The Bottom Line
It seems there could be a strategy here. Janet Jackson was punished for her overly steamy work from her last album Damita Jo by failing to reach the pop top 40 for the first time in nearly 20 years. She is already on the way to clearing that hurdle with this release, but she sounds as if she is in full retreat. I long for the confident melodies of midtempo classics from "Let's Wait Awhile" to "Doesn't Really Matter."
Listen to "Call On Me."
- Goes down easy
- Polished, smooth vocals
- Elegant sheen
- Lacks a significant hook
- Too safe
- Gentle but bland r&b melody
- Professional vocal turns from Janet Jackson and Nelly
- Sweet but ordinary lyrics
Guide Review - Janet Jackson with Nelly - Call On Me
20 years ago Janet Jackson turned the pop music world on its ear with the aggressively independent hit "What Have You Done For Me Lately?" It was the lead-in for other odes to female self-determination including "Control" and "Let's Wait Awhile." She continued on to take on social issues of the day with the album Rhythm Nation 1814 and bravely explored her own sexuality and identity on a series of hit albums. It is disappointing to see Janet Jackson respond to her first commercial failure (the album Damita Jo) in 20 years with such a bland whimper.
I have no doubt that "Call On Me," with its smooth, elegant feel, will return Janet Jackson to the pop top 10 and provide a lengthy run on pop radio, but I fear she has sacrificed her role as a pop music trailblazer. Only the release of the album 20 Years Old this fall will tell if those fears are realized.
Obviously, producer Jermaine Dupri and long-term Janet Jackson collaborators Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis (listed here as part of the songwriting team) share some of the blame. Dupri brought Mariah Carey back to the top of the charts last year by emphasizing her vocal assets and bringing out a more mature personality. Janet Jackson's strengths as an artist lie in her independence, quietly outspoken nature, and her ability to sell a powerful melody. Cookie-cutter, whispery sweet nothings appear to be an admission of defeat to the forces that would seek to challenge Janet Jackson's unique artistic voice.