In celebration of 40 years of Janet Jackson as a recording artist, our team compiled a playlist of our favorite Janet “deep cuts,” consisting of our favorite underrated, lesser known Janet tracks that a casual listener may have never heard. If you’re like us, watching Janet’s eponymous new documentary on Lifetime has you revisiting her music, so, if you’re someone who has only been familiar with her singles, allow this playlist to acquaint you with her more obscure deep cuts. We hope you enjoy!
Janet Jackson: The Deep Cuts
Each staff writer (and Janet Jackson fan) selected a handful of deep cuts to be included in our playlist. For each cut, they explain why you should check the song out. From there, our editor Vincent Anthony compiled the songs into a playlist and worked out the most optimal sequencing for you to experience these must-hear Janet tracks.
- “Enjoy” from 20 Y.O. (2006) – This feel good track about appreciating the simple things in life is like that big, warm hug you need when you’re looking for just the right pick-me-up. And, who can’t use a good pick-me-up these days?
- “Feels So Right” from All For You (2001) – As Janet’s lighthearted vocals glide over a frothy beat, it’s almost impossible to not beam from ear to ear when listening to the superstar revel in the joys of her love.
- “Broken Hearts Heal” from Unbreakable (2015) – Inspired by the death of her brother Michael, this Unbreakable number will have you dancing along to her most sacred memories instead of crying over them.
- “Love Scene (Ooh Baby)” from All For You (2001) – Only Janet Jackson can make a sex song sound so zen that it could be played at your local spa. No doubt, “Love Scene” remains one of her most serene yet erotically inviting baby-making anthems.
- “Thinkin’ Bout My Ex” from Damita Jo (2004) – We’ve all been there, and Janet is no exception. That’s what makes her vulnerability and honesty for having feelings for someone you probably shouldn’t, but more than likely have at one point or another, all the more relatable.
- “Take Care” from 20 Y.O. (2006) – Another bedroom banger that further proves Janet Jackson is the ultimate sex songstress, only now she’s crooning about pleasuring her own self until her partner comes home to assist.
- “Truth” from All For You (2001) – Presumably inspired by the divorce from her second husband, “Truth” is a confessional track about realizing one’s own self-worth. Janet Jackson didn’t earn her legacy from anybody’s work but her own – and that is the truth.
- “When We Ooo” from All For You (2001) – The first of many sensual sounds on All For You, “When We Ooo” is as sexy as the title implies. It sets the tone for the second quarter of the album as the tempo starts to slow, creating a sonic journey that is hot to follow.
- “Empty” from The Velvet Rope (1997) – The way that the beat builds as this song progresses is beautiful. That matched with Janet’s stacked harmonies perfectly encapsulate how exciting, and then ultimately frustrating, it can be maintaining a relationship using technology
- “Come On Get Up” from All For You (2001) – The song “All For You” is such an upbeat bop, but “Come On Get Up” somehow manages to up the ante. The drums make the song a perfect party anthem, and the chorus is amazing in how simple yet fun it is.
- “Funny How Time Flies (When You’re Having Fun)” from Control (1986) – Janet’s voice exudes a sexiness here that may seem at odds with the message of previous track Let’s Wait Awhile, but I think if anything it reinforces that songs message. Time running away makes her want to see her lover again, not rush into things.
- “LUV” from Discipline (2008) – Darkchild’s signature sound is here and Janet glides and jumps through the beat in a way that makes Luv sound as fun as its shorthand title implies. The electropop sound isn’t forced and Janet isn’t trend-hopping in the way many of her peers were doing around the time of this songs release.
- “Rope Burn” from The Velvet Rope (1997) – From the opening “Mm..my lips hurts” you know exactly what you’re in for with Rope Burn. Sequenced very late on The Velvet Rope, Rope Burn isn’t Janet’s first foray into kink on her records, but its enough to make you want to explore what she’s singing out.
- “Daybreak” from 20 Y.O. (2006) – Janet’s “sneaking out to play tonight” on this Janet-Jimmy-Terry record on the JD-heavy 20 Y.O. With an irresistible hook and ambiance from the bells, it’s memorable.
- “Damita Jo” from Damita Jo (2004) – The beat hits heavy in contrast to Janet’s soft-coos as she tells a prospective suitor about herself on the album’s opening, and title track.
- “Spending Time With You” from Damita Jo (2004) – The epitome of laid-back and chill.
- “China Love” from All For You (2001) – I avoided this record for years, only to find that it’s a sonic playground that the verses have some melodic similarities to Mary J. Blige’s own Jam & Lewis produced record, 1997’s “Everything.”
- “Night” from Unbreakable (2015) – It grooves, it thumps, it evokes 90’s dance in the keyboards. While some records on Unbreakable were contemporary, this one was steeped in vintage elements
- “So Much Betta” from Discipline (2008) – This is one of the more sonically adventurous things Janet has done, featuring heavy percussion heavy and a half-reversed hook. The magic strikes at the bridge as the beat drops out aside from a modest clap track and when a chorus of Janets (giving some serious Michael vibes in their collective tone), harmonize.
- “Every Time (Jam & Lewis Disco Remix)” from The Velvet Rope: Deluxe Edition (1998) – Only added to Spotify in the last few years, Jam & Lewis funk up their beautiful ballad with muddy bass, beats that marry disco and 90’s dance. Their reworks leave Janet’s delicate vocal room to shine and resonate properly, but make it club ready.
- “Lonely” from Rhythm Nation 1814 (1989) – the echoing thunderstorm opening and the Spanish lines “Todos necesitamos / Un amigo en la soledad” set the mood immediately for this anthem about the importance of friendship to battle solitude and isolation.
