The Women of Generation FleX: Janet Jackson (Part I)

Generation FleX
Generation FleX: The ForeMothers 

How do you do?

So earlier this evening, I was on the phone with my fellow Generation FleX: The Podcast co-hosts and we were going over the format for next week’s show.  The conversation was pretty standard: we ran the format, gave opinions, a little light discussion here and there and finally, a record date.  Nearing the end of the conversation, we discussed the top women of the Generation FleX era. Somehow, and for some reason, one of my co-hosts made the following statement when discussing Janet Jackson: “If we’re going to be honest, Janet Jackson and Jennifer Lopez are really just the Black and Latina version of each other.”
To my BEWILDERMENT, my other homie agreed – wholeheartedly.

Do we really need to discuss such absurdity here?

No.

What I will do though, is use this next blog piece to bring attention to probably one of the most dynamic and influential members of the Generation FleX era.  As the last child of Katherine and Joe Jackson, Janet Jackson became a household name in the late 70’s with her role as Penny on Good Times.  (The scene where her mother used an iron to burn her shoulder is probably one of the most memorable moments in Black television history.)  Jackson went on to star as Charlene Dupree on A Different Strokes. also appearing frequently on the television series Fame. It would not be until 1986, however, when Janet released the Control album that she really began to lay the foundation for her Generation FleX reign.  For more than 35 years, Janet (Miss Jackson if ya nasty) has been more than a force to be reckoned with – she has reached iconic status that may only be eclipsed by that of her older brother Michael.

Now, this posting was originally supposed to be about Queen Latifah. But, after today’s egregious accusations made by my homies, and the audacity of them to make such an incomparable comparison I had to stop, pause, and give Janet her due. Keeping our #BlackHistoryOvaFlo theme going while celebrating Bad & Black & Black & Bad women for the month of March, Here are my top 11 Janet moments from the Generation FleX era:

11. The Velvet Rope

In 1997, at 11 years old, I begged my mother to buy me Janet’s latest, Velvet Rope.  Nearly 20 years later, that album is still my favorite Janet album is one of my all-time favorites.  Musically, she pushed the envelope with themes of sexuality, battling depression, self-pleasure, and even domestic violence.  The sexiness that Janet oozed on this album was absolutely undeniable. The fiery red curls, the nipple ring, etc.,,,it was the sensuality that Janet displayed as an artist that I would only come to  truly appreciate as a man.  Some have considered this album to be her best artistically. I’d leave that title for Rhythm Nation 1814, but to each his own   This album is actually considered to be an early contributor to the “alternative R&B” genre (Janelle Monae, Frank Ocean, Miquel)  “I Get Lonely,” “Til it’s Gone,” “Together Again,” “Every Time,” and “You,” were just a few of the jams on this album.

10. Black Cat

Janet departed from her normal pop and R&B sound with “Black Cat,” a funky yet, heavy metal-inspired tune that saw her pushing her vocal prowess to the limit.  Beyond the song’s message (the dangers of living the “dangerous” life) Jackson reminded us that the origins of Rock & Rock began, passed through, and will ultimately end with us.  It was her FIFTH single from the Rhythm Nation album. The song earned her a Grammy nomination and made her the only artist in history to be nominated across 5 different genres.  You read that right: She is the ONLY artist in history to be nominated across 5 different genres.  I’ll leave you with that.

9.  Control

On February 4th, 1986, Janet released her 3rd album, “Control.” It was the first time in her career where she displayed just that – control.  The album spawned many of Janet’s early hits as this woman had the nerve to put “When I Think of You,”,”Lets Wait Awhile,” “Nasty,” “Control,”  and “What Have You Done For Me Lately?” on one LP – and released them all as singles.  It was her first platinum album and catapulted her into superstar status.  Its albums art cover has inspired me to do a “Top 25 Dopest Album Covers of the Generation FleX era” in the very near future.  The dopeness is undeniable!

8.  Love Will Never Do Without You

Pulling a page right out of Prince’s book, Janet took it upon herself to do a duet…with herself.  Most importantly, in the video, we see the first glances of a sexualized Janet – a pre-cursor for the Janet era and with it, a period of unapologetic Black female sexuality.

7.  Alright

Janet Jackson actually introduced me to Cab Calloway in this video.  It was colorful, it was vibrant, but most importantly, it really flexed her choreography skills.  It’s definitely not the first time she cut it up in a video. It was, however, the first time I think people took notice to just how much of a dancer she truly was.  Its a feat that’s hard to accomplish when your older brother is the King of Pop. Aesthetically, it was one of her more brilliantly shot videos. The discussion of epic videos is often centered on the other Jackson, but when you really look at some of Janet’s: Alright, Miss U Much, Rhythm Nation, I Get Lonely, Escapade, When I Think of  You, Nasty, Together Again…her name can easily be  be thrown in as a contender for well shot,well directed, and well choreographed music videos.

