It’s hard being a Janet Jackson fan. It takes a whole lot of discipline.
I want those who stan for Janet to do something for me: Close your eyes for a moment and think back to the days, pre-2004, when your role in the Rhythm Nation was drama and argument free. You were able to watch interviews without holding your breath, free of the worry of “the incident” popping up during the dialogue. There were no catty blogs, no mean-spirited reporters and critics ready to pounce, no hateration. You didn’t get smartass remarks from peers if you even hinted at being a fan, either. Indeed, those were good times.
Sadly, those days are long gone. As “Discipline” — Janet’s tenth release overall and first for Island Def Jam — hit shelves Tuesday, the doubters were already flapping their jaws at a fever pitch. Before the record could even take hold, the masses were tagging it another sexhibition, a collection that did little more than collate vapid pop indulgences and Quiet Storm smut. This is hardly the case, as the delightfully raunchy title track is really the ONLY thing that comes close to her past excursions into erotica.
“Discipline” is a dance album first and foremost, full of skittering beats, catchy hooks and plain old good feeling, which is how we all like Miss Jackson best. Infectious dancers like “Feedback,” “Rock With U” and “2Nite” are classic Janet with a modern twist indeed (How many times did she say that in interviews?) and are worth a listen. And when she slows it down and channels her big brother Mike on my personal favorite, the lovely “Can’t B Good,” she proves she never lost touch with her endearing sweetness.
With all this in mind, this should be a time for Janet fans to rejoice. She’s back on MTV in heavy rotation for the first time in years, is planning a tour and just won an NAACP Image Award for her role as Dr. Patricia Agnew in “Why Did I Get Married?”. Yet, most spend their time defending their favorite diva against the side-eyes of naysayers and unfair comparisons. While critics tell Janet to grow up, they praise the tired, ghetto-urchin funk of Mariah Carey (I know ya’ll have heard “Touch My Body”), who is just two or three years Janet’s junior. Granted, she’s coming off of a hit album and wasn’t in Janet’s position even during her darkest hour, but that’s beside the point. People are looking for any reason to dog J out, and that’s just greasy.
So what’s a Janet fan to do? My advice would be to enjoy the record without worrying about sales, what she did or did not do promotionally, or how it’s gonna stack up to the output of others. Just be glad our girl has some solid product out there for us to enjoy. If you like it, like it, if you don’t, don’t – but don’t’ change shit up if the record does not chart where you think it should like folks did with “20 Y.O.” after it didn’t meet expectations. (I still don’t think that record was half bad, but what do I know?)
In short, just do your duty as a proud Janet fan. Or stan. Or whatever you wanna call yourself. Just keep in mind that if you let the haters and the charts sway your opinion on things, you weren’t a fan to begin with.