- “Slo Love” from Damita Jo (2004) – Damita Jo was a great mix of different genres. “Slo Love” explores the fun and carefree side of Janet’s output with a Dance beat and a banging attitude. A cosmic bop!
- “Island Life” from Damita Jo (2004) – Sexy without being overtly sexual “Island Life” is an explosion of tropical vibes. From the thumping beat, to the sleek synths to Janet’s rich vocals on the chorus, it’s a total mood.
- “Do It 2 Me” from 20 Y.O. (2006) – The Brenda Russell sample from “If Only for One Night” works very well with Jermaine Dupri’s hard hitting beat. This has always been one of the catchiest tracks on 20 Y.O. and definitely a stand out.
- “What About” from The Velvet Rope (1997) – Narrating a story of domestic abuse isn’t an easy task, but Janet chose to tackle this subject in a way that’s poignant, detailed and extremely emotional. Sadness, vulnerability, anger and frustration are real and tangible in this track.
- “Take Me Away” from Unbreakable (2015) – The Electro-Rock arrangement of “Take Me Away” recalls in part the sound of the All for You album. Here Janet looks for an escape in love with a soaring chorus that captures you instantly.
- “The Great Forever” from Unbreakable (2015) – Likely written about her then-marriage to Wissam Al Mana, “The Great Forever” is a powerful and inspiring anthem for anyone who might need to tell someone, “leave us the fuck alone” – particularly, Janet’s LGBTQ+ fans.
- “This Time” from janet. (1993) – Featuring opera singer Kathleen Battle, “This Time” is a 7 minute long journey that is unique and unlike any other in Janet’s catalog.
- “Together Again (Jimmy Jam Deeper Radio Edit)” from The Velvet Rope era (1997) – While the album version is one of Janet’s most successful singles, this remix is a gorgeous reimagining that not everyone knows about, but should.
- “Better Days” from All For You (2001) – A personal favorite of mine from All For You, “Better Days” is an emotional rollercoaster, but one that ends on a positive note. It’s quite representative of Janet’s music overall in that way.
- “R&B Junkie” from Damita Jo (2004) – This throwback track was an instant fan-favorite from Janet’s underrated Damita Jo album, it’s just so damn fun.
- “Shoulda Known Better” from Unbreakable (2015) – I love the introspection Janet does on this track, its anthemic, yet personal, and a standout on Unbreakable.
- “Anything” from The Velvet Rope (1997) — In an album chock-full of overt sexual expression, it’s this deep cut’s more sensual, and laid back approach that make it a stand out. Woven with meticulously placed vocals, and the backdrop of immaculate production by Jam and Lewis, this is a track I’d absolutely LOVE to see live. It’s a subtle track, that shines based off of the production value alone. Come through, Strawberry!
- “Love and My Best Friend” from Janet Jackson (1982) — While it is well known that Janet had very little artistic input in her first couple of musical outings, this track is a small highlight in a decent, albeit unfulfilling album. This song has a beautiful vocal delivery, and the lyrics and arrangement are very reminiscent of Michael’s 1972 single, “Ben”. It has an air of young innocence that I find endearing, to this very day, and you can’t help be see a spark of a fully realized Janet, that was to come to us in just a few short years.
- “Where Are You Now?” from Janet. (1993) — I’ve always thought of this song as a musical precursor to 1997’s “Got Til It’s Gone”. The lyrics, which paint the portrait of a woman who longs for her lost love; a subject that Janet has visited often. However, this particular song stands out for the stellar production, and overall quality of the song. I literally almost passed out when she opted to add this track to the first leg of her 2017 State of The World Tour.
- “Living in A World (They Didn’t Make)” from Rhythm Nation 1814 (1989) — The only disappointing aspect of Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814, is the fact that the social themes used on that album are still so painfully relevant. On this track, placed towards the end of the album, Janet mournfully lists all of the present day issues of the world; all while pointing out that the people most impacted, and influenced from it’s evils, are the children. A trope we sadly still see today with all of the black and brown children felled in the era of #BlackLivesMatter.
- “The Body That Loves You” from Janet. (1993)— Janet’s love of Brazilian music has come up in interviews throughout the course of career. This track, which borrows the conventions of the Bossa Nova genre of Brazilian Music, is more of a transitional song, that introduces us to the peak of sensuality of the “janet.” album. While it may not have the same impact as later songs like “Anytime, Anyplace”, it serves as a nice musical departure for Janet, with a nice ode to her own innate influences, and I hope that people get a better glimpse of her artistry on this one. Elevator music, but make it sexy!
- “2Nite” from Discipline (2008)— While this album isn’t admittedly my favorite, I absolutely ADORE this song. It could have very well fit into Damita Jo’s more eclectic track listing, and is the epitome of, “classic Janet, with a modern twist.” A song truly before it’s time. P.S.: This song could have very easily been the opening for 2008’s RockWitchu Tour. I’m still bitter that it wasn’t.
- “Special/Can’t Be Stopped” from The Velvet Rope (1997)— There is nothing like having the world’s biggest Pop star being transparent with her own mental health, then reminding the girls that we were born with the blood of Kings and Queens. Strength and resilience are Black folks’ birthrights, and Janet made sure we knew it. Nuff Said.
- “Lessons Learned” from Unbreakable (2015) — There was always something about this song that I connected to, especially upon it’s 2015 release. This song visits themes featuring physical and emotional abuse, (none which had been tapped into since 1997’s “What About”) and after viewing Janet’s new documentary, I can’t help but wonder if the calls were coming from inside of the house on this one. Bless this woman. And protect her at all costs.