Got 'til It's Gone

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"Got 'til It's Gone"
Single by Janet Jackson featuring Q-Tip and Joni Mitchell
from the album The Velvet Rope
Released September 22, 1997
Format CD single, 7" single, 12" single, cassette single
Recorded March–June 1997; Flyte Tyme Studios
(Edina, Minnesota)
Genre R&B, pop, trip hop, downtempo, alternative hip hop
Length 4:01
Label Virgin
Writer(s) Janet Jackson, James Harris III, Terry Lewis, René Elizondo, Jr., Joni Mitchell, Kamaal Ibn Fareed
Producer(s) Janet Jackson, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis
Janet Jackson singles chronology
"Twenty Foreplay"
(1996)
"Got 'til It's Gone"
(1997)
"Together Again"
(1997)

"Got 'til It's Gone" is a song by Janet Jackson, featuring rapper Q-Tip and folk singer Joni Mitchell. It was released as the lead single from Jackson's sixth studio album, The Velvet Rope.

The single and its accompanying music video were considered a massive risk and departure from the mainstream pop style of Jackson's previous releases, striving for a less glossy and more credible sound. The song received multiple accolades, including a Grammy Award for "Best Short Form Music Video", and reached number one in several territories. The innovative and revealing approach of "Got 'til It's Gone" has directly influenced other artists' songs and music videos, with the song also having been covered and sampled on several occasions.

Song information[edit]

"'Got 'Til It's Gone' is about a great lesson learned — appreciate what you have while you have it. In my life, I try to take nothing for granted, even if I don't always succeed."

— Janet speaking about "Got 'til It's Gone" [1]

"Got 'til It's Gone" was released as the lead single from Jackson's sixth album The Velvet Rope, which chronicled Jackson's struggle with depression and intimacy. The song features guest vocals from rapper Q-Tip and folk music icon Joni Mitchell, who contributes a sample of her song "Big Yellow Taxi". It was written by Jackson, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, and René Elizondo, Jr., with Q-Tip and Mitchell having written their own verses, and produced by Jackson, Jam & Lewis.

The song's music video and promotional photos were the first glimpse of the new image Jackson developed for The Velvet Rope campaign, which combined elements from Gothic and African cultures and consisted of red hair, nasal and body piercings, and various tattoos. "Got 'til It's Gone" and The Velvet Rope album also marked the first time Jackson would officially drop her surname and release material and chart under the stage moniker 'Janet'.[2][3] Though Janet would return to using her full name for her following album All for You to introduce herself to the newer generation, she would again withdraw her surname for her ninth studio album 20 Y.O..


"Got 'til It's Gone" has influenced songs such as Britney Spears' "Til It's Gone", Kelly Rowland and Wiz Khalifa's "Gone", videos including Solange's "Losing You" and Maroon 5's "Give A Little More", and has been covered and sampled by many artists, including T.I., Marsha Ambrosius, Common, and A Tribe Called Quest.[4][5][6][7] "Got 'til It's Gone" is also credited for influencing the production style of many upcoming producers, with the book "Best Music Writing" noting "the track's sonic influence directly influenced the next generation of crate-diggers, with Just Blaze, 9th Wonder and a certain college dropout (Kanye West) all taking notes."[8] The song is also notable for being one of the first singles released containing elements of neo-soul, bringing the genre to the mainstream.[9]

The shortened radio edit of "Got 'til It's Gone" was included on Jackson's second hits compilation Number Ones. It was performed on The Velvet Rope Tour, All for You Tour, Rock Witchu Tour, and as an interlude on the Number Ones, Up Close and Personal Tour.

Award Nominated work Result
BPI Sales Awards Silver Award Won
Dansk Grammy Awards Best Foreign Single Nominated
Grammy Awards Best Music Video, Short Form Won
MVPA Awards Video of the Year Nominated
MVPA Awards Pop Music Video of the Year Won
MVPA Awards Best Art Direction Won
Slant Magazine 100 Greatest Music Videos of All Time (#10) Won
VH1 Fashion Awards Most Stylish Music Video Won

Composition[edit]

Musical style[edit]

Janet's vocals repeatedly fade in and out with the song's haunting instrumental as Q-Tip performs ad-libs and Joni Mitchell contributes a vocal loop.

Problems playing this file? See media help.

"Got 'til It's Gone" was considered a massive departure from the mainstream pop appeal of Jackson's previous singles and music videos, striving for a less polished and more authentic alternative hip-hop and trip-hop-influenced sound. The song also incorporates elements of diverse genres such as pop, R&B, folk, jazz, reggae, neo-soul, and downtempo.[10][11] Co-producer Jimmy Jam spoke about the song's universal appeal and theme, saying "Janet has always been one of those artists that bridges R&B and hip-hop and pop and rock", adding "We really thought 'Got 'Til It's Gone' would be accepted [by all audiences] across the board." Jam also described the song's overall feel as "avant-garde" and "funky".[12][13] "Got 'til It's Gone" was serviced to multiple airplay formats, including Pop, Urban, Rhythmic, and Adult Contemporary/Jazz, in early September.[14]

Theme[edit]

"I never looked deeply at the pain from my past, never tried to understand that pain and work though it... I still haven't gotten to the core of some things. I'm a lot closer than I was, but it's a journey that I'm still walking. Even now, there are times when it comes in waves and it will be incredibly painful."

— Jackson on the inspiration for the song's theme [15]

Speaking about the song's meaning, Jackson revealed "'Got 'Til It's Gone' is about a great lesson learned — appreciate what you have while you have it. In my life, I try to take nothing for granted, even if I don't always succeed."[1] B&S Magazine gave a similar sentiment, saying its theme "echoes the old proverb 'you don't miss the water till the river runs dry'", while Billboard described the track as "a catchy midtempo song about taking nothing for granted."[14][16] Another account proclaimed the song's melancholic feel and lyrics "awakened listeners to the tortured private life of the young singer."[17] Jackson said she also applied the song's subject matter to "a love scene" and "the concept of love."

