Unbreakable is Janet Jackson's eleventh studio album that was released on October 2, 2015 under her own independent record label, Rhythm Nation (which is disseminated by BMG Rights Management).
After releasing her tenth studio album "Discipline" in 2008, Janet parted ways with her label home of 14 months Island Records.
A spokesperson for Janet added, "[Jackson] will have autonomy over her career, without the restrictions of a label system... Always known to break new ground and set trends, Janet's departure from Island Records makes her one of the first superstar artists to have the individual freedom to promote their work through a variety of avenues such as iTunes, mobile carriers and other diverse and innovative channels."
Mariel Concepcion of Billboard magazine suggested that "Jackson would seem to be a natural fit at Live Nation Artists which is already home to Jay-Z, Nickelback and Shakira."
The following year, Janet suffered the unexpected death of her brother Michael Jackson; she later performed a special tribute to him at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards. She also ended her seven-year relationship with record producer Jermaine Dupri.
As a joint venture with EMI, Universal Music Enterprises subsequently released Janet's second greatest hits compilation, Number Ones under A&M Records.
Although she began recording new material with producer Rodney Jerkins, Janet eventually abandoned the project, still unwilling to specify whether she intended to sign with a major label or release music independently.
UMe and A&M later released Janet's third compilation Icon: Number Ones as the debut of the Icon album series, designed to feature "the greatest hits, signature tunes and fan favorites of the most popular artists in music history."
After starring in the feature films "Why Did I Get Married Too?" and For Colored Girls in 2010, Janet embarked on the world concert tour Number Ones, Up Close and Personal in 2011 to promote her second compilation album. In 2013, she indicated she was once again working on a new record.
Later that year, Janet also revealed that she was married to her third husband, Qatari businessman Wissam Al Mana.
In May of 2015, she announced that she would embark on the Unbreakable World Tour and release her eleventh studio album through her newly formed, independent record label as a result of a partnership between herself and BMG.
In October of 2009 (just a month before Janet released her second compilation album Number Ones," record producer Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins revealed that they were working together on the singer's eleventh studio album. However, in 2010, Janet revealed she had scrapped the recorded material with him.
Although she recorded and released "Nothing" as the theme for the film "Why Did I Get Married Too?", Janet stated: "There have been a lot of record labels that have asked me to sit down and talk with them, but I don't know if I want to do something completely independent, or go with a major".
In August of 2011 while touring with her "Number Ones, Up Close and Personal" world tour, Janet stated that she would "go back into the studio later this year or early next. I am not sure what I will be doing yet. I like to be inspired by what is going on in my life at that time".
In 2013, Janet confirmed she was recording a new album and "creating the concept and initial thoughts on the music."
In August 2014, producer and engineer Ian Cross (who worked on her last three studio albums) confirmed to Barefoot Sound magazine that he was working on Janet's new album, stating, "The new album is going to be great. It's a process. There's a lot in store, yet to come", also saying they worked in recording studios in Qatar, Paris and Middle East.
He asserted that he and Janet "had a little bit more of a special relationship because we became friends naturally. You meet a lot of people and you become friends with a couple of them, but sometimes there is one person you become really good friends with. She asked me to work on an album with her called Discipline in 2007 and, again, just do the same thing, produce the vocals. That led to her hiring me full-time to work with her. That's where I'm at now".
After Cross' declarations, Janet herself responded to the rumor, neither confirming nor denying the works, stating: "If there is a new project, you'll hear it from my lips", she tweeted.
The album saw her reunite with long-time producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, who did not contribute to her previous project.
"Unbreakable" is divided into two sides: the first side is composed mostly by dance-pop songs while the second one is more experimental.
The album opens with the title track "Unbreakable", a mid-tempo R&B song which describes Janet's unyielding devotion to her fans.
The following track "Burnitup!" is an uptempo song with electronic beats, with processed vocal samples and house drums. Janet asks "Mr. DJ" to "turn it up" and the crowd to "dance like no-one's watching", while Missy Elliott raps, "Make it work, make it work, make it work".
The third track "Dammn Baby" has hints of trap bass and percussion and bits of previous single "I Get Lonely" into its breakdown.
In the fourth song "The Great Forever", she is reportedly to sound like her late brother Michael Jackson, and addresses the curiosity about her romantic life. "I don't see why loving someone or what I do seem so radical to you [...] What you think doesn't mean nothing at all / Doesn't change who I am."
The next track, "Shoulda Known Better" opens as a ballad, but develops EDM beats for its underpinning. During the song, she asks "Why, why, why?", before making a call for social action. "We won't accpet excuses. We tolerate no abuses".
The sixth track, "After You Fall", is a stripped ballad with Jackson's vocals being accompanied by only a piano line.
