Friday, September 19, 2014


Janet Jackson had a lot to prove. Not only was her brother the reigning King of Pop, she was coming off of her first #1 album, 1986's Control, which had five top 5 singles and one more top 20 single, and she was competing with the likes of Madonna, Whitney Houston and Paula Abdul on the charts. What Janet, along with producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, put together was a concept album about social injustice, racism, substance abuse and poverty. Of course, there was a little fun thrown in there too. The result was the mega-smash album Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814. The name was explained by Janet like this:
"The use of the number "1814" is twofold. First, R (Rhythm) is the 18th letter of the alphabet and N (Nation) is the 14th. The second is that while writing [Rhythm Nation] I was kidding around, saying, 'God, you guys, I feel like this could be the national anthem for the '90s' ... Just by a crazy chance we decided to look up when Francis Scott Key wrote the national anthem, and it was September 14, 1814."
A mix of R&B, jazz, dance music and straight up rock and roll, Rhythm Nation would chart singles for the next two years, have seven top 5 singles, with four of those hitting #1. That is the most top 5 singles from an album EVER. Booming with stylish, black and white, often military inspired music videos, Rhythm Nation took over MTV and the charts starting with the classically Janet track Miss You Much. Released just ahead of the album, Miss You Much rocketed to the top of the Hot 100 on October 7, 1989. The black and white video introduced us to her troop of dancers, the "rhythm nation", and set us up for a barrage of fantastic videos and singles. Rhythm Nation (#2 US) followed with one of the most iconic dance videos of all time, and lead to her third single and second #1 from the album Escapade. Escapade took a more gentle, playful tone and spent three weeks at #1 in March of 1990. Alright, featuring Heavy D, came next, hitting #4 in the spring and #2 with the ballad Come Back to Me in the summer. Janet was back at #1 with the self-written rock number Black Cat by the end of summer. Finally, on January 19, 1991, over two years after the release of the album, Janet revamped her style, her body and the seventh single and fourth #1 song from Rhythm Nation, Love Will Never Do (Without You) hit #1. With that, Rhythm Nation 1814 became the first album to score #1 hits in three consecutive years. Suck on that, Michael! OH, and the album actually had an eighth hit on the US Dance and R&B charts with the promotional release of State of the World hitting #9 and #23 respectively. BAM! Rhythm Nation changed the way Janet was seen, the way women of color were perceived in the music industry and the way music videos were used to promote albums. It was a stellar follow up to a strong album that cemented Janet as more than just Michael's little sister and put here in the big leagues for good. Listening to the tracks today, they still are as fresh and exciting as they were 25 years ago. Take a look and listen below and enjoy Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814.

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