Janet Jackson has abandoned the plastic R&B of 2006's 20 Y.O. for a sexier brand of digitized megapop. On her Def Jam debut, the beats are as crass and processed as Jackson's heavy breathing, so she sounds more like a sex droid than a blow-up doll, which is way hotter — for starters, sex droids show more initiative. When Janet brags she's "heavy like a first-day period" on "Feedback" or sings in a scrunched-up robot voice that she's "So Much Betta" than your girl, all the amateur competition should just pack up their Webcams and go home.
Discipline's mechanized thump flatters producer Rodney Jerkins, who slams down the high-voltage money shot "Feedback" and the Jam-Lewis homage "Rollercoaster." The slower, slinkier stuff is left to Ne-Yo, who's so excited to be working with a real, live Jackson that he even calls one song "Rock With You." Essential to the album's fantasy world is its lack of references to the real-life woman behind the mike. (No one really wants to think that it's Jermaine Dupri she's inviting to "strum [her] like a guitar," right?) So by the time Janet's murmuring, "Daddy, I disobeyed you," on the masochistic title track, you can dismiss any images of the abusive Jackson clan that flit into your mind. Just lie back and enjoy the sensations as pure aural autoeroticism.