Release Date: 18 December 2015
Format: LP Double Vinyl
|Various Artists Dear Janet Limited Vinyl 2LP Set
1986, an American diner at night. Janet Jackson, her shoulders jerking to a steely boom-bap beat from within a buttoned-up blue satin blouse and waistcoat, is staring down a neglectful lover with an intense, unforgiving, defiant fire in her eyes. He used to treat her right, she explains over fizzing electro-pop keyboards, as dancers bolt their way across the diner's faded booths, painted jukeboxes and milkshake spills. But, the Indiana-born mega star then asks - "what have you done for me lately?"
Fans today could be forgiven for asking the same question of Jackson that she posed in that famous video. It's been eight long years since her last album, 2008's 'Discipline', after all. Instead, though, as the world gears itself for feverously anticipated new album 'Unbreakable', the 49-year-old's power and influence as a zero-bullshit, don't-mess, honey-voiced R&B queen remains strong - as 'Dear Janet', a new tribute album featuring cult indie experimenters Dirty Beaches, Karl Blau, Marker Starling, Tune-Yards and many more goes to show.
Swapping the pearlescent productions and siren synths of Jackson's biggest and best tracks for rawer, more lo-fi spins, the record is an affectionate, intimate ode to a soul-pop master that was born one night in Domino innovators Dirty Projectors' Brooklyn apartment. "I mentioned to Dave Longstreth, Amber Coffman and Angel Deradoorian that I was always more attached to Janet's Prince-inspired sound than her brother's," remembers compilation curator Jan Lankisch of German label Tomlab.
A few months later, a record was ready of Janet Jackson songs as had never been heard before. Dirty Projectors' Deradoorian contributes the opening track, stripping 1986 album 'Control' single 'Pleasure Principle' of its dancey keytar slink to its emotional essentials, resulting in an echoing piano ballad. Drag City maverick Scout Niblett injects 'Nasty' with woozy atmospherere and drones, to the point of delirium, in sharp contrast to the sunshine bossa nova chill of Marker Starling's take on 'Young Love'. Dark disco kings Batsch meanwhile, provide one of Lankisch's favourite covers on the compilation: "Their version of 'Together Again' reminds me of New Order in parts."
Jackson, as Lanksch points out, went out of her way to carve her own niche when emerging as an artist in the early 1980s, in the shadow of her monumentally succesful elder sibling. "She wanted to be different from Michael in any way she could. MJ was huge, the big star. Janet was just the little sister. It was a great challenge for her, to find her own way in the music business." In a way, then, it's only fitting that the cover version on 'Dear Janet' from some of the brightest names in the American and European indie underground, take Jackson's songs on intrepid journeys into other genres and sounds.
LP 1: Pleasure Principle - Deradoorian / Rock With U - Karl Blau / All For You - Dreaming And Delicious / He Doesn't Know I'm Alive - Nicholas Krgovich / What Have You Done For Me Lately - Naytronix w/ Tuneyards / Black Cat - Albert McCloud w/Sean Wood / Escapade - LAKE / Together Again - Batsch
LP 2: Nasty - Scout Niblett / Let's Wait A While - The Harpoons / Control - Dream Tiger / Rhythm Nation - Woom / Someone To Call My Lover - The Rests w/Carolyn Pennypacker Riggs / If - The Present / That's The Way Love Goes - High Places / When I Think of You - Katie Eastburn / Young Love - Marker Starling