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J A N E T    J A C K S O N

 


Born Janet Damita Jackson, May 16, 1966, Gary, Indiana

As the baby of pop musicís best-known family, Janet Jackson could have spent her career in the shadow of her eight siblings, particularly brother Michael. Instead, with the help of some savvy creative and professional advisors outside the family, Janet established herself as the preeminent pop-funk diva of the late Eighties and early Nineties. Her wispy voice was a pale echo of Michaelís, but on Janet Jacksonís albums -- and in her videos and live performances, which revealed a crisp, athletic dance technique not unlike her brotherís -- singing wasnít the point. Janetís slamming beats, infectious hooks, and impeccable production values were perfectly suited to the breezy zeal with which she declared her social and sexual independence.

As a young child, Jackson was a tomboy who aspired to be a jockey. When she was seven, though, her father, Joseph, encouraged her to join her brothers -- by then famous as the Jackson 5 -- in their music and variety act [see entry]. (Sister LaToya joined them for several shows in 1974; the following year, La Toya, eldest sister Rebbie, and brother Randy were all in on the act, while brother Jermaine bowed out.) Shows in Las Vegas resulted in a summer-replacement TV show in 1976 (on CBS), which led Janet to roles on the popular sitcoms Good Times and Diffírent Strokes.

Next, Jackson secured a contract with A&M Records, and in 1982, while still managed and creatively guided by her father, she released a forgettable debut album, Janet Jackson. The album did yield a #6 R&B single, "Young Love." Another TV role, on the series Fame, followed, as did another unremarkable album, 1984ís Dream Street, and another R&B hit, "Donít Stand Another Chance" (#9). Also in 1984, Jackson defied her family by marrying singer James DeBarge, whose R&B sibling act DeBarge was being hyped as a successor to the Jacksons. The marriage was annulled after less than a year, but the seeds of Jacksonís independence from the family dynasty, and her father in particular, were firmly planted.

Then John McClain, an A&M executive and family friend, suggested that Jackson work with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis of the Time. Collaborating with these musicians, writers, and producers, Jackson had her breakthrough album, 1986ís Control, which topped the pop and R&B album charts and spawned numerous hits: "What Have You Done For Me Lately" (#4 pop, #1 R&B), "Nasty" (#3 pop, #1 R&B), "When I Think of You" (#1 pop, #3 R&B), and in 1987, "Control" (#5 pop, #1 R&B), "Letís Wait Awhile" (#2 pop, #1 R&B), and "The Pleasure Principle" (#14 pop, #1 R&B). Helping fuel these singles were Jacksonís highly energized, elaborately staged videos, most of which featured movie-musical-inspired choreography by Paula Abdul, who was discovered by Jackie Jackson, Abdulís boyfriend during her Los Angeles Lakers cheerleading days.

Having asserted her adulthood and self-reliance with Control, by 1987 Jackson had dismissed her father as manager (as other siblings had done before her) before recording Rhythm Nation 1814. Controls successor dealt with larger social issues, like the need for tolerance, and found Jam and Lewis assuming more of the song- writing duties. Rhythm Nation hit #1 in the pop and R&B charts in 1989 and generated the smash singles "Miss You Much" (#1, pop and R&B) and, in 1990, "Rhythm Nation" (#2 pop, #1 R&B), "Escapade" (#1 pop, #1 R&B), ĎAlright" (#4 pop, #2 R&B), "Come Back to Me" (#2 pop, #2 R&B), "Black Cat" (#1 pop, #10 R&B), and "Love Will Never Do (Without You)" (#1 pop, #3 R&B). To promote the album, Jackson embarked on her first major tour, which matched the energy and spectacle of her videos.

In 1991 Virgin Recordsí owner Richard Branson lured Jackson away from A&M with a contract worth more than $30 million. Her final A&M project was a 1992 duet with Luther Vandross, "The Best Things in Life Are Free" (#10 pop, #1 R&B), recorded for the soundtrack to the film Mo Money. In 1993 Jackson made her own movie debut as the heroine (opposite rapper Tupac Shakur) of director/screenwriter John Singletonís Poetic Justice, for which she received lukewarm reviews. That same year, Jacksonís Virgin album, janet., shot to the top of the pop and R&B charts, as did the single "Thatís the Way Love Goes." More Top Ten singles followed, including "If" (#4 pop, #3 R&B, 1993) and "Again" (#1 pop, #7 R&B, 1994). Her new material was just as confrontational as, and more aggressively sexual than, her previous work had been; ditto for the accompanying tour, which featured Jackson in midriff-baring costumes, interacting suggestively with male dancers -- indeed, more reminiscent of Madonna than of Michael. While Janetís once squeaky-clean image wasnít shattered by scandal as her brotherís was, it was clear by the early Nineties that the littlest Jackson was nobodyís baby, and very much her own woman.

1982 -- Janet Jackson (A&M)
1984 -- Dream Street 1986 -- Control
1989 -- Janet Jacksonís Rhythm Nation 1814
1993 -- janet. (Virgin)


 

 

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