In May 1993, the second most famous Jackson child released her fifth studio album janet. It followed two incredible outings (Control & Rhythm Nation), which sold over 11 million copies accumulatively and put her in a position to rival her older megastar brother, Michael. janet was a mature exploration of her womanhood, with sensuality (That’s The Way Love Goes) and full blown horniness (If & Throb) arm in arm with a more R&B vibe and the expected commentary on sociopolitical issues such as racism and sexism. If Janet ever felt that she wasn’t on the same level as her peers in the business, janet catapulted her into the same arena as Madonna and made her an international sex symbol (refer to that Rolling Stone cover). The album went on to sell over 20 million copies and is her biggest success to date, although follow up The Velvet Rope is arguably her most stunning artistic achievement.
The album positioned Janet as a powerful voice for women who felt like they lacked ownership of their sexuality and her continued dedication to highlighting the inequalities faced by women, particularly black women, made this album important a number of ways. The serious stuff aside, it’s absolutely packed with incredible tracks. The R&B jam ‘That’s The Way Love Goes’ was a completely different sound from the 80s beats she’d showcased in prior releases and the thrashing pop of ‘If’ and house flavour of ‘Throb’ were explicit declarations of sexual power. Even if some of the arrangements sound dated now (25 years though…), they still feel relevant in some way and are a reminder of the creative genius artists like Janet and Madonna showcased throughout their careers (and continue to do so).
The real point of this post though, is for me to share how much I love Janet Jackson’s earlier contribution to the music industry, pop culture and a legacy of songs that are so brilliant and pioneering that they deserve to be appreciated today. If it wasn’t for the likes of Janet, we wouldn’t have the empowered female performers we have today and it’s important the ‘youth’ know this. In an effort to educate and celebrate, I’ve included my top 10 Janet Jackson songs below. It was almost impossible to make a final decision but these are the ones I listen to most frequently when I’m not doing full album run throughs. Enjoy:
‘Scream’ is actually a Michael Jackson song, featuring Janet, but it has to be on here.