Janet Jackson’s “The Velvet Rope.”

Released: October 7, 1997

Label: Virgin

Genre: R&B, trip hop, pop.

Producer: Janet Jackson, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis & René Elizondo Jr.


I am a sucker for concept albums. If you live under a rock, a concept album is an album that holds songs that have a larger purpose or meaning as a whole. There’s so many takes on what a concept album is, but nevertheless Janet Damita Jo Jackson knows how to make ONE.

After fulfilling her contract with Virgin records with her first compilation album Design of a Decade: 1986-1996, Janet was in the middle of an industry bidding war between labels like Virgin, Sony Music, Time Warner, DreamWorks, Disney, and many others. She eventually renewed her contract with Virgin for $80 million, which was the largest recording contract in history at that time.

After the success of her “janet.” she embarked on a world tour that was nearly two years. During this tour, Janet experienced an emotional breakdown that came from self-hatred, childhood humiliation, self-harm and distorted body image. As a result, Janet developed body dysmorphia, depression and traced her fragility back to her marriage to James DeBarge.

The Velvet Rope’s initial stages began after her world tour, but was stalled due to Janet’s various issues at the time. The album was released October 7th, 1997. The Velvet Rope is described as Janet’s most personal album, and most extraordinary.

The Velvet Rope has many meanings, including a metaphor for pleasure, pain and the want and need to feel special. In my personal opinion, this was definitely one of Janet’s top albums. The album contains themes of self-worth, social networking, domestic violence, homophobia, AIDS, BDSM & same-sex relationships. The album’s incorporation of social issues and deemed her a gay icon and received the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Music.

The Velvet Rope became Janet’s fourth consecutive album to top the Billboard 200 chart, and has been certified triple platinum by the RIAA. With elements of pop, R&B, trip hop, folk, jazz, rock and electronic music, The Velvet Rope has served as an inspiration for artists who are transitioning to a more darker and foreboding tone and IS the predecessor of alternative R&B.


Ladies & gentlemen, I present to you Janet Jackson’s “The Velvet Rope.”

Interlude: Twisted Elegance

Written by Janet Jackson, James Harris III & Terry Lewis.

Twisted elegance. It’s my belief that we all have the need to feel special.

And it’s this need that can bring out the best in us, yet the worst in us.

This need created…The Velvet Rope.

Velvet Rope featuring Vanessa-Mae

Written by Janet Jackson, James Harris III, Terry Lewis, René Elizondo Jr, Malcolm McLaren, Trevor Horn & Mike Oldfield.

Follow the passion that’s within you & Living the truth will set you free.

The title song sets the vibe and mood for the album. The eponymous track has Janet explaining her own internal velvet rope where everyone is allowed to express and be themselves. Janet is saying explore and expose the things you feel or fulfill the desires they want to accomplish. The desire to feel the need to belong is what Janet wanted to accomplish with this song and album.

The song samples Malcolm McLauren and The World Famous Supreme Team and Mike Oldfield.


Written by Janet Jackson, James Harris III, Terry Lewis, René Elizondo Jr, Harold Brown, Sylvester Allen, Morris Dickerson, Howard Scott, Leroy Jordan, Lee Oskar & Charles Miller.

We all build up fictitious versions of ourselves. Those versions need to be challenged because ultimately for ourselves..where we’ve been & where we’re going. -Janet Jackson on “You.”

You challenges the listeners to fight battles within themselves. The song samples “The Cisco Kid” by War.

Got ’til It’s Gone featuring Q-Tip and Joni Mitchell

Written by Janet Jackson, Samuel Harris III, Terry Lewis, René Elizondo Jr, Roberta Joan Mitchell & Kamaal Ibn Fareed.

