By David T. Farr
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It’s rather difficult to listen to the likes of Rihanna, Beyonce or any other modern R&B divas and not hear a little of Janet Jackson’s “Rhythm Nation 1814” masterpiece. The music and message from Jackson’s landmark album has stood the test of time.
“Rhythm Nation 1814” turns 25 this week. How can that be? I remember the very first time I heard the album’s debut single, “Miss You Much.” I was blown away. It was hot!
It’s difficult to think that a single album can do so much, but with “Rhythm Nation 1814” the possibilities were infinite.
“Control” made Janet a thriving pop star, but “Rhythm Nation 1814” turned her into a massive global icon. Some would even say the album was as good as anything her brother Michael had ever released. That might be pushing it, but nonetheless, I was impressed.
The album had it all: a fresh sound, a deep message and a track list that ruled the airwaves. It has barely aged, the more I think of it. It’s every bit as contemporary today as it was 25 years ago. Let’s see Rihanna be able to do that.
Janet collaborated with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis for the concept album, having already seen success with the pair on her breakthrough, “Control”
The album evoked a strong social consciousness theme involving acceptance and change, something that could have caused it to tank at the time. But, luckily for Janet, it proved otherwise.
The album was full of short interludes between tracks, often educating the listener. As the album played, you could see how they all tied the album together. I distinctly remember the album’s opening pledge: “We are a nation with no geographic boundaries, bound together through our beliefs / We are like-minded individuals sharing a common vision, pushing toward a world rid of color lines.”
The message was clear – Janet Jackson meant business. “Rhythm Nation” spawned eight top 10 singles, including the No. 1’s “Miss You Much,” ‘Love Will Never Do (Without You),” “Black Cat” and “Escapade.” The singles’ “Rhythm Nation” and “Come Back To Me” each reached No. 2, while “Alright” peaked at No. 3. Can you imagine the hype had all those singles topped the charts? They almost did and that would have been a record not even Michael could have topped, let alone Katy Perry some 22 years later.
As stimulating as the songs from “Rhythm Nation” were, so were the revolutionary videos. The cutesy-side of Janet had given way to a fresher, sexier starlet than we had seen from her before. Her “sexy” was not the sleaziness we see some young pop princesses gravitate toward for notoriety.
“Rhythm Nation” remains one of my go-to albums when I want to get lost in some music. It’s pure pop perfection at it’s finest, even a quarter-century later.
Contact David T. Farr at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Farr Side: Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814’ remains fresh 25 years later
By David T. Farr