Jackson discussed "Got 'til It's Gone" and The Velvet Rope album during an interview with Rolling Stone, saying "Singing these songs has meant digging up pain that I buried a long time ago. It's been hard and sometimes confusing. But I've had to do it. I've been burying pain my whole life. It's like kicking dirt under the carpet. At some point there's so much dirt that you start to choke. Well, I've been choking. My therapy came in writing these songs. Then I had to find the courage to sing them or else suffer the consequences - a permanent case of the blues."[18]

In addition to being centered around the regret and sadness felt from depression and separation, Jackson also related the theme of "Got 'til It's Gone" to her own conflicts with self-esteem and acceptance. Janet revealed "I never looked deeply at the pain from my past, never tried to understand that pain and work though it... I still haven't gotten to the core of some things. I'm a lot closer than I was, but it's a journey that I'm still walking. Even now, there are times when it comes in waves and it will be incredibly painful."[15] As difficult as it had been for Janet to acknowledge those old and very deep wounds, she claimed what the self-examination had done for her self-concept had made the pain worth experiencing. "It's not an easy thing to look inward because you don't know what you're going to find," she says. "And you don't know if you're going to like what you find once you find it. I'm very fortunate. I can honestly say that for the first time, I really like myself. I really do. And now, I'm working at learning to love myself."[19]

Features[edit]

The song is notable for featuring guest vocals from folk music icon Joni Mitchell and rapper Q-Tip, formerly of acclaimed hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest. Jackson has often mentioned Mitchell as an influence and had previously worked with Q-Tip for her debut film Poetic Justice. In addition to being a massive shift for Jackson musically, the song's guest contributions were also considered to be a large risk by critics and industry executives. Mitchell's vocals were used during parts of the chorus, and she had not had an appearance on pop radio in several decades, despite her status as a music icon. At the time, Q-Tip was not yet known as a solo artist and was also relatively unknown to the mainstream pop audience, though he would later attain fame two years later with his debut album Amplified and hits "Vivrant Thing" and "Breathe and Stop".

"Him and Joni Mitchell have something in common: what they write is poetry." "I think of folk and rap among similar strands. Especially lyrically because you can put so much content into one song. Hip hop is great and I think it's good that it talks of the harsh realities of life in the ghettos. Only I wish that some rap would be more responsible for itself and show that a life of killing, drugs and crime is not the best or only way out."

"Q-Tip represents all that's creative and strong about rap. He's real and right to the point, and I loved working with him."

— Janet on collaborating with Q-Tip and Joni Mitchell [16][20]


"I was drawn to Joni Mitchell records." "Along with Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder, Joni's songs spoke to me in an intimate, personal way." "She listened to it, and called back a few days later and said she absolutely loved it and would be honored if we did, so I was very excited."

— Jackson speaking about her admiration for Joni Mitchell and asking her to contribute her vocals to "Got 'til It's Gone" [1][21]


"Chalk Mark in a Rain Storm really deserves a big audience, as big as anything the contemporary females have." .. "Except Janet Jackson saw it - and she touted it in her interviews ... The best review I got for that record was from Janet Jackson. Yeah, and it really pleased me, it touched me."

"My stock has risen lately with Janet Jackson sampling me in her hit "Got 'Til It's Gone". "More heads are turning at airports these days."

— Joni Mitchell expressing gratitude to Janet [22]

Jackson explained why she felt compelled to combine the folk elements from Mitchell with Q-Tip's rap verse, saying "Him and Joni Mitchell have something in common: what they write is poetry."[20] "I think of folk and rap among similar strands. Especially lyrically because you can put so much content into one song. Hip hop is great and I think it's good that it talks of the harsh realities of life in the ghettos. Only I wish that some rap would be more responsible for itself and show that a life of killing, drugs and crime is not the best or only way out."[16] Speaking about Q-Tip's appearance, Jackson said "I've known him since Poetic Justice in which he played my boyfriend." "Q-Tip is a great example of a real artist who makes great hip hop and has a responsibility. It was an honor to work with him."[23] She also notes, "Q-Tip represents all that's creative and strong about rap. He's real and right to the point, and I loved working with him."[24] Additionally, Jackson expressed admiration for his voice, also saying he finished his verse quickly.[25] The collaboration with Q-Tip lead to Jackson collaborating with Busta Rhymes for his single "What's It Gonna Be?!" nearly two years later, which became one of the most expensive music videos of all time.[26]

The song uses a sample from Mitchell's song "Big Yellow Taxi", which originally appeared on her 1970 album Ladies of the Canyon and was previously mentioned in Jackson's hit "The Pleasure Principle." Jackson contacted Mitchell personally to ask for permission, stating that "everyone said it couldn't be done, but if [Mitchell] was going to say no to me, I had to hear it from her myself... I called her and told her I wanted her to hear it before she made a decision. Everybody was surprised when a couple of days later, she said yes."[27] When requesting Mitchell's vocals, Jackson revealed "Everyone kept saying don't even bother. I called her up myself, told her how much of a fan I was". "And she said we could use it! I was stoked."[28] Describing the situation again, Jackson said "I thought it would be cool to sample something from hers, being such a big fan, and others thought I was crazy after agreeing to do it because she never lets anyone sample her stuff. So I said 'Okay, if she's going to pretty much say no I want to hear it with my own ears.' I called her up and talked about it, and told her about it, and told her I'd like to send her a tape before she made a decision. She listened to it, and called back a few days later and said she absolutely loved it and would be honored if we did, so I was very excited."[29] In another anecdote, she recalled "She called me herself to tell me she agreed. I was incredibly glad." Virgin Records executive Nancy Berry considered the single to have the potential to attract fans of music from past generations, saying "It's reflective of the time [when the song was released]. The whole tie-in is interesting. [Mitchell has] not always been open to other people using her material".[30]

