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Label Limbo A&M; Will Pull Out All The Stops For Janet Jackson’s New Album, ‘Design Of A Decade 1986-1996’

With the Oct. 10 release of “Design Of A Decade 1986-1996” on A&M;, Janet Jackson makes a return of sorts to the label that issued her first four albums.

The greatest-hits set features material from Jackson’s A&M; albums “Control” and “Rhythm Nation 1814,” as well as her Virgin album “janet.” - plus two new tracks. The album will include a 24-page booklet featuring new photos and liner notes with an interview with Jackson. The CD will carry a suggested list price of $17.98, the cassette will be priced at $11.98, and a two-LP vinyl version will be available for $15.98.

In addition, a “Design Of A Decade” home video and laserdisc will be released, priced at $19.95 and $29.95, respectively, featuring a videoclip for each song on the album, with the exception of the new track “Twenty Foreplay.”

The release of “Design Of A Decade” comes at an interesting time for Jackson. Her Virgin contract is said to include a clause that could allow her to leave the label. If Jackson opts to take advantage of that opportunity and leave Virgin, likely suitors would include A&M; and DreamWorks SKG, which has already signed George Michael.

If a deal could be made to bring Jackson back to the A&M; fold, president Al Cafaro is clearly interested. “We’ve always thought Janet was an A&M; artist,” Cafaro says. “And we would love to sign her if she is available. This project has reminded us how much fun she is to work with.”

Even if Jackson doesn’t return to the A&M; fold, the label plans to maximize the release of “Design Of A Decade” with a multimillon-dollar worldwide marketing plan that includes cable, syndicated, and local TV advertising, as well as print ads in a number of consumer publications, including Seventeen, Us, Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, Jet, Vibe, and Essence.

“It’s a very aggressive but serious marketing plan that makes no concession to dealing with a lot of bells and whistles,” says Cafaro.

A special focus will be put on the international release, as A&M; feels that it has yet to capitalize on Jackson’s full potential on a global level.

Outside of North America, the album will be issued Oct. 2. A total of four different albums will be released in various regions, three of which will have distinctly different covers designed to appeal to Jackson’s fan base in particular regions, according to Martin Kierszenbaum, international marketing director for A&M.;

Both the international release and the Japanese version contain two additional songs: “Best Things In Life Are Free,” a duet with Luther Vandross, and “Whoops Now.”

The Australian version will contain the Frankie Knuckles/David Morales mix of “Best Things In Life Are Free,” which was the radio hit in that country, while the Japanese and international versions will contain the C.J. Mackintosh mix, which was the radio hit in most other territories.

“We are really trying to make the package the most attractive that we can (to each region),” Kierszenbaum says.

The new track “Runaway” has been released as the first single from the set worldwide.

In the U.S., the single was officially serviced to radio Aug. 16 - although some stations aired it early - and is already off to a healthy start.

A videoclip of “Runaway,” directed by Marcus Nispel, should premiere this week, says Cafaro. In addition, MTV will feature a “Janet Jackson Weekend” in October.

Plans for a Jackson hits package have been in the works for a few years, says Cafaro. Initially, the set was to be released prior to Virgin’s release of “janet.,” but A&M; postponed the release “to accommodate Virgin,” says Cafaro. In return, Virgin agreed to allow Jackson to appear with Vandross on “Best Things In Life Are Free,” featured on the “Mo’ Money” soundtrack, which was released by A&M; affiliated label, Perspective.

Delaying the Jackson album paid off for A&M.; “We were prepared to put it out as a record with her greatest hits from A&M; without new music,” says Cafaro, “but fortunately we were able to work things out with Janet and Virgin and get the two new songs and license ‘That’s The Way Love Goes,’ so it legitimately represents Janet’s greatest hits from the past 10 years.”

For the two new tracks, “Runaway” and “Twenty Foreplay,” Jackson again turned to Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, the production team that has been at the helm of Jackson’s music since 1986’s “Control.”

The songs were recorded in two weeks at the end of July and August, says Jam. Both tracks have a decidedly upbeat feel. “We tend to write in the mood that Janet’s in at any given time, and she was in a very good, happy mood,” he says.

Lyrically, “Runaway” can be perceived on two levels, Jam says. “It can be perceived as running away from a loved one but also as an hommage to her fans and all the places that she had just been to on her world tour.”

Musically, the song has “an islandy feel, kind of like ‘The Body That Loves You’ on the last album,” Jam adds. “It has that kind of chord structure and feel, but more upbeat.”

Jam likens “Twenty Foreplay” to “Someday Is Tonight” from “Rhythm Nation” or “Any Time, Any Place” from “janet.” He says, “It’s a very slow, sensuous ballad, but we did it a little differently, rather than the usual verse, chorus, verse type of idea. The song actually never repeats itself, because the idea of the song is that lovemaking is 24 hours a day. The song takes a journey from the morning through the night to the next morning.”

“Twenty Foreplay” is slated as the next single from “Design Of A Decade” once “Runaway” runs its course. Cafaro says the fact that the track has an unusual song structure doesn’t concern him.

The sessions for the two new tracks went so well, according to Jam, that “We all had the feeling of, ‘Wow, I wish this was a full-length album,’ because we were on a roll,” he says.

The next studio album, however, will have to wait until Jackson decides which label to go with.

“Right now, I don’t really know if there is a favorite (label),” Jam says. “I don’t really care where the record is at, I just want to make a great record. Whoever wins the lottery, I just hope they do a great job.”

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