Home Read Classic Album Review: Janet Jackson | All For You

Classic Album Review: Janet Jackson | All For You

It's good that she's in touch with her sexuality. That doesn't mean I want to hear it.

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This came out in 2001 – or at least that’s when I got it. Here’s what I said about it back then (with some minor editing):

 


I‘m sorry, Ms. Jackson, but are you for real?

My sincerest apologies to OutKast for mangling their lyrics, but I couldn’t help it. Ever since I sat through Janet Jackson’s raunchy new album, I’ve been scratching my head and trying to figure out what the hell she’s thinking. Actually, I’m sure I know what she’s thinking — the same thing guys are thinking when they get an eyeful of that pinup shot of her on the cover. I can even guess why she’s thinking it — now that’s she separated from hubby Rene Elizondo, she’s out to make up for lost time. Not that Janet was a nun up till now. Her last album, 1997’s Velvet Rope, had songs about bondage, piercing and lesbianism. And let’s not forget her infamous Rolling Stone cover.

Still, Jackson’s increasingly libidinous style has never seemed quite this, well, blatant before. All For You — much of which seems to chronicle a one-night stand — is a record that would make Prince blush. “Look at that body,” she marvels on the title cut. “You got a nice package all right / Guess I’m gonna have to ride it tonight.” Smooth, Janet. Then there’s the sly dance-floor seduction of Come on Get Up: “Now what I wanna see is you shake that ass for me.” Try that line at the bar, fellas, and see how far it gets you.

With patter like this, no wonder Janet and her beau end up at her pad, where things take a serious turn for the X-rated. Love Scene (Ooh Baby) has a did-she-really-say-that? line that had me reaching for the rewind button. And on Would You Mind, I didn’t even have to rewind — its entire lyric is basically soft-core erotica better suited to a romance novel than a pop CD. “I just wanna touch you, tease you, lick you, please you,” coos Janet in a more printable moment. Put it this way: Donna Summer’s orgasmatronic Love to Love You Baby is a hymn next to Jackson’s moaning and groaning — and blatant frustration when the track ends before its, er, climax.

“You men are just lame at times,” carps Janet. Well, so is the ballad-heavy All For You. Former Time travellers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, who have produced all of Jackson’s albums for the last 15 years, do this one on auto-pilot, cranking out an unengaging, forgettable set of sonic cliches — bump-’n’-grind drumbeats, finger-funking bass lines, silky-smooth glissando harps and bells, robotic keyboards, ooh-hoo backup vocals, Latin-flecked acoustic guitars and even (ugh) rainfall effects.

All For You’s few interesting moments come when Janet drops the horny-mama shtik and tries something different. Trust a Try’s cross-pollenation of classical melody and heavy metal crunch is kinda cool. The syrupy soul stirrer Truth, while unexceptional musically, wins points for its lyrics about her bitter divorce. And Son of a Gun, a poetic, low-riding trip-hopper based on Carly Simon’s You’re So Vain — with Simon trading you-go-girl lines with Janet — may be the standout track, if only because Carly is a welcome breather from Jackson’s one-track vibe.

Really, I’m happy for Janet that so in touch with her feelings and up-front about her own sexuality. That doesn’t mean I want to hear about it. Bottom line: All For You doesn’t do all that much for me.