Jackson has frequently mentioned Mitchell as an influence and artist she's admired throughout her career, which led to Jackson asking Mitchell to contribute vocals to "Got 'til It's Gone". "As a kid I was drawn to Joni Mitchell records," recalls Janet. "Along with Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder, Joni's songs spoke to me in an intimate, personal way."[31] Jackson also exclaimed "I, like millions of others, have been a really, really big fan. Joni's unwillingness to compromise and her willingness to experiment has really shaped a creative legacy", adding she was "always playing her when we were growing up."[21] Mitchell was appreciative of Jackson's praise of her thirteenth studio album Chalk Mark in a Rain Storm, which had failed to meet commercial expectations and reception, saying "Chalk Mark in a Rain Storm really deserves a big audience, as big as anything the contemporary females have. It's not difficult music. I was disappointed that the [record] company couldn't somehow or other - I was disappointed in the industry at large, that had closed me out from the marketplace, so to speak, that no one would allow me the normal venues that are open to announce that you have product out, with pride. Or that nobody saw. Except Janet Jackson saw it - and she touted it in her interviews ... The best review I got for that record was from Janet Jackson. Yeah, and it really pleased me, it touched me." This also lead to Mitchell agreeing to lend her vocals to the song, although she rarely collaborates with other artists or allows reinterpolations of her work.[22] During performances on her tour with Bob Dylan, Mitchell added elements of Jackson's vocals and Q-Tip's rap into her own performances of "Big Yellow Taxi". Additionally, Mitchell told Time Magazine she has "nothing but praise" for the song.[32]

At this point in her career, Mitchell had become more focused on solely releasing albums rather than promotion or commercial success, with "Got 'Til It's Gone" and Jackson giving her a considerable amount of recognition in pop culture and entertainment. Mitchell revealed "my stock has risen lately with Janet Jackson sampling me in her hit "Got 'Til It's Gone", adding "more heads are turning at airports these days" due to the song.[33] In a biography of Mitchell, an excerpt notes "One of the most interesting albums that Joni Mitchell had appeared on in a long time was singer Janet Jackson's 1997 release, The Velvet Rope", adding her appearance "brought a new appreciation of Joni's music and exposed her to Janet Jackson's millions of worldwide fans—a whole new audience for her."[34] She Bop II author Lucy O'Brien also recalled "Relying less on hit singles, she built up albums sales over a period of time and, without the pressure of having to follow chart trends, achieved a rare feat of independence", adding that Mitchell had "a surprise hit" with "Got til's it's Gone" following this.[35] Icons of Rock: An Encyclopedia of the Legends Who Changed Music Forever credits "Got 'Til It's Gone" as Mitchell's first appearance on the R&B and Hip-Hop charts, as well as her first venture onto the pop charts in over twenty years.[36] Britannica music guide Disco, Punk, New Wave, Heavy Metal, and More asserted "Though unworried about pop chart trends, in 1997 she enjoyed major success with a new, young audience" when Janet sampled Mitchell "for the massive hit "Got 'Til It's Gone." The guide ultimately considered Jackson's reinterpolation to be an essential and significant part of Mitchell's later career, ranking Jackson among other music legends who have sampled or covered Mitchell's songs such as Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Fairport Convention, Judy Collins, and Crosby, Stills & Nash.[37]

Jackson's communication with Mitchell subsequently led to an invitation for her to record a song for a tribute album to the singer-songwriter titled A Case of Joni. "Joni called and asked me to be on her tribute album. She said, 'I read in an interview that you were a fan. So I want to know if you want to do this song.'"[38] "I chose to cover 'Beat of Black Wings' (from 1988's Chalk Mark in a Rain Storm) on the tribute album because Joni was amazing on that song, and it really touched me," said Jackson. She also called it "a great, great honour", adding that "her lyrics are an education."[39] Though the tribute album was never released, Jackson's cover of "The Beat of Black Wings", which was written about a veteran of the Vietnam War, leaked in 2006.

Critical reception[edit]

"Got 'til It's Gone"'s fusion of Jackson's pop style with "harder-edged hip-hop" received mostly positive judgement for its sonic experimentation and revealing theme.[40]

"Janet Jackson, the most famous woman in America at the time, sounded fresher than ever." The "revolutionary use of space and dynamics worked wonders on the radio and in clubs."

The Guardian [41]

"The understated tone of this single will likely puzzle Jackson disciples at first, though repeat spins reveal a richly textured recording with the potential to linger far longer than a fast-burning pop song."

Billboard [42]

Rob Fitzpatrick of The Guardian exclaimed it to be an "Absolutely sublime pop production", saying "Janet Jackson, the most famous woman in America at the time, sounded fresher than ever." Fitzpatrick also praised the song's production, saying it "keeps it awesomely simple – a kick, a snare, just a tiny flash of electric piano, a Joni Mitchell sample and that's it", adding the "revolutionary use of space and dynamics worked wonders on the radio and in clubs."[41] The Daily Cougar exclaimed the song continues Jackson's "trademark carefree pop", calling the track "a delicious groove."[43] BBC UK called the single "fabulous", proclaiming it "sounded as modern as you could be in 1997."[44] Digital Spy praised Jackson for expressing "a greater willingness to experiment musically", while Music-critic.com approved its "laid back" approach.[45][46] Further reviews labeled it "a saving grace" for radio and "a track you could hear on the radio today that would sound current", adding "In a time when the top selling female artists are playing it safe with their formula's for a first single, Janet over steps the mark and proves that you can go that extra distance and surprise your fans and be the envy of your peers." The review concluded the song is "quite different in feel to the rest of the album", though was ultimately "the best and most daring first single "The Velvet Rope" could offer us."[47][48]

