Well, her first name is Janet, and, as many may recall, "Ms. Jackson, if you're nasty." For anyone who either learned how to drive during the 1980s or who was first allowed to vote during that decade of decadence, Janet Jackson is, inarguably, an icon. Janet Jackson, through a series of blindingly successful albums, a sizzling sense of style, a lifetime of hard work, and a brilliant partnership with two the most important producers in the music industry, has remained a perpetually vital and top-selling artist. Not only is this a miracle in the world of R&B, it is also quite a coup for the pop world as well, and one that is possibly only shared by Madonna. However, while the latter gains quite a bit of mileage from tweaking her style, and her persona with every release, Janet's evolution involves her music, and not her hair color. She is now as she has always been-a heady performer with a penchant for excellence.
All For You is Janet's first release since 1997's The Velvet Rope and easily the best project that she's recorded with long time friends and collaborators Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis since 1989's Rhythm Nation. Janet gives us a little of everything on this CD -- from funky and unruly dance beats to the ultra naughty and super sexy. If Janet shocked MTV audiences by baring her midriff in the Herb Ritz directed video for "Love Would Never Do without You" and with the super sultry side that she proudly boasted in Velvet Rope, then All for You quite possibly could have been subtitled, "Folks, You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet."
The funk, however, is free flowing and fabulous. "You Ain't Right," takes a little trip back to the old school, with a modern flare that calls to mind Erykah Badu. The crowning achievement in terms of dance tracks on the CD lies within the sculpted beats and thrilling hooks of the title track. "All for You" harkens back to the Janet that sung about a "Rhythm Nation," and while this song may not have the same social implications, it is an equally powerful dance song. Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis and Janet Jackson may now deserve to be named the official all-time triumvirate of dance music.
Janet not only brandishes her playful side, but a more thoughtful side as well. "Better Days" is not only soulful, it is a sophisticated and jazzy tune that begs a comparison to Dionne Warwick's and Burt Bacharach's collaborations, especially "Do You Know the Way to San Jose," both of which rely on effervescent Brazilian rhythms. "Truth" pays a subtle homage to her family's Motown heritage, full of bittersweet and heartfelt lyrics that could have easily flowed from the golden pipes of either Smokey Robinson or Marvin Gaye. However, Janet digs in deep and lathers on her own polish and sincerity.
Carly Simon joins Janet for a fun send up to Carly's '70s era smash hit "You're so Vain" in a cover-cum-duet called "Son of a Gun (I Bet You Think This Song is About You)." While the song isn't one the CD's stronger tracks, it is a pleasure to hear two powerful and accomplished divas join forces. Overall, Janet's versatility and musicianship on All for You are superb. It is a stellar achievement in an already decorated career and demonstrates that Janet Jackson will continue to evolve and mature as a singer, a producer and an artist. This mellifluent collection will further Ms. Jackson's tenure in the music scene and commands the world to remember that she is a truly brilliant talent.
By Rachel Parker