Janet Jackson

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1 What Have You Done for Me Lately?

The story goes that, despite her pop lineage, the young Janet Jackson had no interest in becoming a singer. Instead, brilliantly, she wanted to be a jockey or an entertainment lawyer. However, her father Joseph Jackson coerced her into a recording studio, became her manager and set about securing her a record deal with A&M. Unfortunately her two early, personality-free albums – 1982’s Janet Jackson and 1984’s Dream Street – were ever so slightly overshadowed by her brother’s Thriller album, their frothy R&B songs barely denting the charts. Fast forward two years to Control, however, and Janet was well and truly in, well, control. A representation of newfound freedom (Joseph had been fired as her manager and she’d divorced her teenage sweetheart James DeBarge), Control also marked the start of her partnership with producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, one of pop’s most enduring collaborations (they’re rumoured to be involved in her forthcoming comeback album, too). While the singles Control and Nasty (the latter featuring the defining line, “No my first name ain’t baby, it’s Janet, Miss Jackson if you’re nasty”) showcased her new, single-minded determination, it’s the album’s first single, What Have You Done For Me Lately?, that feels like the perfect encapsulation of Janet 2.0. Initially created by former Prince collaborators Jam and Lewis for their own album, the song’s lyrics were completely reworked to reflect Janet’s recent divorce. Imbued with the album’s prevailing mood of strength in the face of adversity, it challenges the song’s subject head on and with a lightness of touch, the stabbing verses the musical equivalent of a finger jabbing to the chest. There’s softness there, too, among the digital funk, particularly in the shape of the lilting middle eight (the lovely lift into “I never ask for more than I deserve … ”), but the overriding mood is that of a funky divorce settlement.

2 Rhythm Nation

Control went on to sell more than 14m copies worldwide, making Janet one of the biggest pop stars of the 1980s. Its success meant her label were quite keen on her knocking out something similar for her next record, with a concept album about her turbulent family life called Scandal mooted as a possibility. Janet also wanted to create a concept album, but one rather darker. Rhythm Nation 1814 was released in 1989 and featured songs touching on a range of social issues, exploring everything from racism to media control to poverty to drug abuse. Perhaps as a compromise, the album’s lead single was the slightly fluffier Miss You Much (her biggest hit in the US, incidentally), but that was quickly followed by the industrial clatter of this track. Opening with chopped-up vocals, ominously cascading drum patterns and a general swirl of confusion, it soon transforms, with military precision, into a taut digital tattoo, Janet addressing the audience like a party leader on the verses before leading them into an actual party by the time the chanting chorus kicks in. Lyrically, the song is a fairly simplistic call to arms – “People of the world today, are we looking for a better way of life?” she asks – but it’s brought to life by the sheer audacity of the production (in the last third, the song constantly disintegrates into a glitchy mass of synths and beats before falling back in line) and the delivery, with Janet’s versatile vocal skipping from hardened and pained to soft and silky almost in the same breath. Its industrial-tinged, more hard-edged pop sound would go on to influence Michael Jackson’s subsequent album Dangerous, especially the single, Jam.

3 Escapade

While the first half of Rhythm Nation 1814 sticks rigidly to the socio-political conceptual framework, its second half lets a whole lot of light in. Miss You Much, Love Will Never Do (Without You) and Escapade are basically a holy trinity of carefree pop, with the latter being one of a handful of 80s pop songs (Whitney’s I Wanna Dance With Somebody being another one) that seem to be woven entirely from unfettered joy. From the glacial bell synths that open it to the double handclaps that punctuate the verses to the heart-bursting exuberance of the chorus, every single element of Escapade clicks together perfectly. Originally conceived after Jimmy Jam fell in love with the word escapade (“It is kind of old fashioned – people don’t really say ‘Let’s go on an escapade’ any more, but it really worked with that track,” he told Billboard), the lyrics are brilliantly relatable; basically, it’s been a long week but it’s Friday now, so let’s “save our troubles for another day” and go on a nice holiday. Originally built around an improvised synth bassline and some simple chords, the song was created layer by layer, little mistakes being left in as they went along. That impulsiveness shines through, Janet’s vocal sounding like it was delivered through the broadest of smiles. Also, if there’s a more joyous pre-chorus then “My mind’s tired, I’ve worked so hard all week” then I’ve yet to hear it.

