Not since LaToya Jackson was Tasered on the CBS reality series Armed & Famous has a Jackson family member endured such a public sting. On March 5, Janet Jackson’s latest CD, Discipline, debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s top 200 — but sold only 181,000 copies, less than two-thirds of what her last album, 20 Y.O., sold in 2006. The lukewarm debut followed an odd publicity tour that included Jackson teaching Larry King how to dance and imitating Diddy in awkward promos on MTV. This setback follows the disappointing sales for 20 Y.O. and 2004’s Damita Jo. Discipline’s weak performance is even more notable since the album was thought to be a new beginning for Jackson after she severed ties with longtime label Virgin in 2007 and moved to Island Def Jam, home of Rihanna, Mariah Carey, and Jackson’s longtime love, producer Jermaine Dupri.
Given that her latest single (which peaked at No. 38 on Billboard’s Pop 100) is titled ”Feedback,” we thought it might be time to offer Jackson some ways she could jump-start her career. For starters, the overwrought sexuality needs to go (lyric from Discipline’s title track: ”Take off all my clothes/Daddy, I want u to take ur time”). After hitting the same horny note for six albums straight, it’s time to explore other subjects. More importantly, the 41-year-old Jackson needs to change up her sound; divas like Madonna and Cher wisely made sure their music evolved as they aged by moving more toward the adult contemporary market. Jackson’s fans will find her again — if she can find the right niche. ”She doesn’t really have a sound right now,” producer Polow Da Don (Fergie, Pussycat Dolls) told EW last year. ”So how do you create something that’s new and fresh for her but still fits her past? That is a challenge. But she’s still Janet Jackson — and she deserves hit records.” — Additional reporting by Margeaux Watson