The following song "Broken Hearts Heal" is a song with "breezy" vocal harmonies & a tribute to her brother Michael, reminiscing about a childhood full of singing and laughing together. During the chorus, she sings, "Our love ain't no material thing/Inshallah see you in the next life".
The eighth track "Night" is a house track which accompanies breathy vocals by Janet.
The ninth song and lead single from the album, "No Sleeep", is an R&B and quiet storm song which lyrically finds Janet crooning about a long-distance romance over "soulful" keyboards and programmed drums.
Starting the second part, "Dream Maker / Euphoria", the tenth track, is a R&B song with a soul sample, and at one point of the song, Janet sings, "Wish I could create a perfect place, without jealousy, abuse, or hate".
The eleventh song "2 B Loved" is described lyrically as a "rapturous celebration of the power of love", complete with a "burst of sunshiny pop froth complete with hand claps, [and] a hip-shaking groove".
The next track "Take Me Away" has an electro-rock arrangement and lyrically looks for escape with a lover. The following and thirteenth song "Promise" is an interlude.
The fourteenth track, "Lessons Learned", is built over a "plucked" guitar figure, on which Janet sings about an abusive relationship where the victim keeps that way. At one point of the song, she sings "What makes her want to stay?".
The next song "Black Eagle" is a two-part song that sets its mysticism and self-help to modal phrases and quiet finger snaps; she addresses the struggles of today, but goes with "Because every life matters... We all need to do better."
The sixteenth track "Well Traveled" is an arena rock, described as a "Bon Jovi power ballad" song.
The closing track, "Gon' B Alright", is "twisted" psychedelic rock, and was compared to Sly & The Family Stone sound.
- Unbreakable (3:38)
- Burnitup! (feat. Missy Elliott) (4:09)
- Dammn Baby (3:55)
- The Great Forever (4:18)
- Shoulda Known Better (4:45)
- After You Fall (4:48)
- Broken Hearts Heal (3:42)
- Night (4:14)
- No Sleeep (feat. J. Cole) (4:20)
- Dream Maker\Euphoria (2:46)
- 2 B Loved (2:46)
- Take Me Away (4:18)
- Promise (0:57)
- Lessons Learned (4:23)
- Black Eagle (3:17)
- Well Traveled (4:18)
- Gon' B Alright (3:54)
iTunes Store Bonus Tracks
- No Sleeep (3:26)
- No Sleeep (AFSHeen Remix) (feat. J. Cole) (2:59)
Japanese Edition Bonus Tracks
- Promise of You (4:30)
- Love U 4 Life (2:42)
- No Sleeep (PKCZ Remix) (3:23)
Target, HMV bonus and Australian standard release album bonus tracks
- Promise of You (4:30)
- Love U 4 Life (2:42)
Album Release & PromotionEdit
On April 22, 2015, Janet tweeted, "Letting go doesn't mean you stop" after a fan created a mock Missing Persons poster of her which had begun circulating the internet prompting her to retweet it herself, adding to further speculation of a new album.
On May 16, 2015, on her 49th birthday, Janet announced a new album and world tour and stated, "I promised you would hear it from my lips. And now you will. This year, new music, new world tour, a new movement. I've been listening. Let's keep the conversation going."
It was later announced that Janet will release her new album in the fall of 2015 under her own record label, Rhythm Nation, distributed by BMG Rights Management. The launch of Rhythm Nation marks her as among the few African-American female musicians to establish a record label.
In June of 2015, she released the album's first single, "No Sleeep". During that same month, she teased a track titled "Love" which was later re-titled "Unbreakable". The song is about how important her fans were to her.
On August 20, 2015, Janet released a preview of a new song "The Great Forever" while also confirming the title of her eleventh studio album as "Unbreakable" and is set to release on October 2, 2015.
Janet has promoted the album through social media, frequently using the hashtag #ConversationsInACafe as well as taglines: "I've been listening" and "Let's keep the conversation going". To further promote the album, she embarked on the accompanying Unbreakable World Tour in August 2015.
Pre-sale tickets were made available exclusively to American Express and Citibank cardholders prior to general admission tickets going on sale on June 22, 2015. Her forthcoming album was also made available for pre-order, along with vinyl copies of the album's lead single "No Sleeep".
On September 19, 2015, Janet was set to perform at the iHeartRadio Music Festival at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, but on September 18, her rep confirmed she had withdrawn from the festival.
"Unbreakable" debuted atop the Billboard 200 albums chart in the week ending October 8, 2015. It sold 116,000 equivalent album units it its first week, which included streaming and individual digital song sales. Of that sum, the album sold 109,000 in pure sales.
The album became Janet's seventh number one album on that chart and also made her the third act to amass a number one album in each of the last four decades. The album also opened atop the US Independent Albums Chart.