4 If

Rhythm Nation 1814 cemented Janet’s standing among pop’s megastars, with all seven of its singles making the US top five (four of them were No 1s). With her contract with A&M due to expire, she became the subject of a major label bidding war, with Virgin eventually signing her for $40m, which was then the biggest record deal ever. If she was feeling the pressure, then the resulting album, 1993’s Janet, didn’t really show it. Launched by the low-slung sensuality of That’s the Way Love Goes, Janet showed off Jackson’s softer, sexier side (Throb is 90% orgasmic moaning), while the title and the dropping of her surname was a neat statement of independence. “Certain people feel I’m just riding on my last name,” she told USA Today at the time. “That’s why I just put my first name on Janet and why I never asked my brothers to write or produce music for me.” Despite being effortlessly executed, Janet also represented a massive commercial risk, the transition for female artists into the realm of singing about their own sexuality being potentially rocky. That’s not a problem the incredible If seems to give a second thought to, its heady tale of sexual fantasies, masturbation and all-round lasciviousness too intent on unbridled enjoyment to worry about anything. It opens with a swirl of detuned guitar but soon careens into a gyrating, impossibly potent groove (built around the start of the Supremes’ Someday We’ll Be Together) that seems to take in everything from industrial rock to dance to hip-hop to new jack swing. As with a lot of her best songs, Janet’s soft coo counterbalances the harder backing track, with the half-rapped verses lifting into the ecstasy of the chorus. Plus, she manages to get a line in about blow jobs without anyone really noticing – or I assume that’s what she means by “your smooth and shiny feels so good against my lips”.

5 Any Time, Any Place

Janet, the album, also saw the start of Jackson’s lingering love affair with the sex jam, songs that stood in contrast to the abstinence anthem Let’s Wait Awhile and the more PG13 Come Back to Me. While her latter albums often became bogged down in the aural equivalent of too much information (Moist, from the 2004 album Damita Jo, being a particular nadir), Any Time, Any Place – an ode to public sex – is the perfect crystallisation of igniting a mood and remembering to make a memorable song. Featuring somnolent finger clicks, delicate crystalline percussion and, in the distance, the soft rise and fall of someone doing a sleepy whistle sound, Any Time, Any Place creates an atmosphere so intoxicating it’s a wonder anyone who listens to it can remain fully clothed. Everything about it oozes languid sex, the pre-chorus making it clear that, yes, Janet knows you can see her but she’s having a lovely time nonetheless (“I don’t give a damn what they think, I want you now,” she coos). It’s also that rare thing; a song that works better the longer it goes on, with the slight shift in tempo heralded by the coda “baby, baby, I don’t care who’s around” at the four-minute mark delicately ushering in a final instrumental section that likely single-handedly created the careers of D’Angelo and Maxwell.

6 Together Again

Released two years after the stopgap of a greatest hits album, 1997’s The Velvet Rope is often cited as Jackson’s masterpiece. Touching on issues of domestic violence, depression and homophobia, it’s a deeply personal and human collection that doesn’t feel alienating or preachy. This being a Janet Jackson album, there are a smattering of sex jams (the almost comical Rope Burn, for example), but there are also bold R&B classics such as the bouncy Go Deep and the desperate longing of I Get So Lonely. Bridging the gap between the introspective and the universal is second single Together Again, a song inspired by the death of a friend from Aids, as well as by a letter she’d received from a fan about the death of his father. Originally written as a ballad, the finished version – inspired by Donna Summer’s Last Dance – fulfilled Jackson’s desire to make the song more uplifting, its four-to-the-floor beat possibly her most straightforward attempt at a dance anthem. The song’s nods to spiritualism could have seemed heavy-handed and perhaps a little trite, but the combination of Jackson’s featherlight vocals and the sheer force of the song’s immaculate chorus means it elegantly mines that thin line between joy and sorrow.

7 Empty

In a Pitchfork article on TLC’s 1999 album FanMail, Lindsay Zoladz investigates that album’s foreshadowing of today’s sense of dislocation brought on by technology, at one point referring to it as “a transmission from the future”. On The Velvet Rope, Janet pre-empted them on the futuristic, glitchy ballad Empty, a song that anticipated Tinder by about 15 years. Fascinated by the implications of people connecting to others through a computer (“I wonder what kind of reality that creates, and what kind of romantic frustrations it produces,” she mused at the time), it perfectly sums up both the illicit thrill of communicating and sharing intimate details with a stranger and the oddly unsatisfying dislocation that can create (“if I can’t read your thoughts, then I feel empty”). While FanMail’s overriding conceptual approach now seems dated, the way Empty is constructed still feels forward-thinking, even with the slightly hackneyed, looped modem sound that forms part of the song’s intro. In fact, part of Empty’s majesty comes from the sonic layering; that initial modem sound quickly joined by a cluster of glacial bell sounds, a two-stepesque scattershot beat that seems to mirror the tap-tap of a keyboard, and processed choir that harmonises with the very human lilt of Jackson’s sweet vocal. Out of all the enduring Janet Jackson songs, Empty feels like the one most referenced in 2015, specifically in the fusion of electronic music and R&B showcased by artists such as FKA twigs and Kelela.

