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Before the new A&E documentary JANETJACKSON, Airing the first of two parts on January 28, we take a look back at Janet Jackson’s incredible and influential musical career — specifically, the music videos that forever changed culture, her legacy, and our own teenage lives. But first: let’s take a look back at how Janet Jackson became the star she is today.
Many artists confidently say that fame and status were their destiny. And while we don’t believe in sealed fates much, some stories make fate quite difficult to discuss. Like, say, you’re the youngest of ten in a family whose older brothers were the most famous family band of all time and one of said brothers went on to a solo career that redefined pop music and beat every record imaginable. As you grow in and around their music, chances are you too will develop artistic talents and interests – and maybe, just maybe, you’ll become a megastar of your own. whole. Whether or not that was her original plan, there’s no denying that’s what happened for Janet Jackson. Miss Jackson, if you’re mean.
Buy Janet Jackson’s Memoirs true you
Janet Damita Jo Jackson has done it all – and we mean it all. She began her decades-long career performing alongside her brothers in Las Vegas and on their CBS variety show, then moved into theater with roles in TV hits. Good time, notorietyand Different shots. With her legendary overbearing father guiding her young teenage career, she recorded and released two albums. After her second album, she took a bold step forward and left her family to work with two Minneapolis-based producers (Jimmy Jam Harris and Terry Lewis) to create what has become an iconic album in every sense of the word. This album, of course, was Control.
Control: A clear and confident statement from a woman on the precipice of a new life, a life of her choice and direction. Control feels as fresh and alive today as it did when it was first released in 1986. So does rhythm nation 1814, which followed three years later. Revisiting these albums (and the Janet album) got us thinking – even though we required literature playlists for students, we think it’s high time we had required playlists – and if we did, these albums would be legitimately at the top.
As a woman born into mega-stardom, it’s perhaps unusual that Janet Jackson has remained such an intensely private person. Especially unlike today’s stars who share anything and everything about their lives through social media and interviews. Janet Jackson has always only shared what she wants to share through her music and has managed to keep her personal life guarded and protected – which makes this long-awaited upcoming documentary all the more exciting. To coincide with the 40th anniversary of her self-titled debut album, Lifetime and A&E will air the documentary in two four-hour parts. JANET JACKSON on Janet Jackson’s abundant life from January 28—and best of all, it’s in her own words! It’s true. She is still under control.
Described as an “intimate, honest, and unfiltered look at her untold story,” it’s sure to be incredible, inspiring, and will have us all wanting to choreograph “Rhythm Nation” out (if only we could!). From the moment we saw the trailer, it made us think that now would be the perfect time to look back at some of this living legend’s greatest contributions to the worlds of music and dance. Although we would normally suggest you sit down and relax to read a top 10 list, we kindly suggest that for this one you should do some stretching first, because we’re 100% sure you’ll want – no, need — get up and dance.
For any other artist, we’d come up with a top 10 list — but for Janet, we couldn’t narrow it down further than her top 11. Read on for her 11 most iconic videos in chronological order, so you can see it and hear it evolve.
1. “What have you done for me lately”
The first single from the Control album (technically his 3rd album, but as far as his pop popularity goes, it’s ground zero) – this video goes into the set of a classic musical where every emotion and nerve-wracking argument (teenager) is expressed through dancing bodies. And like every song on the Control album, it gave a usable vocabulary to young women who were frustrated with their romantic partners. Honestly, we can remember specific high school conversations, and can even hear the exact cadence of the video, where one friend says to another, “I know he used to do nice things for you, but what has he done for you lately? ?”
Phone. A. Jam. Where to start? Return by chance to a cinema screen in a cinema? To verify. Report rude boys? To verify. Pre-pop celebrity cameo from then-choreographer Paula Abdul? To verify. And that legendary verse we can all repeat in the blink of an eye “Because privacy is my middle name, My last name is control, No, my first name is not baby, It’s Janet…Ms. Jackson if you’re mean” Shit, straight.
3. “When I think of you”
It was Janet’s first no. 1 single and it gave him and Michael the distinction of being the first group of siblings to have none. 1 strokes. The video was shot to look like it was filmed in one take (a pretty nifty trick if you ask us) but it has five cuts. Easily the lightest song on Controlit’s a sweet song about youthful and budding romance.
Everything is in the title. This explains what the song is about – its desire for independence and control. “Control what I say and control what I do,” and who can’t identify with that desire? The dance? The fashion? That oversized blazer with shoulder pads, the headset, and who can forget how iconic that key earring was? We are immediately taken back to our high school bedroom where we shout-sing this into a hairbrush.
5. “Let’s wait a bit”
It’s a true testament to the tenderness of his voice that this abstinence ballad was never corny or like a public service announcement. She was, and still is, sweet and loving, full of desire and understanding. And the black-and-white video lent it the gravitas needed to obliterate any potential juvenile silliness.
6. “The Pleasure Principle”
In the same vein as lightning dance and Free from all ties, this video is unpretentious Janet. She appears without an entourage of friends/dancers, dressed casually (love the tight black Guess jeans) in a warehouse alone, moving in front of the mirror – and we also get the intro of her dancing with a chair that will play featured prominently in future videos.
7. “I miss you a lot”
What we remember most from the video for this new jack swing hit is Janet’s megawatt smile flashing at the start and the chairs. The chairs! These movements on and around the chairs were a game-changer. Pop stars from Britney Spears to Usher and then some were inspired by his moves.
8. “Rhythm Nation”
If you’re of a certain generation and you hear a countdown of 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and you instinctively move your hand in sync with said countdown, chances are you’re thinking to this amazing video. In a career filled with iconic creations, this video tops the list. For a dance song to have a socially conscious message was groundbreaking on its own, but when you add in the visuals of this video – gender-neutral military costumes, filmed in black and white, and this thrilling, rhythmic group choreography – which are all truly iconic. Many tried to imitate but none replied.
Although sounding closer to “Rhythm Nation”, this song’s message couldn’t be further from its predecessor. Janet and company. (co. for Janet always equals her dancing team – always!) Spending the day at a carnival, going wild. It’s a simple concept and what makes it special again is the amazing dance moves.
10. “Love will never do”
So hot! And so happy. “Love Will Never Do”, directed by legendary photographer Herb Ritts, is a celebration of the human body, and of three beautiful bodies in particular: those of Janet Jackson, Antonio Sabato Jr. and Djimon Hounsou. Did we mention it’s so hot? ! Rumor has it that Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis originally envisioned this song as a duet, so Janet decided to sing a few verses in different octaves to give the song the feel of a duet without being one. So smart. And it ends with that 16 beat high ahhhh? Oh yeah.
11. “That’s the Way Love Goes”
Featuring baby Jennifer Lopez, this video from Janet’s album sees Miss Jackson transition into a more, shall we say, feminine vibe. It’s more of a groove than a throbbing rhythm: it’s downtempo but still danceable, and it’s fantastic.
Before you go, click here for more documentaries on strong women in music.