Janet Jackson is putting away the whips and chains and returning to purer principles of pleasure on her next album.
The R&B superstar is wrapping up work on an "upbeat, fun and carefree" follow-up to her dark and sexually explicit The Velvet Rope (1997), according to Jimmy Jam, who is co-producing the new disc. The as-yet-untitled effort should hit shelves at the end of April.
The album's likely first single, the "'80s-sounding" dance number "All 4 U," epitomizes the disc's happy vibe, he said.
"In the history of Janet, the records that are the happy records, that make people smile, have always traditionally been the more successful records, ... going back as far to songs like 'When I Think of You' to [her most recent hit] 'Doesn't Really Matter.' This continues that tradition, with kind of a nod to the dance music of the '80s."
"All 4 U" should be ready for radio in the next couple of weeks, and an accompanying video will be shot shortly thereafter, the producer said.
Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, known as the Flyte Tyme team, have produced all of Jackson's albums since her third disc, the breakthrough Control (1986). The pair won the Producer of the Year Grammy in '86 and are up for it again this year.
A few tunes on the upcoming album, including "New Beginning" and "Better Days," reflect Jackson's newfound optimism, Jimmy Jam said, even though her personal life may not be at a high. In early 1999 the singer separated from husband Rene Elizondo Jr., who is suing her for more than $10 million, alleging she reneged on an agreement to share property acquired before their marriage.
"Janet's always been honest about where she's at in her life, and that's sort of the record that she makes," Jimmy Jam said.
"The Control record was very much her going out on her own and becoming an independent woman. Rhythm Nation 1814 was her seeing what was going on in the world and making social comment on it, but doing it in a way that people could still dance to it. The Janet album explored her newfound sensuality and opened up a more feminine side to her. Velvet Rope was a [time] when she was having some issues, going through a depression, and rather than cover that up, she put it out there.
"This record now, even though it may not be the best of times in her personal life, she feels that the future is bright. ... She's excited about music and about life in general. She's excited about what the next year will hold for her, and that's the tone she's set for herself and [the album]."
Another feel-good number, Jimmy Jam said, is "When We Oooooo," whose vibe is a cross between "When I Think of You" and "Love Will Never Do."
The new album marks the first time since hooking up with the Flyte Tyme team that Jackson has enlisted additional producers, collaborating with Rockwilder (Jay-Z, Busta Rhymes) and the Neptunes (Ol' Dirty Bastard, Kelis). Jackson sought out Rock because she is a fan of the Method Man and Redman songs he produced, Jimmy Jam said.
Among the tracks Rockwilder worked on are "Trust the Try," which mixes rock elements with a funky, Dirty South beat, and a sexy ballad tentatively titled "Would You Mind." "We thought Rock was going to bring us a bunch of funky stuff, and all of a sudden he hit us with a ballad track," Jimmy Jam said. "We were blown away."
Jackson and the Flyte Tyme team are still working with material the Neptunes brought in last month.