Janet Jackson … forward-thinking. Photograph: Murdo Macleod/The Guardian

8 Doesn’t Really Matter

Following on from the emotional heaviness of The Velvet Rope, Janet’s next step was to release the theme song to Eddie Murphy’s multi-character comedy Nutty Professor II: The Klumps, a film in which she also starred. Based around a poem she’d written, discarded, and then rediscovered, Doesn’t Really Matter mirrored the films theme of accepting people for who they are on the inside rather than the outside. Released in 2000, Doesn’t Really Matter is notable for the way it absorbs the prevailing R&B sound of that time – the digital funk of Kevin Shek’spere Briggs’ productions for Destiny’s Child and TLC – and runs with it, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis opening their box of sonic tricks to create something that seems light and fluffy on the surface but that also bangs harder than your typical banger. In fact, the breathy, mid-paced intro seems to consciously mess around with people’s expectations of a Janet Jackson song at that time, the 20-second mark suddenly heralding a shift into a spacious, electronic R&B club track. There’s also a lot going on with the dynamics of the song, with the stop-start verses gliding up into a chorus that’s almost twice the speed. Even when you can’t understand what she’s saying in the chorus, there’s a thrilling sense of kinetic energy to it all, which makes the smooth mid-point breakdown a welcome change of pace, before the whole thing skips off to pure delirium by the time she squeals “and best of all you’re nutty, nutty, nutty for me”.

9 All for You

Inspired by the success of Doesn’t Really Matter (another US No 1) and her divorce from second husband Rene Elizondo Jr, Jackson started work on her seventh album, All for You, in 2000. Rather than dwell on another failed marriage, the album largely switches focus to celebrate the simple pleasures that come with being single (the lovely Someone to Call My Lover imagines meeting someone at bar with a “funky car”). Nowhere is that sense of playful abandon showcased more than on the title track, a song that seems to simultaneously reference the 70s, 80s and 90s and also sound like it could be released next month and still be a massive hit. Lyrically we’re in a club scenario, with Janet checking out what’s on offer (“Got a nice package alright, guess I’m gonna have to ride it tonight” she almost shrugs at one point), before being disappointed by the opposite sex’s inability to just come over and ask her for a dance (“Can’t be afraid or keep me waiting too long, before you know it I’ll be outta here, I’ll be gone”). Musically, it’s a candy-coated confection taking in hints of 70s disco and 80s dance-pop, the lightness of touch and those delicious backing vocals recalling the head-spinning joy of songs like Escapade, The Pleasure Principle and Go Deep (in fact, the last two are briefly sampled in the video edit).

10 Feedback

A month before the release of her eighth album, Damita Jo, in 2004, Jackson performed at the Super Bowl halftime show alongside Justin Timberlake. You probably know the rest. The “wardrobe malfunction” led to the album’s lead single Just a Little While disappearing from US radio, a hysterical reaction that her career’s never fully recovered from (2006’s 20 Y.O. was her first album to sell less than a million copies in America since Dream Street in 1984). While 20 Y.O. also felt like a step back in quality, 2008’s Discipline – her last studio album – was an all-guns-blazing assault on accusations that it would be best for all if she just faded away and covered her body up whenever possible. Discipline features a clutch of sexually aggressive bangers, notably the Missy Elliott-featuring The 1 (“seven inches? Yep, that’ll do”), the ludicrous Rollercoaster and the album’s lead single, Feedback. For the first time since Sweet Dreams, Discipline featured no input at all from Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis (and no lyrical input from Janet herself), the majority of the album’s production handled by Rodney Jerkins and her then boyfriend Jermaine Dupri. Jerkins took charge of the futuristic Feedback, finessing a squelchy R&B behemoth out of clattering drums, zipping synths and a marching beat that feels tailor made for a dance break. Lyrically, we’re back in graphic, but hopefully tongue-in-cheek, sex mode, Janet likening her body to that of an instrument (“strum me like a guitar”) while her orgasm is likened to a blown-out speaker causing feedback. All that pales in comparison to its defining moment, which crops up at the end of the song’s near spoken-word middle eight. In the midst of some amazing bragging (she’s “flyer than a pelican” apparently), Janet comes up with a couplet that would end any boastful conversation: “Cause my swag is serious, something heavy like a first-day period.”

Body Of Work Janet Jackson – « Rhythm Nation 1814 »

Nous voici de retour pour une nouvelle édition de ” Body of Work” , une rubrique qui refait l’histoire d’albums classiques, aussi bien sur le fond que sur la forme. Cette fois-ci, nous célébrons un anniversaire : les 25 ans de l’album Rhythm Nation 1814 de Janet Jackson. Retour sur un album clé dans l’histoire de la pop music, une oeuvre de tous les records, qui, bien qu’encore sous-estimée, laisse encore des traces aujourd’hui.

