Discography Check: Janet Jackson

By @TrueGodImmortal

As we know, The Jackson Family is one of the most famous of all time, if not the most famous ever. In that family is a ton of talent, the likes of which we don't really recognize enough. Sure, Michael is the greatest artist of all time, and Jermaine was a star in his own right, but the 2nd biggest star in the family remains one of the greatest women to grace the stage and studio. Janet Jackson is a legend, and she managed to revolutionize the game with her style, her music, and her popularity. Today, we wanted to look at her discography and revisit her catalog, which is one of the best in female artist honestly. Let's take a look at Janet's catalog.

*Janet Jackson (1982)

-The debut album from Janet wasn't necessarily the best of his career but it was a nice introduction for the baby of the music family. After roles in shows like Good Times, Diff'rent Strokes, and more, her self titled debut sounds exactly like the 80s at the time and with her being rather young at the time, there's a lot of catchy hits and simple ballad tracks like "Say You Do", "Young Love", "Love And My Best Friend", and "The Magic Is Working". The album is a solid listen from top to bottom and a bit more lighthearted than her later releases. While not a classic, this was a great musical introduction for Janet.

*Dream Street (1984)

-Her second album came at a pivotal time for the family. After the success of The Jacksons and Michael, Janet wanted a hit record. However, Dream Street would fall a bit short of any expectations, despite being a decent album. The production is much more pop than the soulful upbeat vibe that made the debut enjoyable, and it just didn't feel as genuine as her later albums would. You could tell her music was a bit more controlled and as a result, some of the songs sound a bit forced. I did enjoy the rhythms of "Fast Girls", "All My Love To You", and "If It Takes All Night", but for the most part, this album falls below what I wanted to hear from her. Dream Street is definitely her worst album of the 80s and it's quite possibly her most uncomfortable project overall.

*Control (1986)

-Rebounding from a commercial and critical fall in Dream Street, Janet gave us one of the greatest albums of the decade with the New Jack Swing sound infused heavily. The New Jack sound wasn't as popular, but it represented one thing for Janet: freedom. It gave her control over her creativity, ability to write some of her songs, and just to be her. It was her most adult like album thus far, and it was obvious that Janet had matured. With production duo Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis handling the sound, it worked flawlessly, and allowed Janet to create some classics in the process. Hits like the title track, "Nasty", "What Have You Done For Me Lately", "Let's Wait A While", and "The Pleasure Principle" rounded out an album that's easily one of the best of the 80s and a top 3 album in her catalog for sure. Control ushered in a new wave and Janet was making an impact that was nearly as powerful as her brother Michael. That says a lot about her stature at the time.

*Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814 (1989)

-After a more adult approach on Control, Janet flipped the script with this album. She took on a more socially aware persona and became more of a dancer as well, which made her even more popular amongst the masses. This is essentially a concept album, with heavy topics like racism, sex, poverty, drug abuse, and more. She was in a zone that could not be duplicated and with the New Jack Swing sound back courtesy of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, it was a perfect marriage. After selling nearly 7 million copies in the US, Rhythm Nation became a even bigger breakthrough for her than Control, as the award and accolades rolled in. It was another monumental moment for Janet, and with tracks like "State Of The World", "Miss You Much", "Rhythm Nation", "Black Cat", "Come Back To Me", and "Alright" here, Janet connects on almost every level. Rhythm Nation is a true classic and right there with Control in terms of her best albums.

*Janet (1993)

-I loved how with every album Janet came with a different style and angle on the project. It was as if Janet heard all the criticism sent her way and decided to respond by staring it directly in the face. The theme of this album felt very sexual driven and for her, it was a welcome change. Even the alternate cover of the album saw her breasts mostly exposed, covered only by a pair of hands, a risky image for her at the time. The risk was worth the reward, because it spawned her greatest album ever. It showed Janet was her own woman, not just a Jackson. After a bidding war for her services for this very album, Janet signed a 40 million dollar deal with Virgin Records, and she shined immensely on this project as a result. With some abrasive and amazing production from Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Janet coasts over every track giving us classic after classic from "That's The Way Love Goes" to "Funky Big Band" to "New Agenda" to "Because Of Love" to "Again" to the seductive "Any Time, Any Place", Janet just couldn't seem to miss on this album. It's her best and my favorite of her catalog, and with over 15 million copies sold, I would say audiences agreed. This is the apex of her music career without question.

