In a sea of Beyoncés, Cassies, Ciaras and Britneys, Janet
Jackson is among the blueprint of female entertainers.
A résumé filled with hit songs, numerous awards and popular
music videos, not to mention everything from the barely there vocals to the
synchronized dance routines with an army of backup dancers, to the sold out
shows around the world. In short, it is easy to see why Janet (Miss Jackson,
if youre nasty) emerged as the second most successful member of the family Papa
Not bad for someone who originally wanted to become a
racehorse jockey instead of one of the biggest selling female artists of all
So what happened?
Beginners luck may not have struck with her early on, but
the third time proved to be the charm with 1986s Control, a classic opus that
had Janet asking What Have You Done for Me Lately? while exploring The
Pleasure Principle. Three years
later, the singer brought multi-platinum platinum dreams of a social
consciousness with Rhythm Nation 1814.
With singles hitting number one in three separate years
(“Miss You Much” in 1989, “Escapade” and “Black
Cat” in 1990, and “Love Will Never Do (Without You)” in 1991),
the albums impact was cemented as Janet brought her hits and music videos to life
with her first world tour in support of a studio album.
Up next came the janet. album, the singers 1993 declaration
of independence from her famous family.
“…Certain people feel I’m just riding on my last
name…That’s why I just put my first name on janet. and why I never asked my
brothers to write or produce music for me,” Jackson told Rolling Stone, as
she appeared topless for the magazines cover story.
You know the cover. The one where Jacksons then-husband
Rene Elizondo covered her breasts with his hands. That image marked Janets official embrace of her sexual
being as she admitted to Rolling Stone that “Sex has been an important
part of me for several years. But it just hasn’t blossomed publicly until now.
I’ve had to go through some changes and shed some old attitudes before feeling
completely comfortable with my body.”
Janets newfound status as a sex symbol only enhanced the
albums appeal as it marked another number one debut on the charts and more
hits to boot.
So what happened?
After all, music wasnt the only thing that yielded to
Janets golden touch. The singer
had three decades of good fortune
on the big and small screen with roles on Good Times in the 70s, Diffrent
Strokes and Fame in 80s and Poetic Justice in the 90s.
Even with double duty and occasional philanthropy, the songs
kept coming. Whether it was with Herb Alpert (Diamonds, Making Love in the
Rain), Shaggy (“Luv Me, Luv Me”), Busta Rhymes (“What’s It Gonna Be?!”) or
big brother Michael (Scream), a collabo with Janet spelled H-I-T. Add to that her late-nineties release of The Velvet Rope and Janet Jackson was approaching 2000 with a new sound and the world in her palm.
So what went wrong?
With the arrival of the new millennium came new love as
Jackson began her love affair with So So Def head Jermaine Dupri in 2002.
Despite feedback from critics, the couple endured.
But the real test would come two years later during the
Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show. After performing her hits, All for You and
Rhythm Nation, Janet was joined onstage by Justin Timberlake, who sang Rock
Your Body. By the end of the set, a wardrobe malfunction overshadowed the
match up between the Carolina Panthers and the New England Patriots as
Timberlake tore open Jacksons top, exposing her right breast.
Soon after, Janets stock plummeted as MTV washed its hands
of her and public opinion turned the vocalist into a good singer gone bad.
“I am really sorry if I offended anyone. That was truly
not my intention, Jackson said in her apology to disappointed fans. … MTV,
CBS, the NFL had no knowledge of this whatsoever, and unfortunately, the whole
thing went wrong in the end.
Nevertheless, the damage had been done. Media sources reported the incident as
being the most replayed in TiVo history. The fallout extended into Janets
acting pursuits as plans for her to star in a made-for-TV movie on the life of
singing icon Lena Horne were stopped. Jackson even caught flak from Horne
herself, who was reportedly upset over the halftime incident and pushed for ABC
to pull Jackson from the film. To hear Janets reps tell it, their client
voluntarily withdrew from the project.
Still, the youngest Jackson persevered and even made light
of her drama by appearing in a Saturday Night Live skit spoofing the Super Bowl
incident in 2004. But it wasnt enough to keep her musical standing intact as
three singles from her next album, Damita Jo, failed to crack the top 40
despite the albums number two debut on the Billboard chart.
Controversy aside, Janets non-musical efforts were rewarded
as she received the 100 Black Men of America, Inc. Artistic Achievement award
and a Humanitarian award from the Human Rights Campaign and AIDS Project Los
Angeles for her work and
involvement in raising money for AIDS charities.
Awards and a sense of humor were good shields against
critics still engulfed in the wardrobe malfunction, but Janets issues with her
record label, Virgin, came to a head with the release of her ninth album 20
Y.O. Although the 2006 album debuted at number two on the Billboard 200, Dupri
resigned from his urban music head position at Virgin, citing the “disappointing
performance” of his girlfriends album.
With conflicts surrounding her music, the timing seemed
perfect for the songstress to give acting another go with a starring role in
Tyler Perrys Why Did I Get Married? The hit film resulted in an NAACP Image
Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress for in a Motion Picture for Jackson in
But music soon called again and Janet released her 10th
album Discipline that same month. The project was the first under the singers
new label Island Def Jam Records. Despite not having long-time collaborators
Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis on board nor co-writing any songs on the album, the
release debuted at number one.
A national outing inevitably followed as the Rock Witchu
Tour kicked off in September. While things looked good on the outside, behind
the scenes Janet severed her relationship with Island Def Jam as her label
debut sold only 415,000 copies in the United States and spent 14 weeks on the
Billboard charts. According to reports, the split was stemmed by Jacksons
dissatisfaction with the promotion of Discipline.
The label drama was only the beginning of Janets bad luck
as she experienced migraine-associated vertigo and lost tour opener LL Cool J
during the tour. The vertigo caused the diva to cancel a string of shows in
Montreal, Boston, Philadelphia, Greensboro, N.C., Fort Lauderdale, Fla.,
Uncasville, Conn. and Syracuse, N.Y.
In November, Jackson announced that she wouldnt reschedule
the canceled shows. A statement released by the tours organizer, Live Nation,
cited “conflicts in the singer’s schedule” as the reason for the
decision. As a result, the tour ended early.
Now comes rumors of a pregnant Janet carrying Dupris child.
Whether or not the talk is true remains to be seen. In the meanwhile, hope is
there among fans who yearn to see their favorite singer back on top and not
drowning in the ocean of disciples
who have taken bits and pieces of her style and image to forge their own trail
in the here today, gone tomorrow music business.
What will happen next?