En 1989, Janet Jackson a 23 ans et se repose encore sur les lauriers qu’elle a remporté grâce à Control, son premier véritable album solo, son premier succès en tant qu’artiste émancipée du père Jackson. Alors qu’elle reprend le chemin du studio, la cadette de la famille rappelle le duo de producteurs Jimmy Jam et Terry Lewis. S’il lui aura été fortement suggéré d’embrayer sur un Control II, c’est un autre chemin que va prendre la direction artistique de l’album.

Dès les premières sessions d’enregistrement, l’équipe s’attelle au titre ” Miss You Much” , une ballade dans la lignée des tubes pop de Control. En studio, la télévision reste allumée en toile de fond. Quand l’équipe ne regarde pas MTV, elle zappe sur BET et CNN : succession de Reagan par George Bush père, fusillade dans la cour de récréation d’une école maternelle en Californie, tremblement de terre de San Francisco qui provoqua l’effondrement du ” Bay Bridge ” entraînant la mort de 63 personnes… Des images terribles au goût d’apocalypse, auxquelles s’ajoutent le constat d’une situation sociale loin d’être idéale. La noirceur de cette actualité influence Janet Jackson, qui en tant qu’artiste tient à faire porter un message optimiste dans un avenir qui semble délicat. Une volonté foncièrement idéaliste et délibérément naïve ; un appel à la paix et à l’union d’une nouvelle génération instruite et positive, appelée à changer le monde.

C’est ainsi que prend racine Rhythm Nation 1814. 20 titres dont 8 interludes, mais 4 morceaux véhiculant sa vision du monde qui l’entoure : ” State of the World” , ” The Knowledge” , ” Livin’ in the World (They Didn’t Make) ” et l’hymne ” Rhythm Nation” . Pour compléter ce projet musical, Janet insiste pour obtenir la réalisation d’un véritable court-métrage mettant en scène quelques titres. Réalisé par Dominic Sena , cette vidéo de 15 minutes, qui remportera un Grammy, est une incursion dans un monde obscur entre deux époques. Dans une ambiance ” black and white ” aux aspirations militaires ironiques, l’image de ces soldats de la paix et leurs chorégraphies millimétrées restent encore aujourd’hui iconiques. Tout comme son architecture sonore, le new jack swing, ce son hybride entre pop et hip-hop façonné par des productions edgy rythmées par des beats puissants et sourds, comme des tambours de fanfare. Depuis ces codes ont été repris par des pop stars auxquelles Janet a ouvert la voie. Sur la liste : Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, Britney Spears, Rihanna, feu Selena, les Coréennes de Girls’ Generation, mais aussi Jessie Ware, Sleigh Bell ou encore Michael Jackson lui-même.

C’est 1816 qui sera finalement l’album qui l’amènera à un autre niveau : avec 7 singles qui ont intégré le TOP 5 de Billboard, et des ” hits n°1 ” répartis sur trois années successives. Miss Jackson signe là un record encore inégalé. Rhythm Nation 1816, sera aussi le ticket de sa première tournée mondiale, qui reste encore aujourd’hui la plus importante en terme de recette. Les billets de sa première date, annoncée la veille, ce sont vendus en seulement trois heures : 7600 places dont 1000 distribuées par une oeuvre de charité. Ce n’est d’ailleurs pas le seul geste fait par Janet dans la lignée du message porté par 1814, elle ouvrira en effet une bourse de scolarité au nom de son album.

À l’heure d’un féminisme revendiqué dans la pop music par plusieurs chanteuses, Janet Jackson se situe à l’origine de ce mouvement et posait en 1989 les bases de la construction d’une image artistique féminine forte et multidimensionnelle. Si son absence au Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame fait encore polémique, la soeur Jackson est indéniablement l’une des icônes pop les plus influentes de la décennie 1990. Quant à Rhythm Nation 1814, il restera comme l’album de tous les records, l’album phare de toute une nouvelle génération d’artistes.

1 TITRE
Black Cat

” Black Cat ” est le seul morceau de l’album clairement orienté rock. Un engagement artistique total car il est le tout premier titre écrit par Janet. Une performance qui lui vaudra d’ailleurs un Grammy Award de la meilleure prestation vocale rock féminine.

1 CLIP
Rhythm Nation

1 LYRICS

Spreading vise don’t believe the hype
You don’t find the knowledge in a pipe
Too many lives go up in smoke
It’s nice to laugh but don’t be the joke

Elargissez l’étau, ne croit pas ce qui se dit
La connaissance ne se trouve pas dans un tuyau
Trop de vies partent en fumée
Il est bon de rire, mais ne devenez pas la blague

The Knowledge

1 DUO
Jimmy Jam et Terry Lewis

Ce duo de producteur n’aura jamais autant connu le succès que lorsqu’ils sont ensembles. En effet, c’est avec Janet qu’ils ont obtenu le plus de titres classéss au sommet des charts. Ce sont les véritables initiateurs d’un son new jack swing et d’une mouvance militant funk.

