Small World

Dammit, Janet!

When you're a Gentleman of a Certain Age, it's useless to resist a little tousle-haired pop icon coming at you in a push-up bra. I was prepared to roll my eyes all the way through opening night of Janet Jackson's latest concert wank, but about three songs in—"Love Will Never Do Without You" chirped like a drop-dead gorgeous drag queen version of Janet Jackson—you sort of have to decide to have fun with the whole damn thing. And, come on, like I'm supposed to balk at the funked-up medley of songs from Control and remain indifferent while thousands of people are happily screaming, "No, my first name ain't baby, it's Janet, Miss Jackson if you're nasty!"? When Control was first released, I was still looking for that special girl and asking Taco Time customers if they'd like a delicious deep-fried, sugar-coated cherry- or apple-filled empanada with their orders. It would take a stronger man than me to pretend I've been sitting at home all these years mulling over Proust.

The crowd in Portland was a huge buzzing hive of gays, African Americans, gay African Americans, halter tops, and bronzed, tight-faced couples probably there on the advice of a hotel concierge who told them that Janet Jackson was kicky and cute. The sprayed hair on these latter folks must have wilted when Miss Kicky came out in a black, skintight PVC cat suit and proceeded to mount a strapped-down concertgoer. (A great gimmick that I'm still not convinced wasn't staged—I've always pictured Janet to be a cuddlier Diana Ross, someone who wouldn't be caught dead granting the hoi polloi an audience with her privates.)

Janet has inherited from brother Michael a tendency to get all squishy eyed and giggly, especially when she's surrounded by crotch-thrusting dancers dressed as ladybugs. This kicked into high gear when she decided to bring things down a bit—despite the fact that you can never really bring things down a bit in an evening of crotch-thrusting ladybugs—and go "unplugged" for a string of ballads. She strode out and just stood there until the audience went bananas, at which point, for a full minute, she sobbed—long, glistening tears captured in loving close-up on a video screen—while the crowd applauded her moving display of humanity. I thought one of her cheekbones might slip. I thought I might doubt her sincerity for the rest of the night. Then I remembered, of course, that Janet's latest album is entitled All for You— and I relaxed back into the evening's cocoon of commercial generosity.

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