Thursday, March 25, 2004

Anal Seepage (And Other Leaks), Part II

!!! This entry will be on a five-second delay because it features Janet Jackson. Mature audiences only !!!

So last time I mentioned that I've been digging some music that hasn't come out yet, because I'm a pompous dickwad who likes to brag and pretend I'm a total indie-rock asshole when in reality I'm just another disgruntled cubicle-bound apparatchik....Anyhoo, now for the reviews, eh? Up first is a brief look at Wilco's June release A Ghost is Born, and then it's full-frontal review action with Janet Ms.-Jackson-if-you're-nasty's Damita Jo, out next week.

Wilco, A Ghost is Born [6/8/04]
(Rejected title: Aghosh is Born. Ha!) Even the alt.est of indie rockers has to admit that it's basically impossible to hate Wilco's last album, the majestically pop-perfect Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. (As Pitchfork says, "No one is too good for this album; it is better than all of us.") Jeff Tweedy & Co. don't try to reinvent the wheel this time around, and start with the same jangly, mid-tempo sound of YHF: here, though, it either gets ratcheted up a notch into Led Zeppelin/wanky jam-band territory or toned way way down as placid, snuggly-but-still-smug ballads. Both options end up working quite satisfactorily, and like YHF, it takes a few listens before you're convinced. But won't someone explain to me WTF is up with that weird 8 minutes of music-free spaceship noises at the end?

Janet Jackson, Damita Jo [3/30/04]
Oh dear. The cover alone—with Janet slyly covering up her nipples (but flaunting a smidge of saucy asscrack)—is sure to cause Superbowl flashbacks for everyone, and induce paroxysms of hate among the Religious Right, who'll no doubt immediately demand that all god's children ban Janet from the radio and burn her CDs. And god forbid they actually listen to the thing, for the music completely and totally delivers on the cover's slutty promise, featuring Janet's standard now-patented (but still thoroughly enjoyable) mix of heavy-petting dance tracks and heavy-breathing R&B ballads, but all taken to brand new XXX-rated highs lows in honor of Janet's new role as sex educator/America's whore/international scapegoat. I suppose bleeding heart liberals are to be comforted by the fact that all the "you're a filthy slut" b(l)acklash against Janet's Superbowl simrape hasn't stopped her from keeping her legs spread wide open (musically speaking!), nor from refraining from being as nasty as she wants to be in her music. (The title is a bit of a play on this, actually: "Damita Jo" is actually her middle name, and a nickname used by Janet's father when Janet was but a wee little nip of a girl.)

And hey, thankfully, buried among all the full-on pornographic grunting and unh-aahing are a few tracks that are quite catchy, even memorable (for the right reasons)—especially remarkable considering the low standards to which pop music is held these days. 'Just A Little While,' the pre-album first single, was a horrible initial salvo for Janet, as its jarring New Wave shimmy has nothing to do with the rest of Damita Jo's otherwise slow, crotch-tingling burn. Thankfully that horrid abortion gets tacked on at the end of the album, letting wunderkind (and current R&B chart-topper) KanYe West's stellar production shine through the rest of the time. Highlights include the jittery and surprisingly tame (i.e., R-rated) 'Strawberry Bounce', infectious like an STD, with a backing track of KanYe just saying "Dance! Dance!" over and over again. 'R&B Junkie' is a Missy Elliott/Lauren Hill-styled throwback track recalling nascent Brooklyn-era R&B and hip-hop. But my favorite is 'All Night (Don't Stop)', a furious, steaming pile of dance track littered with the shards of the infamous diwali riddim, that Bollywood-inspired sample beat that has fueled Lumidee's 'Uh Oh,' Sean Paul's 'Get Busy,' Missy Elliott's 'Pass The Dutch,' and countless other hits. See, even Janet's down with the brown! [Pacifists not Paki-fists!] And then of course ther—