1 CHIFFRE CLÉ
1816

Si 1816 est l’année de la création de The Star-Bangled Banner par Francis Scott Key, qui deviendra plus tard l’hymne national des États-Unis, ce chiffre prend une autre dimension lorsqu’on le décompose autrement. 18 et 16 correspondent au placement des lettres R et N de l’alphabet et forment les initiales de Rhythm Nation.

Born on 16 May 1966, Janet Jackson launched her solo career in 1982 and is reported to have sold over 100 million records since. The biggest-selling of those albums, Control, is due for reissue on 7 June, on standard black and limited translucent red vinyl, while Jackson is about to launch her much-anticipated 15-date Las Vegas residency on 17 May. Called Metamorphosis, she says the shows will delineate her own “path to self-love, empowerment, motherhood and activism, amid the challenges… faced along her personal journey” – something the best Janet Jackson songs have done throughout her career.

In honour of Janet Jackson’s achievements, we present a countdown of the 20 best Janet Jackson songs…

Listen to the best of Janet Jackson on Apple Music and Spotify, and scroll down for our 20 best Janet Jackson songs.

Best Janet Jackson Songs: 20 Nasty Tracks

20: ‘No Sleeep’ (2015)

In 2015 Janet Jackson released her 11th album, Unbreakable, her first for her own label, Rhythm Nation. Reuniting her with producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, with whom she hadn’t worked since 2006, it immediately set the US charts alight. ‘No Sleeep’ finds Jackson doing what she does best: sounding seductive on a nocturnal groove that she wrote with Jam and Lewis, and which also features US rapper J Cole. The song climbed all the way to the top of the US Adult R&B Songs chart.

19: ‘The Pleasure Principle’ (1986)

Written by ex-Time keyboardist Monte Moir, who in 1985 had written Alexander O’Neal’s killer bedroom ballad, ‘If You Were Here Tonight’, ‘The Pleasure Principle’ was a bubbling, synth-driven dance groove whose style was more nuanced and less rambunctious than Control’s Jam & Lewis-helmed dance tracks. It also featured a rock-style guitar solo from The Time’s Jellybean Johnson. Issued as Control’s sixth single, it shot to No.1 in the US R&B charts, instantly cementing its place among the best Janet Jackson songs.

18: ‘Alright’ (1989)

Propelled by a thunderous swing-beat groove and peppered with samples, ‘Alright’ was the fourth single taken from the Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814 album. A song about romantic bliss, ‘Alright’ adhered to the formula that defined her Jam & Lewis-era material, welding an irresistible chorus and sweetly harmonised vocals to a pummelling rhythm track.

17: ‘I Get Lonely’ (1997)

Featuring stellar background vocals from R&B supergroup Blackstreet, ‘I Get Lonely’ was another example of Jackson’s ability to create immersive storytelling romantic ballads. This time, the music had a gospel undertone and a purer R&B sound. Written by Jackson together with Jam and Lewis, plus her then-husband, René Elizondo, Jr, the tune was the third single from The Velvet Rope and topped the US R&B charts in 1998. Its place among the best Janet Jackson songs was forever assured when it became her 18th consecutive Top 10 US smash, a feat that had never been achieved before by a female recording artist.

16: ‘Scream’ (1995)

By the time that Janet Jackson got to duet with her elder brother, Michael, she was a superstar in her own right. ‘Scream’ put the “King Of Pop” in the studio with his sister’s producers, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, who co-wrote the song with both Jackson siblings. Living up to its title, ‘Scream’ is a boisterous swing-beat style groove and appeared on Michael Jackson’s 1995 compilation, HIStory: Past, Present & Future, Book 1.

15: ‘Any Time, Any Place’ (1997)

Topping the US R&B singles chart in 1997, ‘Any Time, Any Place’ is an atmospheric quiet storm ballad on which Janet Jackson shows a more sensual facet of her personality against a gentle backdrop of lush, shimmering keyboards. The song was co-written by the singer with her co-producers, Jam and Lewis, who had a hand in many of the best Janet Jackson songs; it became the fifth single lifted from her eponymous Virgin Records’ debut, janet.

14: ‘The Best Things In Life Are Free’ (1992)

In between her Rhythm Nation and janet albums, Jackson duetted with silky-voiced soul crooner Luther Vandross on this upbeat Jam & Lewis-helmed tune, which was taken from the soundtrack to the film Mo’ Money, a comedy starring siblings Damon and Marlon Wayans. The tune was co-written by Jackson’s producers with former New Edition members Michael Bivins and Ronnie DeVoe (then two thirds of the group Bell Biv DeVoe) and was nominated for a Grammy. It also spent a week at the top of the US R&B charts.

