Here’s four key pieces of musical news and/or intriguing notes to contemplate:
- Missy Elliott is 43-years-old and tore it down at the Super Bowl. Outside of two Timbaland-produced singles and guest spots on tracks by K-Pop sensation G-Dragon and Skrillex/Diplo combo Jack U, the world has absolutely no idea when/if Missy’s releasing any more music.
- Madonna is 56-years-old bombed at the Grammys and fell down a staircase while performing in London. As well, the just released Rebel Heart is not receiving good reviews.
- Nestled in a space between these two icons on different ends of the spectrum is Janet Jackson, who is 48-years-old. Outside of an appearance on 2010’s earthquake relief single “We Are the World 25 for Haiti,” neither hide nor hair has been seen from her in seven years as a pop artist.
- Basically, if Janet Jackson can stay standing and meet the standard she’s already set as an artist and performer, she has every chance to actually succeed.
Janet Jackson has recorded 30 top-ten singles over a 33-year career. In the two decades between 1986-2006, she released seven consecutive platinum albums and has sold roughly 100 million albums. All of these facts and figures equate to one point that absolutely must be made. In an era where “albums don’t sell” and “stars don’t feel like superstars used to feel,” pop music desperately needs the return of Janet Jackson more than ever before.
If a fan of EDM, you’re presently getting inundated with music by teenagers and twenty-somethings who are sampling the wrong voices to make soulful “future bass” songs that – if they featured the sweet tones of Janet Jackson – could sound 100 times better. Consider the following. If we took a random sampling of dance music producers, we’d likely find that the mode for ages in that sample (aka then age that is the most recurrent) is probably 22-years-old. If we presume that the age where individual tastes in music begin to shape someone is around (let’s be generous here) 10-years-old, that makes the year where many of these producers fell in love with pop-soul fall somewhere around 2001. Given that this was the year of Aaliyah’s passing (and that by 2001, Janet had moved into more urban pop-dance fare like “All For You”), the soulful and youthful homages to times past featuring the now-deceased vocalist make sense.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Njq9Jj5Qhn0
Let’s consider the idea that soul music needs Janet Jackson, too. If pressed to name another African-American female R & B vocalist outside of Beyonce or Mary J. Blige, who do you name? The pop music industry wants you to believe in Sevyn Streeter. You just asked “who’s Sevyn Streeter?” That’s okay…you’re forgiven. As well, there are those who would pick Brandy, Jennifer Hudson, Ciara or K. Michelle. But, in a field where names of popular superstar artists and groups could at one time go on for hours, unless you’re a die-hard music fanatic you’re probably going to miss Elle Varner, Chrisette Michelle, Melanie Fiona, Jazmine Sullivan or Fantasia. It’s clear that in an era where soul music has the capability to prevalent in all genres, the additional star-power of a true musical icon is necessary.
The song I was listening to was “Someday is Tonight,” (from 1989-released album Rhythm Nation 1814) one of my favorite Janet Jackson tracks. I think somehow [Janet] is underrated! She’s one of the biggest stars, but she’s obviously in the shadow of Michael [Jackson], who’s obviously and undeniably fantastic. I’d never really properly listened to the song – you know, music you’ve heard but never truly listened to it. I did that recently and had one of those moments where [the song] was very cinematic.
In the winter in Sweden, that’s what I do. It’s really boring and cold, so you just live in your headphones. The music becomes my soundtrack to life. What I really love about [Janet’s] voice is that it’s minimal. It’s simple and sensual, sexy and airy, and I think that’s an awesome way to sing.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gu6mcPmkNTE
In the same time-span as Janet Jackson’s career, Michael Jackson had a hand in 25 top-ten singles (Janet had 30) and six platinum-plus selling albums (Janet had seven). Of course, insofar as sheer quantity of albums sold, Michael sold more copies of Thriller than Janet sold of the combined total sales of every album she released. However, Michael never had Justin Timberlake assist him in flashing a bare breast and scandalizing the world during the Super Bowl halftime show. In fact, it’s that mix of sex appeal, marketability, raw talent and pure pop sensibility that – commercial numbers be damned – may make Janet a bigger star than Michael. Extrapolate that statement a bit further, and if we call Michael the “King of Pop,” then is it okay to call Janet the Queen? Certainly.
Moreso than “Someday Is Tonight,” a fine (and likely better known) example of the minimal, airy sexiness that makes Janet Jackson the arguable Queen of Pop and a vocalist we need in music right now is 1998’s Velvet Rope single “I Get Lonely.” Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis borrow some influence from the Timbaland playbook here with the off-kilter drums, but the jazzy horn riffs and water drop sample are all of their own faculties. Listen to anything dominating progressive-to-mainstream soul in 2015, and it doesn’t sound too dissimilar to this single. However, in Janet Jackson not being anywhere near the single you’re hearing in 2015, you’re missing out on something amazing.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A54-cN_yU8I
Janet’s voice is powerful, yet restrained, the “loneliness” enveloping the listener and drawing them closer to her essence. It’s powerful stuff, and when remixed as a call and response with Blackstreet, it’s even more accessible than as a solo performance. A hit-of-hits by a star-of-stars, it was a Gold-selling single and Jackson’s last pure ballad to chart in the top ten of her career.
Take some time today and re-acquaint yourself with Janet Jackson. Then, openly lament her lack of presence in mainstream pop right now, and believe that she (and only she) is the classic artist that must make a return to excellence.
If there is a new project, you’ll hear it from my lips.
— Janet Jackson (@JanetJackson) August 1, 2014