Worth the hype?

Post-Super Bowl hoopla we have "Just a Little While," the first single off Janet Jackson's new record. Will the massive P.R. stunt pay off?

By Thomas Bartlett

Published February 10, 2004 2:45PM (EST)

It's been more than a week since Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" on the Super Bowl halftime show, and now that the mass feelings of shock, amusement and betrayal have begun to fade, we all have time to get down to truly important questions, such as: Will the publicity stunt actually work? Jackson's new single, "Just a Little While," off of her forthcoming "Damita Jo," was originally scheduled for release a few weeks from now, but her record company smoothly delivered it to radio stations just hours after the Super Bowl broadcast.

The likelihood that Salon would be covering the song if Nipplegate hadn't occurred, of course, is slim to none. But since she went to such elaborate lengths to get all of our attention, we decided we'd give the song a listen before it dominated the radio. Now that I've heard the song, I'm inclined to think that this was a brilliant act of misdirection, a ploy to focus the nation on Jackson's breast and divert attention from just how bad the single really is.

"Just a Little While" opens with a defiantly ugly guitar riff that sounds as if it could be the prelude to a new atrocity by any of those would-be pop-punk bands littering the charts. The verse seems promising at first, with the kind of simple, addictive and propulsive melody that can make you love a song despite its shortcomings. But it's followed by a weak bridge and a weaker chorus, both with forgettable, clumsy melodies. The lyrics provide some titillating moments ("I'll just lay around/ play by myself/ while touching on my favorite fruit," and "You know I'll take it anywhere/ that you want to go right now"), as well as some embarrassing ones (Janet whispering pseudo-seductively, "Do you wanna play with my strawberries"), but nothing more.

And don't try turning to the production for help: In a time when pop songs by even the most disposable artists are filled with delicious ear candy and dazzling beats, there's simply no excuse for releasing a song that sounds this bad. The beat is uninspired and is surrounded by tacky, ugly synth sounds that aren't even good enough to have '80s retro-kitsch appeal.

Jackson's record company, Virgin, still hasn't admitted that the unexpected early release of the single has anything to do with the Super Bowl. Instead, they claim they made the decision because bootlegged copies of the song were proliferating on the Internet and generating so much excitement that they felt the song's release date had to be pushed forward. But if you're worried that "Just a Little While" is going to bump OutKast's "Hey Yah" or Kelis' "Milkshake" out of heavy rotation, you can breathe easily. The song isn't exactly catching fire on the iTunes music store; today it was all the way down at No. 68 on the top 100 downloads list. The woman who just a week ago was at the center of the most Googled event in history has to be wondering if it was worth it.

Thomas Bartlett

Thomas Bartlett is a writer and musician in New York. He maintains a blog called doveman.

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