13: ‘Together Again’ (1997)

This was the second single taken from Jackson’s 1997 album, The Velvet Rope, a frank confessional that addressed the singer’s purported battle with depression as well as subjects ranging from domestic violence to sexual identity. Lighter in tone, though, is ‘Together Again’, a pop-dance excursion with hints of Motown and house music in its musical DNA. Though the song made No.8 on the US R&B chart, it rose to No.1 in the Hot 100. It was popular, too, in the UK, where it peaked at No.4.

12: ‘Control’ (1986)

“When I was 17, I did what people told me,” sings Janet Jackson on this, the title track from her platinum-selling 1986 album, adding, “Did what my father said, and let my mother mould me… but that was a long time ago.” Not as in your face as ‘Nasty’, ‘Control, with its twitchy sequenced rhythms, still packed a sonic punch. Sounding a little like a Time track with female vocals, it is a paean to independence and reflects the singer’s desire to express herself freely. It was also Jackson’s fourth single from the Control album and her third to top the US R&B charts.

11: ‘Whoops Now’ (1993)

An old-school Motown feel pervades this, one of Janet Jackson’s catchiest songs. Though featuring on the tracklist of UK and Japanese pressings of janet, in the US it was a hidden track on the US CD version. ‘Whoops Now’ didn’t get issued as a single in America, but overseas, where it was released separately, it performed well, topping the pop charts in New Zealand and making the Top 10 in France, Austria, Belgium and the UK.

10: ‘Got Til It’s Gone’ (1997)

This song’s title took its inspiration directly from Joni Mitchell’s 1970 protest song ‘Big Yellow Taxi’, whose chorus (“You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone”) it sampled. Riding on a mellow, hip-hop-inspired groove, Jackson – who had started presenting herself as Janet, rather than Janet Jackson – is accompanied by A Tribe Called Quest rapper Q-Tip. The track reached No.3 on the US R&B charts and No.6 in the UK.

9: ‘Miss You Much’ (1989)

Three years after Control, Janet Jackson reconvened with Jam and Lewis in their Flyte Tyme Studios in Minneapolis to record Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814. Thematically a much deeper album than Control, it focused on pressing socio-political issues, but, singles-wise, kicked off with a pining love song, ‘Miss You Much’. The song was delivered via a hammering dance groove that reprised the aggressive style and sparse sonics of Control. It also put Janet Jackson back at the top of both the US pop and R&B singles chart in September 1989.

8: ‘All For You’ (2001)

This catchy dance number – which samples disco group Change’s 1980 hit ‘The Glow Of Love’ – was the first single and title song from Janet’s double-platinum 2001 album. Its bright and optimistic tone was indicative of the album’s lighter mood compared with the darker hues that characterised her controversial previous album, The Velvet Rope. It also illustrated Jackson’s willingness to experiment and take creative risks. Reaching No.1 in the US (and No.3 in the UK), the song was Jackson’s 14th R&B chart-topper.

7: ‘Escapade’ (1989)

Despite its focus on social justice, the Rhythm Nation album had a few lighter moments, epitomised by the aptly-titled ‘Escapade’, a carefree love song driven by a chugging steam hammer of a backbeat. Like the earlier ‘When I Think Of You’, it showed that Janet Jackson could make buoyant crossover pop without sacrificing her R&B credibility. The song topped both the pop and R&B singles charts in the US.

6: ‘Rhythm Nation’ (1989)

Janet Jackson’s sixth consecutive US R&B No.1 single, ‘Rhythm Nation’ found the singer and her producers tapping into the relentless syncopated rhythms associated with the New Jack Swing phenomenon, then a very influential component in US R&B. There was also a pronounced hip-hop element in the music due to its sampled beats and orchestral “hits”. A rallying protest song themed around uniting through music to achieve social justice and “break the colour lines”, ‘Rhythm Nation’ not only hit No.1 on the R&B chart, but also soared to No.2 on the pop chart.

5: ‘Nasty’ (1986)

“My first name ain’t Baby, it’s Janet… Miss Jackson if you’re nasty.” So sang an angry-sounding Janet Jackson on ‘Nasty’, her second consecutive No.1 single in the US R&B charts, and not only one of the best Janet Jackson songs, but one of the best songs of the era. Sonically, the song was distinctive: driven by pounding, industrial-like drum-machine rhythms and metallic synth lines enunciating catchy licks. Contrasting with this harsh, almost robotic backing is an arresting human element in the shape of Jackson’s girlish voice. An eye-grabbing video depicting Jackson going through some vigorous but carefully-choreographed dance moves in the company of male dancers helped to widen the song’s popularity.

4: ‘When I Think Of You’ (1986)

Like all the uptempo songs on Control, ‘When I Think Of You’ boasted a tough archetypal 80s dance beat, but, in essence, the song was much less aggressive than ‘Nasty’, which preceded it as a single. ‘When I Think Of You’ is essentially a euphoric love song based on two alternating piano chords and driven by a mobile bassline. Jackson’s vocals, punctuated by blasts of synth brass, are sweet but never cloying. Despite being one of Control’s catchiest tunes, it failed to top the US R&B charts, stalling at No.2, but went all the way to the top of the US pop charts, giving Janet Jackson her first crossover No.1.

