By Chuck Arnold Ralph Novak Jessica Herndon
October 02, 2006 12:00 PM

20 Y.O.


While she had already made two forgettable albums (Dream Street, anyone?), Janet Jackson‘s music career didn’t really begin until she released 1986’s landmark Control. This, her ninth studio outing—the title of which stands for “20 years old”—celebrates the 20th anniversary of the birth of Miss Jackson If You’re Nasty. “I’ve covered a lot in my 20 years/And I’ve uncovered a lot in my 20 years,” she says in the spoken intro, perhaps alluding to the Nipplegate controversy that led to disappointing sales of 2004’s Damita Jo. Despite that fallout, Jackson couldn’t be more upbeat on 20 Y.O. At 40, she sounds like a carefree 20-year-old, one reveling in the joys of life, love and sex.

Although the CD—much of which was coproduced by Jackson’s longtime beau Jermaine Dupri—doesn’t break much new ground, it revisits some fan-friendly territory. “With U” is a smooth and creamy ballad that plays like a sequel to Control‘s “Let’s Wait Awhile,” while the whimsical “Daybreak” could be “Escapade 2006.” If one cut sums up this disc, though, it’s “Enjoy,” a jazz-kissed midtempo charmer on which Jackson still sounds sweetly innocent after all these years.