Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

CD Reviews

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

CD Reviews

Article excerpt

JANET JACKSON, '20 Y.O.'

VIRGIN, **1/2 (2 and a half stars)

Are we witnessing the death of a dynasty? The way things have been going, the new album by Janet Jackson could be one of the final acts of a royal line that's presided at the center of pop music for four decades. The title alludes to the 1986 release of Control, her first "grown-up" album, the one that made her a legitimate successor to brother Michael as the Jackson clan's hit-maker and media star.

In the first of several spoken interludes that lend the album a casual, homey feel, Jackson does some summing up: "I've talked about racism, spousal abuse, empowering women, children . . . I've covered a lot in my 20 years. Now she sets a more modest agenda. "I want to keep it light . . . I want to have fun."

If you're thinking "fun" means you-know-what, you're right. 20 Y.O. primarily has sex on its mind. In the opening set of songs alone, Jackson promises to do it all, says you'll have to work for it, compliments you on a job well done, tells you how to do it and assumes the identity of a model in a men's magazine. And she manages to do this without sounding especially raunchy.

She persuaded her boyfriend, Jermaine Dupri, to join her longtime collaborators Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, and he brings Jackson into the world of the hip-hop/R&B hybrid that's his specialty. He pairs her with Nelly on the ballad Call on Me and with Khia on the opening So Excited. It's not a cutting-edge concoction and Dupri exits the album halfway through, leaving the final five songs almost entirely to Jam-Lewis-Jackson. She seems hopelessly drawn to their old-school settings of strings, real pianos and quiet-storm drama.

It's an odd mix, and it probably means that the kind of comeback Dupri helped engineer for Maria Carey isn't in the cards.

Richard Cromelin/Los Angeles Times

WEIRD AL YANKOVIC, 'STRAIGHT OUTTA LYNWOOD

VOLCANO ENTERTAINMENT, *** (3 stars)

If you've listened to a Weird Al album before, you know the drill: some side-splitting parodies, some silly original material. He may be a purveyor of novelties, but he sells a fine whoopee cushion.

Straight Outta Lynwood is tighter and more consistent than past Al efforts. There are few forced rhymes and White & Nerdy, a send-up of Chamillionaire's Ridin' Dirty, stacks the lyrical gems from start to finish. First in my class there at MIT/Got skills, I'm a champion at D&D/MC Escher, that's my favorite MC/Keep your 40, I'll just have an Earl Grey tea.

Don't expect to groove to Al's music; it's there to point out the lameness in Top 40 tunes or to pay homage, as Pancreas does with its mash-up of Beach Boys songs and a biology lesson. Fans from Al's Dr. Demento days won't be disappointed, either - there's plenty of polka. …

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