3: ‘Let’s Wait Awhile’ (1986)

A beautiful ballad co-written by Janet Jackson with her co-producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, this song – together with another fine slow jam, ‘Funny How Time Flies (When You’re Having Fun)’ – represented an oasis of calm on Control, an otherwise noisy, chest-beating album. After the strident ‘Nasty’, ‘Let’s Wait Awhile’’s serenity comes almost as a relief, putting into sharp relief the demure sweetness of Janet’s voice. The fifth single taken from Control, ‘Let’s Wait Awhile’, was her fourth US R&B chart-topper and reached No.3 in the UK.

2: ‘What Have You Done For Me Lately’ (1986)

Janet Jackson’s transformation from a demure ingénue into a sassy sex kitten came about through her alliance in Minneapolis with ex-Time members Jimmy “Jam” Harris and Terry Lewis during 1985, when they recorded her third A&M album, Control. This was her debut hit from the album: Jackson’s purported response to the break-up of her marriage with James DeBarge. Sonically, it’s a throbbing chunk of propulsive techno-funk boasting an infectious chorus and garnished with slivers of jazzy piano. Janet’s her debut US R&B chart-topper, ‘What Have You Done For Me Lately’ was also her first hit in the UK, rising to No.3. The Control album went platinum, topping both the US pop and R&B charts.

1: ‘That’s The Way Love Goes’ (1993)

Janet Jackson’s switch to Virgin, in 1991, lured from A&M by the promise of a $40 million contract, paid instant dividends with this, her debut single for her new label. Topping our list of the best Janet Jackson songs, ‘That’s The Way Love Goes’ spent four weeks at the top of the US R&B chart and two months at the top of America’s bestselling pop singles chart, the Hot 100. Contrary to what some may have expected given her previous form with banging dance cuts, the song was a soft, mellow ballad distinguished by subtle jazz inflections and a hypnotic groove. It was the first single culled from janet, her third album collaboration with Jam and Lewis. The song also put Jackson back in the UK Top 10 (it peaked at No.2) for the first time since 1987’s ‘Let’s Wait Awhile’.

The limited edition translucent red vinyl reissue of Control is out on 7 June and can be pre-ordered here.

Janet Jackson’s 10 No. 1 Hits Ranked

With Friday’s much-anticipated release of Janet Jackson’s comeback album Unbreakable — her first LP since 2008’s Discipline — it’s the perfect time to look back at the pop diva’s 10 No. 1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100. While they all still rank high in our hearts, we can’t help but rank them. Here’s our countdown to the very best of her No. 1s.

10. “Doesn’t Really Matter” (2000): It’s hard to see how this song — originally featured on the Nutty Professor II: The Klumps soundtrack — went to No. 1 when true JJ classics like “What Have You Done for Me Lately,” “Nasty” and “Rhythm Nation” didn’t. Still, this frothy confection was a ray of melodic sunshine after the darker Velvet Rope.

Janet Jackson Drops Club-Ready ‘Burn It Up’ With Missy Elliott

9. “Again” (1993): Another tune featured in one of Jackson’s films, Poetic Justice, this piano ballad was nominated for a best original song Oscar. As far as her slow jams go, it’s not “Any Time, Any Place” or “I Get Lonely,” but the pure sweetness of Janet’s vocal helps to overcome the treacly sentiment. Cue the tears.

8. “All for You” (2001): The last of Jackson’s No. 1 hits, it spent seven weeks at the pinnacle of the Hot 100, marking her second-longest reign on the chart. Buoyed by a generous sample of Change’s club classic “The Glow of Love,” this shimmering soul-disco track rode its bass-driven groove all the way to a Grammy for best dance recording.

7. “Black Cat” (1990): Janet as headbanger! It shouldn’t have worked, but somehow this heavy-metal departure on the singer’s Rhythm Nation 1814 — which she wrote by herself and produced with Jellybean Johnson instead of usual collaborators Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis — totally rocked. She made it her own “Beat It.”

6. “Escapade” (1990): It’s no wonder that Jackson gives a shout-out to “Minneapolis!” during this fanciful, carnivalesque romp. She has always owed a huge debt to Prince’s musical domain — after all, Jam and Lewis were once protégés of the Purple One — but rarely more so than on this pop-funk gem.

Inside Janet Jackson’s Comeback Gamble and the Hurdle of the ‘Aging Diva’ Stereotype

5. “When I Think of You” (1986): The first of her No. 1s — and the only one from her game-changing Control album — it updated the bubblegum girlishness of 1982’s Janet Jackson and 1984’s Dream Street by toughening up the groove with a bass line that just wouldn’t quit. When you think of upbeat Janet songs, you think of this one.

