Is Janet Jackson’s “No Sleeep” worthy of the hype?
Before we dive into the core of this article, I would like to emphasize that I am a longtime Janet Jackson fan. I think she is one of the most talented musicians and entertainers that the pop music world has seen in the last 30 years. Despite her limited vocal range, she makes the most of it. More importantly, she has achieved what none of her siblings (sans Michael) could do – which was step out of Michael Jackson‘s shadow and be more than just the “other” Jackson. Despite a lackluster beginning in the music industry with two flop albums, she was able to strike gold with her first collaboration with songwriting and production duo Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis (a partnership that her father Joe Jackson initially resisted). The “Control” album put Janet Jackson on the map as a potent force to be reckoned with. It appeared that every subsequent release augmented her legacy thus making her one of the most successful and reliable bets in the music industry. In the 90s, this trend continued and by the middle of the decade, she became the Jackson of consequence while her brother was dealing with a perennial PR nightmare and an over-the-top self-indulgence that overshadowed his music (Michael Jackson returned from this unnecessary deviation by 2001 with his album “Invincible“).
There appeared to be no visible end to Janet’s domination as she entered the new millennium with yet another hit album (i.e. “All of you“). 2004 marked the beginning of a downward trend for Janet. While her “nipplegate” incident with Justin Timberlake did not do much for her public image, it seemed that the material on her album “Damita Jo” was not strong enough to eclipse the hysteria around what many referred to as a “staged accident” at the Superbowl in 2003. It is at this point that fans stopped hearing any more recognizable Janet Jackson singles. Every subsequent album release felt like a diminishing return. There were moments of brilliance in this phase of Janet’s career but sadly those moments were always passed over in favor of lackluster songs for release as singles. Noteworthy examples of great songs that should have been singles are “SloLove” (from “Damita Jo“) and “Daybreak” (from “20 Y.O“). In our article titled the “Peril of the wrong lead single of an album“, we have been very critical of Janet’s choices for her lead singles. A weak lead single off an album spells the end of any potential momentum that the album could have in terms of sales and exposure. A visible downward trend over three albums probably forced Janet to put the brakes and take a hiatus from music business as she refocused herself.
Earlier, this summer, she announced a concert tour as well as a new album. Fans could not be more elated. But it looks like the anticipation of Janet Jackson fans has severly clouded their objectivity when it comes to her newly released single “No Sleeep“. Here are some fan reactions to her new single on Twitter:
“No Sleeep” is a down-tempo track – which in itself, is not a bad thing. In fact, I have always admired Janet’s ability to churn out both great dance-worthy tracks as well as slow jams that ooze sexiness through and through (especially tracks like “Lonely“, “Again“, and “Come back to me“). One listen of the track will quickly reveal that Janet is not under the pressure to have a terrestrial radio hit – which from our perspective, is fine. We have no qualms about stating emphatically that terrestrial radio playlist programmers are preoccupied with focusing on short-term trends as opposed to being an avenue of exposure for timeless music. Hence, there is no point in Janet trying to tailor her artistic output to the tasteless incompetence of terrestrial radio programming. She has tried that approach in her last couple of albums and the results have been less than stellar. While I applaud Janet for not caving into that type of pressure, she has taken the opposite extreme by creating something completely lackluster and hook-less. Given that longtime collaborators Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis were back in the creative fold, expectations were high. Sadly, not only is this song not lead-single-worthy, it feels more like a “filler” track on an album. Thematically, she does not stray from her core areas of love, longing, and sexuality (although there is not much of this in the song’s lyrics). From a production perspective, nature’s elements (thunder, rain) are featured in the song’s introduction (an approach employed on older slow jams) – which for a split second can give the listener a false hope of something promising. Sadly, the illusion of promise dissipates fairly quickly as the song progresses.
In our post about the “peril of the wrong lead single“, we specifically highlighted that in this day, when a song is released as a lead single, the assumption that the listener makes is that the song is the best the album has to offer. With that thought process, the release of “No Sleeep” as a lead single does nothing to whet the appetite for Janet’s “yet to be titled” album. What I find mind-boggling is the largely positive response that this track has received. As a fan, I am happy for Janet Jackson, but as a pop blogger and playlist manager of Radio Creme Brulee, my objectivity gets in the way of the ability to appreciate the first piece of new material from Janet in 7 years. I cannot help but think that fans have missed Janet Jackson way too long and it is this pent up anticipation that appears to be clouding their judgment. One can only wonder how ephemeral this initial enthusiasm and gushing of praise will last.
I personally hope that this is not the best Janet has to offer from her new album – and that “No Sleeep” follows a tradition of poor single choices that she has made for a little over a decade. While choices like these will do nothing for her in terms of newly unlocked commercial value, if there is good material, that is all that I and fans care about. It is a hope worth holding on to. Until then, here is a full-length clip of Janet Jackson’s “No Sleeep“:
STAR RATING: 2.5 out of 5 stars
We are an American internet radio station that broadcasts worldwide. The station features an eclectic mix of current pop and rock music from both sides of the Atlantic alongside hits, forgotten gems, and rarities from the last three decades. The music of Janet Jackson (both old and new) is a regular staple on our radio station. Alongside new music by new artists, we also play plenty of newer music by bands that rose to prominence in the 80s. Noteworthy examples include Duran Duran, Madonna, Sade, George Michael, Michael Jackson, Prince, Simply Red, New Order, Tears For Fears, a-ha, Spandau Ballet, INXS, Depeche Mode, Johnny Hates Jazz, Simple Minds, and Culture Club.
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