“Hello. It’s been a while. Lots to talk about. I’m glad you’re still here.”
So goes Janet Jackson’s welcome back to her fans on Unbreakable, her first LP in seven years. The album also serves as reunion for Jackson with longtime collaborators Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, also known as one of the most successful pop songwriting-production teams in history. Jam and Lewis know how to do one thing better than anyone else on the planet: write hit records with Miss Janet. See “When I Think of You”, “Escapade”, “Love Will Never Do (Without You)”, “That’s The Way Love Goes”, “Again”, and “All for You” for a few examples.
Jam and Lewis’ fingerprints are all over Unbreakable, and the result is a cohesive work from track to track. The same couldn’t be said of 2008’s uneven Discipline, which found Jackson experimenting with a slew of hip-hop producers, to varying degrees of success.
Unbreakable also finds Jackson sounding back in command vocally, even while bouncing around a bit stylistically. “Shoulda Known Better” does trance-pop better than anything on her last three albums, while ballad “After You Fall” takes care of the tear-jerking. “Broken Hearts” and “Night” recall the breezy synth-pop of Control and new jack swing of Rhythm Nation.
The low-key “No Sleeep” is the big single here, a butter-smooth jam with guest J. Cole spitting a wry, clever verse. Cole’s presence brings out a refreshingly coy side of Jackson that she hasn’t revealed in some time.
Clocking in at 17 tracks, Unbreakable isn’t flawless. “Well Traveled” is a bizarre foray into country ballad territory. “BURNITUP!” features beats so reminiscent of Timbaland’s work on “SexyBack” that they probably should’ve just gotten the man himself to produce the track. And Unbreakable closes down with “Gon’ B Alright,” a slice of funky, Stevie Wonder-era Motown that falls short where most of Unbreakable succeeds: in sounding just like Janet, and nobody else.