Where janet., Ms. Jackson's third blockbuster album, implied sexuality with its teasing cover and seductive grooves, its sequel, The Velvet Rope, is sexually explicit, offering tales of bondage, body piercing, and bisexuality. Not that you'd necessarily know that from listening to The Velvet Rope, since the album sags with endless interludes, murmured vocals, and subdued urban grooves. Working with her mainstays Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Jackson essentially reworks the hushed atmosphere of janet., neglecting to put a new sonic spin on the material -- for an album that wants to push the limits, it sounds surprisingly tame. Similarly, Jackson's attempts to broaden her sexual horizons frequently sound forced, whether it's the references to piercing or her recasting of Rod Stewart's "Tonight's the Night" as a lesbian anthem. Furthermore, the album is simply too long, which means the best moments sink into the murk. And that's unfortunate, because there are good moments on The Velvet Rope, but at its running time of 70-plus minutes and 22 tracks, it's hard to work up the patience to find them.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine