hits collection. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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R&B - Released January 1, 2001 | Virgin Records

The Velvet Rope was a fairly bold move on Janet Jackson's part, as she got seriously sexy -- too serious, actually, since it had a fairly bitter tone, underscored by hints of perversity. Four years later, marked by one hidden marriage revealed through a divorce, Janet returned with All for You, an album that is as about sex as much as The Velvet Rope, yet there's a key difference -- it feels sexy, not pornographic. With her trusty collaborators Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis in tow, she's created a record that's luxurious and sensual, spreading leisurely over its 70 minutes, luring you in even when you know better. And there are certainly moments that make you wish you knew better. For one, it's plotted like The Velvet Rope, filled with skits and deliberately recalling the record with its obsession with flesh and how it builds on '70s soul and soft rock. This time around, instead of Joni Mitchell, she appropriates America's "Ventura Highway" for "Someone to Call My Lover," one of the record's best cuts, and "interpolates" Carly Simon's "You're So Vain" on "Son of a Gun," with Simon singing and...well, I guess you could call it rapping...right along. The twist is, this is an anti-music industry song and a particularly foul-mouthed entry on the album, sitting comfortably alongside another industry song, the slow groove "Truth." And that fills out the three main themes of the album -- divorce, industry, and sex -- with a little bit of love on the side. These keep things humming throughout this overly sultry, overlong album, which intrigues with its very texture even as it lulls at its length. After all, there's a lot to be said for texture, and All for You is alluring, easily enveloping the listener. Though it's hardly as explicit as The Velvet Rope, apart from a section where she proclaims "I just want to suck you, taste you, ride you, feel you, make you come -- come inside of me" (mind you, this album did not have a parental advisory sticker on its first pressings), this is her sexiest-sounding record, thanks to Jam and Lewis' silky groove and her breathy delivery, two things that make the record palatable throughout too many spoken interludes and songs that just don't quite click. Even if there is a fair share of filler, this is hardly as strained as The Velvet Rope (though in many respects, it's every bit as self-conscious), and there's an ease to its construction, topped off by such songs as "All for You" and "Doesn't Really Matter" that maintain Janet, Jam, and Lewis' reputation as the leading lights of contemporary urban soul. It'd be nicer if the album was leaner, concentrating on just the great songs, but indulgence is what this record encourages. Janet sprawls out throughout the album, indulging her whims, desires, and fantasies, but -- fortunately for us -- her indulgences are alluring in their self-absorption. Of course, it helps to have Jam and Lewis on your side to articulate your indulgence. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Soul/Funk/R&B - Released September 7, 1989 | A&M

After shocking the R&B world with 1986's Control -- a gutsy, risk-taking triumph that was a radical departure from her first two albums -- Michael and Jermaine Jackson's younger sister reached an even higher artistic plateau with the conceptual Rhythm Nation 1814. Once again, she enlists the help of Time graduates Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis (one of the more soulful production/songwriting teams of 1980s and '90s R&B) with wildly successful results. In 1989, protest songs were common in rap but rare in R&B -- Janet Jackson, following rap's lead, dares to address social and political topics on "The Knowledge," the disturbing "State of the World," and the poignant ballad "Living in a World" (which decries the reality of children being exposed to violence). Jackson's voice is wafer-thin, and she doesn't have much of a range -- but she definitely has lots of soul and spirit and uses it to maximum advantage on those gems as well as nonpolitical pieces ranging from the Prince-influenced funk/pop of "Miss You Much" and "Alright" to the caressing, silky ballads "Someday Is Tonight," "Alone," and "Come Back to Me" to the pop/rock smoker "Black Cat." For those purchasing their first Janet Jackson release, Rhythm Nation would be an even wiser investment than Control -- and that's saying a lot. © Alex Henderson /TiVo
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Pop - Released March 21, 1990 | A&M

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R&B - Released January 1, 1997 | Virgin Records

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Soul/Funk/R&B - Released October 2, 2015 | BMG Rights Management (US) LLC

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Unbreakable. It’s written all over it. It’s 2015, and Janet Jackson is still… unbreakable? Baptizing her eleventh studio album thus, her first since 2008’s Discipline, and of course her first since the death of her legendary brother in 2009, the star makes a comeback like only the Jackson family know how. The greatest strength of Unbreakable is its ability to merge Janet’s iconic voice (which was ever-present in the late ‘80s and the ‘90s) with the significant sounds of 2015. The result is a mélange of nu-soul, funk, and light R&B that serves as the backdrop for the voice of a singer still at the top of her game. The disc largely eschews guest spots (only Missy Elliott and J. Cole take turns), and Janet proves once more that she is a complete artist in her own right. Approaching 50 years, Michael’s younger sister never tries to appropriate the style of younger, teenage artists. This is a blossoming woman, mistress of her artistic world and, simply put… unbreakable! © CM/Qobuz
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R&B - Released January 1, 2004 | Virgin Records