Larry Flick of Billboard exclaimed the song displays "finesse" and "marked maturity", saying "Apparently, 'tis the season for pop divas to explore edgy hip-hop territory", adding "this jam is a deftly structured study in subtle vocal styling and raw keep rhythms." The review also noted the departure from Jackson's upbeat pop and dance style might confuse listeners at first, though was ultimately a wise decision, explaining "The understated tone of this single will likely puzzle Jackson disciples at first, though repeat spins reveal a richly textured recording with the potential to linger far longer than a fast-burning pop song", concluding the single was "An intriguing preview into the forthcoming album The Velvet Rope." Flick also compared the new style with Mariah Carey's "Honey ", which had been released only two weeks prior.[42] MTV observed the song "sets the tone for the new, more experimental material", complete with "a spooky vocal loop", "old-school DJ scratching", and "layering it all with Jackson's fragile, whispered vocals, the song is then, now and later all at the same time."[49]

AllMusic labeled the track as equipped with a "reggae beat", adding it was "popular on the radio", while Billboard additionally described it as "rap-laced" and "a catchy midtempo song about taking nothing for granted.".[50][51] The New York Times considered it "hip-hop-tinged R&B", also noticing "a depressive sobriety" in Jackson's vocals, and Neil McCormick of The Daily Telegraph approved the song as "a deliciously light confection".[52][53][54] Entertainment Weekly decided the "relaxed groove" of the song is "certainly an enigmatic teaser", and Jet Magazine commented "Janet has her fans up on the dance floor with the album's first hit Got Til It's Gone", calling Q-Tip's guest verse "street smart".[55][56] "'Joni Mitchell never lies,' Q-Tip tells us" - "Given that Mitchell once told the world, 'Bob Dylan never cleans his teeth,' we must assume the truth of this", noted Arena Magazine, who also called it "brilliant" and praised the "emotional turmoil that's gone into it."[57]

Complex ranked it as "another introspective classic".[58] Music news feed "Beat Spill" considered the song to be "a four way intersection of artists contributing to what I feel to be a shining example of American artistic collaboration", praising Jackson's vocals, Mitchell's "renowned" contribution, "fellow vocalist of a different breed" Q-Tip's verse, and the song's "neo-soul" production. Ultimately concluding it to be "instrumental real estate", the article also exclaimed "The recipe looks good on paper, but if you are simply reading this without listening for context, I envy you for the opportunity to listen to this song for the first time, and urge you to listen."[59] Pop culture website Savagely Yours questioned "can we just focus on how hard this song JAMS!", commenting "The song, which is found on arguably Janet Jackson’s best album, The Velvet Rope". The review also contemplated the song to give the listener the urge to "be in somebody’s lounge sipping and vibing" while the track plays.[60] Furthermore, the track was considered "sultry, smooth and sexy all at the same time" and analyzed as somewhat comparable to prior hit "That's the Way Love Goes", declaring it "the most sophisticated transitional track on the (Velvet Rope) album".[61][62]

Several critics also praised the song's meaning and "remorseful" lyrics, which effectively "awakened listeners to the tortured private life of the young singer" and "lecture about appreciating what you have in life."[63][64] Additionally, the song's theme was considered "a refreshing break from the bubbly, and sometimes plastic Janet Jackson that we occasionally see in interviews", with an entertainment critic continuing to say "Janet Jackson’s Got ‘Til It’s Gone is one of those songs where the contextual meaning is just as important as the song itself. Jackson was going through a tumultuous period with the strained relationship of her former husband, Rene Elizondo Jr. and the loss of a friend exhibited in "Together Again". Janet Jackson’s struggle with depression all culminated in the stream of consciousness diary that is 1997’s Velvet Rope". The critique also noted "Got ‘Til It’s Gone reminds us of what Janet Jackson is and has yet to fully become. I don’t want Rhythm Nation Pt. 2, but I do want Janet to brings her brains to the table and not just her beauty. Social consciousness is truly apart of Janet’s character and her heritage."[65]

"[Janet] has sought to use her music as a cathartic process as a way of expressing her innermost feelings and emotions or, if you like, metaphorically speaking at least, shedding her cocoon and unfurling her wings, to reveal a newly formed butterfly."

B&S Magazine [41]

"A four way intersection of artists contributing to what I feel to be a shining example of American artistic collaboration."

Beat Spill [59]

..."Layering it all with Jackson's fragile, whispered vocals, the song is then, now and later all at the same time."

MTV [49]

B&S Magazine considered it "stunning", also saying "In stark contrast to her iconoclast of an elder bro' who has always endeavored to create realms of fantasy around his work (and, indeed, his world), the most successful Jackson sister has, for the most, never been afraid to personalize her musical agenda", adding that the song represented a metamorphosis for Janet, explaining "[Janet] has sought to use her music as a cathartic process as a way of expressing her innermost feelings and emotions or, if you like, metaphorically speaking at least, shedding her cocoon and unfurling her wings, to reveal a newly formed butterfly." The magazine also related the subject matter of "Got 'til it's Gone" to popular BBC soap opera EastEnders, explaining "Take silly old Alan down at the ol' Albert Square. Knowing he had a good thing goin' on with Carol didn't stop him [from] gettin' it on with the scheming Frankie. How he could have done with Janet releasing "Got 'Til It's Gone" a few months earlier then it wouldn't have taken him this long to get back with Carol."[66] Essence Magazine exclaimed Jackson "speaks with her trademark candor" to discuss "the unhealed wounds that can be manifest in depression" that is the central focus of the song.[67]

