Even though The Incident occurred some years ago, Janet Jackson is still picking up the pieces from the nipple slip seen around the world. After two albums that floundered both commercially and artistically, Jackson has switched labels and dumped her old collaborators. Out goes Virgin and Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis; in comes Island/Def Jam and new producers including Rodney Jerkins and Ne-Yo. The result, Discipline, is nowhere near the high point of her career, but it is better than its predecessor.
The same formula is in place on Discipline as on 2006’s 20 Y.O., with club thumpers and sappy ballads. But the injection of new collaborators adds a new element into the proceedings. Jackson may not be learning any new tricks, but at least she seems to be shrugging off her past missteps.
Jackson is known for stringing her albums together with little skits or set pieces, and Discipline is no exception. The album finds her chatting back and forth with a computer program similar to HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey. The whole thing is silly and has little to do with the music. But it’s worth mentioning because it shows that she is sticking to the same formula she’s used since the early ’90s. Still, vibrant production by Rodney Jerkins and Jermaine Dupri keep things interesting.
The first single, “Feedback,” is the first Janet Jackson track to receive radio airplay in years, thanks to its pounding house beat and electro groove. Better still are the R&B-/hip-hop-flavored “Luv” and “The 1” with Missy Elliott. Both have a bouncy, funky feel that update Jackson’s sound with a new hip-hop/electronica hybrid.
There is an endless stream of miserable slow jams, like the whiny "Greatest X” and the boring title track. But the album ends on a strong note with the soulful “Curtains.” No matter: The fact remains that Jackson needs to switch up her game is she wants to stay relevant. Just ask Madonna.