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POP MUSIC | Record Rack

Keepin' It Real Conventional

Janet Jackson plays it sexy but safe on her first album since 'Velvet Rope.'

* * JANET JACKSON, "All for You," Virgin

April 22, 2001|NATALIE NICHOLS

We know how we're supposed to address Miss Jackson if we're nasty, but what do we call her when she is?

Actually, the sex talk on such electro-pulsing mid-tempo ballads as "Love Scene (Ooh Baby)" and "Would You Mind" recalls the R&B-pop superstar's explicit previous collection, 1997's "The Velvet Rope," without the bondage and bisexuality.

This time, Jackson and longtime producer-songwriter collaborators Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis foster a more conventional intimacy, examining the various stages of romance for a take-charge woman who knows what she wants as well as what she doesn't need.

Many songs convey the men-are-sex-toys and/or pure scum messages that are so popular with female R&B acts right now, but-especially considering how successfully Jackson has reinvented her sound over the years-this is a surprisingly generic, unadventurous set. The airy grooves and twinkly soul-pop feel overblown even in better moments, including the upbeat title track, with its old-school-funk hook, and the slamming let's-work-it-out plea "Trust a Try."

Always a lightweight singer, Jackson is most in her element when whispering and moaning through a series of ever-more-specific tunes about what she'd like you to do to her. She's mischievous enough to make light of these in her off-the-cuff, between-song remarks. But not even her game sense of fun can save such ridiculous moments as "Son of a Gun (I Betcha Think This Song Is About You)," a hip-hop-flavored updating of Carly Simon's "You're So Vain," complete with Simon's, er, rapping.

*

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent). The albums are due in stores Tuesday.

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