Born in Gary, Indiana and the youngest of ten Jackson children, Janet was performing with the family aged seven and made her first recording with brother Randy on the sweet 'Love Song for Kids'. And soon found success on the R&B charts in her own right with fledgling discs like her self-titled debut and Dream Street. She then made the startling decision to separate her career from the family business - hence the title of her 1986 disc Control and key songs like 'Nasty' and 'What Have You Done For Me lately?' which pushed her into the dance and soul mainstream at a stroke while gaining her considerable critical kudos for her bravery and flair. Often cited as one of the most significant albums of the 1980s, Control would sell over 14 million copies, working at Jam and Lewis's studio in Minneapolis (the pair were peers of Prince in The Time) and fine tuning an aggressive, cocky sound that convinced listeners she was for real. JJ's groove and her infallible commercial gift were perfectly locked onto Jam and Lewis's method - tough but poppy, sassy but sweet, genuine R&B. Having heralded her arrival at the top subsequent hits like 'When I Think Of You' and 'The Pleasure Principle', allied to Jackson's bossing of the video medium and her abilities to command choreographed dance routines made her an MTV and radio star. Control won so many awards and influenced so many rising genres like New Jack Swing and crossover Hip Hop that Jackson started to rival Madonna as a force of nature.
The follow-up, Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814 continued her co-writing relationship with Jam and Lewis and widened the lyrical net to tackle drug abuse, racism and poverty. This time seven singles were plucked off, each one reaching the Top Five - the first time that's ever happened. 'Miss You Much', the title track, 'Escapade', 'Alright', 'Come Back to Me', 'Black Cat' and 'Love Will Never Do (Without You)' made the album a heavy rotation smash - even her debut world tour broke all records. Now a fashion icon as well as a musical superstar, Jackson entered the 1990s on a tsunami. Her all-inclusive image enabled Janet to provide intelligent commentary to street level beats and dispensed with the notion that she was a manipulated character. Quite the opposite.
After all the exclamation marks so far in her life Janet signed to Virgin in 1991 and, appropriately also took some reins in the studio. Still working with her previous fellows, as well as Jellybean Johnson, the simply titled Janet (1993) featured a daring front cover on the outside and an inner core of brilliantly polished soul pop. 'That's The Way Love Goes' won Janet a Grammy for Best R&B song while her videos pushed sexuality and feminism into the arena. Having heard her music discussed now in academic circles Jackson was described as making a sonically challenging art that was lightning and moon glow - a pretty fair description of her dual appeal. The album itself is a loose boudoir concept with interludes and intimate spoken passages. The tracks are monsters: 'Throb', 'Because of Love' and 'Any Time, Any Place' bossed clubs as well as airwaves and also delighted old school fans who could pick up on neat samples from Kool and the Gang, James Brown and Stevie Wonder.
The Velvet Rope (1997) was Jackson's true coming of age album. It's a masterpiece and is deservedly available here in the Special Edition format. Trip hop, electronica and rap were added to the Janet palette as she sought to push out even further towards tackling sexual issues. Facing up to her own journey towards overcoming personal problems and the pressure of her profile The Velvet Rope succeeds on every level, from visceral to cerebral. The album includes her biggest hit, 'Together Again', 'I Get Lonely', the dance sensation 'Go Deep' and the Hip Hop smash 'Got 'til It's Gone 'buy the overall impression is not really about point scoring, rather an integrated piece of work that stands up to rediscovery today. This time utilising collaborations/samples with Vanessa-Mae, Joni Mitchell and Q-Tip, Janet also branched out in terms of assists - you'll find Mike Oldfield, Trevor Horn, Ashford and Simpson, Rod Stewart and Archie Bell among the credits.
All For You (2001) was a clever aging-up disc. Demons conquered, a smiling and happy Janet beams from its cover and the lighter pop side in her nature simply resonates throughout. Keeping to her conceptual structure Jackson has a whole lot of fun here on 'Come On Get Up', the liberated 'Son of a Gun (I Betcha Think This Song Is About You)' and 'Someone To Call My Lover' - the latter two featuring samples of Carly Simon and America respectively while Missy Elliott and P. Diddy are amongst the guests on an album that has a clean and dirty side. Now thirty-five Jackson was hitting peak form and sounds utterly on top of her craft here. Another fantastic disc.
