The Return of Janet Jackson: What Has She Done For Us Lately?

By David Helton

Janet Jackson has been missing for a few years. And by missing, we mean living a very private (and fabulous) life with her billionaire husband Wissam Al Mana in luxurious and sophisticated Dubai. Aside from being spotted at a few high-profile fashion events, there hasn’t been much from Miss Jackson-If-You’re-Nasty in nearly 7 years. In pop music, that’s a lifetime. But alas, the announcement has just been made that we can expect a new album and tour shortly.

Expectations are high. Janet Jackson is now 49yo and she is returning to an entirely new music scene. Albums are no longer consumed as whole pieces of artistic works – artists now release bite-sized, radio-friendly singles. In the past, an artist would tour to promote their records. Today, artists release records to promote their tours. The paradigm has shifted.

Some people say it was ‘Nipplegate’, her infamous wardrobe malfunction at the 2004 Super Bowl that destroyed her career. Jackson bore the brunt of the blame, while Justin Timberlake weaseled out of accountability. As early as February 4, 2004—three days after the Super Bowl—People Magazine was referring to Timberlake as “the teflon man” (keep in mind this all happened over two years before his quadruple platinum magnum opus FutureSex/LoveSounds). Jackson was effectively barred from the Grammys, which took place a week after the Super Bowl and were broadcast on the same network, CBS.

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According to People, Jackson was being pressured to bow out of the music awards ceremony or risk being disinvited; she was initially supposed to be an award presenter, but that offer was revoked. Meanwhile, Timberlake showed up, won two awards (Best Male Pop Vocal Performance and Best Pop Vocal Album), and during an acceptance speech, made amends over the horrible incident that had happened one week prior. Nonetheless, Janet all but vanished into obscurity.

Her eighth studio album, Damita Jo, was released a few weeks later in March 2004. At the time, an account labeled Jackson “one of the most villified female artists of all time,” stating due to the blacklist, “radio wouldn’t play it and MTV wouldn’t play her videos” for singles which “would’ve been out-of-the-park hits at any other point in Jackson’s career.”

Some people, however, would argue that Jermaine Dupri (Janet’s then husband and producer) is responsible for her demise. Jimmy Jim and Terry Lewis built a musical empire, scoring some of the biggest hits in pop music with Janet. However, she left the brilliant writing of Rhythm Nation and the funky hooks of All For You for a more sensual and sexier sound, slipping into almost inaudible electronic whispers and half-spoken words. While Jermaine Dupri brought Mariah Carey back from the dead, he wasn’t able to revive Janet’s stalled career. However, Mariah is a vocalist – Janet is an entertainer. Instead, he sent her career into oblivion with the album Discipline, which failed to do well commercially – although it debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 with 181,000 copies sold – higher chart position than Jackson’s two previous releases, it was a lower first-week sales total compared to Damita Jo which opened with sales of 381,000 and 20 Y.O. with sales of 296,000.

Janet had ongoing problems with her label and would eventually cut ties. The frustration was voiced on both sides. A few months before the split, a spokesperson for the label told Billboard, “Unfortunately we haven’t experienced the results we would have liked with this new album. But we respect and support Janet”.

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Janet responded “I can’t say if we’ll be working with them in the future. I don’t know what the future holds between the two of us.” A spokesperson for Jackson added, “[Jackson] will have autonomy over her career, without the restrictions of a label system… Always known to break new ground and set trends, Janet’s departure from Island Records makes her one of the first superstar artists to have the individual freedom to promote their work through a variety of avenues such as iTunes, mobile carriers and other diverse and innovative channels”.

Janet now returns with a history making business model. The worldwide partnership with Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation will see the release in Fall 2015 of her first as-yet-untitled album and a commitment to pursue the full range of options within the broader Bertelsmann group of which BMG is part. With Rhythm Nation Janet Jackson becomes arguably the first female African-American recording artist to form her own record label. At Rhythm Nation Janet plans to offer a home to both new and established recording artists.

The partnership with BMG makes Janet Jackson the biggest worldwide superstar yet to quit the traditional record label system for a so-called artist services deal, designed to put artists in the driving seat. Unlike a traditional record deal, under an artist services deal the artist retains ownership of their recordings and full oversight of all costs and revenues.

