What a night. I have so many thoughts and opinions swirling through my head. Where to begin? Note that my take on the album is only after hearing it once. I might totally change my mind on some points when I get to hear it again and again. What you read here also is only what my hands could scribble and my mind could recall.
DISCIPLINE is an album that combines an electronic 80s sound with the present-day computer age, all fit to rock your body on a dance floor near you. This is mostly a dance album which will be your aerobic workout soundtrack for the year. Computer-driven beats and sounds from the streets buttress Janet's light and playful voice through emotions of love lost, love found, and love sustained to the fullest. What else could you want in a Janet album?
After standing in line outside for about 40 minutes, the event began with a pre-reception in the lobby. We all received souvenir DISCIPLINE lyric booklets wrapped in a black, 4-flap envelopment, with a dark red plastic seal stamped with a "J". This was very helpful because it meant I didn't have to try to write excerpts of lyrics down, but I still had to scramble to get lyrics to the interludes down, which were not always complete.
The lobby was decorated with huge black-and-white Janet photos plastered on drapes and on the walls. We drank banana and blueberry rum smoothies and ate hors d'oeuvres until they let us inside Stage 1 for the listening event (the complex has five or more small theatres for off-Broadway productions). My second row center seat was the perfect place to see and hear everything, especially since I had received word that Janet would definitely be in the house. Later, I'll tell you about Janet's grand entrance.
L.A. Reid entered the stage just after 7:30 p.m. and said a simple hello and quickie introduction--nothing more needed to be said! The lights dimmed and the "Janet" logo on the video screen was replaced by a 5-minute or so promotional video (or possibly the official electronic press kit or E.P.K.) of past photos, music video footage and concert footage. The video was dazzling (especially for a fan) and serves to reestablish who she is and her impact on the music industry and the world. When the video was over, the room erupted in applause. On the screen we then saw "Janet" and "Discipline" logos interspersed with black-and-white photos from the past and present (yes, new ones), all treated with a vintage film effect of lines and blemishes, as we heard…
1. I.D. (Interlude)
This introductory interlude throws back to the "Online" interlude from The Velvet Rope album (released during the advent of the internet). We hear the keys tapping as Janet logs onto her computer which talks back to her. The computer says, "Select, DISCIPLINE… DISCIPLINE now loading… DISCIPLINE now playing in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…"
A slightly shorter version of the leadoff single "Feedback" comes right in after the countdown of the prior interlude. This version ends on the final echo of "Feedback, Feedback, -back, -back, -back, -back" with no instrumental fade.
This song offers an excellent segue from the previous ending echo. This is a playful, youthful song about falling in love unexpectedly. The mid-tempo, beat-pounding track contrasts Janet's light, innocent voice that "oohs" throughout. The secondary hook says, "Got me caught in a wreck, I'm a mess / Got me caught in a wreck, I'm a mess." This song is headed for radio soon, and rightly so.
4. Spinnin (Interlude)
Janet speaks… "Love is the one thing that keeps you up… …spinning round like a rollercoaster."
This is a hottt, bouncy urban track that's not so electronic as other songs. Her voice is still sweet but is almost overpowered by the heavy, hip-shaking beat. The rhythm of the hook is similar to "Escapade" (from the Rhythm Nation 1814 album), and it could easily be included in a medley with the song on tour. The seemingly innocent lyrics go like this: "There's a high level of luv goin on / The feelins are just way too strong / The reason that u got me gone / is baby cause u turn me on…" The song ends semi-abruptly.
6. Bathroom Break (Interlude)
Janet and her girls are in the bathroom at a club. We hear dialogue: "Every time I turn around, another guy is trying to… …where are we goin' tonight?... we gon' shake some thangs, we gon' break some thangs." One of the girls says they should hurry up because the bathroom is starting to "stank."
7. ROCK WITH U
This is the techno house music track of the new Janet era! Imagine Janet crawling across feathers, rolling around on a bed silk, all the while oblivious to a thunderous house beat shaking all the walls around her. Still, she's gazing at you and singing like everything is alright. THAT's what this song sounds like. This is an electronic 80s-style techo house song with all the "ooh's" and more "ooh's" we ever wanted from Janet. Another song reportedly headed to radio, but I think the clubs might beat them to it.
"Something in the air has got me feelin like I want it 2nite," she sings at the beginning of the song. This is the song that describes the realization you get after you meet someone and dance with them at the club, and you know you want to take them home. This is another hot, neck-snapping dance track with a driving beat that almost smothers Janet's voice, but then we're used to that from her past albums. You can dance or rollerskate to this fast-paced track. "Come on! Come on!" she chants.
9. CAN'T B GOOD
Janet slows things down for the first time, but on a dance album like this, even the mid-tempo songs feel danceable. The first verse describes the morning after reflecting on the night before. But by the second verse, she "interscinds" (new dictionary word from Janet) her feelings because she's afraid of falling in love. Nope, this can't be good, she sings. But this song is very nice. It's a song of almost melancholy with a beat similar to "Where Are You Now" (from the Janet album), old-school Janet vocals (hers and background), and instrumentation that will remind you of Michael Jackson.
10. 4 Words (Interlude)
Janet speaks softly: "Four words--love, fate, hope, destiny." The interlude goes right into the next song.
11. NEVER LETCHU GO
This is a ballad and ode to her lover about the good and bad times, but through it all she'll never let him go. "I don't wanna give up on our fate / And I don't wanna think that it's too late / So if something is broke / Let me go and fix it / And if something is lost / Let me go and get it" she sings. This is a nice album cut but not really single material. Janet gives us the "whoaaa" ad libs we crave, along with melodic keyboard lines and a too-short guitar solo at the end, but this song isn't quite ready for radio.
12. Truth or Dare (Interlude)
Janet and two friends are talking over percussion that sounds similar to the popping percussion of the "Full" interlude from The Velvet Rope album. We hear what sounds like male and female voices. The "truth" question is asked: "Describe the greatest ex you ever had?" In this question, the word "ex" sounds like "sex," likely as an intended pun. The answer to the question comes in the next song, which starts immediately after the question is asked.
13. GREATEST X
This mid-tempo-slow song has piano lines that give the song a pop feel. It definitely has radio potential, but my jury is still out. It's an ode to her ex that she let get away. And to this day, she regrets leaving him for what she thought was greener grass on the other side. The hook: "I loved u, and / U loved me / And I just couldn't see tomorrow, baby / And I cared for you / And I didn't see us through / Now I know in my heart u will always b / The greatest x ever." This song starts off good, but then starts to build to something greater toward the end with really emotional guitar lines. And then, for some reason, the song fades WAY too quickly. This is the kind of song that needs to breathe with a longer ending, but unfortunately it doesn't. Sigh…
14. Good Morning Janet (Interlude)
Janet wakes up and logs onto her computer, which greets her. She's still missing her ex from the previous song, and the computer serves as her best friend and confidant for a moment. Janet says, "It was incredible while it lasted, but I know I can do so much better." With these words, the next song begins.
15. SO MUCH BETTA
This song sounds like a song Prince could have produced for her. Very quirky-funky-soul. Janet's computer chants at the beginning. The lyrics say "Tired of being number 2 / I can do what she can't do / So much betta I'm for u / So so much betta I'm for u." The computer continues to motivate her. The bridge breaks from the song musically with melodic vocals: "I'm what you've been missin / U might need to jump on this." The song ends with the same lines and a final sounding of a gong.
16. Play Selection (Interlude)
Janet is still at the computer and decides to change the song she's listening to. We hear "Play selection," and the next song begins.
17. THE 1 (Featuring Missy Elliott)
Janet and Missy are always a good combination, but this song is going to likely grow on me with more listens. Here is another indescribable but off-the-chain track of beats and symbols. This is an empowered women's anthem that is throwing game to a man to get him in bed. Missy's rhymes are HOTTTTTT!!! In her first rap she says, "Tell me how long is it boo--7 inches? Yup that will do." Here are more Missy lines: "Let you hit the poo-poo, do what it do / The nooky got them boys going coo-koo / I'm sick like the flu too, boy I thought u knew."
*********Then, the music stopped.*********
Lights came on the stage, and L.A. Reid escorted Janet out. The room explodes in cheers and applause. Cameras are flashing. Blender magazine editor-in-chief Joe Levy comes out to join them and interviews Janet for just a few minutes. Janet didn't say anything really new or earth-shattering that we haven't already read in recent interviews. She said she left the "kids" rehearsing to be with us tonight. Joe's last question was about how a lot of her albums are about love and sex. He then asked why that was so. Janet replied, "Because I love love, and I love sex." And with that the crowd went up in laughter and high-five's, and there was nothing more to be said. They all left the stage, and the album continued. Unfortunately, several people started leaving. Those that stayed behind heard more…
18. WHAT'S UR NAME
This song was not played in its entirety--it faded up a bit into the song. This is a strong track that is more like old-school Janet. Romantic keyboard lines and a beat similar to a song we've heard from Janet's past. The hook: "What's ur name babe / Do u live around here / Cuz I ain't never seen u before / But I wanna see u some more / What's ur name babe / Put it right in my Sidekick / And I'll hit u back / Soon as I get home."
19. The Meaning (Interlude)
Ooooohhh, this interlude is fire! It asks, "What is the meaning of discipline?" The rest was sometimes hard to make out, but here it goes. We hear chords similar to the hook of "I Get Lonely" (from The Velvet Rope album) over a crackling sound. Janet is breathlessly speaking words that can be used to define discipline. "Self control… punishment." She's in a zone, sounding like she's in pain but enjoying it. She talks through her pain: "A whip used in the practice of self-mortification… or an instrument of chastisement." The song fades into the next song.
I hereby proclaim this song as the tour show-stopper. She will invite a man on stage and discipline him on this one. Period. It's a ballad with a slow-n-sinister, dragged-out beat. Percussion pops like a whip while crescendos and background vocals invoke emotions of crying helplessly and writhing in pain. Janet is panting. She sings, "Babe, I need some discipline 2nite / Don't hold back / I've been very bad / Make me cry / Got to make me cry / Babe." Those are the cleaner lyrics--the rest has allusions to masturbation, role play domination and submission activity. Enough said. There's a slightly extended ending, but we never get that good beat-down breakdown you might expect from this kinda song. LOL
21. Back (Interlude)
This last interlude is Janet's final conversation with her computer. "I hope you've enjoyed your discipline," the computer says.
This album closer is dedicated to her fans. Janet sings about what fans love most--her tour shows. I wouldn't call it a tour opener nor a tour closer; this song is just for the fans. In the spirit (not sound) of "Whoops Now" (from The Velvet Rope album), this is a playful, mid-tempo song with a little soul. The percussion is poppin' and horns are blowin'. More "ooh's" and melodic background vocals. She sings: "Time to close the curtains / I only take requests from u / Just tell me what u want me to do / I promise u / You'll be screamin encore when I'm thru."
And with that, the album ends. The album is not terribly long--we were done in about an hour, including Janet's brief appearance--largely thanks to songs which were of only average length.
What else can I say? Nothing more until I hear the album again in private. I can't wait until you hear it, too!
Sauce: My email!