In its second week, "Unbreakable" dropped to number eight on the Billboard 200 with 30,000 equivalent album units sold, which represented a drop of 74 percent in album sales. Out of that figure, 27,911 were pure album sales.
As of November 2015, the album has sold 180,000 copies domestically.
In Canada, the album also debuted at number one, with sales of 4,300 units, which represented the lowest sales for an album debuting at number-one in 2015.
It became Janet's second chart-topping album in Canada in the Soundscan era since All for You debuted atop the charts in 2001. In the UK, the album debuted at number eleven, which represents her highest debut in that country since 2001 when All for You debuted at number two.
"Unbreakable" received positive reviews.
At Metacritic (which assigns a weighted mean rating out of 100 to reviews from music critics), the album received an average score of 75, which indicates "generally favorable reviews" based on 22 critics.
Jim Fusilli of The Wall Street Journal complimented her vocals, as well as her efforts to craft a contemporary but familiar sound to add to her diverse catalog. He notes that she and her primary producers, Jam and Lewis, "explore a satisfying range of musical styles plucked from across the span of pop history" including funk, electronic dance music and soul.
According to Jed Gottlieb of the Boston Herald, "[u]nlike her peers, Jackson doesn't fear slow-burn R&B. This kind of quiet storm soul shows up again and again, on the big ballad 'Well Traveled' and the lead single 'No Sleeep'."
Writing for Entertainment Weekly, Kyle Anderson called the album "her most sonically diverse set since 1997's quirky, hypersexual The Velvet Rope" adding that "the most thrilling aspect of Unbreakable is her willingness to experiment."
Jon Pareles of The New York Times commented that Janet depicts a far more subdued persona in comparison to the explicit nature of her previous albums. He states that "[f]or most of 'Unbreakable,' she plays big sister—someone who's happily in love, willing to offer advice and wishing for a better world. It's a benign role but a modest one, reinforced by the music."
Newsday's Glenn Gamboa wrote that "Unbreakable" reflects her maturation, stating that after a tumultuous period in her career following the Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show controversy, "Jackson finally seems like herself again—actually an even wiser version of herself."
In her review for USA Today, Elysa Gardner wrote: "The young woman intent on liberating herself and the world is still socially and spiritually conscious, but she has evolved into a more settled, reflective artist ... With Unbreakable, Jackson, already a proven survivor—of both her family's well-publicized struggles and decades of changing trends in pop music and culture—gives us no reason to doubt that people will keep watching, and listening."
Mikael Wood of Los Angeles Times wrote that the album is a collection of "grand-scaled but meticulously detailed songs" that include a mix of balladry, R&B, rock and EDM. He also comments that although "the music makes for delicious ear candy, Jackson isn't content to leave it at that. She also has messages to deliver[.]"
Writing for The Guardian, Alex Macpherson remarked: "Unbreakable’s highlights are low-key moments of reflection and nostalgia: the hypnotic sway of Promise, the languorous dread of Lessons Learned and After You Fall, a skeletal piano lullaby that seems composed for Jackson’s late brother Michael, and on which she once again demonstrates the emotional range of her voice."
Rebecca Haithcoat of Spin rated the album 8/10, stating that "it proves Janet can still surprise us. Who would've ever envisioned her slipping on a pair of boots and cowboy-cut Wranglers to sing 'Lessons Learned,' a country-tinged ballad about co-dependency? Or that she and the boys would've gone full Nashville and let a steel guitar cry and a little twang curl the edges of her voice on 'Well Traveled' (and that the whole thing would work!)?"
Andy Kellman of Allmusic gave the album 3.5/5 stars, complimenting Janet's diversity of sound while referencing her own catalog and familial influences. He remarked: "No one but Jackson can directly reference previous triumphs, address her audience, and yet move forward quite like this."
|Exclaim!||Canada||Top 10 Soul and R&B Albums of 2015||2015||10|
|The Guardian||United Kingdom||Best Albums of 2015||37|
|Entertainment Weekly||United States||The 40 Best Albums of 2015||11|
|Slant Magazine||The 25 Best Albums of 2015||13|
|Newsday||Best albums of 2015||9|
|ABC News||50 Best Albums of 2015||49|
|Spin||The 50 Best Albums of 2015||50|
|Pitchfork Media||The 50 Best Albums of 2015||36|
|Rolling Stone||20 Best R&B Albums of 2015||8|
|People||Best Albums 2015||8|
|About.com||Top 20 Pop Albums of 2015||6|
|BET||The Best R&B Albums of 2015||*|
|Los Angeles Times||2015's Must-hear Albums||*|
|Mashable||The 30 Best Albums of 2015||19|
|Cosmopolitan||Top 15 Best Albums of 2015||6|