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Janet Jackson 20 Y.O. Virgin Records (India), CD, Rs. 350
Janet Jackson 20 Y.O. Virgin Records (India), CD, Rs. 350

Janet Jackson 20 Y.O.
Virgin Records (India),
CD, Rs. 350When Janet Jackson's 20 Y.O., possibly a determined effort to prove that the industry couldn't shut her down following the Superbowl debacle and the utter failure of Damita Jo immediately after, hit the stands in the U.S. last year, it went by without so much as a whimper. And even at first glance it's obvious why. 20 Y.O., Jackson informs during the spoken introduction, is marking the milestone of 20 years in which the singer has talked about everything from racism to spousal abuse to children. "There's something to be said for not saying anything," she says. And that seems precisely the case with the album, which flows from one unremarkable electropop number to the next. The personality and individuality that made Janet Jackson's original big hit Control are completely absent from the album. Instead, Jackson rests on past laurels rarely making any attempt to explore new territory. Almost all of the music on 20 Y.O. could easily have belonged to Rihanna, Beyonce or any one of the dozens of younger stars that have outdone Jackson in her own game, or in some cases, might even be beneath most of them. Of course, there are a couple of songs that are moderately enjoyable at least. Like "Daybreak" and "Enjoy", which are probably the only songs on the album to recall her more freewheeling days and do it rather successfully. There's also "So Excited" featuring Khia, a breathy number that might have worked much better if not for the disturbingly overt innuendo that Jackson throws into this and other numbers. Excised from the album are any trace of sensuality or spontaneity, always a characteristic of Jackson's music. In their place is a package of mechanically assembled beats, gasps, sighs and half-whispers, with all the excitement and verve of a telephone pole. John Mayer,
Continuum Sony BMG,
CD, Rs. 399 It's easy to see why John Mayer's Continuum picked up five nominations and two wins at the 49th Annual Grammy Awards last month. And it's easy to see why the album didn't do more at the awards too. Like the plain white album cover simply announcing the name in large letters, Mayer does a stripped-down, stick-to-basics act on this album, putting together a collection of breezy, radio friendly songs with an airy R & B, pop, blues sound. It's hard to put down any one song as carrying the album forward. Perhaps the first track "Waiting for the World to Change" comes closest to being the big hit, with its apologies for the social apathy of Mayer's generation and a melody that's reminiscent of the singer's more popular work, although its slicker, smoother counterpart strongly evoking comparisons to some of Sting's solo work, Belief, really deserves more of the credit.Then there's "Gravity", which nicely highlights Mayer's abilities on the guitar with its mellow, clean solo and easy guitaring. "Stop This Train", his take on having to grow up faster than he wants to strikes all right chords, easily becoming one of the best songs on the album. There are some other really great numbers on this album like "Slow Dancing in a Burning Room", the Hendrix-cover "Bold As Love" and the peppy, acoustic number "The Heart of Life". With every song, Mayer shows a more mature side of himself as compared to Room For Squares or Heavier Things. His guitaring is confident, his lyricism enjoyable and his songwriting restrained and straightforward, without any pressure to prove himself. Perhaps the only fault in the album is that the writing is somewhat too restrained so that while the entire album maintains quite a delicious mid-tempo high, it never really climaxes leaving the listener in a pleasant haze instead. RAKESH MEHAR

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