REVIEWED BY CHUCK ARNOLD
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.
DOWNLOAD THIS: "Enjoy"
A Public Affair
With her star on the rise and Britney at home playing mommy, the timing would seem perfect for Simpson to step up as a major pop force. But her fifth album is merely a passable affair, cementing her status as a second-string diva. Take the title-track single: Blatantly ripping off Madonna
's "Holiday" and Diana Ross's "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," it only drives home the fact that Simpson is in desperate need of her own killer song. As she tries on everything from country to swing, the tunes go from innocuously pleasant (the Olivia Newton-John-like "Walkin' 'Round in a Circle") to confoundingly bad (the hip-hop hoedown "Push Your Tush").
DOWNLOAD THIS: "Walkin' 'Round in a Circle"
Bring It on Home ... The Soul Classics
REVIEWED BY RALPH NOVAK
On his latest, Neville applies his wondrously vibrant voice to soul classics like "You Send Me," "My Girl" and "People Get Ready." While imbuing these gems with his own style, he also gives a nod to the artists who made them hits: There's a little Otis Redding in "(Sittin' on) the Dock of the Bay," Brook Benton in "Rainy Night in Georgia" and Ben E. King in "Stand by Me." Mavis Staples joins in on a powerful version of the Staple Singers' "Respect Yourself," while Chaka Khan turns up on a rousing rendition of "Let's Stay Together."
DOWNLOAD THIS: "Let's Stay Together"
Like Red on a Rose
Jackson turned to bluegrass star Alison Krauss to produce his latest disc, and the result is an entertaining change of pace that synthesizes the talents of both. While Jackson never really seems as frolicsome here as he normally does, instead folding himself into Krauss's more cerebral, sometimes somber style, the twain meet nicely on "Good Imitation of the Blues," a ruminative tune enhanced by the artful piano of Gordon Mote. Elsewhere, the brighter-toned "A Woman's Love" and "As Lovely as You" give you a whiff of Jackson's more energetic, romantic side.
DOWNLOAD THIS: "Good Imitation of the Blues"
Scissor Sisters had both hipsters and homemakers cutting a rug with their 2004 self-titled debut (which gave this New York City outfit the biggest-selling album in the U.K. that year). Now they've put their boogie shoes back on for their second CD, Tah-dah
, which is as delightful as its title. Don't be fooled by the melancholy sentiment of the disco-fied first single, "I Don't Feel Like Dancin'"; cowritten by Elton John (who also plays keyboards), it's got the kind of irresistible bounce that would shake anybody out of the dumps. Even when they leave the dance floor—on tracks like the atmospheric, Duran Duran-esque "The Other Side" and the dreamily romantic "I Just Might Tell You Tonight"—Scissor Sisters exhibit sharp pop instincts.
DOWNLOAD THIS: "I Don't Feel Like Dancin'"
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CONTROL (1986) A fierce and funky declaration of independence from Michael's little sis.
RHYTHM NATION 1814 (1989) Big beats, big hooks, big messages. Plus a record seven Top 5 singles.
JANET. (1993) From "That's the Way Love Goes" to "Any Time, Any Place," her best—and sexiest—work.
THE VELVET ROPE (1997) Janet gets deep with her most introspective set.
Miss B's blazing second solo disc celebrates her ever-growing confidence as a singer-songwriter and producer on beat-driven tracks that boast more soul, more sass and more sex appeal.
On this exhilarating follow-up to 2002's hit Justified
, the former boy-bander boldly channels the libidinous funk of early Prince but proves to be more innovator than imitator.
Sam Moore, Overnight Sensational
Soul man Moore, one half of '60s duo Sam & Dave, once again thrives in collaborative mode with such varied artists as Jon Bon Jovi, Mariah Carey
Pat Green, Cannonball
This Texas troubadour is the Bruce Springsteen of the Southwest. He's passionate, expressive and engaging, coming at you steady and hard on his new country CD.
Producer-rapper Tim "Timbaland" Mosley, 35, who recently scored No. 1 hits with Justin Timberlake
("SexyBack") and Nelly Furtado ("Promiscuous"), reflects on his collaborators.
ON JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE
: We both enhance each other. I think he's brilliant. He's one of a kind.
ON MISSY ELLIOTT: An incredible artist. She's always been ahead of her time. We've known each other since high school. Just recently we've kind of been apart, but we're doing another album.
ON AALIYAH: Everything we shared was great. She was always outgoing. She liked to have fun.
ON NELLY FURTADO: I really wanted to do something different [with her]. We have a lot of magic.
ON JAY-Z: A dope lyricist. He doesn't write anything down. He doesn't talk about the same old bullcrap. He's always witty and very intelligent.