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Relax, it's just sex

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After seeming to be in full control for almost 20 years, Janet Jackson has decided to "lose control" a little lately. On her new album, “Damita Jo,” the singer kicks back and celebrates the pleasures of love and lust unlike ever before.

Even after the recent fury over her gutsy performance during the Super Bowl halftime show, Jackson is refusing to tone things down. As a result, "Damita Jo" has a parental warning slapped on its cover for sexually explicit content.

“Relax, it’s just sex,” she says on the album, anticipating some of the flak she will likely receive for her erotic lyrics.

Jackson, now 37, has evolved from a shy teen singer to a self-confident pop diva. Ever since her breakout album, "Control," the determined celebrity has attempted to do things her way without pressure from her famous brothers, dominating father or opinionated record executives.

The Super Bowl "wardrobe malfunction" can be viewed as one of those deliberate (yet poorly timed) attempts by Jackson to display her independence and risqué side in an uncompromising fashion.

It was not the first time Jackson issued a powerful statement that garnered attention from fans and foes alike. She has subtly pushed the envelope since the beginning of her career, from the empowering "Control" (1986) to the socially conscious "Rhythm Nation 1814" (1989), to the liberating "Janet" (1993) and the deeply spiritual "The Velvet Rope" (1999).

"The Velvet Rope" firmly established Jackson as a gay icon. The singer tackled homophobia on "Free Xone," in which she proclaims that the world should be free of any discrimination. She also paid homage to a friend who died of AIDS complications on the album’s hit song "Together Again."

"Damita Jo" a well-crafted pop R&B album that balances familiar production hooks with Jackson’s chart smarts. The singer seems to be inspired by her romantic relationship with Atlanta-based rapper/producer Jermaine Dupri, whom she plans to marry this summer, according to news reports this week, with songs that explore love and intimacy.

Jackson once again teamed up with longtime collaborators Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis to produce "Damita Jo." She co-wrote all of the songs on this latest CD with an illustrious group of songwriters that included Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, Dallas Austin, rapper Kanye West and Cathy Dennis, who is mostly known for her work with pop kitten Kylie Minogue.

"Damita Jo" has 22 tracks. Besides 16 full-length songs, the album includes six interludes that are spoken, often poetic, introductions to the record’s most poignant tracks.

The CD’s title refers to Jackson’s middle name, but it also appears to be the singer’s frisky alter ego. Damita Jo is introduced on the album’s title track and described as "Sexy, quiet, shy, but down for a good time."

And Jackson shows no signs of trying to be subtle on the record’s third song "Sexhibiton." This jerky and tongue-in-cheek tune is all about pleasing her lover. On it, the singer croons, "sexplore you, feel the sexplosion … Fix the distance between us, never missing what you’re wishing."

Jackson’s sexual escapades continue with the suggestive "Strawberry Bounce," on which she advocates the pleasures of oral sex to "lose control."

"All Night (Don’t Stop)" should be an undisputed dance floor favorite with its infectious baseline and silky smooth vocal harmonies. The song switches right into the bump and grind "R&B Junkie," which is a vintage disco tune reminiscent of brother Michael’s “Off The Wall” album.

The singer trivially celebrates love and being in love on the record’s ample ballads such as "My Baby," "Truly" and "Warmth," which all feature her mellow crooning and soulful songwriting.

After almost 20 minutes of down-tempo tracks, Jackson concludes "Damita Jo" with the upbeat "Slolove," and the melodic single "Just A Little While," which has a catchy guitar riff.

Fans won’t be disappointed with Jackson’s latest contribution, an unapologetic nod to her evolving nasty girl image.

April 15, 2004 in Music Reviews | Permalink

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