|Janet Jackson - All For You|
|Music Disc Reviews Audio CD|
|Written by Jerry Del Colliano|
|Wednesday, 18 April 2001|
After a creative breakthrough on the introspective The Velvet Rope, Janet Jackson is back with her next, highly anticipated major studio album and I couldn’t be more disappointed. The Velvet Rope was the first Janet Jackson album that was an entire cohesive effort, as opposed to just a collection of big hit singles sandwiched between pop filler as found on Janet and Rhythm Nation 1814. All For You follows the content-rich format and features pop super-producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis twisting the knobs and making the occasional appearance on the record.
Unfortunately, All For You is clearly influenced by Miss Jackson’s divorce from her husband and video director, Rene Elizondo. The lyrics show an anger towards men that interferes with the musical potential of this record.
All For You starts out all wrong, with Janet playing around with a musical idea while collaborating with a female musician while being inadvertently recorded by Jimmy Jam. The topic of the conversation quickly turns into silly sexual innuendo and ends in an unnecessary Fran Drescher impersonation. I know what you are thinking and god only knows what they were thinking. The first actual song, "You Ain’t Right," is a musical throwback to the days of "Rhythm Nation." In fact, you can even sing the "Rhythm Nation" lyrics over the chorus if you get the urge. The overdubbed vocal harmonies and super-tight arrangement make for a solid pop song, as well as an ode to Miss Jackson’s past creative work. Definitely not groundbreaking.
"All For You," the title track, lacks the musical creativity that you’d expect on a big-budget Janet Jackson record produced by Jam and Lewis. The guitar riff is lifted straight from Change’s "The Glow of Love." Once again, the vocal layering is excellent on "All For You" and the hook makes it the obvious choice for the first radio single. "Come On Get Up" is the dance hit on the record, with a bouncy groove that makes it my favorite track on the album. Great vocal sound, interesting use of percussion and an infectious dance feel make "Come On Get Up" a winner.
All for You goes down the toilet with "Lame (Interlude)," a recording of Janet making sure she actually recorded how frequently men, in general, don’t get the job done, presumably in bed. Janet Jackson is an A-list star capable of the highest level of pop performances and recordings, but she showed how her personal troubles have influenced hateful, angry bullshit. I expect better from an artist of this caliber. A good example of an artist dealing with his pain from a divorce is Peter Gabriel on the US record or Barry White on his comeback The Icon Is Love. Both artists took personal looks at their lives and their failed relationships. They went on to see the positive in the future and while there are down moments, there are no cheap shots of the kind found all over Janet Jackson’s All For You.
All For You actually gets worse with a duet with another well-known female vocalist, Carly Simon. "You’re So Vain," Simon’s signature tune, was reportedly written about Paul Simon (or Cat Stevens, depending on your source). Carly Simon has never publicly divulged the true subject of her mocking lyrics. Teaming up with Janet on "Son of a Gun (I Betcha Think This Song Is About You)" goes to a whole new low where Janet, with the help of Jam and Lewis, converts Simon’s ‘70s anthem into a fantastically well-produced but lyrically and melodically corrupt tune. Simon builds into a beatnik poem that has no place on a Janet Jackson record and leads into nonsensical babbling about scientific cloud terms.
On The Velvet Rope, Janet covered sexual topics such as masturbation with her girlfriend while on the phone with far better cadence and sense of humor than here on All For You. Her use of vulgarity, like the use of the term "motherfucker," normally wouldn’t offend me but on All For You, the record is so angry that any self-respecting, non-heroin addict male may take offense. The album’s lyrics sound as though the male gender as a whole, rather than just Rene Elizondo, is the target of Miss Jackson’s barbs. When Prince did "Sexy MF," it was for effect. This was a song about a woman who was smarter than she was sexy, which then went on to point out how much of a turn-on brains were. Did it cause controversy? Sure it did, but the moral of the story was far more significant that what I have taken away from many of the tunes on All For You.
The hopeful tune on All For You is "Someone To Call My Lover," which is melodically a complete rip-off of America’s "Ventura Highway." I like the concept of the tune lyrically but, please, stealing melodies is for talentless rap stars - not Janet Jackson. There are budgetary and other resources available to write or commission compelling original music without reverting to familiar, radio-proven melodies like the one on this track.
With a similar format as The Velvet Rope, All For You is a record distracted by the anger and pain of a messy divorce from a secret marriage that has obviously left scars. After such a great creative effort the last time out, it is truly a shame that other victims of Janet’s pain have to be her dedicated fans. While Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis are up to their normal standards of excellence and the sound, the bass especially, is stellar on All For You, I can simply not recommend it for anyone other than hardcore Janet enthusiasts. I am hopeful that the next time out will represent a better place emotionally for such a wonderfully talented artist.