Out & About

Stop the madness, please. It's getting out of hand. Simply because there was an ample well of young-adult disposable income in the latter half of the '90s doesn't mean that every aspect of pop culture has to cater to their all-too malleable desires. Every movie doesn't have to kowtow to the 18-24 demographic. Professional athletes aren't over the hill at 30. And songs about young love and lust--however virginal it speaks its name--aren't the only romancing going on.

Take Janet Jackson, for example. Here's a musician from one of the most public musical families of the modern era, and she's never been taken at face value. She was branded with youthful audacity when she exercised Control over her musical career at 19. Three years later she went arty with Rhythm Nation 1814, one of the first commercially successful and popular R&B concept albums since Marvin Gaye's What's Going On, and all the MTV nation felt was the groove. And when she teased sexiness on janet., and delivered it outright on The Velvet Rope, people started rumbling about what was going through the mind of the precociously demure young woman who portrayed wee Penny on Good Times.

Now that her latest album, 2001's All of Me, tackles topics of romance of a flesh and blood adult with equal frankness and aplomb and she's still popping her curvaceous, limber body onstage, people wonder why she retains her interest in pubic activities. Word to the wise--adults have and think about sex, too. That should be a refreshing idea. But some naysayers want to deride her for "acting" like a Britney or Beyoncé at her age, even though 15 years ago Jackson invented the aggressively sexy, independent woman in pop archetype. Besides, she's only 35.

Yes, that's right--35. She's been around the bend. She has one marriage under her belt. And she's lived a life in a semipublic eye since first performing with her then more famous brothers at the tender age of 7. But along with her longtime production team of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Ms. Jackson's made funky, soulful R&B during a decade when it's usually just a sample bank making up rap and hip-hop's crib sheet. She's still talking about the trials and tribulations of being a woman in America--a black woman at that--yet all everybody bothers to see is Michael's young sister turned singer turned occasional actress. But she ain't having any of it. Yes, her recent albums often have more musical padding than necessary. But they're as vibrant as she is, dancing this mess around like an elastic puppet. And like every confident feminist who doesn't need to trumpet the word, there's nobody pulling her strings.

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Bret Mccabe