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Janet Jackson

20 Y.O. (Virgin)

At the outset of her latest disc, the other J.J. from Good Times giggles after saying "I've uncovered a lot in my twenty years." Such overt attempts at post-Super Bowl titillation dominate the songs that follow. But if Jackson thinks nipple obsession will compensate for underwhelming performances, she's missing the point.

Producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis are back to commemorate the passage of two decades since 1986's Control, their first teaming with Ms. Jackson, and Jermaine Dupri also assists. Unfortunately, the efforts of all three fail to prop up the show's star, whose vocals sound more vaporous than ever. That's especially true on "So Excited," in which Janet's contributions fade into the background each time guest chanter Khia grabs the microphone. "This Body" works better thanks to a nagging synth line and a fuzzy riff that goads Jackson into action. For the most part, though, she's content to purr inconsequentially through the likes of "Call on Me," a Nelly duet so airy that it soon drifts into nothingness.

That's no way to stay abreast of the competition.

 
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