Damita Jo (2004) was another multi-platinum success - the dance-pop, urban groove and R&B flavoured Hip Hop grab bag being partially influenced by new assists from Kanye West, Telepopmusik, Rockwilder, Babyface and other hot producers. Another passionate, envelope-pushing example of Jackson's ability to fuse the explicit with the bang on trend - here she immerses herself in house and dance and simply lets rip. Certainly not a disc to overlook, Damita Jo features a slew of top songs - try 'All Nite (Don't Stop)', 'I Want You' or the glorious 'Just A Little While' and luxuriate in the overall subtlety of JJ taking no prisoners.
20 Y.O. was another clever concept, this time enabling Janet to examine her younger selves and take stock of her life in 2006. Sweet, frisky and flirty, the album title suggested Janet was going back to her roots and casting a fond eye on twenty years of top class recording. Proving that her status was established as a given Jackson embarked on a big promotional push for 20 Y.O. and as usual every magazine cover she graced turned to gold. More significantly the JJ team retained their credibility with superb songs like 'So Excited', 'With U' and the anthemic 'Enjoy', bumper chart placing worldwide and more Platinum for groaning sideboard.
Discipline (the title alluding to her ferocious work rate and exacting standards) is another must-have. Standouts include 'Feedback', 'Someone To Call My Lover' and the 'Rock With U' cut that underpinned another world tour. A new direction here - Jam and Lewis aren't involved, but still no let up in sheer brilliance. Check the neat samples too -Daft Punk for 'So Much Betta' and another collaboration with Missy Elliott on 'The 1' - both items as vital as anything in her canon. Befitting an artist whose pop-defining career has designed the decades we offer the exemplary Number Ones/The Best, a non-stop cavalcade of glorious hit music and the fine Janet. Remixed where Frankie Knuckles, Brothers In Rhythm, David Morales and Nellee Hooper are amongst the masters of dance floor engineering and club slab grooves. Janet Jackson is the kid who grew up in the public eye and simply bossed the medium she works in to this day. Watch her space. She's always in control.
Words - Max Bell
After shocking the R&B world with 1986's Control -- a gutsy, risk-taking triumph that was a radical departure from her first two albums -- Michael and Jermaine Jackson's younger sister reached an even higher artistic plateau with the conceptual Rhythm Nation 1814. Once again, she enlists the help of Time graduates Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis (one of the more soulful production/songwriting teams of 1980s and '90s R& B) with wildly successful results. In 1989, protest songs were common in rap but rare in R&B -- Janet Jackson, following rap's lead, dares to address social and political topics on "The Knowledge," the disturbing "State of the World," and the poignant ballad "Living in a World" (which decries the reality of children being exposed to violence). Jackson's voice is wafer-thin, and she doesn't have much of a range -- but she definitely has lots of soul and spirit and uses it to maximum advantage on those gems as well as nonpolitical pieces ranging from the Prince-influenced funk/pop of "Miss You Much" and "Alright" to the caressing, silky ballads "Someday Is Tonight," "Alone," and "Come Back to Me" to the pop/rock smoker "Black Cat." For those purchasing their first Janet Jackson release, Rhythm Nation would be an even wiser investment than Control -- and that's saying a lot.
Words - Alex Henderson
Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis tailored their contemporary dance-pop to the emerging personality of Janet Jackson, who attempted to take control of her life on this record. In the course of that attempt, she came across as a powerful, independent woman, notably on "What Have You Done for Me Lately."
Words - William Ruhlmann
After Control and Rhythm Nation Janet Jackson had quite a lot to live up to. Anyone who expected Jackson to top Rhythm Nation -- her crowning achievement and an incredibly tough act to follow -- was being unrealistic. But with Janet., she delivered a respectable offering that, although not as strong as either Control or Nation has many strong points. As before Jackson is joined by the prolific Jimmy Jam/Terry Lewis team, and their input is valuable on everything from the angry "This Time" and the hypnotic "That's the Way Love Goes" to the '60s-flavored "What'll I Do" and the sociopolitical "The New Agenda" (which features Public Enemy leader Chuck D). But perhaps the CD's most exciting track is "Funky Big Band," which samples jazz legend Lionel Hampton’s 1938 big-band classic "I'm in the Mood for Swing" with thrilling results. There are a few throwaways (including the lightweight ballad "Again"), but despite its shortcomings, janet.is a welcome addition to her catalog.
