Tuesday, September 13, 2011

275 Rhythm Nation 1814- The other Jackson

Album: Rhythm Nation 1814
Artist: Janet Jackson
Year: 1989
Genre: Pop


  1. Interlude: Pledge
  2. Rhythm Nation
  3. Interlude: T.V.
  4. State Of The World
  5. Interlude: Race
  6. The Knowledge
  7. Interlude: Let's Dance
  8. Miss You Much
  9. Interlude: Come Back Interlude
  10. Love Will Never Do (Without You)
  11. Livin' In A World (They Didn't Make)
  12. Alright
  13. Interlude: Hey Baby
  14. Escapade
  15. Interlude: No Acid
  16. Black Cat
  17. Lonely
  18. Come Back To Me
  19. Someday Is Tonight
  20. Interlude: Livin'... In Complete Darkness

Before she perpetrated the world's most famous Wardrobe Malfunction, and before she started to look like a black version of her famous brother, Janet Jackson was a musical force to be reckoned with in her own right. She was a huge star who racked up some really impressive achievements. For example I had no idea this album generated 7 singles, all of which went to at least number 4 in the US charts. Incredibly one of these singles went to number one in 1989, another hit number one in 1990 and another managed to top the charts in 1991. Three consecutive years with a number one single from the same album.

There's no reason Folk or Rock music should have a monopoly on social justice lyrics. Just because Bob Dylan used six-strings to spread his message doesn't give guitarists exclusive rights to comment on issues throughout the world. Having said that it still feels odd when dance music features lyrics like: 
"Drugs and crime spreadin on the streets
People can't find enough to eat
Now our kids can't go out and play
That's the state of the world today"

It's just odd to think of dance music and politics meeting: "This is a great club, I love the dancing and the atmosphere"  "Really? I come here for the blistering social commentary"

It doesn't help that Jackson's lyrics aren't what you'd call subtle and could be accused of lacking depth: "Prejudice No!
Ignorance No!
Bigotry No!
Illiteracy No!"

They're sentiments I can get behind but they don't seem especially well argued. But fair credit for trying something brave in a genre that isn't really known for lyrical complexity.

The other bold move Jackson made was releasing Black Cat, a song that is basically rock and roll. It features a bold guitar riff and a guitar solo that is way beyond the quick 4-bar melodic burst that most pop records allow if they let axemen anywhere near their songs. Black Cat proves that Jackson could have easily fronted a rock group.

If you've ever listened to dance music and thought "This is all very well but I can't help but feel it's not addressing global poverty" this album could be for you. If you, like me, struggle to get into dance music then Black Cat could be your way in, at least to a depth of one track.

Highlight: Black Cat
Lowlight: The opening attempts at social justice

Influenced by: Her brother and a social conscience.
Influenced: Beyonce and others like her.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "forget all the wannabe pop princesses today. This album is what good pop music should be. Raw, edgy, soulful, meaningful. Janet."

-Can any album that took 8 months to record really be called raw?

So is Janet your least favourite or your preferred Jackson? Let me know below.

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