The versatility on The Velvet Rope is truly astounding. Got ‘Til It’s Gone is one of the examples. The lead single for the album was different for Janet, although she has explored numerous genres during her career. The neo-soul sound was just immaculate for this song, thanks to the phenomenal Q-Tip of A Tribe Called Quest and the late and great producer J Dilla. The video was black excellence, and debuted Janet’s iconic four ponytail hairstyle.

Got ‘Til It’s Gone is a song that tells you to cherish what you have while you have it, and not when it is gone. The song is built around a sample of Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi,” and “Feel So High” by Des’ree.

The song has also been interpolated by artists like Kelly Rowland, A Tribe Called Quest, T.I. and Prince.

Interlude: Speaker Phone

Written by Janet Jackson, James Harris III and Terry Lewis

[Lisa Marie Presley]

[Janet Jackson]
Hi, it’s me

[Lisa Marie Presley]
You got me on that damn speaker phone

[Janet Jackson]
Yeah, I do

[Lisa Marie Presley]
What you doin’ with your hands that you can’t pick up the phone?

[Janet Jackson]
Don’t you worry about it, I’m taking care of my business. What you doing?

[Lisa Marie Presley]
Hold on. Let me just, okay, here we go, I’m back

[Janet Jackson]
I’m going out tonight maybe. Wait hold on…

[Lisa Marie Presley]
Your coochie gon’ swell up and fall apart

…FIRST OF ALL, I WAS RECENTLY 28 years old when I found out Lisa Marie Presley was the lady Janet was having a phone conversation with during this interlude to introduce “My Need,” the interlude contains a sample of “I Get Lonely,” which appears later on the album.

My Need

Written by Janet Jackson, James Harris III, Terry Lewis, René Elizondo, Marilyn McLeod, Pam Sawyer, Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson.

What I get from “My Need” is craving the attention of another and how obsessive it can be to be so dependent on someone. The song contains samples of songs from Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell and America.

Interlude: Fasten Your Seatbelts

Written by Janet Jackson, James Harris III and Terry Lewis.

The interlude is utilized to introduce the following track, “Go Deep.”

Go Deep

Written by Janet Jackson, James Harris III, Terry Lewis and René Elizondo Jr.

Go Deep is a 90s funk record at its finest! Janet lets you know she can give you a real nice dance record! This number one hit is extremely flawless and is one of the lighter moods on the album. Lyrically, Go Deep talks about how she wants to go out and have fun literally and sexually.

The song samples Funkadelic & Genesis, and has been sampled by Wale.

Free Xone

Written by Janet Jackson, James Harris III, Terry Lewis, René Elizondo Jr, James Brown, Billy Buttier, Archie Bell & Michael Hepburn.

WE LOVE AN ALLY! Free Xone fights back at discrimination and homophobia. And does a great job at it actually. This is one of the songs that established Janet as a gay icon. The song samples Lyn Collins, Pleasure, Stevie Wonder & Archie Bell & The Drells.

Interlude: Memory

Written by Janet Jackson, James Harris III and Terry Lewis.

You don’t have to hold on to the pain to hold on to the memory

Together Again

Written by Janet Jackson, James Harris III and Terry Lewis.

Together Again is one of the best songs ever created, and that’s not an exaggeration. It is a personal song for Janet because she wrote and dedicated the song to the memory of losing friends and colleagues to AIDS. Instead of mourning their death, she wanted to create a song that celebrated their lives with a disco influenced energetic record.

One of the best-selling singles of all time, Together Again became Janet’s eighth number-one single.

Interlude: Online

Written by Janet Jackson, James Harris III and Terry Lewis.

The introduction to Empty, this interlude is logging in on a computer.


Written by Janet Jackson, James Harris III, Terry Lewis and René Elizondo Jr.

Is this a new way to love? Never face to face, is it enough? Does it really count or am I a fool. So tell me please, am I wasting my time?

Empty touches on the wonders of dating via social networking, and how online dating does not fill the void of a physical connection. Even though the connection they have is pretty strong, it’s just not the same.

