Released: 2nd October 2015.
It's been over seven long years since Janet Jackson released her last studio album. A lot of people, including her own fans, thought that she'd quietly retired. After all, during that time, she'd been through a lot - ending a long-term relationship, finding love again and getting married, relocating to the Middle East, and of course, suffering from the loss of her brother Michael - all whilst still being somewhat of a hate-figure in the US.
But Janet has used all these experiences to carver up 'Unbreakable', an album which has been at least three years in the making and sees her reuniting with long-time collaborators Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.
Together, the dream team has created perhaps Janet's most eclectic album, experimenting with Janet's usual blend of R&B and pop, but fusing it with elements of rock, country and electronica. Indeed, it would be difficult to categorise this album under one genre - it is simply music, in all sounds and forms. Expect to hear pianos, horns, guitars, synths - the lot.
It's not just the music which is varied - Janet uses her vocals like never before on 'Unbreakable'. Fans and critics had gotten used to Janet whispering over her beats for the past decade, so everyone will be surprised to see just how much range Janet demonstrates on this record, particularly on songs like "Gon' Be Alright" and "The Great Forever". Do not be fooled by the lead single "No Sleeep"- Janet SANGS her heart out on this album!
I've talked about music, I've talked about vocals - let's talk about lyrics. The sex-mad Janet of the 2000s has been banished, and instead she's exploring a whole array of themes, such as the loss of her brother Michael, the media scrutiny on her latest marriage, social problems including war and poverty, abusive relationships, and, of course, love. It's the first time Janet has addressed such sensitive issues since 'The Velvet Rope', released almost 20 years ago, and this is a serious reminder that she is an artist, not just a singer.
Now onto some specific songs.
- "No Sleeep" is surprisingly the baby-making song on this album. It's a laid-back R&B groove which has sat atop of the urban AC charts for the past six weeks. It's the closest thing you'll hear to what you're used to from Miss Jackson
- "BURNITUP!/Dammn Baby" - these are the big urban uptempos, made for the clubs. These two songs bring out that old cliche 'classic Janet with a modern twist'.
- "The Great Forever" - never has Janet sounded so much like her brother! The lyrical content cleverly fires back at those who have gossiped about her love life, surely making them feel stupid about it now.
- "After You Fall" - just Janet and her voice over a piano for five minutes. Janet is often criticised for her lack of vocal prowess, but the emotion in this song should silence those critics.
- "Night" - this is quickly becoming a fan favourite due to its euphoric dance sound and hypnotic chorus
- "Take Me Away" - speaking of euphoric, this song embodies it! It's almost like a drug because it acts as a superb escapism.
- "Gon' Be Alright" - as mentioned earlier, the most striking thing about this track are the vocals. Aside from that, it's a great throwback to the 70s.
- "Well Traveled" - this is the anthem of the album, and could almost be interpreted as Janet's departing song. If it were the case, she should be proud of herself for putting out such a solid record.
'Unbreakable' is not about Janet trying to keep up with today's younger artists and scoring hits on the Hot 100. As the boss of her own record label, this is the concept and these are the songs which she wanted to create. It's evident that she's put her heart and soul into this record, something which has been missing for a while, and the hard work has truly paid off.