Like a lot of people of my generation I grew up idolizing Janet Jackson. To me she had everything. Great song, killer dance moves and epic music videos. There weren’t too many black female artists around back then, so right there she had that relatability factor. And as a little girl she projected to me this…aura of uncontrollable awesomeness that I really I wanted to obtain, but knew I never would. The woman’s got too many albums, so I’m just going to talk about the ones that impacted me as precocious kid to young adult.
My first experience of Janet was thanks to one of my aunts when she played the “Control” album for me on her record player. Yes! Records! Vinyl!! In those days we listened to the whole body of work. And what an awesome body of work it was. I believe the song that was most popular with my aunt and therefore me was “What Have You Done For Me Lately”. I think she was going through some things. lol
Now while this album is fantastic in its entirety, the record that I remember loving on the strength of my own opinion was “Rhythm Nation 1814”. I remember very vividly the videos for both “Rhythm Nation” and “Miss You Much”. Those video were recorded and watched over and over and over. I was compelled and determined to learn those dance moves.
I’ve mentioned before that I’m not much of a dancer, but with Janets videos, the thought of not being able to move like her was unacceptable to my 10 year old mind. Unthinkable even! I learned though. I sure did. I was so proud of myself. But looking at these videos now, I’m questioning where the hell I got the energy for it. Jeez! I’m pretty sure now I’d break something. I also question why the dancers were wearing gun holsters? Hmm.
It would be a few years before Janet came back to knock my socks off yet again. When I was 14(3rd year of my troubled period) she came out with “Janet.” This album spoke to me just as “Rhythm Nation” had, but on an entirely different level. The video “If” was an awakening for me. While I was as intrigued as ever by her dancing skills and the choreography, I was more drawn this time to her look. The beginning when she steps out and the red drapes are flying and she looked fantastic. I was blown away! You could tell point-blank that she was completely comfortable with who she was and what she was doing. She was sexy. She knew it and didn’t care who wasn’t ok with it.
As I said, this was during my troubled period. I was an awkward, unsociable and at the time, I thought, a very ugly girl. Watching her be comfortable in her own skin was something I wanted more than anything in the world. Before I wanted to be just like her. This time around I wanted to BE her. But confidence like that would elude me for years to come. This album has since been my favorite. No I did not understand every song at the time. What does a 14 year old know about “Anytime Anyplace”? It was still an inspiring and entertaining album.
In 1997 Janet came out with The Velvet Rope. By the time this came out I was in my first semester of college. I don’t know if it was because I was no longer an impressionable youth or I wasn’t paying as much attention to television, but this album while fantastic, didn’t impact me quite like the previous one. My favorite track on the album is “Go Deep”, though it’s the ultimate party song and I didn’t party back then and definitely not now. But the one that really struck a chord in me and made me realize I will always appreciate Janet and her music was “Got Til It’s Gone”. Out of every song of hers, this one was perfection. This song then and now soothes my soul for reasons I can’t explain. I groove to it often.
Janet is still a staple in my music library. She came out with four albums after “Velvet Rope”. But as a busy adult I don’t do the video hound thing like I did as a kid. Now days I just listen to the music and appreciate it for what it is. She has come up with some great ones too. I wonder how many more she’s got left in her. If she pulls off a Tina Turner that will be pretty damn impressive.
Though I doubt she will. She doesn’t have to. In many eyes she’s already immortal. Her music and her style has been duplicated to death, but no one is ever going to be able to touch what she’s done no matter what. There are too many artist out there trying to be the ‘next’ Janet Jackson. It makes me laugh. Go ahead and take what you’ve learned from her and blaze your own trail. Don’t try to copy perfection. You’ll only look like a poser and set yourself up for failure. That’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it.
As for me, I may have to credit her along with my parents for raising me. Her music was there for me to soothe my hurt. It inspired me to try to be my best. It made me think. It entertained me. And best of all it’s giving me some very fond memories that I’ll be able to look back on and smile about for the rest of my life. Thanks Ms. Jackson. That’s what you’ve done for me. Lately and always.