Words - Alex Henderson
The Velvet Rope was released by Virgin Records in the autumn of 1997 and was her sixth solo album. This album blends hip hop and and electronic music with Janet's traditional R&B roots. Lyrically it explores all sorts of sexual issues from sado-masochism to same sex relationships. Produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis and her then husband Rene Elizondo Jr. the album spawned six singles with 'Together Again' being the most successful, selling over six million copies worldwide. Another single 'I Get Lonely' was a big hit and gave her a Grammy Award for Best R&B Vocal performance. Janet promoted the album with the Velvet Rope World Tour, which received rave reviews for her vocal performance and theatrical ambition.
The Velvet Rope was a fairly bold move on Janet Jackson's part, as she got seriously sexy -- too serious, actually, since it had a fairly bitter tone, underscored by hints of perversity. Four years later, marked by one hidden marriage revealed through a divorce, Janet returned with All for You, an album that is as about sex as much as The Velvet Rope, yet there's a key difference -- it feels sexy, not pornographic. With her trusty collaborators Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis in tow, she's created a record that's luxurious and sensual, spreading leisurely over its 70 minutes, luring you in even when you know better. And there are certainly moments that make you wish you knew better. For one, it's plotted like The Velvet Rope, filled with skits and deliberately recalling the record with its obsession with flesh and how it builds on '70s soul and soft rock. This time around, instead of Joni Mitchell, she appropriates America's "Ventura Highway" for "Someone to Call My Lover," one of the record's best cuts, and "interpolates" Carly Simon's "You're So Vain" on "Son of a Gun," with Simon singing and...well, I guess you could call it rapping...right along. The twist is, this is an anti-music industry song and a particularly foul-mouthed entry on the album, sitting comfortably alongside another industry song, the slow groove "Truth."
And that fills out the three main themes of the album -- divorce, industry, and sex -- with a little bit of love on the side. These keep things humming throughout this overly sultry, overlong album, which intrigues with its very texture even as it lulls at its length. After all, there's a lot to be said for texture, and All for You is alluring, easily enveloping the listener. Though it's hardly as explicit as The Velvet Rope, apart from a section where she proclaims "I just want to suck you, taste you, ride you, feel you, make you come -- come inside of me" (mind you, this album did not have a parental advisory sticker on its first pressings), this is her sexiest-sounding record, thanks to Jam and Lewis' silky groove and her breathy delivery, two things that make the record palatable throughout too many spoken interludes and songs that just don't quite click. Even if there is a fair share of filler, this is hardly as strained as The Velvet Rope (though in many respects, it's every bit as self-conscious), and there's an ease to its construction, topped off by such songs as "All for You" and "Doesn't Really Matter" that maintain Janet, Jam, and Lewis' reputation as the leading lights of contemporary urban soul. It'd be nicer if the album was leaner, concentrating on just the great songs, but indulgence is what this record encourages. Janet sprawls out throughout the album, indulging her whims, desires, and fantasies, but -- fortunately for us -- her indulgences are alluring in their self-absorption. Of course, it helps to have Jam and Lewis on your side to articulate your indulgence.
Words - Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Damita Jo, takes its title from Janet's middle name and explores a wide range of musical styles including electro, house, rock and R&B. As with much of her work during the 90s, sex is a frequent narrative for her work. Hip Hop tracks 'Sexhibition' and the Jay Z sampled 'Strawberry Bounce' and the Motown influenced 'I Want You' are highlights from Damita Jo, which sees her collaborating with a number of different producers and songwriters. Kanye West is featured on another strong cut 'My Baby' and 'R&B Junkie' is an up-tempo party dance track.
The album was rather overshadowed by the well publicised events during her performance at the Superbowl in 2004 but is a worthy part of her catalogue.
