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R&B - Released January 1, 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
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R&B - Released August 17, 2018 | Rhythm Nation

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R&B - Released January 1, 2001 | Virgin Records

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R&B - Released May 18, 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
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Pop - Released August 31, 2010 | A&M

Number Ones -- released as The Best in some territories outside the U.S. -- replaces Design of a Decade, released 14 years prior. Excepting the new song "Make Me" (hard neo-disco/funk excellence), each song here was indeed a number one hit on Billboard's various charts, though "Got 'Til It's Gone" sneaks through a side door via the Japanese charts. One number one, oddly, is missing: "So Excited," a perfectly fine 2006 single that topped the club chart. This set is more thorough with 1986-1996, too, adding Herb Alpert's "Diamonds" (which would not have been out of place on Control, given Jam & Lewis' production and Janet's precedence over Alpert's trumpet), as well as "The Best Things in Life Are Free" (with Luther Vandross), all the smashes off janet., and "Scream" (with her brother). Say what you want about Janet peaking with Jam & Lewis during the latter half of the '80s -- to be fair, the argument is valid -- but she did rack up a career's worth of solid hits during the years that followed. Even if they were not as sonically innovative and lacked the same amount of pop appeal of the Control/Rhythm Nation-era singles, they clearly made a significant impact and have aged well. Four of the songs first compiled on Design of a Decade appear in slightly different forms, which could make a minor difference for the fans who are most hardcore. This includes the 7" video version of "Alright," the album version of "Control," the "short solo single version" of "Black Cat," and what is likely the single edit of "Rhythm Nation." [Some editions of The Best contained bonus tracks.] ~ Andy Kellman
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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
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R&B - Released January 1, 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
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Pop - Released January 1, 2001 | Virgin Records

Pop - Released September 25, 2015 | BMG Rights Management (UK) Ltd.

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Pop - Released June 24, 2015 | BMG Rights Management (UK) Ltd.

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Pop - Released January 1, 2008 | Island Def Jam

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Pop - Released October 10, 1995 | A&M

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Pop - Released October 26, 2018 | Rhythm Nation

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Pop - Released October 12, 2018 | Rhythm Nation

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Pop - Released January 1, 2006 | Virgin Records

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Pop - 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
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Pop - Released January 1, 2016 | A&M

Pop - Released July 24, 2015 | BMG Rights Management (UK) Ltd.

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Pop - Released January 1, 2001 | Virgin Records

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Pop - Released October 2, 2015 | BMG Rights Management (US) LLC

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