March 21st, 2011 1:00am

Any Time My World Gets Crazy

Janet Jackson @ Radio City Music Hall 3/19/2011

The Pleasure Principle / Control / What Have You Done For Me Lately? / Feedback / You Want This – Alright / Miss You Much / Nasty / Nothing / Come Back to Me / Let’s Wait A While / Again / Doesn’t Really Matter / Escapade / Love Will Never Do (Without You) / When I Think of You / All For You / That’s the Way Love Goes / I Get Lonely / If / Scream / Rhythm Nation // Diamonds – The Best Things in Life Are Free – Make Me / Together Again

For a major icon of pop music, Janet Jackson is not a tremendously charismatic performer. She’s incredibly likeable and extremely talented, but she just doesn’t have that weird power over people where just being in her presence is astonishing. I might not have really noticed this if two of the most recent shows I have seen weren’t Prince and Lady Gaga, both of whom definitely have that freakish charisma. You can’t take your eyes off them; they radiate something indescribable. I’m sure Michael Jackson was the same way.

This isn’t necessarily a criticism of Janet. Not many people have that kind of power, and a huge number of immensely talented people get by without it. She knows how to compensate for it, that’s for sure. Dancers and choreography can often be this sort of default mode for live pop music, but for Janet, it’s an integral part of her expression. The choreography is careful and detailed. The dancing — both in terms of individual dancers and the overall group — is intuitive but surprising, and focuses your attention on movement without making you think so much about it.

Janet Jackson “When I Think of You”

As a singer, Jackson is very underrated. There’s nothing ostentatious about her vocals — there’s no melisma, no belting. She sings to suit melody and she never upstages her rhythm. The songs are often deceptive in their apparent simplicity, often escalating toward demanding high notes. She’s very good at conveying sweetness, and later in her career, subverting that sweetness with a pervy sexuality. I’m a very big fan of her more innocent dance pop songs, like “When I Think of You,” “Love Will Never Do,” “Miss You Much” and “Escapade.” Those are brilliantly composed pop singles, but Janet brings a thrilling lovestruck exuberance that pushes them toward something more potent and profound.

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