Janet Jackson

Janet Damita Jo Jackson (born May 16, 1966) is an American singer-songwriter, producer, dancer and actress. She is the youngest child of the Jackson music family and the sister of Michael Jackson. Janet ranks as the ninth most successful artist in the history of rock and roll and the second most successful female artist of all time behind Madonna. Jackson initially stepped into the limelight as a young actress, appearing in television shows. Upon her father’s insistance, she released two studio albums; neither garnered much attention nor success. Jackson is well-known for her detailed dance choreography and music videos.

After a brief marriage to James DeBarge, Jackson set out to find her own identity. She collaborated with producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, and the trio created Jackson’s breakout album, Control (1986) and the socially-focused follow-up, Rhythm Nation 1814 (1989). In the early 1990s, Jackson signed a record-breaking recording deal with Virgin Records for the sexually-charged album Janet. (1993) which proved to be a larger success than its two predecessors.

After the limited success of her first two albums, A&M A&R John McClain recruited producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis to enliven the music career of the nineteen-year-old Jackson. Before leaving for Minneapolis, however, the producers were given the blessing of Jackson’s father, who was her manager at the time, after they promised him that Jackson would not sound anything like Prince. Within months, Jackson, Jam & Lewis crafted the record Control, through which Jackson told her life story.

Control, released February 1986, became a hit, spawning five Top 5 singles, including her first number one single “When I Think Of You”. The album became a breakthrough record for Jackson partly due to the singles’ music videos that showcased dynamic dance moves choreographed by Paula Abdul. Janet trademarked herself, wearing an earring with a key. She later revealed that the key belonged to the animal cages at her family’s estate.

Control featured “What Have You Done For Me Lately”, “The Pleasure Principle”, and the ballad “Let’s Wait Awhile”. The album went to the top of the Billboard 200 album chart and sold over five million copies in America by the end of 1986. Control was awarded a Grammy nomination for Album of the Year, six Billboard Music Awards, four American Music Awards, three MTV Video Music Awards and three Soul Train Music Awards including Album of the Year. That same year, Jackson took a step towards her independence: she fired her father-manager, Joseph Jackson.

In 1989, Jackson began recording her fourth album, Rhythm Nation 1814, (1814 is the year the song “The Star Spangled Banner” was written; also, ‘R’ is the 18th letter of the alphabet and ‘N’ is the 14th, hence 1814). Executives at A&M wanted a record that was similar to Control, but Jackson was determined to do the exact opposite. She presented a mixed bag of socially-conscious tracks (inspired by the work of Marvin Gaye and Joni Mitchell), danceable New Jack Swing tunes, a rare rock number and several romantic ballads.

Producers Jimmy Jam, and Terry Lewis, originally wanted the album’s more upbeat tracks to be housed on the first half on the album, with the socially-conscious material featured on the second half. Jackson disagreed. She thought the album had an important message and pushed it to be the record’s main focus.

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