Janet is 40 years old, but she has said that she feels half her age, and her breakthrough as a pop phenomenon occurred in 1986 -- hence the title of her ninth album. 20 Y.O. is her safest and tamest work since 1984's Dream Street, not only because she couldn't have possibly taken her sexed-up confessional routine beyond the tidbits and techniques divulged throughout 2004's Damita Jo. With only a few exceptions, 20 Y.O. provides further refinements of the fun, flirtatious, midtempo songs of her past several albums. This is not a problem. Even when there are clear instances where Janet, along with principal collaborators Jermaine Dupri, Johnta Austin, Jimmy Jam, and Terry Lewis, are taking an extended ride on the electro-nostalgia bandwagon -- "So Excited" samples Herbie Hancock's "Rockit," patches of "Get It Out Me" resemble Afrika Bambaataa's "Looking for the Perfect Beat," "Show Me" might not have happened without the existence of Ciara's "Goodies" -- they are too fresh and infectious to be considered knock-offs. There are crafty analogues and references to various points in Jackson's past: "This Body"'s rock edge recalls "Black Cat" (though it's more of a strutter than a headbanger), "Daybreak" sparkles and glides like "Runaway" and "Escapade," and "Take Care" is a classic Janet ballad in the vein of "Come Back to Me." The parallels are natural enough that they don't seem all that premeditated. Almost as significantly, the album is roughly 20 minutes shorter than usual, with only a handful of interludes, so there's little meandering, in turn making it easier to become familiar with the curves. What really differentiates the album from its predecessors is that there's almost no trace of tension to be heard. It's all about fooling around and being in love. Janet's gang of assistants is on top of its game, and Janet herself has remembered that she doesn't have to be willfully explicit or eclectic to make a sexy and wholly enjoyable album.
Words - Andy Kellman
A few lines from a couple songs and some suggestive presentation guarantees that a significant amount of the reaction to Discipline, Janet's tenth studio album, will feast upon the singer's lack of judiciousness when it comes to expressing her sexuality. Leave the teasing and explicitness to the teens and younger twenty-somethings -- not the grown women -- right? Janet should get back to making sunny, uncomplicated songs like "Escapade" and pretend that the occasional-to-frequent salaciousness extending back to Control never existed. She should do that and, while she is at it, act her age. (When the three years younger R. Kelly releases his next album, no protests of a similar nature will be heard; ditto whenever the Rolling Stones perform "Brown Sugar.") While Discipline is dressed up like a racy affair with track-to-track titillation, it has only a couple moments where Janet takes the S&M imagery further, and more deeply personal, than she did on The Velvet Rope; the majority of its subject matter relates to the more common elements of relationships. The likes of "Never Letchu Go" (a sweet, glistening ballad), "Luv" (carrying a brisk, feel-good clap-and-bounce), "Rollercoaster" (suitably jittery and giddy), and "Can't B Good" (practically a descendent of her brother Michael's "Can't Help It," with that gentle and affecting self-examination that only a Jackson can do so well) are as innocent, universal, and inviting as anything else in Janet's past. There are two irresistible, grade-A dancefloor tracks as well: the swift, swooning "Rock with U" (that is the correct title) and the more aggressive (as in "let's throw down") "2Nite." The absence of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis is not felt, not with Ne-Yo, the-Dream, Tricky Stewart, and Stargate stepping up to contribute with established Janet collaborators Johnta Austin, Rodney Jerkins, and of course Jermaine Dupri (who brought Janet with him to Island from Virgin). Janet probably won't hit that late-'80s peak again, but that is no excuse to write her off.
Words - Andy Kellman
Janet Jackson is one of the best selling artists in contemporary music and this 2009 2CD compilation contains all her hit singles from Control in 1996 to Rhythm Nation 1814 in 2008.
The set also features a newly recorded single, 'Make Me' which is reminiscent of the 80's hits by her and her brother Michael. Such classics as the uplifting duet with Luther Vandross, 'The Best Things In Life Are Free' and one of her most successful singles 'That's The Way Love Goes' are just a couple of highlights from the 36 tracks featured. The Best demonstrates the breadth and quality of this ground-breaking artist and is a great testament to her memorable career.
Released in 1995 Remixed contains remixes of most of her hits up that that point plus the radio hit 'On And On', '70's Love Groove' as well as a number of rare B-sides.
Highlights include E- Smoove's remix of 'You Want This' plus CJ Mackintosh's work on 'That's The Way It Goes' and 'Anytime Any Place'. All in all a fine selection of Jackson's tracks remixed by some of the best DJ's of the time.