OK enough. I'm sorry Ms. Jackson, but who listens to Janet's first post-nipple album for the music? Probably the same people who watch porn for the acting—i.e., no one. Let's get to the dirty parts! Tracks 14-16 are the real money shot here, featuring the memorable sexual song line-up of 'Thinkin' 'Bout My Ex' / 'Warmth' / 'Moist'. (Here I have to disagree with DJ Mike Biggz, a big pre-reviewer of Janet's album who's probably most infamous as the boyfriend of ur-blogger Ernie of Little Yellow Different, the first blog I ever read. Mike thinks this latter section lags; I think that, thanks to the nasty nasty lyrics and the sexed-up rhythms, it's the whole reason to chow down on the juicy fish taco that is Damita Jo.) Anyway, 'Ex' is relatively tame, and actually a decent song (if slightly maudlin), but its buttery production values serve only to herald the start of the "breathy, horny Janet" section of the CD, in lieu of the "sexy, dancy Janet" portion (which comes just after the random "Caribbean vacation Janet" section of songs about lying on a beach in Anguila—what the hell, has Janet replaced Kathy Lee Gifford as the spokesperson for Carnival Cruise Lines or something?).

Sadly, the easy lead-in song doesn't make it any less painful to grapple with 'Warmth,' which follows 'Ex' and must be the nastiest song in existence at this moment in time. What can only be called a "blowjob ballad" opens with a, ahem, snatch of dialogue where Janet asks the guy driving her car to pull over on the side of the road....So she can suck him off! Oh mama! The opening lyrics are "My hand wrapped around / Strokin up and down / But nothing can compare / To the warmth of my mouth." At the line "I feel you get erect," Janet really starts stroking away to some velvety backbeats, then breathlessly intones "Deeper and deeper / You taste so good baby" over the bridge, to indicate that the party has moved into her mouth. There's some heavy breathing, and suddenly there's light rain falling in the background—all the better to obscure the vivid sounds of sucking and slobbering you'll hear in your left-ear headphone. Yes, actual aural cues of fellatio occurring are looped into the mix of the otherwise lyricless musical interlude of the song. Beat that sampling prowess, Poop Diddy!

When Janet returns to try singing again, it's hard to decipher exactly what she's saying (took me 3 replays to get "How you like that?....How much longer can you last / I feel you getting closer"). Why? Because she's enunciating as though she HAS A COCK IN HER MOUTH! She actually slips up on words and rolls her tongue around and makes strange open-mouthed grunts to indicate that this little dalliance is occurring in real time, with prime grade-A beef getting smoked in her warm little hothouse as we listen in, riveted/repused by the prospect of hearing adorable little moppet Damita Jo give some anonymous dude great roadhead.

It goes on and on like this, though we're mercifully spared the sound of erupting volcanoes of jizz or a verse about fumbling for tissues in the glove compartment—and of course there's no answer to the big question on everyone's mind: do pop superstars spit or swallow? But it gets better! The song ends tantalizingly with Janet's exclamation "Now it's my turn!," which segues right into 'Moist' (probably my least favorite word in the English language), a song all about pleasuring Ms. Jackson (rather than Ms. Jackson giving pleasure). Finally! Sample lyrics include "You make me so moist / Orgasmic / Rub it just like that" (subtle!) and the refrain "You feelin in it / You ticklin it / You swimmin in it / You gonna get it." (All you heteros out there, please explain to me what exactly it is that you end up "swimmin in" when you feast on the poonanny.) But it looks like Janet shot her figurative dirty-word load on 'Warmth,' as despite the orgasm-themed lyrics, she climaxes the song by refusing to name that one body part that got her into so much trouble in the first place. Viddy this lyric: "Suckin on my hmm with ice in your mouth / You know how to make my rain come down." Your hmm eh? Maybe that's what Justin calls it.

<Sigh> As I mentioned before, the sad part in all of this is that, if you can desensitize yourself to the lyrics, these XXX songs are some of the stronger ones on the album (I had the halting, slippery chorus of 'Warmth' in my, ahem, head for days). It's too bad that for Damita Jo the focus will almost definitely be on the substance rather than the style—ironic given the typical proclivities of celebrity news media. If only Charlie Kaufman's Lacuna Inc. were a real company: Mark Ruffalo could jack off with me into our collective consciousness, erase all memories of nipple exposure from our past, and let us all move on with our lives totally unaware that we ever saw Janet's hmm.

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