“all my girls at the party, look at that body,
shaking that thing like you never did see,
got a nice package alright,
guess i’m gonna have to ride it tonight.”

thus begins janet jackson’s new single, “all 4 u.” it’s also an infectious hook line that serves as a strong counterpoint
to the chorus melody. but as a guy and a “music critic,” these lines trouble me. why?
– do i object to be objectified? to being reduced to my anatomy?
– does janet’s wispy, “little sister” voice, when combined with the above, sound utterly inappropriate?
– do i just not like the word “package”?

i don’t mind the first one: frankly, i’d love to be used for my body. the second reason is my main problem with it, and essentially with all of janet’s attempts to be sexy. from the rolling stone cover to “anytime, anyplace” to this, i’ve never found her attempts to be some sort of black madonna to be effective. her public persona is far too shy and she always shirks away from discussing sexuality. a great example: on the velvet rope, she covered rod stewart’s “tonight’s the night” and much ado was made of her not changing the pronouns. great idea, sure, but to sell it, you’ve got to talk to the press about it, tell them, i don’t know, that you’ve always been bi-curious. janet went out of her way not to discuss it at all; it doesn’t make her look like a tease, it makes her look like a prude.

there’s something peculiar in the way janet flaunts her sexuality, as if she has something to prove — to us, to herself, to her family — like she is ms. jackson and, oh yes, she is for real. these lines and the chorus, which suggests that janet’s all yours (sexually!) if you just ask, seem to be her most egregious use of sexuality to date. the song itself brings to mind a word that i’ve used far too often recently to describe her word: “pleasant,” as opposed to, say, “good” or “inventive,” and let’s make no mistake about it here, janet’s work with jam & lewis in the 80s was quite inventive and groundbreaking, not so unlike aaliyah’s current partnership with timbaland. there’s a sample of change’s “the glow of love” and you’re in no immediate danger of having the chorus stuck in your head, though the quoted lines above are a different matter. it reaks of laziness, which bothers me as a drop-off in the work of jam & lewis in recent times has become measurable.

imagine if, as tom said to me, robbie williams were to do a similar song where he says a girl’s got nice knockers and he wants to knock her — i’m not a songwriter, obviously. what would the reaction be? it might become a sort of anthem for the fellas — i’m sure he’d love any controversy it’d kick up, love to talk about it to the press, unlike janet — and, so too, maybe this is just a song for da laydeez, and they’re welcome to it. girls, it’s all for you.

oh, and i REALLY hate the word “package.”