"Relax, it's just sex," Janet Jackson murmurs at the conclusion of "Sexhibition," the third song on her eighth album, Damita Jo. Those words were recorded long before Jackson wound up America with her breast-baring exploits at the halftime show at the 2004 Super Bowl, but they nevertheless play like an casual response to the hysteria that engulfed the nation following her infamous "wardrobe malfunction." But, really, they're there to head off any criticism that could be leveled at Damita Jo, yet another album that finds Janet exploring her sexuality, a voyage she's been on for about 11 years (Magellan and his crew circled the globe in a third that time, but hey, who's counting?). While sex indisputably fuels much great pop music, it isn't an inherently fascinating topic for pop music -- as with anything, it all depends on the artist. Prince, of course, found an endless amount of ways to write intriguingly about sex, since it fired his imagination, a quality that has been missing on Janet's albums since 1993's janet.. With its preponderance of slow-tempo, sensual grooves, sexual imagery, occasional up-tempo jams, and endless spoken interludes, it provided the blueprint for every record she made since, from the heavy eroticism of 1997's The Velvet Rope to the bedroom sighs of 2001's All for You. The latter suggested that she was abandoning the explicitness of The Velvet Rope, but Damita Jo proves that she was merely flirting with modesty, since it's as explicit as pop music gets. Actually, it's the aural equivalent of hardcore pornography -- it leaves nothing to the imagination and it's endlessly repetitive. Like a porn star, Janet adopts an alter ego built on her middle name ("There's another side that you will never know: Damita Jo"), provides detailed oral-sex manuals with "Warmth" and "Moist," nicknames her clitoris, and tosses around allusions to a variety of taboo sex acts; in this context, all the interview snippets scattered throughout the record -- "I love curling up with a good book and relaxing by the ocean with my baby," "When you look at me, do you want me?" -- recall nothing less than a Playboy or Penthouse centerfold confessing her turn-ons. Such doggedly literal lyrics lack any sensuality, and weigh Damita Jo down. If the music had its own sensuality or spark, it'd be easier to forgive or overlook Jackson's whispered vulgarities, but the album's slow grooves blend together, lacking rhythmic or melodic hooks. Jackson disappears into the productions, once again largely the responsibility of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, becoming part of the arrangement instead of standing in front of it. And while there are a couple of cuts that do cut through the slow-groove loops -- on the slower side, "I Want You" has a verse that's memorable, while "Just a Little While" is a good dance tune -- they pale next to the hits from All for You; that they stand out on Damita Jo says more about the album than the songs themselves. Ironically, for an album with so much sex on its mind, it's not a good make-out record because its grooves are cold and Janet's ceaseless dirty talk spoils whatever mood the music had struggled to create. Once, Ms. Jackson's sexual obsession was indeed sexy and erotic, but by this point, it's not just tired, it's embarrassing. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop - Released May 21, 1990 | A&M

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Pop - Released January 1, 1997 | Virgin Records

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Pop - Released August 31, 2010 | A&M

An abbreviated version of the 34-track anthology Number Ones, this contains 12 tracks, only ten of which were actually number one U.S. hits. For whatever reason, there's "Make Me," an exclusive track thrown onto Number Ones to bait collectors, as well as "Nothing," Janet Jackson's contribution to the soundtrack for Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married Too? Neither one of those songs charted at all. Otherwise, this offers less than a third of Jackson's number ones, including "What Have You Done for Me Lately," "Miss You Much," "Escapade," "That's the Way Love Goes," and "All for You." [In some territories, this was released as Icon: Number Ones.] © Andy Kellman /TiVo
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R&B - Released January 1, 1993 | Virgin Catalogue

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R&B - Released May 17, 2019 | A&M

