The Velvet Rope (Virgin Records)
By: Sylvia White
There has been much hoopla and an overall difference of opinion between many Janet fans due to this new album, The Velvet Rope (TVR). Many say that Janet is far too personal on it, others tend to think that the material is just plain old crap! In this reviewers mind I can understand both standpoints, well except for the blatant description of this album being crap. In my opinion, and remember I say, my opinion, I felt that TVR is an album that is highly personal, very studio-produced and truly moving in many respects.
I, being the melodramatic person that I am, have never been able to get into music with sad and melancholy messages over beats which were made to make you dance, but with this album Janet proved me wrong. She has done something that never I thought I would be able to understand, much less care for, and that is, addressing personal anguish and struggle over grooves and savage beats which are danceable and not in the standard form of a ballad. Janet has also proved wrong the theory of chamber music being the best way to express pain. She got deep on us and told us of complex stories from within.
For those people who felt that Janet went too far out on a limb and came back with material that is unworthy of her prior efforts I say Pish-Posh! If you liked Rhythm Nation with it's messages and tone then I can not see why you would not be inclined to like TVR. It has many strong and powerful points in the wording, from physical and mental abuse to sexual freedom to the loss of close friends. I can not see where Janet has failed her listeners in giving them pure material, in fact, I feel that some of the "drama" may be because Janet chose a different route, but people have to remember that this vision is a part of the process we call growth.
On TVR, it feels as if Janet gave us a call on a boring Friday night, asking us to go to this hot new club to demo some of her new material, she wanted to see us dance our blues away while she shared with us the stories of her tortured soul. She is sharing private thoughts that we all can relate to and she told us to GET UP AND DANCE while we listened!
I am not going to do a track by track account of songs I am merely going to tell some of the stronger material. Much of the works are on the club tip, they are beats laced with deep and edgy kicks. "You", lyrically tough with a wonderfully edgy droned Janet doing two variations of vocals. It has definite In Your Face lyrics, on it she starts out tough and follows through on other tracks. "Got Til It's Gone", the debut song featuring Q-Tip who, as usual, sounds like BUTTA, smooth and a definite groove! "Go Deep", simple lyrics but I still love this song. It is really catchy and very absorbing, you can't help but get into it. " Free Xone", a sure fired cut loose and make ya' move track. Very little Janet but definite KICK. "What About", this song had GOT to be one of the most honest and brutal songs on the entire album. She gets very raw but it maintains a slick and easy groove throughout. The story itself keeps you listening. Truly Powerful! "Rope Burn", definite erotic tones..smooth. "Anything", in this song Janet stays true to her "Anytime, Anyplace" mind set. The tune is seductive, sexy and soft. It flows with the usual lady-like grace that Janet is known for.
The overall album is worthy of a 4. Though this album is strong and has many great songs on it I feel that Janet could have done with a little more variety. Her beats are tight and guaranteed club winners but a bit of an assortment would have been even more appreciated. Her Pop roots were not as evident as they could have been.
All I have to say to those who have naysaid her, take a second listen and see what you hear, if you find the same ole thing then that is up to your ear but I would hate for folks to miss out on Janet at one of her more inventive and truly expressive points in life. She has grow'd up folks, except it and grow with her.