The song also received positive reception for its guest appearances and proper use of sampling, with it called "creative" and "a good twist on a classic track", also saying the song "reinvents the folk classic with Q-Tip rapping, and a soulful hip-hop vibe."[68] A review from San Francisco Weekly classified it as "a clever pastiche" which blended well with Jackson's vocals and Q-Tip's "low-key rapping".[69] Billboard commended the song's collaboration, saying "La Janet rides a prominent sample of Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi" with a finesse and marked maturity", adding "She's joined by rap superstar Q-Tip, who floats a smooth rhyme or two."[70] Time Magazine considered it "an R.-and-B. reworking" which "draws smartly" from the sample.[71][72] "Unruly Media: Youtube, Music Video, and the New Digital Cinema" author Carol Vernallis wrote "The song suggests a swaying motion and a restful pause performed in comforting repetition. It draws attention to Jackson's and Joni Mitchell's vocal similarities (as if Mitchell's voice were a sped up version of Jackson's; Mitchell's is more bird-like)", also saying "Q-Tip's rapping is friendly and mellow."[73] The LA Times also gave the track a positive review, saying the "cool, breezy hip-hop" of the single "cannily intertwines a Joni Mitchell sample and a seductive guest rap by Q-Tip."[74] Another critique considered Mitchell's vocals as "hypnotic, not to say shrill".[75] Pop critic Neil Strauss of The New York Times considered the song to be "creative" and "a popular single that reminded listeners what sampling could offer" which appeared during the "dark summer of 1997", saying it "engagingly" combined elements from Mitchell with Jackson's vocals. Strauss added "somewhere between interpretation and quotation is Janet Jackson's new single, Got Till It's Gone," which uses the sample as part of its chorus "but doesn't rely on it to carry the entire song", continuing to say the song, as well as a sample used in a single by trip-hop group Portishead, "use that sample to anchor different musical interpretations of desperation, but if you removed it from the songs, they would still stand up."[76][77]

MTV also praised the song's features and sampling, noting "Borrowing a spooky vocal loop" from Mitchell, "mixing in a rap by A Tribe Called Quest's Q-Tip and layering it all with Jackson's fragile, whispered vocals" ultimately combine to make the song "then, now and later all at the same time", with an additional anecdote saying the song's production was effectively "carving" Mitchell's vocals into the track's "lean proto-chipmunk soul".[78][79] People Magazine applauded the track as "an understated, hip-hop pastiche that features the unlikely but inspired pairing of rapper Q-Tip and a sampled Joni Mitchell", commenting "if you sneeze, you might miss her vocals altogether." The excerpt concluded Jackson's "star power" and "thundering, damn-the-torpedoes production" make it "easy to overlook what's missing."[80][81] Addicted to Noise writer Kembrew McLeod commented the single is "worth the price of admission just to hear Q-tip say, "Joni Mitchell's in the house."[82]

Adversely, the song was also labeled "disappointing" and "a dreary reggae-influenced number" with an "incongruous" appearance from Mitchell, though approving its "smooth-ass beat" and "interplay between Janet and Q-Tip".[81][83] Geoff Mayfield of Billboard considered "That's the Way Love Goes", the lead single from Jackson's previous album, to be "a stronger locomotive" than the "left-of-center" song,[84]

Live performances[edit]

"Got 'til It's Gone" received little promotion, with Jackson only performing the song on The Oprah Winfrey Show. The song was also performed on various tours, including The Velvet Rope Tour, All for You Tour, Rock Witchu Tour, and as an interlude on the Number Ones, Up Close and Personal Tour.

MTV praised The Velvet Rope Tour's performance as "high energy", which served as the tour's encore performance on select dates, with the live version also described as a "hypnotic rendition" by The Washington Post.[85][86]

Chart performance[edit]

The song's mellow feel and dramatic change in style for Jackson was an unexpected change to the public, though the single performed exceptionally worldwide. The song's co-producer Jimmy Jam commented "We really thought 'Got 'Til It's Gone' would be accepted [by all formats] across the board", adding he was "surprised" by the public's reaction to the song, saying it achieved exceptional success on pop formats, though "[urban] radio took to it immediately and loved it."[87]

"Got 'til It's Gone" was not released as a commercial single, making it ineligible to appear on the Hot 100 or various other charts under the chart rules that existed at that time, greatly hindering the song's chart performance despite its popularity and acclaim.[88] The song peaked at number thirty-six on pop formats and reached number three on urban radio, being ineligible to chart on their respective main charts due to the chart's rules.[89] Internationally, "Got 'til It's Gone" reached the top twenty in most European markets — including, France, Germany, Italy and Switzerland — as well as the top ten in Australia, Denmark, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden and the United Kingdom, also receiving multiple certifications. The song also became a #1 hit in Japan on Tokyo FM's J-Wave chart and in South Africa.[90]

Additionally, AllMusic recalled the song as "popular on the radio", while Britannica music guide Disco, Punk, New Wave, Heavy Metal, and More called it "a massive hit". The Guardian also said the track "worked wonders on the radio and clubs."[91][92][93]

Music video[edit]

Background[edit]

The video for "Got 'til It's Gone" was directed by Mark Romanek and filmed at the Hollywood Palladium in Los Angeles. Jackson portrays a lounge singer in the video, which takes place during the time of apartheid in South Africa. Inspired by a blend of '60s and '70s African culture, the video depicts freedom and prosperity, opposing racial segregation and supremacy. It also includes scenes inspired by the work of photographer Malick Sidibé. Joni Mitchell appears on a TV screen throughout the video, and Sudanese model Alek Wek also makes a cameo. The video ends with bottles thrown at Afrikaan segregation signs, which represents rebellion against discrimination and racism, celebrating freedom and embracing unity.[94] Jackson said she was "very proud" of the video, adding it was "fun to make", with it being described as a "period-piece clip" by Jackson's label Virgin.[95][96] The clip's theme and portrayal of apartheid has influenced other music videos, including Solange's "Losing You" in 2012. Maroon 5's "Give A Little More" video was also noted to have similar elements to the clip.[97]