Janet Jackson's Control: The Remixes includes remixes of all six hits from her 1986 album Control. The album opens with the "live" video version of the title track, followed by a dance remix of the album's only number one stateside single, "When I Think of You." The dance mix is almost identical to the video version, which is a beefed-up remix of the album version and was unavailable as a single. Unfortunately, there are so many "breaks" toward the end of the dance mix that the song's flow is completely disrupted. One wishes they would have simply left the video version intact and included it in its entirety for this album. An extended mix of the first single, "What Have You Done for Me Lately," is included, as is the single remix of "Let's Wait Awhile," which has quite a bit more muscle than the original album version, and that single mix was, thankfully, left intact. Two extended remixes of "Nasty" are included, as are two remixes of "The Pleasure Principle," which was also remixed for its video. Neither version on this album is identical to the superior, definitive video version, but track three comes close enough (track eight is a dub mix). This album is fun for Janet fans and collectors -- for the casual fan it may be more of annoyance than anything, since some of the remixes are a little nerve-racking and at times sound somewhat dated. © Jose Promis /TiVo
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Pop - Released February 25, 2008 | Island Def Jam

A few lines from a couple songs and some suggestive presentation guarantees that a significant amount of the reaction to Discipline, Janet's tenth studio album, will feast upon the singer's lack of judiciousness when it comes to expressing her sexuality. Leave the teasing and explicitness to the teens and younger twenty-somethings -- not the grown women -- right? Janet should get back to making sunny, uncomplicated songs like "Escapade" and pretend that the occasional-to-frequent salaciousness extending back to Control never existed. She should do that and, while she is at it, act her age. (When the three years younger R. Kelly releases his next album, no protests of a similar nature will be heard; ditto whenever the Rolling Stones perform "Brown Sugar.") While Discipline is dressed up like a racy affair with track-to-track titillation, it has only a couple moments where Janet takes the S&M imagery further, and more deeply personal, than she did on The Velvet Rope; the majority of its subject matter relates to the more common elements of relationships. The likes of "Never Letchu Go" (a sweet, glistening ballad), "Luv" (carrying a brisk, feel-good clap-and-bounce), "Rollercoaster" (suitably jittery and giddy), and "Can't B Good" (practically a descendent of her brother Michael's "Can't Help It," with that gentle and affecting self-examination that only a Jackson can do so well) are as innocent, universal, and inviting as anything else in Janet's past. There are two irresistible, grade-A dancefloor tracks as well: the swift, swooning "Rock with U" (that is the correct title) and the more aggressive (as in "let's throw down") "2Nite." The absence of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis is not felt, not with Ne-Yo, the-Dream, Tricky Stewart, and Stargate stepping up to contribute with established Janet collaborators Johnta Austin, Rodney Jerkins, and of course Jermaine Dupri (who brought Janet with him to Island from Virgin). Janet probably won't hit that late-'80s peak again, but that is no excuse to write her off. © Andy Kellman /TiVo
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Pop - Released October 2, 2015 | BMG Rights Management (US) LLC

All four of Janet Jackson's albums released during the 2000s debuted near or at the top of the Billboard 200, as ensured by a legion of devotees. They lacked the staying power of the Control-to-Velvet Rope run, however, and quickly slipped out of view. Jackson left two labels during the decade and dealt with personal matters that included the death of brother Michael. Seven years after Discipline, Jackson returns recharged, and on a BMG-supported label she established, with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis -- the demigods central to her best work -- as well as a small crew of additional associates, as her collaborators. The three singles that immediately preceded Unbreakable were clearly chosen for their range. "No Sleeep," unfortunately present here in its longer form that involves a J. Cole verse, is a first-rate rippling slow jam, ideal for her re-emergence. Second was the title cut, the album's lead track, where Jackson expresses thankfulness over a relaxed and wistful groove, her lead and background vocals in the chorus arranged to stellar effect. And then, to increase the intensity and anticipation even more, there was "Burnitup!," a simultaneously hard and light dance track with Missy Elliott hyping the crowd. Those three songs only hinted at the number of angles worked on Unbreakable. While the album is unrelentingly positive and clean-cut -- a relief for listeners who winced at the lurid content laced through Discipline and certain earlier points in the discography -- it's a little erratic in style and quality. The probing synthesizers, booming bass, and relatively detached vocal in "Dammn Baby" come across as conscious concessions to commercial radio, and a couple cuts are structured like contemporary dance-pop singles disconnected from soul. A greater amount of the productions are better suited to Jackson. She covers romantic contentment and inner strength most frequently, highlighted by the grooving "Broken Hearts Heal" and "Black Butterfly" descendant "Black Eagle," and veers into societal turmoil, as timely now as Rhythm Nation 1814 was in 1989. There are dashes of classic Philly soul and Minneapolis funk, and it ends with a more explicit link to the past -- a whirlwind funk blast liable to prompt Jackson 5 and Sly & the Family Stone flashbacks, all the way down to Tommy McClendon's Larry Graham-style low-end interjections. No one but Jackson can directly reference previous triumphs, address her audience, and yet move forward quite like this. © Andy Kellman /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 2001 | Virgin Records

