I have a love/hate relationship with Janet Jackson. While I’ve nursed a huge crush on her since she was Penny on “Good Times”, and I famously shouted down a relative who insisted Pebbles was hotter than Janet back in the Eighties, she’s not really been on my radar lately. First there was the whole Super Bowl fiasco, which I thought was tasteless. Then there was the way she refused to talk about it, as though she wasn’t responsible for it happening in the first place. THEN there’s the fact that her last couple of albums have been less than memorable. Truth be told, the last worthwhile Janet album was 1997’s “Velvet Rope”.

Anyway, JJ has been largely silent since the death of her big brother Michael in June. She emerged from her cocoon to sit for an interview with Robin Roberts on ABC last night. I must admit, the interview didn’t do much to change my recent ambivalence.

It rubbed me the wrong way that she decided to wait until she had an album to promote before talking about her brother’s death. Those kind of tactics wouldn’t have surprised me had it been ANY Jackson other than Janet. However, it does seem like Janet is taking advantage of the added glare of the limelight to say “hey…remember I still have a career!??!!?”

Aside from that, she was as charming as ever. She certainly deserves her reputation as the most grounded Jackson, answering her questions openly and honestly (despite protesting a couple of questions, she did go ahead and answer them). The pain she feels from her brother’s death (and the fact that she participated in several interventions, to no avail) is quite evident. There’s also a lot to be said for someone who will go on record as noting that they have issues, and Janet was quite real in that regard, talking about her issues with weight as well as her infamously abusive dad (although in regards to that, she kinda seemed to be taking a passive-aggressive approach, allowing that he was abusive, but “that’s Joseph”).

She is working on new music, and writing her own lyrics again, which is a good thing. I sincerely hope that she can go back to writing about her life and the struggles she goes through, since her last 4 or 5 albums have been more or less fixated on sex. If she can put out a work befitting her status as a mature 43-year old woman who has seen a lot in her lifetime, I think she’ll gain back a lot of the fans she’s lost over the years. I also hope she finally decides to sit down and write an autobiography-I’d be the first in line to read that.

Here’s a preview of her new video for “Make Me”, a song that’s grown on me quite a bit. It actually sounds like some of her work with Jam & Lewis, which is definitely a good thing.