I know exactly how Jimmie “J.J.” Walker is feeling. Christ, do I. Me and J.J.: conflicted, guilt-ridden, not too goddamn dy-no-mite at all. And I’m not talking about our pitiful, washed-up careers, either. It’s those surrogate sisters of ours. Girls gone wild, that’s what they are. Making us feel all old and wrinkly as they prance about near-nekkid, every other appendage either clamped or pierced, every other word either “fuck” or “thong.” It’s just not right. Just not right at all. We’re trying to be better men, morally responsible men. Hell, we’re trying to be brothers to these wayward young women. But things are just getting worse.
I shouldn’t complain: I don’t have it half as bad as J.J. Around the holidays, I travel with my girlfriend to her New Jersey home. She has a great family. Her mother has kindly upgraded me from “another lameass” to “still pretty much a lameass but with possible late-blooming potential”which I appreciate. And her two younger sisterswhom I’ve watched blossom from awkward preteens into lovely young ladiesare nice enough to guffaw at my dumb jokes. An only child, I appreciate the semblance of siblings. But my girlfriend’s youngest sister has turned into a bit of a 19-year-old hellion: always parading about like a G-string diva, always barely concealing a tan, toned figure that would make Ron Jeremy blush. The whole thing makes me wanna find religion, you know? Now listen: Whereas my friends would willingly do hard time just to talk to this young woman, my intentions have always been pure and familial. Plus, my girlfriend has promised “to slit [me] from balls to throat” if I ever make an ill-advised move. Still, “Happy New Year” takes on a whole new meaning when my future sister-in-law welcomes in Jan. 1 with a sartorial salute to Frederick’s of Hollywood.
But J.J., he’s gotta deal with keeping his thoughts pure about one of the most beautiful, most photographedand now most sex-addledwomen in the world. Just yesterday, she was his doe-eyed Good Times sister, Penny, cute as a button. He protected her. He made her laugh. And thenwhammo!in the span of just a few years, Penny turned into Miss Jackson If You’re Nasty and those cute little buttons started flying off like Uzi bullets. The poor bastard probably never saw it coming. After several pudgy years leading her boot-campy Rhythm Nation, Janet buffed up and shed some epaulets; for the cover of 1993’s janet., she posed topless, with some dude’s hands covering her boobs. Then, as if simply being naked weren’t getting the point across, she added some dirty talk to her nudie show: references to bondage, three-ways, lap dances. 1998’s Velvet Rope Tour featured J.J.’s one-time co-star strutting around like some crotch-massaging Alice in a Lil’ Kim wonderland.
A competent singer, Janet has always been adeptthat is, with some assistance from longtime producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewisat maximizing a glossy hook. She’s a decent dancer, too; her showstopping skills are second only to her brother Michael’s. But on the new 20-track All for You, she’s finally gone fake-orgasm overboard. On the cover, Janet is just about all the way undressed, complete with a tussled mane of highlighted brown hair, a drugged-out come-hither look, and a mere puff of fake white fur barely covering her naughty bits. Which all wouldn’t be so ridiculous if the album didn’t sound like the groan-heavy soundtrack to a Jenna Jameson movie.
On All for You, Janet has abandoned catchy choruses for what amounts to nothing more than boring, albeit explicit, phone-sex patter. Even worse, the 34-year-old has unwisely traded her sweet cooing for a rough staccato chant; she often sounds like an Oompa Loompa singing one of those creepy work songs: “What do you get when you guzzle down sweets?” And when Janet’s not chanting, she’s showing off her skills for porn-happy pillow talk. On “Would You Mind,” she moans like Donna Summer circa “Love to Love You Baby” and sings “I just wanna/Kiss you, suck you, taste you, ride you/Feel you, make you come too.” As the song fades to a close, Janet shrieks: “The song ended. What the f-? I didn’t even get to come! Did you? You men. You might want to get this on tape. You men are just lame at times. I’m telling you.”
Sadly, most of All for YouJanet’s first real artistic bomb, even though the album will undoubtedly sell millions in its first week of release aloneis just as lazy and bed-headed as “Would You Mind.” Jam and Lewis neglect their trademark cool-sounding bells, beeps, and whistles, and opt instead for a low, droning synth hum. And although Janet has done sweet ‘n’ sexy cuddle cuts as well as anyone”Let’s Wait Awhile” and “Again” are still played on prom nightthis disc’s slow jams go nowhere near nuzzleworthy. And upbeat chart-toppers “What Have You Done for Me Lately?,” “Control,” and “Love Will Never Do (Without You)” may have been fluff, but at least they were fun fluff. Here, however, there’s hardly a guilty pleasure to be found, and when Janet does try to liven things up, the result is usually either uninspired or inspired to the point of laughability.
On “Son of a Gun (I Betcha Think This Song Is About You),” Janet not only samples “You’re So Vain” but also allows Carly Simon to rap. (Yes, and it’s as horrific as you can imagine.) “Someone to Call My Lover” samples the main guitar line from America’s “Ventura Highway,” but the blend between the old-school California sound and a modern hiphop beat just never gels. For the most part, Janet’s attempts at bad-girl ‘tude are nothing more than frequent “fuck”s, and the profanity just rings false. Only on “Doesn’t Really Matter” does she keep it clean and let loose on a good-time singalong chorusbut the song, a No. 1 hit, is from last year’s Nutty Professor II: The Klumps soundtrack.
Luckily for J.J., All for Youdevoid of any other obvious chart-toppers, as far as I can tellisn’t gonna stick around that long. It shouldn’t, at least; it really is remarkably awful. Here’s hoping that Janet will find a nice comfortable turtleneck sweater and rediscover some of that old pure pop magic in the process. And if she doesn’t, and she just keeps getting nastier, well, J.J. could always call an old Good Times pal for some sympathy. I’m sure that guy who played Bookman is having all sorts of troubles, too. CP