NEW YORK — If you're wondering when Janet Jackson will hit the music scene again, look toward sometime in 2004. One of her longtime producers, Jimmy Jam, says that's probably the most logical timetable for Miss Jackson to drop her latest LP.
"The record is really in its infancy, which means that we've done probably six or seven songs," Jam said of the album last week. "There is no distinct musical style yet. It's all over the place, from songs that I would call classic Janet songs, meaning that they could've been on any of her [earlier] albums. Some of the songs have a definite sort of ambient quality to them. We've been listening to a lot of everything from Zero 7 to Télépopmusik, [so] there's a little bit of that. There's some house stuff, which there always is [on her albums]. There is going to be some more guitar-flavored things.
"It's kind of the way [her] albums always start," he added. "There's not a clear direction yet. We see what sticks. We're doing a bunch of songs and seeing what we like. We've already thrown some [songs] out. It's sort of still the discovery process. We're not going to [put the album out] till next year most likely anyway. We've been working in New York the past couple of weeks, we're going to work in L.A., in Miami, we're probably going to work in Minneapolis. So I think the music will take on different elements as we take on different environments and work with different people."
Jam said that since they do not expect to put the album out until next year, they can work at a leisurely pace and really focus on penning good lyrics.
"The approach we're taking is that we're trying to write really good songs and worry about the production later," Jam said, "because production is one of those things you want to be up-to-date [on], cutting edge. The way we produce a record now isn't necessarily how we'll produce a record six months from now. That's how fast things change. But the song, if [the lyrics are] great, is gonna be timeless and work."
So just what is Janet going to be singing about when we hear the project? Whatever comes to mind.
"Her albums are always what she's thinking at the moment," Jam said. "Her thoughts may change six months from now. Her biggest thing is to be honest with her fans. Whatever stuff she wants to talk about, it's coming from her heart. I anticipate that we'll be working on the record for the next three to four months. Then we'll have a direction and finish it off. The record will be done by the end of the year and [will] probably come out next year. If we felt we had something strong enough as a single, I would guess we could have a single out before the end of the year and the album at the beginning of next year."
Jam said it's too early to discuss Janet's collaborations with people other than him and partner Terry Lewis. Producer 7 Aurelius has said that his handiwork may pop up on the album as well.
"Expect the unexpected, man," said 7. "Really, she's totally an amazing artist, and I love the fresh, envelope-pushing vibe she brings to the table. She's just really on some cutting edge, hard-hitting dance music, and I think you are going to be really surprised. You should be excited. It's going to be crazy."
Besides Janet, Jam and Lewis are also working on music for "The Fighting Temptations" movie soundtrack as well as upcoming albums for Mya and Patti LaBelle.