“I ain’t never gon, gonna go nowhere”, were the first words sung at last Friday night’s LA Forum concert for the one and only Janet Jackson! Anyone who dismissed the living legend for leaving the scene for no return, or being irrelevant today, should eat their negativity, because Ms. Jackson was not only present last night, but she performed and sang the most electrifying concert that exceeded expectations. She had everyone on their feet the entire evening, and the audience left the venue feeling the electricity that the artist emanated for 90 plus minutes. The entire first segment of the concert felt like a powerful voltage surged into the arena with Janet at the helm, dividing her time between planting her feet like a warrior in control, commanding the stage like the diva she is and dancing in full out choreography backed up by some of the most talented and diverse dancers today.
This review, by the way is both a concert commentary, as it is an album review which both coincided in the last two months – a pairing that is rarely, or never heard of in today’s musical landscape. Most pop artists drop their album and follow up with a tour, months after to allow a single, or two, to rise the charts, while they prepare for upcoming concerts. In JJ’s case, it turns out she wrote and recorded her current number one album, “Unbreakable” as she planned and rehearsed for her tour of the same name. The choice proved to be fruitful as last night’s concert had an additional treat with Terry Lewis and Jimmy Jam taking the stage at the end of the show, surprising Janet with a number one album celebration and speech. The duo have worked with Jackson on most of her albums, minus a few proving the threesome have that winning edge to propel the artist to number 1. Lewis and Jam truly surprised Jackson as Jackson went from being in ‘control’, to reverting to her quintessential shy girl persona that fans know and love. “30 years ago in Minneapolis we first worked with Janet…”, Lewis proudly told the audience, as Janet interrupted and reminded Lewis she actually met them when she was only 14. Lewis continued saying that “tonight we celebrate, right here and now, Janet’s number one album, “Unbreakable” as he presented her with a life size album cover, surrounded by beautiful white flowers as well as a matching white bouquet. Before the duo exited the stage, Lewis shouted, “She’s back…” in which the entire arena cheered for their beloved Janet.
Every Jackson single, hit or anthem wasn’t overlooked as group’s of tracks were paired together in related musicality, or mood, from the kickoff featuring her latest single, “Burn it Up” followed by “Nasty”, “Feedback”, “Miss You Much”,
“Alright” and “You Want This”, Janet showed her fierce attitude and confidence setting the tone of an empowered entity. Later the singer got intimate and brought the tempo down to showcase her emotional and strong vocal range in a series of beautiful ballads. She began with a new song off “Unbreakable”, “After You Fall”, that speaks to those lonely moments we all feel, or when we suffer, and ponders who will be there for us during these times. Audience favorite, “Again”, from the critically acclaimed 1993 film, “Poetic Justice”, that Jackson starred in with Tupac Shakur, brought many to tears. “Let’s Wait Awhile”, from the “Control” album sublimely preceded “Come Back to Me” from “Rhythm Nation”.
A few reviewers have mentioned that the singer uses too many medleys and teases the audience to want to hear more, but after seeing Ms. Jackson last Friday night I’m convinced this was not the case. These moments were the work of an expert music director, and artist who curated Jackson’s huge hit list, and successfully grouped clusters of songs together that related in theme and musical mood. Ultimately, the choice propelled the show to multiple crescendos. Case in point, the rock infused “Black Cat” segued aggressively into the equally rock and electric track, “If”, while feverishly igniting to “Scream”, her duet with her late brother, while seamlessly ending with the singer’s most powerful song to date, “Rhythm Nation”. None of these classics felt short changed at all, and in fact the energy level continued to escalate well into the finale.
“Unbreakable” is Janet Jackson’s 11th studio album that recently went to the number one position on Billboard’s 200. Jackson released the album on her brand new label, appropriately named, Rhythm Nation, which is disseminated by BMG Management. The new direction has Ms. Jackson making moves on her own terms which began with her relationship with her fans, who she profusely thanked on Friday night, as well as with the title track of the album, “Unbreakable”. The song is a thank you to all of her fans who have stuck by her throughout the years through thick and thin, and the love she shares with them, which according to Jackson is ‘Unbreakable’. Earlier this Summer she began leaking snippets of tracks via her Vimeo page calling it #conversationsinacafe while announcing her world tour. Her first single, “No Sleeep” continues to remain number 1 on the Adult R&B charts, but as a whole the new album stands as Jackson’s best work since “Rhythm Nation”. The artist has built a body of work that has always produced sexy grooves with her signature layered vocals, while punctuating with heartfelt memorable ballads, and throbbing dance grooves. “Unbreakable” feels and sounds different both musically and lyrically. She’s still working with her hitmakers, Jam & Lewis, but it’s almost like the seven year absence has allowed the artist to grow, reflect and deal with known issues like losing her brother Michael to getting married. As a whole, the album is a hit from beginning to end and fans on social media have mentioned that they play it over and over again, a phenomenon that is becoming extinct due to single downloads. There is an overall strength and confidence on the album, flecked with Janet’s intimate ponderings about life, spirituality and the world at large. Take the track “The Great Forever”. In it Jackson sings:
I’m just busy livin’ my life
Sources say but where ya gettin’ it
Don’t create the truth you like
It might sound strange to you
What you think it don’t mean nothing at all
Doesn’t change who I am
Doesn’t change who I love
She goes on to sing: “Living my life, The way that I hope Is leading me to The great forever”. “Shoulda Known Better” is one of the most powerfully lyrical tracks on the album about all the unfortunate casualties and people in the world who get overlooked. The track harkens back to Rhythm Nation’s outcry for everyone to do better. Jackson includes herself in the reminder singing, “Cause I don’t want my face to be That poster child for being naive Why, why I guess I shoulda known better.” The anthemic track builds to beautiful electronic heights and could easily be a political anthem for the coming election, i.e. Hilary.
Other standout tracks include “Night” which is a blissful soundscape gem. This is the track to groove to and get lost in Jackson’s positivity. “Take Me Away” pairs equally well with “Night” both musically, but on a more intimate level as Janet sings of that synchronicity that she shares with someone that allows her to feel free and safe.
“Black Eagle” shows it’s presence as an enveloping moving multimedia graphic that begins and ends the “Unbreakable” tour. The imagery is so powerful, as is the track on the album. The spiritual call to action of something greater, as well as the reminder to see our human connection reside as important themes covered on the entire “Unbreakable” album.
Longtime fans of Jackson shouldn’t fret as new single, “Burn it Up” and “Dammn Baby” showcase Janet’s ability to craft catchy hit dance jams.
Download Janet’s new album, “Unbreakable” below and get tickets for her tour that lasts well into 2016: www.janetjackson.com