Janet's back to give her `All for You'


April 24, 2001




No reason to be sorry, Ms. Jackson--your latest is as good as anything you've ever given us.

Arriving four years after "The Velvet Rope," her last multiplatinum disc, "All for You" by sweetheart teenage actress-turned-sultry grownup dance diva Janet Jackson arrives in stores today, and fans are certain to think it was worth the wait.

Jackson has now officially eclipsed her troubled older brother in the superstar sweepstakes; unlike Michael's, her music stays in touch with dance-pop's cutting edge, even if it rarely breaks new ground. But Janet hasn't been without troubles of her own: She is estranged from Rene Elizondo, the husband she denied having through much of their decade-plus marriage.

Anyone who expects soul-baring catharsis on "All for You," Janet's seventh solo disc, doesn't really know Jackson that well. Sure, there are a handful of barbed tracks that seem to be aimed at ol' Rene: the snarling "Son of a Gun" and the on-my-own-now anthem "Truth" are the angriest that Jackson has been since "Rhythm Nation 1814."

Still, it's important to remember that she was an actress first, and that musically, she watched as her brothers were schooled in the old school showbiz ways of Motown. Like Diana Ross, Jackson shows us only the briefest glimpses of her personal life, and we can never be entirely certain that she's genuine about what she's sharing.

This isn't a complaint: Jackson's act is as appealing as any in pop or R & B, and most listeners are willing to suspend disbelief, especially when she's whispering sweet nothings in their ears. The newly single singer is clearly ready to get it on, and she says so numerous times in the sort of raunchy language that we're more used to hearing from the likes of Lil' Kim. (Take that, all you pretenders to the throne!)

The ending of "Love Scene (Ooh Baby)" and the come-ons in "Would You Mind" alone probably will account for a couple of million sales by the male fans who adore her. Meanwhile, the secret of Jackson's success is that women will be buying, too, because she retains her self-respect while she's doing her seductive sonic striptease. With Janet, there's never much doubt about who's really in control.

Yes, her chirpy voice is limited. But as in the past, she's smart enough to get the most from it, relying on longtime collaborators Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis to craft red-hot funk jams as well as gorgeous ballads, and turning to the more cutting-edge producer Rockwilder for a techno vibe on five of the disc's 20 tracks.

"All for You" is not without problems. Like "The Velvet Rope," it bogs down during the indulgent and often insensible "interludes" between songs. And guest Carly Simon's wooden attempt at rapping a bit of "You're So Vain" in the middle of "Son of a Gun" is simply embarrassing.

Overall, though, "All for You" is prime Janet, and that's all we can really ask for.

Rating: ***