Janet Jackson has never required an introduction, she has been a household name by default. She is one of nine siblings in pop’s most successful musical family, the Jacksons, and grew up in the spotlight. Her entertainment career began in 1976 on The Jacksons’ Variety Show, followed by a role on the sitcom Good Times in 1977. She did not begin her music career until 1982, however, with the release of her self-titled debut album. In 1984, she followed it up with her sophomore set Dreamstreet. Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to match the success of her brothers with the nondescript, bubblegum pop sound of her first two albums. So, what was Janet’s sound?
If you listen to those first two albums, you’ll hear a lot – a lot of extra, 80’s production, a lot of bubblegum pop and a lot of generic lyrics – but not a whole lot of Janet herself. Perhaps this could simply be attributed to her age – she was between 15-17 when recording her first two albums – but more so, it was because of her father’s stifling control. So, her sound was as-yet-undefined… until 1985; when she finally had enough. She fired her father as her manager and his replacement, John McClain, introduced Janet to Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. The sessions for what would become Control began in Minneapolis in 1985 when she decided it was time for her to take control of her career, and Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis helped orchestrate this move – literally and figuratively.
Jam and Lewis encouraged Janet to experiment with a new sound, musically, as well as new, more personal topics lyrically. The story goes that while Janet stayed in Minneapolis recording the album, she was inspired by certain life experiences, which yielded several of the album’s tracks. Janet was one of the first female pop stars to make songs that flat-out emasculated her suitors; asserting herself as a woman in charge, in control. There she has remained ever since.
Whether it be through the classic Rhythm Nation 1814, on which Janet took a socially conscious message to the dance floors, the sexual rebirth of her self-titled janet. or the grippingly introspective The Velvet Rope, Janet built her legacy on being in control – and unabashedly honest. Through it all — the millennial resurgence (All For You), the blacklisting and the years that followed (post-Superbowl), Janet persisted.
Anyone who has ever truly been a fan of Janet’s would never have lost faith, though. She has always been Unbreakable, and our love for her is, too. With the release of Unbreakable, she cemented that fact. From this point on her status as not only a legendary icon, but also a musical genius, is unquestionably unbreakable. In this next phase of her career, Janet is finally getting her flowers. She is selling out music festivals, touring the world, and slaying Las Vegas. Not to mention being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Janet Jackson stands tall as a legend, unbreakable and in control.