MIXED MEDIA : A VIDEO SPECIAL : Rated on a scale of one star (poor) to five (a classic). : JANET JACKSON : "The Rhythm Nation Compilation" A&M; Video ($19.95) ****

Containing more than twice the number of videos as last year's "Rhythm Nation 1814," this collection is most noteworthy for its inclusion of photographer-turned-video-director Herb Ritts' handling of "Love Will Never Do." On it, Jackson doesn't exhibit any little-girl tentativeness. Instead, she brazenly frolics on the desert with two muscle-bound hunks who barely wear their unmentionables, sporting a bustier, skin-tight jeans and a blonde, upswept hairdo with more panache than Ivana Trump. Forget the little-sister-of-Michael-Jackson hype. Jackson is all woman here.

Most of these elaborately staged, meticulously detailed videos--particularly Julien Temple's "Alright"--are great showcases for Jackson's willingness to stretch beyond her public's conceptions of her. Whether it's on the ethereal, soft-focus romanticism of "Come Back to Me" or the headbangin' bravado of "Black Cat," Jackson is too cagey to be pigeonholed. On a brief, transitional slice of footage between "Miss You Much" and "Rhythm Nation," there's even the sampled voice of Malcolm X intoning: "Too strong . . . . "

While still not as daring or cutting-edge as a Prince or Madonna, Jackson is a cut above your average, paint-by-numbers pop star. With Jackson, you never know what you'll get, but the odds are pretty high that it will be exceptional.

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