The "Got 'Til It's Gone" video made its worldwide premiere immediately preceding the MTV Video Music Awards, with the clip aired on other music channels such as VH1 and BET later the same evening.[98] The video won a Grammy Award for Best Short Form Music Video, and was also ranked number ten on a list of the "100 Greatest Music Videos of All Time" by Slant Magazine.[99] Jackson's "Got 'til It's Gone" video also received the most nominations at the seventh annual MVPA Awards, including "Pop Video of the Year" and "Best Art Direction". Billboard commented "The biggest surprise was that Janet Jackson's "Got 'Til It's Gone" clip was completely shut out [of being nominated for Video of the Year], despite receiving the most nominations. However, the video had stiff competition in all of its nominated categories".[100]

"Though it was the winner of VH1's "Most Stylish Video" award in 1997, Janet Jackson's "Got 'Til It's Gone" has as much substance as it does style. Set in South Africa during the time of apartheid, the video is a celebration of the music and rhythms that helped sustain black culture under the weight of segregation. As for style, Janet, who dons little-to-no make-up and a bead of sweat on her brow, has never looked so sexy." — Slant Magazine praising "Got 'til It's Gone" as the tenth "Best Video of All Time"[99]

Concept[edit]

Jackson spoke about the video on "The Work of Mark Romanek" compilation release, saying "I gravitate toward the directors that I really fall in love with, and I wanted Mark to direct "Got 'til It's Gone", also calling his work "amazing". After hearing the song, Romanek decided to use African photography as a motif, creating what he called a "pre-Apartheid celebration based on that African photography." Romanek commented on the video's theme, saying "Janet had played me this track with this Joni Mitchell sample, which was a really cool idea. I'm a big Joni Mitchell fan, big Joni Mitchell fan, and once again it was a situation of what I was into at that time, and I was really into this magazine that was popular in South Africa called Drum Magazine. I guess it was sort of like the 'Life Magazine' of the township, and the photography was stunning, and I said 'I would like to make a video that depicted Black culture that wasn't so obsessed, as a lot of the hip-hop vidoes were in that period and still are, with less materialism and sexism. I just felt like 'there's got to be other aspects of Black culture to depict.'" Joni Mitchell also commented "From the time [music] video began well into the late eighties there was a monstrous image of females being perpetrated without much exception. In the face of that I found this video to be full of humanity. Janet herself was lovely. It had dignity, and it was full of life."[101]

Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, Romanek said "That's one of the ones I'm most proud of and I think came out the best," says Romanek. "Janet played me the song, and the Joni Mitchell sample put me in the mind of some sort of '70s thing. There was a magazine in Apartheid South Africa called Drum, and I found an obscure book about it. The photography in the magazine was stunning. I was looking through it while listening to the music, and something just clicked. So we built this pre-Apartheid celebration based on that African photography. People ask me where I went to shoot that, and it was all constructed on a sound stage on Hollywood Boulevard. It's all shot in Los Angeles, but it's incredible casting and incredible wardrobe."[102]

"That's one of the ones I'm most proud of and I think came out the best".

"We built this pre-Apartheid celebration based on that African photography. People ask me where I went to shoot that, and it was all constructed on a sound stage on Hollywood Boulevard. It's all shot in Los Angeles, but it's incredible casting and incredible wardrobe."

— Mark Romanek on the "Got 'til It's Gone" video [102]

"A cigarette lighter flicks by a man's groin. A young child peeks behind a man as if he had been magically birthed. A one-eyed boxer poses. A couple presses up as if simulating rear-entry sex; children jump on mattresses and one is lifted as if by baptismal fire. Jackson's shadow crawls up a wall like a stalking animal. And a lone figure walks outside."

"Even with flat representations the video's generous tone can arguably be called progressive."

— Video analysis from Unruly Media: Youtube, Music Video, and the New Digital Cinema [103]

Synopsis[edit]

The video was also described as "a great study of the fashion and sensibilities of 1960s pre-apartheid South Africa", with Jackson described as wearing "vintage wide-lapeled brown leather jacket, men's tailored trousers, a printed halter top and individually-sectioned pigtails that bring to mind "the higher the hair, the closer to God.""[104] An additional description of the video reads "the Mark Romanek video for "Got Til It's Gone" is one of his staples and a solid entry in the Janet Jackson canon. The camera wanders a massive house party, mostly lit in muted greens (almost tan-colored, really) and blues, with attendees of all ages and backgrounds." "Romanek seems to smugly feature "Europeans Only" signs above all the doorways, but we meet such luminaries as the midget cocktail waiter, the one-eyed homeless oracle, the Hanes briefs model, the guy pissing in the urinal and the barber who spends the entire video shaving heads." The analysis also observed Jackson "chills out while resting her elbows on a giant clock", with "Sideshow Bob locks on prominent display", also noting various animals to appear randomly, including "a bird on top of some dude's Shriners' fez, a marmet weaving in and out of the bar liquor bottles."[105]

The video's scenery and theme was deciphered as "progressive" in "Unruly Media: Youtube, Music Video, and the New Digital Cinema", with the excerpt reading "Romanek's sequences can seem even more charged when they deal with cultural flashpoints. In "Got 'til It's Gone" Romanek draws on a bevy of loaded images tied to race and myth. Imagining the video differently along parameters like race, sexuality, gender, or class would reveal how much the piece is culturally freighted. The video lacks sense when imaginatively staged as middle-class and white. A cigarette lighter flicks by a man's groin. A young child peeks behind a man as if he had been magically birthed. A one-eyed boxer poses. A couple presses up as if simulating rear-entry sex; children jump on mattresses and one is lifted as if by baptismal fire. Jackson's shadow crawls up a wall like a stalking animal. And a lone figure walks outside." "Though intimated rather than placed in direct address, a viewer's situatedness in relation to race is also raised: for example, at a few points blacks and whites study one another through a stereopticon. Besides eliciting a heightened response from the viewer, "Got 'til It's Gone"'s imagery reveals a respectful gaze; however exoticizing, the directorial response vaguely acknowledges Africa as a touchstone. (Is this politically progressive?) Despite the video's loaded imagery, its mood and tone are overwhelmingly warm (as Jackson says on the DVD commentary). The song suggests a swaying motion and a restful pause performed in comforting repetition. It draws attention to Jackson's and Joni Mitchell's vocal similarities (as if Mitchell's voice were a sped up version of Jackson's; Mitchell's is more bird-like). Q-Tip's rapping is friendly and mellow. Music video can hold a number of contradictory threads without any needing to be brought to terms with the others. Even with flat representations the video's generous tone can arguably be called progressive."[103]

