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POP EYE

It's 'janet.' It's Coming Soon. It's Gonna Be Big. Period.

March 28, 1993|Steve Hochman

For the past few months, Michael Jackson has hogged the spotlight. Now it's sister's turn.

Janet Jackson's album--titled simply "janet." (sic)--will be in the stores May 17.

That makes it the first superstar release of the year and her first release under the $40-million, three-album deal with Virgin Records she signed in 1991.

With all that invested, you'd think Virgin would be rolling out the heavy promotional artillery by now. Surprisingly, however, the company has adopted a relatively low-key game plan.

Virgin first's official promotion move for the album was simply a four-page ad in last week's Billboard magazine--four black pages, blank except for the word janet and the Virgin logo.

But here are the details on the package, which was again produced by Jackson with the team of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, who also worked on Jackson's 1989 album "Rhythm Nation" and 1986's "Control":

Jackson co-wrote all the songs, bringing in a wide range of styles, including funk, hip-hop, rap, rock, pop, jazz, industrial and even a guest vocal by opera star Kathleen Battle on the track "This Time."

The other major guest star is Public Enemy rapper Chuck D., who appears on "New Agenda," a song about her pride in being an African-American woman.

Sample lyrics: "Because of my gender / I've heard 'no' too many times / But with every 'no' I grow in strength / That is why / African-American woman / I stand tall with pride."

That song was inspired by the poetry of Maya Angelou, who also wrote poems for the upcoming movie "Poetic Justice," which features Jackson in her first big-screen starring role, as a young poet. The film, directed by John Singleton ("Boyz N the Hood"), will open on July 16. Jackson's ballad "Again" is featured in the movie as well as appearing on the album.

Other songs on the album include "Funky Big Band," a tribute to the musical history of Harlem, and the hard, funky "You Want This."

Radio programmers can't wait to get their hands on the album.

"There's been a lot of disappointment in a lot of superstar releases in the last few years, but Janet will be the exception," says radio programming consultant Jeff Pollack. "I have a tremendous amount of confidence that this album will be huge."

Says Gerry Cagle, vice president of the pop radio trade magazine Network 40, "There's more excitement about this than any record for the past year. This one will allow her to stand even with Michael."

There are some, though, taking a cautious approach. "We've been burned so many times about high expectations," says Rick Cummings, program director of top-rated L.A. pop station KPWR-FM. "People say it's a great album, but they said that about Madonna and Bobby Brown and they were stiffs. We're taking a wait-and-see approach these days."

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