April 05, 2004 12:00 PM

Janet Jackson


“Do you want me just for what you see?/Do you think that I’m that person you watch on TV?” sings Janet Jackson on the confessional title track of her eighth studio album (which takes its title from the singer’s middle name). Of course, after her infamous Super Bowl halftime peep show, Michael’s little sister has gone from the Normal Jackson to the Nasty Jackson. On her latest, which continues the streak of first-rate R&B-pop discs she has released since her 1986 breakthrough Control, the controversial diva doesn’t shy away from her girl-gone-wild rep. From her topless pose on the CD cover to the sexually explicit lyrics on cuts such as the jazz-kissed “Moist,” Jackson unabashedly gets her freak on. “Relax, it’s just sex,” she says at the end of the futuristic funk throwdown “Sexhibition,” as if to address her conservative critics. But Jackson has been turning up the heat ever since 1993’s excellent janet; in fact, many tracks here evoke the lush sensual rush of that earlier disc’s midtempo gem “That’s the Way Love Goes” and the vintage slow jam “Any Time, Any Place.” However, there is a fresh, more R & B-centric sound to Damita Jo thanks to Jackson’s collaboration with other producers in addition to her longtime team Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis. Babyface contributes the lovely, acoustic-guitar-laced ballad “Thinkin’ Bout My Ex,” Dallas Austin delivers the Princely pop-rocker “Just a Little While,” and Swedes BAG & Arnthor kick in the hypnotic house number “All Nite (Don’t Stop).” But it’s producer-rapper Kanye West who makes the biggest impression. Songs like the old-school charmer “I Want You,” which recalls West’s work with Alicia Keys on “You Don’t Know My Name,” and the buoyant hip-hopper “Strawberry Bounce,” built around a Jay-Z sample, return the attention to Jackson’s music, where it belongs.

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