*The Velvet Rope (1997)

-After going a sexual road on her previous album, Janet went to the abyss on this album to admittedly mixed results. There are different themes that might have been ahead of its time, as Janet tackles homophobia, same sex relationships, BDSM, domestic violence, self pleasure, depression, and so much more inside this 22 track album. Some of these themes aren't of interest to me so it doesn't connect as well, but her execution is definitely respectable and the sound is without a doubt enjoyable as Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis deliver production wise for the most part. Singles like "Together Again", "Got Til It's Gone", and my favorite "I Get Lonely" all helped to push this album to near classic status, but it might be slightly too daring for me in some cases. Still, for its creativity and boundary pushing, The Velvet Rope is one of the best albums in her catalog.

*All For You (2001)

-Eventually it was known that Janet would fall out of place with her music and the reinvention on this 2001 album is a mixed bag. Perhaps if she cut down the tracklist some, this album would be seen a little bit better. While the album is mostly hit or miss, I did enjoy songs like the title track, "Love Scene (Oooh Baby)", "Would You Mind" (quite possibly one of the best and most seductive songs from Janet ever), and "Someone To Call My Lover". Janet is at her most seductive on some of these songs and it works well, but the album is just a bit too long and has a few songs that I could have done without. The lyrics and content of this album was seen as a bit raunchy, but I honestly didn't see an issue with it. Janet owned every second of her seductive music and it worked very well. Overall, this is a good album, but considering the classics she put out previously, this album doesn't hold up as strongly, but it's definitely a great listen overall.

*Damita Jo (2004)

-This is an album that saw her branch out with more producers and the results are mixed to me. It's a solid listen for the most part, but it lacks that cohesive sound that made her earlier albums so great. There are some songs on here that sound a bit forced, but when she works with the best producers of the time like Babyface and Kanye West, the results go well. There are really good songs like the title track, "Spending Time With You", "I Want You", "R&B Junkie", "SloLove", and "Thinkin Bout My Ex", all of which are standouts here. Damita Jo is a bit underrated for her, but it isn't on the top of her catalog list, it's just a mostly solid album that sees Janet comfortably resting in her spot making good music.

*20 Y.O. (2006)

-Okay, so the bad of this album? There's a Khia verse on a track. There's a Khia hook. Four years after "My Neck, My Back". However, once we get beyond that, there is another minor issue. At least 4 tracks have "me" in the title. While that doesn't seem like a big deal, it's a bit repetitive. Then there's the production and the attempt to sound current. This is probably her worst album, and it's an album that takes little risks, and uses a lot of generic Jermaine Dupri production to mostly boring results. There's songs like "With U", "Enjoy", and "Take Care", all of which are huge standouts on this album. The issue is those standouts are too few and far between.

*Discipline (2008)

-Okay, so maybe I lied. Maybe this is her worst album. It felt like the midlife crisis attempt to be current and failing... again. Janet had always reinvented herself for the most part, but the use of the vocal compressors and the vocoder was a bit annoying on this album, along with the by the numbers production on here. The production is my least favorite thing about the album, and while there are tracks like "Can't B Good", "Greatest X", and "Curtains", which are three of the best on the project, the album just falters a bit as a whole. Everyone has a fall off at some point, and over the last two albums from Janet, it seemed like this was hers.

*Unbreakable (2015)

-Honestly, this album was surprising. It was a really good listen and much better than the last two projects she released. Musically, Janet sounds more comfortable than she has in a while, and the production for the most part fits well on each track. With over 30 years in the game, to be able to return after a 7 year hiatus and make your best album in about 11 years is no easy feat, but she pulled it off. Songs like "Broken Hearts Heal", the title track, "Dream Maker/Euphoria", "Well Traveled", and of course the J. Cole assisted single "No Sleeep" helped make this a complete album and though it was not the best we've heard from her, it is the best we had heard from her in years, which is a great sign of what could be coming in the future.



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