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First Thoughts: Janet Jackson's "Unbreakable"

REVOLT TV

 // Oct 12, 2015

Alexander Tamargo // Getty Images

Far from a comeback and tethered to a homecoming comes a more chaste and amiable Janet Jackson.

Arriving at a pop moment that she has fomented since the early ‘80s, Unbreakable is her first studio album in seven years. Her previous efforts asserted her sensual domain and empowerment but here Jackson concentrates on rejoicing her connected emotions of love and pain. With the death of her brother Michael and her marriage to Qatari businessman Wissam Al Mana in mind, the R&B pioneer shows off her mastery of keyboard funk, sweet pop and pillow-talk ballads.

Collaborating with longtime producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, who are responsible for some of her best work, Unbreakable covers a sonic spectrum that marks Ms. Jackson’s determination to find love both outward and within. It’s full of bravado and self-indulgence, but the songs manage to add a resilient epilogue to her catalog (along the lines of Discipline and Control).

Unbreakable is a record that is aware of the hyper-digitized radio pop and particularly not interested in conforming to any genre trends. It’s a side of Janet Jackson that is bare, yet brassy. Moreover it's a side of Ms. Jackson that listeners can admire and embrace.

Unbreakable is a lengthy body of work, striking at a solid 17-tracks, so ahead of your listening pleasure, here is a breakdown on a few of the album’s standout tracks.

“Unbreakable”

Opening with the title track, Jackson pays tribute to her devotional fans by singing: “Never for a single moment/ Did I ever go without your love.” Willowing over a synth, she struts her sunny voice for a silky filter of love and appreciation. As the song fades, her voice returns for a guide through the forthcoming sonic trek, saying, “Hello. It’s been a while. Lots to talk about. I’m glad you’re still here. I hope you enjoy.”

“BURNITUP!”

Janet invites Missy Elliott to guest on this track for hype assistance of high tempo that brings the album to a dance-ready mood. Skittering over a heavy 808-drum kick, the two duel each other vocally for a chant of mixed two-step rhythms. It's fire.

“Broken Hearts Heal”

A tribute to Michael Jackson turns out to be an unexpectedly upbeat harmony rather than a ballad of wounded emotions. Jackson reminisces about a childhood full of dancing and singing together as she sings, “Our love ain’t no material thing/Inshallah see you in the next life.” It’s a celebration of their enduring kinship and an honor to his legacy that continues to inspire her work.

"Take Me Away"

Eschewing her usual breathy delivery, Jackson instead offers a strong vocal performance over a bouncy synth that's dancy without kowtowing to current EDM&B trends. The high-performance track is a welcome nod to some of her past sounds without retracing past steps. Like the album and her career themselves, this track proves that Janet may bend, but she'll never break.

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