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Janet Jackson‘s Discography is a really great one. Sure, she’s not really known for being incredibly deep or anything like that… she’s known for fun dance music (and a number of sexy baby-makers). That should definitely be your expectation if you want to get into some of Janet’s work and if you go in thinking that way it’s hard to be disappointed with the 8 albums Janet has blessed us with over the past 2 decades.

janet albums I tagged

4240600_orig Let’s start with the two Janet Jackson that everyone tries to forget. “Janet Jackson” and “Dream Street“. The ill-informed debut albums from Janet that were huge flops and are basically forgotten about now. The debut self-titled album is actually not bad for a 80’s teen album. Thematically it talks all about young love (ha, hence the title of a single “Young Love”).  The album overall is both sugary sweet and cheesy as hell, but it’s also pretty catchy at times. It’s just not anything that is unique or forward thinking as it’s your basic by-the-numbers Pop. B0000DESK4.01._SCLZZZZZZZ_

“Dream Street” is much worse though, the album is still POP but tries horribly to have darker themes in the songs and experiment with more new wave elements in the music. This album is barely memorable other than the title and the cheese-tastic album cover.

Now let’s get to the GOOD STUFF!!!

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True magic happened when Janet Jackson met up with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, and together the three came up with the mid-80’s classic “Control“. An album that borrowed some of the funk of Prince and The Time, but matched with the Pop goodness and catchiness of Michael Jackson. The collaboration was genius, and it became the breakthrough album Janet needed to make her an international star. The sound was FRESH and new, and really became the sound that was most emulated on Urban radio at the time. And it’s no surprise, because the production of each track is so infectious and funky and fun. The other thing that was so fresh about this album was the frank nature of the lyricism, which was unique to the industry at the time. Songs like “What Have You Done for Me Lately” and “Nasty” were topics that radio listeners could relate to, and “Let’s Wait While” was a great message song for her teenaged fans. “Control” is a well rounded album, but the main thing you’ll take from it is the Funk and the Fun!

Grade: A  Best: Nasty, Let’s Wait Awhile, Control

RhythmNation1814The follow up to Janet’s breakthrough further solidified her as a force in the industry, as “Rhythm Nation 1814” became a best-selling record-breaking album. The album is front loaded with message songs about the state of the world (ha! “State of the World” being one of the songs), and her main focus is on education and harmony amongst the population. It’s good stuff, and it excels at delivering the message without being TOO preachy. “The Knowledge” and “Rhythm Nation” are two examples of this concept working well, with “State of the World” being just OKAY and “Livin’ In a World (They Didn’t Make)” being pretty schlocky but passable. Than we get to the dancing, and this album has a great consecutive block of great dance songs from “Miss You Much” to “Alright” to “Escapade”. The album closes with more slow numbers, but overall the album is great. Another triumphant collab between Jackson and Jam and Lewis, and a successful attempt at making topical lyrics danceable… another trend several artists would follow afterwards.

Grade: A –  Best: Alright, Love Will Never Do (Without You), Miss You Much

JanetJackson_Janet1993 brought the introduction to SEXY Janet, as her fifth album “janet.” was oozing with intimate themed material. At the time this album was popular, you couldn’t tell me nothing about it, to me it was the shit! Over 20 years later, I find the album a bit overloaded and over produced. I feel like a lot of the songs stand on their own, but mixed together the album is too much. She aims to be really eclectic in sound here, where she has slow jams and House songs, mixed with Rock songs and even old school Jazz (Jazz influenced I should say, because “Funky Big Band” is hardly a Jazz song). Like I said though, the songs individually are great, but the 27 track album is too much to handle altogether.

Grade: B –  Best: Throb, Anytime Anyplace, That’s the way Love Goes

VelvetRope-1Which brings us to possibly the BEST Janet Jackson album there is, “The Velvet Rope“. Before this albums release, Janet talked a lot about how her depression influenced the album so you would imagine it would be extremely dark and sad. And yeah, songs like “What About”, “Got Til It’s Gone”, and even the bouncy “Together Again” deal lyrically with tough issues of domestic abuse and loss. Overall though I was pleased to find this album had a slew of really fun songs (“Go Deep”, “My Need”), and really sexy slow jams (“Anything”, “Tonights the Night”, “I Get Lonely) as well. It’s a really well rounded album with TOP NOTCH production from Jam and Lewis (what they do on “Empty” STILL fries my brain every time I listen to it). It’s definitely a Janet we haven’t heard before, her vocals are a lot less POPPY and it just gives us a sense that Janet is a real person. Finally!

Grade: A  Best: Empty, Got Til It’s Gone, Anything

To be continued…

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