Award Nominated work Result
Grammy Awards Best Music Video, Short Form Won
MVPA Awards Video of the Year Nominated
MVPA Awards Pop Music Video of the Year Won
MVPA Awards Best Art Direction Won
Slant Magazine 100 Greatest Music Videos of All Time (#10) Won
VH1 Most Stylish Music Video Won
Complex 25 Most Stylish Hip-Hop Videos (#15) Won

The video is featured on the limited edition DVD released with the Special Edition of Jackson's All for You album as well as the video compilation From janet. to Damita Jo: The Videos. Photographs from the video are included in Mark Romanek's book "Music Video Stills".[106]

Reception[edit]

Slant Magazine considered it a "masterpiece" which some of her prior videos "don't hold a candle to", with another critique calling it "beautiful."[107][108] MusicOMH observed the video "stands out" in comparison to Jackson's other clips and "has a powerful impact, a nice shot of Joni Mitchell at the opening and a very dark canvas for Jackson and Q-Tip to work on".[109] The video was also considered to be laced with "beauty and positivity and fun, but underscored with real sadness and melancholy", describing the clip "One of the more “art-house” Janet videos, coming at a time that was supposedly really dark for her" and concluding it to be one of Jackson's and director Mark Romanek's "finest moments."[110] A review of the video's overall theme which "depict the merge of African and African-American cultures" considered it to have a powerful meaning, adding that despite the "fantasy-land quality" of the clip, it effectively provokes "a sense of solidarity, a nod towards the history that influenced black culture and defined many of its styles, a sense of origin, of depicting places and areas that bear meaning for identification."[111][112]

B&S Magazine described the clip as "much acclaimed", adding "The brainchild of [Jackson and] partner Rene Elizondo, it is a genuine tour de force. Subtly (and not so subtly) conveying images from a party in the South African townships, together with flash-photography shots of Janet and herself and one Q-Tip of [A] Tribe Called Quest. The whole thing emphasizes the elusive, not to say, precious value of happiness as something to savor. As with the rest of the set, it is perhaps Janet's most mature vehicle yet."[113] Harvard University book "This is Pop: In Search of the Elusive at Experience Music Project" author Eric Weisbard argued that the "nostalgic African cultural trend" began with videos such as "Got 'til It's Gone", emphasizing how the clip "uses pan-African cultural metaphors as a way in which to engage issues of historical memory, cultural loss, and recuperation."[114]

Complex commented on the video, saying "This is about as cool as videos get. So many incredible style references in this one it’s like a moving Tumblr. Straw Borsalino? Yes, please."[115] Another description read "the African American of the 1960s and 70s is celebrated in “Got Till It’s Gone” in a hip and liberated bar setting", adding the video "only elaborated and improved the hit song".[116] The clip was also called a "vintage visual", adding "The “Got Til It’s Gone” visual takes us to one of those humid, but your too gone to care type of environments where everyone is busting the best of moves."[6] Jackson's appearance was also described as an "earthy, urban look".[117]

The first two videos from The Velvet Rope era, including "Got 'til It's Gone", were also notable for being a dramatic change from the sexually charged image Jackson had developed with the music videos and imagery from her previous album janet., with an entertainment site observing "the videos do not show such a provocative woman, instead the videos feature an organic and warm sense with an embrace of African American culture. The embrace can be seen in the hairstyles worn by the star in videos for “Together Again” and “Got Till It’s Gone” with her hair in a more natural but unique style. The videos are full of reds, sepias, and other warm and real colors."[118] An additional excerpt observed Jackson having "faux afro parts" and exuding "raw beauty" in the video, also praising its meaning and the theme she portrayed during this period of her career. "The social consciousness of this video shows the potential Janet Jackson has if she carried the themes of Rhythm Nation far beyond 1989. Somewhere during the Jermaine Dupri years, we lost the conscious, thought-provoking Janet we loved to a mindless sex kitten image that almost train-wrecked her career. True Janet Jackson fans know that despite the “wardrobe malfunction”, Janet has always been an exceptional entertainer who happens to have sex appeal, not the other way around."[65]

The video's visual properties, settings, and overall tone were analyzed and praised in Carol Vernallis' book "Unruly Media: Youtube, Music Video, and the New Digital Cinema", published 2013, saying "Romanek's environments somehow suggest both the miniature and the enormous. The texture, shape, and volume of these places and their objects can imply or represent sonic properties." "His spaces—and the textures and placement of his objects within them—seem specially molded into the songs." "One feels space in Romanek's videos: a viewer's eyes seek out the set's corners and edges and quilts them to the song's features. One such example is Romanek and Janet Jackson's "Got 'til It's Gone," a video depicting African club culture in 60s South Africa. The video's dancehall is beige and narrow. To one side a window joins its twin — a similarly long blue-tinged room; murals gird both rooms' walls, or people wearing boldly patterned earthtones line up in tiers along them. These embellishments alongside an underlying structure — tiered people, murals, and duplicated rooms — complicate the video's sense of space, evoking the aforementioned monumentality and miniaturization. "Got 'til it's Gone"'s bass and acoustic guitar, shaped into lilting, wavelike gestures that seem to roll out into a more shallow, nonreverberant sonic and visual field, seem to match the song's space, its textures and colors."[119]

Influence[edit]

"Got 'til It's Gone" has influenced songs such as Britney Spears' "Til It's Gone", Kelly Rowland's "Gone", videos including Solange's "Losing You", has been covered by Marsha Ambrosius, and has been sampled by many artists, including T.I., Common, and A Tribe Called Quest. Multiple books have also been titled after the song.

