In 2010, Janet Jackson got secretly married (again!) to her billionaire beau, and she effectively dropped off the face of the planet. Who could blame her though, she had been there done that and was over the industry it seemed. She ventured into acting for a while, than weight loss endorsements, but after some personal issues got very public Janet just seemed to give up on maintaining her legacy. But only a few months ago, it was rumored by various sites that Janet was back in the studio and working on a new album.
I had mixed feelings about that rumor to be honest. On one hand, I feel like Janet has accomplished so much in the three decades she’s been a relevant music celebrity, so her Hits and Classic videos and performances and everything else associated with her will carry her for the rest of her life and beyond. I felt like there was not a need for her to come back out, although being a big fan I was excited at the idea.
But, if she does indeed attempt a come back further questions come up. Like what should the sound be on the new material, who should she work with, and how will she ever get another #1 Hit again? It’s really difficult to try and predict chart success these days – it’s not JUST about the quality of the song, or the awesomeness of the video, or even the amount of promotion (err payola) associated with a song that makes it a hit. It’s really a mystery how hits become hits. What’s not a mystery though is that the youth control the industry these days, which makes it hard for anybody older than 25 to get a hit. Of course there are exceptions (Cher in 1999 as one prime example), so we can’t cancel out Janet. But my main piece of advice would be for Janet to completely not give a single fuck about getting on the charts or having solid sales. She needs to get into the studio and do music that actually inspires and moves her.
One thing I read recently on Wikipedia is what could have been with Janet’s 2001 “All For You” album. It appears she recorded a lot of stuff that didn’t make the album, and there were acts she really wanted to collaborate with including Basement Jaxx. The Jaxx actually created the song “Get Me Off” for Janet, and I think that is the perfect example of what Janet needs to do. The song is so not radio friendly, but more of a Hipster Dance type thing. The kind of song that Indie heads would love and would actually increase Janet’s underground cred. And those outside of that fringe would respect her integrity.
For some reason, I imagine Janet doing something like a OfMontreal style. Really random and hectic type music, but paired with a softer R&B Dance sensibility. I think she could pull it off. And as far as WHO she should work with? Two POPULAR producers come to mind and that’s Calvin Harris and Diplo. And her hooking up with Basement Jaxx finally would be a good look for both. In fact there are a bunch of songs on their recent album that I think she’d sound great on. Though I think the best thing for her to do is find some unknown producer with the passion to do something different.
I really think this would work best, because she needs to stop trying to compete and just do what Legends do… which is follow the instincts that have gotten them so far. However, I Know it must be difficult for someone like Janet to just give up on mainstream success so if that’s what she ultimately wants for the new album than I have some additional advice.
First, she needs to do an entire album with either Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis or Rodney Jerkins. I feel like either choice is great because they seem to know her. Ofcourse JJ and TL know her from decades of working together exclusively, but the Rodney Jerkins collaborations on “Discipline” were perfect and showed that his adoration for her provided perfect soundscapes for her voice and lyrics. Working with one production team exclusively would eliminate the feeling of jumbled-ness that affected the flow of her last two albums. And I also think she needs to move away from all the sex songs and focus on having fun again (“When I Think of You”, “All For You”) and putting out music that’s relateable and enjoyable (“What Have You Done for Me Lately”, “Miss You Much”).
My last note might be a dumb one, but here goes. Madonna, Mariah and even Whitney Houston to a degree have all done collaborations with new artists like Britney Spears, Miguel and Faith Evans respectively. It’s a sort of passing of the torch I suppose, and Janet has never done that. So, why not pass the torch to another incredible dancer and soft-singer of Pop/Urban dance cuts… Ciara! Now both of their careers have floundered in the past, but a collaboration might be just what both needs to get their names out there again. I don’t know, I just think it would be cute — and they could possibly accomplish a joint ALBUM together. It would definitely be hot, because both provide pretty good music. The idea alone would definitely be Trending Topics, and the buzz alone could amplify sales. This is the most far fetched idea, but why not!!
So in closing, if Janet really does feel like she needs to come back again… I would urge her to follow her heart and her musical brain and not try to do what’s selling. It would hurt my heart if she came out with a lame Max Martin type song just to compete with Taylor and Katy. Just do what you wanna do, regardless of what the outcome might be.