Retrospective: Janet Jackson In The 90s

When Janet Jackson first debuted, she maintained an image of innocence. The world knew her as Michael Jackson’s little sister. On her fourth album Rhythm Nation 1814, Janet decided to step out of her brother’s shadow and come into her own person.

That album included the soft ballad “Come Back to Me”, the edgy “Black Cat”, and the light-hearted “Escapade”. Audiences were able to see that Janet wasn’t afraid to think outside the box and do what the media concerned to be the norm. The video for her single “Love Will Never Do (Without You)” exhibited a softer more sensual Janet. She teamed up with production duo Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis to make her mark as an icon. While addressing everything from crime to love, Jackson’s album sold over 14 million copies across the globe.

In 1993, she released the album Janet with the unforgettable cover. This album stands as one of my favorites of all time and that won’t ever change. Janet gave us jazz, hip hop, R&B, and pop all at once. From the sweet “Again” to the sultry “Any Time, Any Place” then to upbeat “Because of Love”, Ms. Jackson had the ingredients of a masterpiece. It’s true that the older you get, the more you appreciate good music.
Two of my favorite videos from that album just happen to coincide with each other. In “That’s the Way Love Goes”, she’s hanging with some of her friends and everyone is just vibing off of each other’s energy. Actress Jennifer Lopez makes a cameo appearance among a bunch of Janet’s dancer friends in a chill setting.

On a more raunchy note, Janet’s “If” shows us just how grown up she is. The chorus is self-explanatory but the verses are what require intent listening. With lines like “You on the rise as you're touchin my thighs” and “I want you so bad I can taste your love right now baby”, the song was enough to make you want to rewind it over and again.

That same year, Janet tried her hand in Hollywood. She starred in her first film Poetic Justice alongside Tupac Shakur. The John Singleton project topped the box office its opening weekend. In 1995, Jackson released Design of a Decade: 1986-1996 which highlighted her greatest hits as well as new material.

Janet came back on the scene in 1997 with the seductive album Velvet Rope. She addressed personal issues, domestic violence, and much more. Ms. Jackson emerged with big red hair, tattoos, and piercings. After battling internal demons, she did what most artists do and put it on vinyl. This album was comprised of R&B, trip hop, and even some electronic music. If I had to choose a favorite track, it would have to be “I Get Lonely” which she remixed with Blackstreet.

Janet set the standard for many women in the 90s. She was subtle with her sexuality. She knew how far to take it and was not afraid to change up her style. I still hold her in high regard because of her work from that decade. There’s only one Janet Jackson and to this generation, that won’t ever change.

When Janet Jackson entered the 90's, she truly became a star. Her albums of the 80's were definitely popular and one could never forget the effect that Control had on music as well as the 1989 release Rhythm Nation, which carried her momentum well into the 1990s, but as the decade began, there was a shift in Janet. The woman who had once sang "Let's Wait Awhile" was moving into a more sexual direction. Instead of hiding her sexuality and who she really was, she showed the world that the innocent family image of the Jacksons would not limit her in anyway. She would work on her next album "Janet.", which was essentially her way of distancing herself from the family. Writing all her lyrics herself and assisting with production, Janet had creative control and the results were amazing to watch.

From every single to every video, the world would see Janet at her most raw and vivid. In many ways, while in her 20s, Janet was still evolving and growing in front of the world. The identity crisis and stigma that comes with being a Jackson is without a doubt hard on even the most confident talent, as we saw with Michael. Now, Janet would end up seeing her album selling huge  numbers, racking up over 20 million copies worldwide, easily solidifying her as the no. 2 Jackson in the famil while setting herself apart from them. Some of her songs still capture the essence of sexuality and set the tone for a lovely evening, so to speak. When the seductive rhythms and vibrations of "Any Time, Any Place" come on, it instantly inspires a night of passion. Janet was able to showcase her ability to make you dance, laugh, and feel the energy of her music through the Janet album and after she toured extensively and appeared in the Poetic Justice movie, she would embark on yet another journey musically.

The Velvet Rope album is interesting. It's much more experimental for Janet, positions her in the same sensual and seductive lane she was previously in, while also creating a bit of an earthy vibe. There were heavy topics on this album, some of which might alienate Janet’s fans, especially when she veers into sexual questioning and same sex relationship music. The 90's wasn't as accepting as everyone is today, and that was beyond a risky move for Janet, but essentially it paid off big time. The concept of domestic abuse was discussed, as well as depression and other heavy content, all inspired by a real life emotional breakdown Janet experienced. The pressures of fame and everything around it can be too much even for those who maintain their integrity and ability to control their direction. The Velvet Rope era Janet was the red curly hair, tattooed, septum ring(and other piercings) wearing woman who was still trying to find her way after a long battle with herself. Janet in the 90's represented the complexity of women to a tee in the most honest form. She wasn't the princess or the diva that Mariah or Whitney were thought to be. Nor was she as talented singing wise as them. She was however, more real and raw than any other female in this decade. With her own personal problems fueling her art and image, she became a true measure of an artist stripping themselves of inhibitions and putting problems on display and she would become more relatable by doing so. It was the 90's that in many ways shaped the legacy of Janet.

As a sidenote, one would be remiss to not mention Janet appearing in the groundbreaking Busta Rhymes video. It would certainly be a game changer, and the song would become a mega hit and the video would essentially become known as one of the best videos of all time to many. What do you remember most about Janet in the 90's? Post comments in the section below and join the discussion.



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