  • Britney Spears' "Til It's Gone", which appears on Spears' eighth studio album "Britney Jean", was noted to be influenced by and have a similar chorus to "Got 'til It's Gone", with "Behind the Hype" considering it to have "obvious Janet/Joni Mitchell connotations."[4]
  • "Got 'til It's Gone" is the inspiration for Kelly Rowland's "Gone", which uses the same lyrics and Joni Mitchell sample during the chorus and also features a guest appearance by Wiz Khalifa. Digital Spy commented the song's chorus is "similar to the one used in Janet Jackson's 1997 hit 'Got 'til It's Gone'." Homorazzi exclaimed "Whether it’s intentional or purely subliminal, Kelly Rowland is following in Janet Jackson’s footsteps again. The artwork for her two most recent albums have channeled some major Jackson fierceness circa janet era. Now, she’s using a sample the “Escapade” singer used to great success previously." [5][120] The song appears on Rowland's fourth studio album Talk a Good Game, released 2013, which The Guardian considered "a grab-bag of Janet Jackson homages (whether the pneumatic, Velvet Rope-esque Freak or Gone's rather unimaginative Joni Mitchell interpolation)."[121]
  • The "Got 'til It's Gone" video was the inspiration for Solange's "Losing You" video, with a review observing "Both videos vividly depict the merge of African and African-American cultures."[122] Another critic gave a similar sentiment, expressing both videos "share their celebration of black culture."[123] Maroon 5's "Give A Little More" video was also compared to "Got 'til It's Gone" due to the clip's art direction and 1960's theme being similar to the theme of Jackson's video.[7] The theme of Marsha Ambrosious's "Far Away" video was compared to the clip, with a critic noting "Similar to Marsha Ambrosius’ "Far Away", the message of Got ‘Til It’s Gone video elicits a stronger emotional reaction than the song itself."[124] Ambrosius later released a cover of the song with Jeff Bradshaw in 2013.
  • "Got til It's Gone" is mentioned in Jay-Z's memoir Decoded, in which he compares the song's meaning to the theme of "December 4th", which appeared on his eighth studio album The Black Album.[125]
  • The song is credited for influencing the production style of many upcoming producers, with the book "Best Music Writing" noting "the track's sonic influence directly influenced the next generation of crate-diggers, with Just Blaze, 9th Wonder and a certain college dropout (Kanye West) all taking notes."[8] The song is also notable for being one of the first singles released containing elements of neo-soul, bringing the genre to the mainstream.[126]
  • The song inspired by the title of the novel "Got til It's Gone", published 2008, and is mentioned throughout the book. The song is also mentioned in the novel "Getting to the Good Part", published 2009, and "In Due Time", published 2004.[127][128][129] Lambda Literary Award winning author Larry Duplechan's 2008 novel "Got 'til It's Gone" was also titled after the song and references Jackson in the book.[130] The song is also mentioned in the economics book For the Love of Money: The 411 to Taking Control of Your Taxes and Building Your Net Worth.[131]
  • Australian rapper Drapht mentions the song in his single "1990's", released 2012, during the line "Janet Jackson, 'Got 'Til It's Gone' was the illest song."
  • London producer DJRum credits "Got 'til It's Gone" as one of the songs which inspired him to pursue a career as a DJ.[132]
  • South African fashion line Stoned Cherrie was inspired by the video, with Blueprint Magazine commenting "Inspired by South Africa's past and present, it draws most of its inspiration from the highly stylish, Fifties Sophiatown era mythologised in Janet Jackson's "Got 'til it's gone" video".[134]

Covers and samples[edit]

In 2013, Jeff Bradshaw and Marsha Ambrosious covered "Got 'til It's Gone" for Bradshaw's album Bon Appetit.[135] Gospel artists B.Slade and Lalah Hathaway performed live covers of the song, which was included on Slade's live album.[136]

Joni Mitchell incorporated Jackson's vocals and Q-Tip's verse during various live performances while on tour.

Jazz musician Alexander Ethan Grey performed a cover of the song on the tribute album Smooth Sax Tribute to Janet Jackson.[137]

"Got 'til It's Gone" has been sampled multiple times:

  • T.I.'s "Why You Wanna" samples part of Q-Tip's verse from "Got til It's Gone" during the chorus. The song was released as the second single from T.I.'s fourth album King.

Track listings[edit]

Official remixes[edit]

Jackson commended the song's remixes, also commenting on the remixing process, saying "It is not an easy song to remix really. It's kind of a tough song. For one, the key that the song is in is really weird."[151] The song received house remixes by Armand Van Helden and Nellee Hooper and electronic and trip-hop mixes by David Morales with Frankie Knuckles, as well as hip-hop remixes by J Dilla and an R&B remix by Jam & Lewis. The song is also included in the promotional release "Janet Megamix 04".

The song's two remixes by J Dilla, notably "Jay Dee's Revenge Mix", received attention within hip-hop circles. Pitchfork exclaimed the remix "bears all the hallmarks of the Ummah style: neo-soul electric pianos, subdued kicks paired with prominent snares, and bass that burbles so thickly that it flows instead of pops." "The bassline congeals, the keyboards are run through a rippling wah-wah, the titular Joni Mitchell loop fades in and out of focus-- it's the difference between a neon sign and a lava lamp."[152] Music feed Beat Spill said the remix favorably demonstrates "his way of turning water into wine".[153] Dilla would later sample Jackson's "Come Give Your Love to Me", the second single released from her self-titled debut album Janet Jackson, on "Track 17" of Beat CD '05 #3.[154]

Charts[edit]

References[edit]

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