It is time again for another reader’s request. This occasion we were asked to review some iconic albums. I decided to tackle Janet Jackson while Scott is working on his review of Madonna.
In 1989, Janet Jackson released her iconic album Rhythm Nation 1814, and I believe it is her finest collection of work. Rhythm Nation was Jackson’s fourth studio album, and it clearly showcases the full spectrum of her artistry through a variety of themes such as social injustice and sensuality. Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis produced Rhythm Nation and their fusion of R&B, hip/hop and electronica allowed Rhythm Nation to pioneer a new direction in popular music. Not only do we see an awakening of sorts with Jackson on this album, but also we see this as well in the music videos for each of the singles. The title track echoes a militaristic/police vibe where she showcases her edge, but by the release of Love Will Never Do (Without You) Jackson reveals herself figuratively and literally by highlighting her toned and fit body. I honestly love every single off this album. This is a classic pop album that will always be a great listen.
In Jackson's 1997 album, The Velvet Rope, she continues to explore the various dimensions of her personality. The Velvet Rope is one of the most raw, emotionally charged and complex of her albums. This album explores depression and the various boundaries of her emotions as well as a lot of sex. Although, I can appreciate this album as an expression of her artistry, as a listener the music does very little for me. It is evident that Jackson is a prolific and poetic songwriter, but I don’t find much appeal in topics like as sadomasochism and domestic violence. Unlike Rhythm Nation that had seven top five Billboard singles, The Velvet Rope only spawned two top 10 singles. Honestly, this is my least favorite Janet Jackson album because I found myself disconnected with the style of the music as well as the dark theme of the album. I prefer my music to lift me up, not drag me down.
My two favorite Janet Jackson albums are Control (1986) and Rhythm Nation 1814 (1996), but I also have a special affection for All for You (2001). In this album, it feels as though Janet returns to the charm and originality of her earlier albums.