6. “The Cover”

On September 16, 1993, Janet Jackson posed for the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine.  What she probably never imagined was that that cover would become among one of the most popular issues of Rolling Stone and one of the most iconic photographs of the 90’s decade.  It officially ended the “sweet girl” Janet image that had begun to melt away toward the end of the Rhythm Nation era and ushered in a new period of freedom that saw Janet exploring topics of intimacy often omitted from her music.  It has consistently been cited as a turning point in her career and is considered my some as one of the sexiest – and controversial – magazine covers of all-time.

5.What’s It Gonna Be?”

Busta Rhymes. Janet Jackson. Hype Williams. Janet didn’t shy away from duets during the Generation FleX era. Blackstreet, Q-Tip, and Luther Vandross were contributors to songs of hers in the 90’s.  But it wasn’t until Janet hooked up with Busta that she took it a whole notha level.  Busta’s flow – per usual – is out of this world.  The visual effects of the video were absolutely breathtaking (at the time…they look bogus as hell now…lol) , and they should have been. The video is the most expensive hip-hop video ever done with a price tag of over $2 Million.

4. Poetic Justice

In 1993, fellow Generation FleX alum Tupac Shakur and John Singleton , together with Miss Jackson joined forces to give the world “Poetic Justice,” a coming of age story about a young poet and her struggles with grief, depression, and womanhood.  It was Janet’s first acting role outside of television and she did not disappoint.  Poetic Justice would go on to become a cult classic and a common reference point for other Generation FleX alum as Q-Tip, Keith Washington, Regina King, and Tone Loc are all in the movie. Geneation FleX ForeMother Maya Angelou also makes an appearance in the the film.

3. Rhythm Nation 1814

This album is my earliest memory of Janet – it came out when I was just 3 years old.  But I have fund memories of riding in he car with my dad and him blasting the song Rhythm Nation and neither of knowing the words until she said “WE ARE A PART OF THE RHYTHM NATION!”  As I grew older, and developed my own ear for music, my appreciation for this album only grew.  The entire album is cloaked in positive messages; Janet uses the platform to bring attention to all types of social problems including poverty, racism,crime, and neighborhood violence. She even quotes Frederick Douglass.  “Alright,” “Miss U Much,” “Escapade,” “Black Cat,” “Love Will Never Do Without You,” “Rhythm Nation,” and “Another Day in Paradise,” were all released as singles and made the album the only in history to chart at least four singles at number one.  The album’s social conscious theme and concepts pushed the boundaries of Jackson’s creativity but ultimately paid off big time: the album would go on to sale over 20 million worldwide (her first 20 million seller) and cemented her as an Pop icon.

2.. The Janet Era (1993 – 1995) 

Michael had the “Thriller” era.  Prince had the “Purple Rain” era.  And then…there was the “Janet” era. There was no one album or video.  It was during these two years that Janet gave us Poetic Justice, The Janet. album, the iconic Rolling Stone cover, That’s The Way Love Goes, and a duet with both Luther Vandross and big brother Michael Jackson.    Arguably the peak of Janet’s career, the “Janet era” brought Miss Jackson her most critically and commercially acclaimed  album to date.  After signing the biggest record contract by any individual artist at the time (a record she would hold for like a day…her brother Michael would break it) Jackson sold more than 20 copies of her album entitled Janet. (Read as Janet. Period).  She was adamant on distinguishing herself from her family and dropped the Jackson last name.  Her lyrics and music choice took on a more sexual tone and Janet explored the concept of female sexuality.  It has been stated by some that the “Janet.” album was a major factor in the acceptance of an amplified sexual expression of women of the early 90’s.  She cemented her status as a sex icon while simultaneously giving us banger after banger on this album.  “That’s The Way Love Goes,” her biggest song ever, was number one on the Billboard Top 200 for over two months.  “If,” instantly became a classic and one of her biggest hits. “Again,”a soft love ballad, became a radio standard of the era. and went on to earn her an Academy Award and Emmy nomination. “Anytime, Anyplace” is still, 20 years later, the quintessential Baby Making anthem.

1.  Scream

And coming in at number 1, my most favorite Janet moment of the Genration FleX era would have to be that one time the King of Pop called on his little sister, The Queen of Pop to join him in a duo and music video.  In 1995 and still reeling from a child molestation allegation that nearly ended his career, Michael Jackson turned to his baby sister to help him improve his image.  He reached out to her and of course, like any good sibling, Janet stood by her brother’s side.  Not only did she do so, but she did so at a time when her career was climbing toward international status and Michael’s was fading – and fast.  As a 9 year old, there was nothing more exciting to me that sitting in the front of the television everyday during summer break and watching Video Soul anticipating seeing my two favorite artist – MJ and Damita Jo – do their thing as only they could.  Janet returned to the vocal style of “Black Cat,” for the track. She kind of had too, though: There’s no way you can whisper on an song when you’re singing with Michael Jackson.  You got to put some base in your voice!

2 Comments

  1. awesome

    Janet is Queen!

    Rhythm Nation and The Knowledge are my favourite tracks on RN1814. But Scream has to be my fav Janet moment too and when she performed it on her own after MJ died… *sobs*

    Aida

    KidisAlright

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