The Janet Jackson Chronicles

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 you’re nasty) emerged as the second most successful member of the family Papa

Joe built.

 

Not bad for someone who originally wanted to become a

racehorse jockey instead of one of the biggest selling female artists of all

time.

So what happened?

 

Beginner’s luck may not have struck with her early on, but

the third time proved to be the charm with 1986’s 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 album’s 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 singer’s 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 magazine’s cover story.

 

You know the cover. The one where Jackson’s then-husband

Rene Elizondo covered her breasts with his hands.  That image marked Janet’s 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.”

 

Janet’s newfound status as a sex symbol only enhanced the

album’s appeal as it marked another number one debut on the charts and more

hits to boot.

 

So what happened?

 

After all, music wasn’t the only thing that yielded to

Janet’s golden touch. The singer

had three decades of good fortune

on the big and small screen with roles on Good Times in the ’70s, Diff’rent

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 Jackson’s top, exposing her right breast.

 

Soon after, Janet’s 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 Janet’s

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 Janet’s 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 wasn’t enough to keep her musical standing intact as

three singles from her next album, Damita Jo, failed to crack the top 40

despite the album’s number two debut on the Billboard chart.

 

Controversy aside, Janet’s 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 Janet’s 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 girlfriend’s album.

With conflicts surrounding her music, the timing seemed

perfect for the songstress to give acting another go with a starring role in

Tyler Perry’s 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

February.

 

But music soon called again and Janet released her 10th

album Discipline that same month. The project was the first under the singer’s

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 Jackson’s

dissatisfaction with the promotion of Discipline.

 

The label drama was only the beginning of Janet’s 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 wouldn’t reschedule

the canceled shows. A statement released by the tour’s 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 Dupri’s 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?

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