The Velvet Rope was a fairly bold move on Janet Jackson's part, as she got seriously sexy -- too serious, actually, since it had a fairly bitter tone, underscored by hints of perversity. Four years later, marked by one hidden marriage revealed through a divorce, Janet returned with All for You, an album that is as about sex as much as The Velvet Rope, yet there's a key difference -- it feels sexy, not pornographic. With her trusty collaborators Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis in tow, she's created a record that's luxurious and sensual, spreading leisurely over its 70 minutes, luring you in even when you know better. And there are certainly moments that make you wish you knew better. For one, it's plotted like The Velvet Rope, filled with skits and deliberately recalling the record with its obsession with flesh and how it builds on '70s soul and soft rock. This time around, instead of Joni Mitchell, she appropriates America's "Ventura Highway" for "Someone to Call My Lover," one of the record's best cuts, and "interpolates" Carly Simon's "You're So Vain" on "Son of a Gun," with Simon singing and...well, I guess you could call it rapping...right along. The twist is, this is an anti-music industry song and a particularly foul-mouthed entry on the album, sitting comfortably alongside another industry song, the slow groove "Truth." And that fills out the three main themes of the album -- divorce, industry, and sex -- with a little bit of love on the side. These keep things humming throughout this overly sultry, overlong album, which intrigues with its very texture even as it lulls at its length. After all, there's a lot to be said for texture, and All for You is alluring, easily enveloping the listener. Though it's hardly as explicit as The Velvet Rope, apart from a section where she proclaims "I just want to suck you, taste you, ride you, feel you, make you come -- come inside of me" (mind you, this album did not have a parental advisory sticker on its first pressings), this is her sexiest-sounding record, thanks to Jam and Lewis' silky groove and her breathy delivery, two things that make the record palatable throughout too many spoken interludes and songs that just don't quite click. Even if there is a fair share of filler, this is hardly as strained as The Velvet Rope (though in many respects, it's every bit as self-conscious), and there's an ease to its construction, topped off by such songs as "All for You" and "Doesn't Really Matter" that maintain Janet, Jam, and Lewis' reputation as the leading lights of contemporary urban soul. It'd be nicer if the album was leaner, concentrating on just the great songs, but indulgence is what this record encourages. Janet sprawls out throughout the album, indulging her whims, desires, and fantasies, but -- fortunately for us -- her indulgences are alluring in their self-absorption. Of course, it helps to have Jam and Lewis on your side to articulate your indulgence. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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R&B - Released September 22, 2006 | Virgin Records

Janet is 40 years old, but she has said that she feels half her age, and her breakthrough as a pop phenomenon occurred in 1986 -- hence the title of her ninth album. 20 Y.O. is her safest and tamest work since 1984's Dream Street, not only because she couldn't have possibly taken her sexed-up confessional routine beyond the tidbits and techniques divulged throughout 2004's Damita Jo. With only a few exceptions, 20 Y.O. provides further refinements of the fun, flirtatious, midtempo songs of her past several albums. This is not a problem. Even when there are clear instances where Janet, along with principal collaborators Jermaine Dupri, Johnta Austin, Jimmy Jam, and Terry Lewis, are taking an extended ride on the electro-nostalgia bandwagon -- "So Excited" samples Herbie Hancock's "Rockit," patches of "Get It Out Me" resemble Afrika Bambaataa's "Looking for the Perfect Beat," "Show Me" might not have happened without the existence of Ciara's "Goodies" -- they are too fresh and infectious to be considered knock-offs. There are crafty analogues and references to various points in Jackson's past: "This Body"'s rock edge recalls "Black Cat" (though it's more of a strutter than a headbanger), "Daybreak" sparkles and glides like "Runaway" and "Escapade," and "Take Care" is a classic Janet ballad in the vein of "Come Back to Me." The parallels are natural enough that they don't seem all that premeditated. Almost as significantly, the album is roughly 20 minutes shorter than usual, with only a handful of interludes, so there's little meandering, in turn making it easier to become familiar with the curves. What really differentiates the album from its predecessors is that there's almost no trace of tension to be heard. It's all about fooling around and being in love. Janet's gang of assistants is on top of its game, and Janet herself has remembered that she doesn't have to be willfully explicit or eclectic to make a sexy and wholly enjoyable album. © Andy Kellman /TiVo