Interlude: Full

Written by Janet Jackson, James Harris III & Terry Lewis.

How empty of me to be so full of you..

What About

Written by Janet Jackson, James Harris III, Terry Lewis & René Elizondo Jr.

Not a lot of artists discussed domestic violence in their music. The rock influenced song made Janet a hero for speaking on such a topic. Lyrically, What About has Janet angrily lashing out at her abusive partner when he asks her for her hand in marriage and tells her he wants to spend his life with her…and she reminds him of the hell he put her through.

This performance of What About always gets me!

Every Time

Written by Janet Jackson, James Harris III and Terry Lewis.

Every Time is a calm and cool affair..with lyrics about being cautious and having doubts about a romance. It was the sixth and final single from the album, being a top ten hit!

Tonight’s The Night

Written by Roderick Stewart.

A cover of the soft rock crooner Rod Stewart’s successful 1976 version, Tonight’s The Night alludes to a threesome with Janet, her man and another woman. The song received a lot of attention and criticism to the bisexuality hinted in the song, which made people more curious about Janet’s own sexual orientation. When will the people learn that Janet is for all people and loves everyone!

Nevertheless, this version is so beautiful and amazing, that even Rod Stewart says it is an original song by Janet Jackson when he performs it in concert.

I Get Lonely

Written by Janet Jackson, James Harris III, Terry Lewis and René Elizondo Jr.

We love a SOULFUL BOP! From a lyrical standpoint, it has Janet expressing loneliness and her desiring a lover she’s not on the best terms with. It became her 18th consecutive top-ten hit on the Billboard Hot 100, and is the only black woman to achieve such an accomplishment. The remix with Blacksteet was also flawless. A timeless R&B moment.

Rope Burn

Written by Janet Jackson, James Harris III, Terry Lewis and René Elizondo Jr.

Rope Burn is one of Janet’s sexiest songs. Period! Lyrically, the sexual fantasies of BDSM can be pleasurable if there is understanding, love and trust.


Written by Janet Jackson, James Harris III, Terry Lewis and René Elizondo Jr.

A bedroom ballad like Anything is Janet at her sexiest. She takes the ultimate pleasure in making sure her lover is pleased. It takes Janet deeper and deeper into the world of sexual satisfaction. Easily one of my favorite Janet records. The song was covered by Will Downing.

Interlude: Sad

Written by Janet Jackson, James Harris III, Terry Lewis and René Elizondo Jr.

There’s nothing more depressing than having everything, and still feeling sad. We must learn to water our spiritual garden

Special (contains Hidden track “Can’t Be Stopped”)

Written by Janet Jackson, James Harris III and Terry Lewis.

Special brings us back to the meaning of the entire album: the need to feel special. The song has Janet go back to her inner child self, and gives the child a reassurance of a love that is so nourishing and rich. Special is truly amazing.

Don’t let nobody tell you ain’t strong enough..

The hidden track “Can’t Be Stopped” is an inspirational record for those who are discouraged, victimized, ignored and made to be inferior. Janet said this song was for people who have to deal with racism and bigotry. The song samples Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler) by Marvin Gaye.

Janet will always be the blueprint and the originator. So many artists have been inspired by Janet’s Velvet Rope. The album has been considered the precursor of alternative R&B..with the various influences of R&B, trip hop, pop, funk, rock & many other sub genres.

The themes on the velvet rope are so extraordinary. It has saved my life on numerous occasions, and I just want to say to Janet: THANK YOU.

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Hi! My name is Markiz (pronounced MARR-keez,) Johnson. Welcome to my blog! I've been told for YEARS that I should have one lol, so it's been in the making for a while. I'm excited for you to read my thoughts and opinions about the Entertainment industry, current events, and everyday life. I am a Senior at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside in Kenosha WI, & I am studying Communication & Sociology. There's a little info about me. Stay tuned for my podcast "Tea With Kiz," on iTunes & soundcloud! ❤️

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