With sales of over 160 million records worldwide, Janet Jackson stands as one of the best-selling artists of all time as well as one of the most awarded with a string of hits that have left an indelible impression on pop culture. Her lengthy string of hits has powerfully influenced popular music, leaving a lasting impression on pop culture and opening doors through which other top artists have followed, many acknowledging her impact on their musical perceptions.

This 2012 publicity photo provided by Guttman Associates shows Janet Jackson with Wissam Al Mana, in a portrait taken by photographer, Marco Glaviano. A representative for Jackson confirmed Monday, Feb. 25, 2013, that the musician and Wissam Al Mana wed last year. (AP Photo/Guttman Associates, Marco Glaviano)

This 2012 publicity photo provided by Guttman Associates shows Janet Jackson with Wissam Al Mana, in a portrait taken by photographer, Marco Glaviano. A representative for Jackson confirmed Monday, Feb. 25, 2013, that the musician and Wissam Al Mana wed last year. (AP Photo/Guttman Associates, Marco Glaviano)

Ms. Jackson’s May 16th announcement of an upcoming new album and a world tour via #ConversationsInACafe sent fans into a social media frenzy.

BMG CEO Hartwig Masuch said, “Janet is not just a supreme artist, she is a unique cultural force whose work resonates around the world. It is an honor that she has chosen BMG to release her long-awaited new album. We look forward to collaborating with her across every platform.”

Janet commented, “Thank you to the talented team at BMG, my new artistic home. The opportunity to be creative in music and every form of entertainment has great potential here.” Jon Cohen, EVP of Recorded Music at BMG Chrysalis US said, “Janet is a cultural icon and pop star like no other. The release of her long-awaited new album will undoubtedly be one of the musical highlights of 2015. It is an honor to work with her.”

Janet began her career at the age of seven when she first performed with her family at the MGM in Las Vegas. The worldwide breakthrough came with her third album Control in 1986, her legendary collaboration with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis which created the musical fusion of pop, R&B, soul, dance, jazz, rock and rap which defines her unique sound. Control won four American Music Awards out of twelve nominations and was nominated for an Album of the Year at the Grammys.

Next came Rhythm Nation 1814, a socially-conscious album critiquing injustice, illiteracy, crime, drugs, and racial intolerance, which last year celebrated its 25th anniversary. It remains the only album yet to have launched number one hits on the Billboard Hot 100 in three separate calendar years.

1993’s janet sent her career into the stratosphere and brought the worldwide smash ‘That’s The Way Love Goes’. From 1995’s Design Of A Decade retrospective through studio albums The Velvet Rope, All For You and Discipline, Janet has continued to thrill and inspire her fans worldwide. Janet Jackson is one of very few music artists to have also achieved a successful acting career. Initially known as a young TV star, her first three films opened at number one at the box office with her next two big screen projects opening in the top three. Janet’s music has also made an impact in the film world when the artist received an Academy Award Nomination in the Best Music, Original Song category.

Zach Katz, Chief Creative Officer, BMG Chrysalis US, said: “Janet’s list of achievements and accomplishments is truly staggering. She is a global artist whose career has touched on virtually every area of popular culture. Her new album will undoubtedly have a significant impact. We look forward to collaborating with her and Rhythm Nation to nurture a new generation of artists.”

Venus Brown, for BMG Chrysalis US added: “As die-hard fans of her work and of the musical jewels that Janet Jackson has bestowed upon the world, we are beyond thrilled that she has chosen BMG to be her new partner. Her music and her video and concert styling, particularly Rhythm Nation 1814, changed the course of pop music.”

Janet Jackson is the only one who can revive Janet Jackson’s career. She is the standard by which modern day pop stars are measured. Her fans are all anxiously awaiting her next move. One thing is clear, she has taken the time she needs to regroup and come hard – it’s all up to her. Show us what you’ve got, Janet. We’ve been waiting.

1 Comment on The Return of Janet Jackson: What Has She Done For Us Lately?

  1. Janet how happy was I to see you in concert.You did not disappoint. I grew up with you and now we are gracefully growing old but you still know how to Entertain your fans.Your music has helped me through many stages in my life and for that I am so very greatful to you.You look so happy with your guy and you so deserve it and it was long overdue. God bless you Janet you are an amazing woman in every aspect and I so wish I could meet you.But you and your music will live with me and my heart Forever.I love you Cyntra!

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