It’s tempting to think that with 3T’s uncle Michael gone, the distinctive Jackson sound has dwindled to a mere whisper. The legacy left behind by the King of Pop and his siblings forms a solid part of music history. One generation later, how can anyone live up to that? 3T’s new album Chapter III, however, shows that with Jackson DNA in your blood, the music never stops.
It’s been a while
Still, even those born with Jackson genes are only as good as their last gig. Taj, Taryll and TJ Jackson’s – hence 3T – previous album dates back to 2004, so it’s been a while. Obviously, Chapter III wasn’t thrown into their laps but needed plenty of time, perseverance, and a dose of The Jacksons Next Generation to whip it into shape.
The result is a third album that leans more towards pop than R&B. Choosing from a limited number of available songs, Chapter III opens with ‘That’s Our Family’, which is the intro tune of their 2015 television reality show. The tune is followed by nine songs, adding up to a total of 36 minutes of music. Most songs are self-produced, with acclaimed record producer Cory Rooney serving as the brothers’ sounding board.
Best songs first
Chapter III arguably offers its three best songs first. ‘Power of Love’ is a ballad that serves to reintroduce the brothers’ matching voices. Slowly progressing from a simple melody to full harmonies, strings, finger snaps, and children’s voices, ‘Power of Love’ turns into an uplifting ballad celebrating the belief that love can conquer all.
‘Gotta Have You’ kicks it up a notch. Opening with a quirky riff, the song leaves you in suspense until it adds a booming dance beat that makes you want to run to the nearest club to hit the floor. With this in mind, the song could have lasted a minute or so longer. But as it is, it cleverly leaves you wanting more.
The dramatic strings introducing ‘Heaven’ indicate that a classic ballad is waiting around the corner. Here, Uncle Michael’s influence is unmistakable, with a spoken intro that oozes ‘Liberian Girl’ from every pore. Close your eyes and let 3T take you on a smooth and dreamy ride into heavenly bliss.
Crashing down from heaven, the album continues with its biggest surprise: ‘Fire’. Hovering between pop and rock, the song slowly edges away from 3T’s boyband glow towards a more mature sound. Driving the message home that “everything that we worked for is burning down to the floor”, the song builds up to cries of frustration and despair. It’s more raw, more real, and more relatable.
Left with the sound of crackling flames, Chapter III then moves on to ‘Missing You’, a song that forms a tribute to 3T’s late mother Dee Dee Jackson. Yet despite the appealing tribute factor, this song doesn’t rise above mediocrity. The ballad is simply too bland and too 90s to have much of an impact, which is a pity.
Best to fast-forward to ‘Sugar’. This peppy track can brighten any day. Comparing love to a sugar addiction – we can all relate – 3T confess that “honestly, some habits are hard to break”. Well, no need to fight this craving, because ‘Sugar’ is candy to the ear.
Sweet and breezy
‘I Do (The Wedding Song)’ is a ballad that seems to take its overt sweetness from the previous track. It’s not the strongest ballad on the album but suits the occasional moment of romance. Think a winter’s night, an open fire, and a warm rug. Or think wedding bells – obviously – as this song graced Taj Jackson’s wedding in 2013.
‘Forever Girl’ – the next track – is also sugary sweet but has more of a bounce to it. Bob your head and clap along while joining 3T in their quest to find everlasting love. Don’t be surprised to hear the Jackson 5 whisper along, as that vibe is definitely present.
Holding on and letting go
The concluding track to Chapter III takes on a singer-songwriter slant. ‘The Story of Love’ focuses on the ever-changing tides of friendship and love. Together with ‘Fire’ the lyrics reflect something of 3T’s personal journeys in life. It’s about holding on and letting go, about family and loyalty, because for the Jacksons “that’s just the way the story goes”.
It took 3T a long time to get there. Yes, there were storms rocking their lives, and yes, there is the added pressure of being a Jackson. But although it may not always be easy to carry the Jackson music legacy, it doesn’t hurt either. As with many things in life: you have to take the bad with the good.
Chapter III is an enjoyable album for those who love straightforward pop music. It doesn’t offer a heavy dose of R&B, but rather continues the 3T tradition of uncomplicated ballads and sing-alongs. Still, at the edges and in the nooks of a few tracks such as ‘Gotta Have You’ and ‘Fire’ there are signs that 3T can do more. And they should.
Stuck along the way
The boyband arena has long been taken over by revamped and tweaked versions of what was going on in the 90s. At the same time, 3T fans have grown up, going through life’s ups and downs, and are likely to wonder if the brothers got stuck along the way. Even though the creative process of songwriting and producing takes time, Taj, Taryll and TJ Jackson need to speed up and move on.
Talent isn’t the issue, as there is plenty of that going around in the Jackson family. Yet talent alone isn’t enough. Voices need to be trained, new musical avenues need to be explored, and unused tracks from the 3T vault need to either be updated to the 21st century or completely discarded.
Keeping this in mind, Chapter III offers 3T a chance to evaluate their musical past and decide which road to take next. The album is not a grand finale of over ten years of innovative work, but rather reflects the status quo of compromise that the brothers have reached. They are still at a crossroads where choices must be made.
With that said, however, it would be a shame if there would be no brotherly music to accompany chapter four. If 3T can come into their own and truly feel what it is they want to do, the music will follow. Or as Uncle Michael once said: “To live is to be musical, starting with the blood dancing in your veins. Everything living has a rhythm. Do you feel your music?”
© Annemarie Latour