Artist: Janet Jackson
Album: Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814.
Released: September 19th, 1989.
Favorites: Come Back To Me, Someday Is Tonight, Black Cat, Alright, Escapade, Love Will Never Do (Without You,) Lonely, State of the World, Rhythm Nation, Livin’ in a World (They Didn’t Make,) Miss You Much.
The year is 1989. Janet Jackson recently released her breakthrough album “Control,” in 1986. Collaborating with Jimmy Jay & Terry Lewis for Control, ￼it became one of the most important albums of the 1980s, & had early elements of the New Jack Swing genre. Control allowed her to step out of her family’s shadow, & it established her as one of the pioneering women in the world of popular music.
After that album’s success, she was convinced to have a larger role in her album’s creative process. Her label at the time, (A&M) wanted Janet to focus on her family & personal life (which I felt we got a glimpse of how she felt about her marriage and anullment to James DeBarge on the Control album). Although this claim was denied by Jimmy Jam, they did want a “control II.”
Janet was opposed to the idea of a sequel to Control, & wanted to dedicate her album to social consciousness. Jimmy Jam stated that her inspiration came from watching CNN & other news sources. Her reaction to the Stockton playground murders ( https://www.nytimes.com/1989/01/18/us/five-children-killed-as-gunman-attacks-a-california-school.html ) led her to recording “Livin ‘ In A World (They Didn’t Make,) Rhythm Nation & State of the World.
Janet received criticism and was told that a concept album about social and political issues wouldn’t be successful..& she proved them wrong with the release of her fourth album! It became Janet’s second consecutive album to top the Billboard 200 charts (a record she will hold until 2001’s All For You). Rhythm Nation was also certified six times platinum, & has sold over 12 million copies worldwide.
Critics have dubbed this album as the pinnacle of Janet’s artistic achievement. It is the only album in the history of Billboard Hot 100 singles to have seven commercial singles peak within the top five positions. She was nominated for nine Grammys, the MTV Video Vanguard Award (later renamed after her brother Michael) and the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her achievements with this historical album.
Three decades later, Rhythm Nation still holds its own in the state of music. Janet’s lyricism on this album is still relevant to this day. Not much has changed in 30 years when it comes to the world, but conversations are still being held. People are discussing the turmoil of the world in their art. Janet is one of the reasons that they’re doing that.
The B sides were lit as well.
In response to the tragedies that were being discussed in the media, Janet composed this timeless single with Jam & Lewis. The political uplifting song peaked at number two on the pop charts & number one of the R&B and Dance charts.
State of the World:
State of the World keeps the momentum going by touching on homelessness. Jimmy Jam describes this song as her version of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On.”
The Knowledge discusses bigotry, illiteracy & racism. Janet does it so effortlessly on an uptempo beat!
GET THE POINT? GOOD. Let’s Dance.
Miss You Much:￼
When you get to this point of the album, you transition to the side of uptempo beats and smooth ballads. Miss You Much became the longest running number one single of 1989, and became her second number one!
Love Will Never Do (Without You):
Another number one record from Janet, this bop stands as one of her best records! I love this song cause it reminds me of the summer time. Just a feel good record all around.
Livin’ In A World (They Didn’t Make):
One of the songs that sparkled the idea of the album, “Livin’ In A World” is one of Janet’s most important songs. She speaks about how children are innocent beings until we teach them how to hate.
One of my favorite Janet songs EVER! Everything about Alright is iconic. The video. Everything.
An upbeat joyous song on the album, Escapade is a feel good record that gave Janet yet another number one record.
A hard rock record, Janet stepped out of her comfort zone with Black Cat. A song about gang violence & substance abuse, it was another number one hit for her..& she won a Grammy award for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance, making her the only artist in history to receive nominations across five genres.
One of the soothing ballads on the album, Janet wanted this man to call her okay! Lonely is an amazing song.
Come Back To Me:
A quiet storm ballad, Come Back To Me is a classic record about reigniting the flame with a former lover. Top 5 Janet song, & it’s not number 5, 4, 3 or 2!
Someday Is Tonight:
I am a huge sucker for Janet’s ballads! She closes out the album with the silky smooth “Someday Is Tonight.” A slept on quiet storm gem.
Janet continues to push the envelope and speaks on social issues through her bodies of work. Her albums following Rhythm Nation speaks on the ignorance of homophobia and racism, domestic violence and abuse, feminism and black lives matter. Janet is truly the people’s champ! – MJ.