Album Review: Janet Jackson – Unbreakable

Janet Jackson has been a pop icon for over 25 years with a discography to be envied. Unbreakable, her 11th studio album, was released shortly before the news of her nomination to be an inductee to the hall of fame was announced. She has not released an album since 2008’s Discipline; the main question I had before listening to Unbreakable was whether Janet, after seven years, would be able to release an album relevant to this generation of listeners.

Upon first listen this album seemed mediocre at best – however by the fourth listen its positives began to shine through. The opening title track is exceptional; ‘Unbreakable’ starts with a soulful chord progression played on a smooth EP with a cool synth lead over the top. Then the beat drops and it’s just sensational, with a funky bass line and an underlying vocal sample. Janet’s vocals on this song are beautiful, she doesn’t necessarily do anything special but the way all the components of this track come together makes it extremely enjoyable. I found that the album went downhill from there. ‘Unbreakable’ is followed by the laziest track on the album ‘BURNITUP!’ which features a disappointing verse and bridge from Missy Elliot. Even accompanied with the hilarious video of Kevin Hart dancing to the track I can’t get into it. The instrumental sounds like a failed attempt at a Timbaland beat. Lyrically it’s not that interesting with cheesy overused lines like “Hey mister DJ, bump the track and won’t you turn it up.”

This trend continues. The soulful R&B tracks seem to be the ones worth listening to on this LP, whereas the dance cuts bring the project down.  Songs like ‘No Sleep (Feat. J Cole)’ ‘After You Fall’ and ‘Black Eagle’ seem effortless to Janet whereas songs like ‘The Great Forever’ and ‘Shoulda Known Better’ feel like songs they thought they needed to put on the album to cater to a wider audience.

That being said, I feel Janet Jackson, Jointz, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis nailed the DJ Mustard sound with the third track ‘Dammn Baby’. The track is cool, current, and it doesn’t feel like a carbon copy of the other R&B dance anthems out like ‘All Hands On Deck,’ ‘Ayo’ or ‘Na Na’, as Janet puts a bit of 80s flavour on it with the choice of synths and Michael Jacksonesque ad libs.

Unbreakable is an amalgamation of ideas without direction”

I feel this album is an amalgamation of ideas without direction. A lot of the tracks seem like the result of trial and error in order to create number one singles. The lack of diversity of producers also held the album back. Seven years is a long time to wait before releasing another album, especially a pop album. I feel like Janet should have consulted the leading producers of today on some tracks rather than solely relying on the expertise and experience of Jam & Lewis. For example, the album might have been much greater if Disclosure had produced tracks like ‘The Great Forever’.

Honestly I’m not sure who I would recommend this album to, as it has a bit of everything in it but it doesn’t really do any of these areas justice. A jack of all trades and just above average at most.  This album sounded like it was mimicking the modern rather than pulling it off. I would’ve much preferred a soul album, which I believe this generation is throwing back to with the successes of bands such as Hiatus Kaiyote and The Internet. But I can’t write off this album, as it does have some enjoyable moments.

Joshua Ogunmokun

 Josh is currently listening to ‘Best Friend’ by Wstrn

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Co-Editor of the Music Section at University of Nottingham's IMPACT Magazine.
One Comment
  • EYKD
    29 October 2015 at 21:57
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    Josh you have no idea what you are talking about ” Unbreakable” is a stunning album!! Burn it up is an amazing track!! This album is the best release this year. Not sure how old or young you are but Janet delivers big time!! You need to listen without prejudice. Long live the Queen of Pop – Ms. Janet Damita Jo Jackson!! ❤️❤️❤️

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