More About Janet Jackson
Sitting across from a roaring fireplace one winter afternoon in Vail, Janet is curled up on a dark leather couch as she discusses the unlikely topic of Discipline, the title of her new album. Beyond the floor-to-ceiling window, long graceful branches of towering trees are heavy with snow. In the distance, a lift carries skiers up an imposing mountain awash in white. Janet's wearing a midnight-black sweat suit, her hair pulled back to the nape of her neck. Her body language is relaxed and her eyes are smiling. She's trim, and also a little hoarse, having just fought off a cold. The whisper-quiet texture of her voice adds to the intimacy of the conversation.
"Discipline has been much on my mind," she says. "It's the idea that unifies the songs on this record. As a concept, and even a lifestyle, discipline goes extremely deep. It can be applied to so much about ourselves. In my case, I see it as one of defining aspects of my character. Discipline was there for me from the start. But it was not until this record that I began to understand its full meaning.
"In putting Discipline out front-- as both the title of the album and title of a song about sexual surrender--I wanted to announce that I was venturing into new creative waters. That meant working with producers like Jermaine Dupri, Rodney Jerkins, and Ne-Yo, whose songs spoke to the immediacy of my emotions. Like all my records, this one, whether intentional or not, has autobiographical roots. It's difficult for me to work any other way. I don't feel it, if I don't believe it, I can't sing it.
"So Discipline, as a storyline, begins in my childhood which someone could see as a classic study in discipline. Discipline was part of a family culture that I absorbed. I was born with it.
"I also believe that discipline has given me the confidence to jump out of the nest. When L.A. Reid, Chairman of Island Def Jam, and I discussed co-executive producing this record, we both agreed that the feeling had to be adventuresome and fresh. I was interested in exploring musical scenarios�some exotic, many erotic, but all deeply emotional. I wanted to push the envelope. And I'm glad that `Discipline,' both as a song and an album, does just that.
"`Feedback,' a Rodney Jerkins production, is a different metaphor that also explores sexual tension. It's a provocative conversation that invites openness in an area where so many of us are closed off. The same could be said for Rodney's "Roller Coaster," a musical ride that reflects that up and downs of romantic/physical agitation and excitement."
When asked how her concept of discipline has changed over the years, Janet reaches for her mug of hot tea, takes a sip and pauses several seconds before replying.
"Well, I guess if I go back to the beginning I see a little girl, 10-years-old, who's appearing on `Good Times' and sets her own alarm clock to wake up at 5:30 AM in order to be at work by 7. Then I think about a 15-year-old starting to make records. For the next 25 years, she makes an album every two or three years without fail. Going a little deeper, she learns that the music most connected to her heart has a rhythmic and harmonic complexity that requires work. That means hours and hours trying to compose lyrics and melodies that ring true; hours and hours in the studio layering the vocals that contain the different voices she hears inside her head. Then, of course, the months she spends planning and executing world tours, one after another."
And does that artist see discipline as a burden?
"No, I see it as a blessing," Janet is quick to say. "As a child, I took it for granted. That's who I was. As a