Like many of Janet Jackson’s albums, there’s a tremendous core of first-rate pop and R&B at the heart of this album… which is compromised by her repeated insistence on meandering interludes and occasional filler songs that only seem to be included to pad out the running time. That’s a shame, because “The Velvet Rope” is filled with rollicking grooves like “You,” “Got Til It’s Gone” and “Go Deep” that suggest that the album would have benefited from a judicious editing. After all, Jackson’s voice is compelling but rather thin and with limited range, so slow-groove songs like “Anything” and “Rope Burn” lose much of their appeal without a strong vocalist. All that being said however, there’s no denying that the parts of “Velvet Rope” that work outweigh those that don’t, with a series of hit singles and covers (like “Tonight’s the Night”) that display Jackson’s strengths: Charisma, her distinctive vocals, and her steadfast refusal to settle for mediocrity.
Rating: ★★★★ (out of 5)