4. “Love Will Never Do (Without You)” (1991): At one point, this was envisioned as a duet with Prince, which explains why Jackson sings the first verse in a lower register and the second verse in a higher one. But with the lush, layered vocal arrangement — a chorus of Janet’s never sounded better — she hardly needed anyone else.

3. “Miss You Much” (1989): After the big breakthrough of Control, Miss Jackson made clear that she was here to stay with the first single from Rhythm Nation. The slamming, industrial-edged beats of this classic Jam & Lewis production make this one of the funkiest things she’s ever done. Bonus points for the iconic choreography.

Janet Jackson’s ‘No Sleeep’ Becomes Her Longest-Running No. 1 on Adult R&B Songs

2. “Together Again” (1997): One of many Velvet Rope tracks that found Jackson digging deeper lyrically, this was her personal ode to those who have been lost to AIDS. But instead of getting weepy, she turned this into an uplifting celebration, channeling Diana Ross while perfectly setting a ’60s girl-group vibe to a disco-house beat.

1. “That’s the Way Love Goes” (1993): This was Jackson’s longest-running No. 1, with eight weeks at the helm, as well as a winner of the best R&B song Grammy. Unlike anything she’d ever done before, it oozed sensuality — coming straight from the Marvin Gaye school of seduction — and set the sexy standard for many Janet songs to come.

Review: Janet Jackson’s New Album Unbreakable

Janet Jackson struck gold–and platinum–when she asserted herself as mistress of her domain on the 1986 album Control. Her successes in the decades that followed included dominance of radio and MTV–with songs like the sparkling “Love Will Never Do (Without You)” and the jittery “The Pleasure Principle”–spectacle-heavy world tours and provocative magazine covers that set tongues wagging.

Her most scandalous moment, the infamous wardrobe malfunction at the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show, still informs debates over sex on television more than a decade later. But none of it would have happened without the forward-thinking blend of pop, soul and ladies-first energy that buoyed her to stardom. Through her collaborations with the R&B production powerhouse Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Jackson consistently released tracks that summed up the contradictions inherent in womanhood, while making listeners all along the gender spectrum want to shake their bodies.

Jackson’s new album, Unbreakable, out Oct. 2, is a collaboration with Jam and Lewis that marks her first studio release since 2008’s Discipline. As befits the title–and Jackson’s career–Unbreakable is a collection of songs about resilience and finding love both outwardly and from within. In keeping with her best work, it’s full of bravado and soul-searching.

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The album opens with the title track, which could be read as a devotional of sorts to Jackson’s fans: “Never for a single moment/Did I ever go without your love,” she sings over a space-age synth, which blossoms into a sunny-day soul strut. Jackson’s voice, always notable for the emotion it could pack into even the simplest verse, is particularly suited to this type of laid-back R&B. As the song fades out, her voice comes back in, this time as tour guide: “Hello. It’s been a while. Lots to talk about. I’m glad you’re still here. I hope you enjoy.”

If Unbreakable stayed in the laid-back grown-woman gear of its opener, it would still be completely satisfying; the Jackson-Jam-Lewis crew has been crafting song-length sighs since Control’s sumptuous “Funny How Time Flies (When You’re Having Fun).” But instead, the machine kicks into overdrive with the help of rapper Missy Elliott, another strong woman of yesterday’s pop charts who experienced a renaissance in 2015. The hyperactive “BURNITUP!” has hype assistance from Elliott and accompaniment that brings together the 2010s’ chanting crowds and the 1980s’ skittering 808 drum samples. It serves as notice that Jackson hasn’t yet given up her private booth at the club.

Part of the joy of Unbreakable comes from the effortless way that it bridges the gap between new and old. There are nods to current dance-music trends like the frothy “Take Me Away,” which floats on a Calvin Harris–like cloud before culminating in a ripping guitar solo, and the splashy “Night.” There are also throwback ballads like the intimate “After You Fall” and the luscious “Dream Maker/Euphoria.” Unbreakable also maintains the social consciousness that made Rhythm Nation such a powerful statement 25-plus years ago: “Shoulda Known Better” takes on the present-day state of affairs, with Jackson echoing the Thriller track “Human Nature” of her late brother Michael.

Unbreakable closes with “Gon’ B Alright,” a thumping, clamorous funk jam that recalls Stevie Wonder’s “Living for the City” and Sly and the Family Stone’s “I Want to Take You Higher”–it’s a party, and Jackson sounds thrilled to be head hostess. The lyrics are comforting and joyous, a boisterous reminder that while Jackson’s been through a lot, she’s survived. And so can those listening at home, as long as they remember to take control and dance.

This appears in the October 12, 2015 issue of TIME.

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