If (Janet Jackson song)

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Single by Janet Jackson
from the album janet.
B-side "One More Chance"
Released July 13, 1993
Recorded 1992; Flyte Tyme Studios
Length 4:31
Label Virgin
  • Janet Jackson
  • Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis
Janet Jackson singles chronology
"That's the Way Love Goes"

"If" is a song by American singer-songwirter and entertainer Janet Jackson from her fifth studio album, janet.. Written and produced by Jackson with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, with additional writing from Harvey Fuqua, John Bristol and Jackey Beavers, "If" was released as the album's second single on July 13, 1993 by Virgin Records. While a pure pop song, it fused various genres, including dance-pop, rock, trip hop, and industrial music with elements of hip hop and new jack swing. Its racy lyrics were a forefront of discussion among critics, showcasing Jackson's evolution into a sexual persona from her prior reserved, celibate image.

The song received critical acclaim from music critics and fans alike for its innovation and garnered various accolades, including a BMI Pop Award for Most Played Song, as well as Best Female Video and Best Dance Video at the MTV Video Music Awards, and a Billboard Award for Dance Clip of the Year. It was also ranked among Slant Magazine's Best Singles of the '90s. The song also experienced international success, reaching number four in the US Billboard Hot 100, and was certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). It also performed well in the Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

Its music video is regarded as iconic for its sensuality, intense choreography, and depiction of technology that was unavailable at the time, such as touch screens and web cameras. Its portrayal of voyeurism, interracial lust, and modern club setting pushed boundaries. It was notably performed on the MTV Video Music Awards in a medley with "That's the Way Love Goes", regarded as one of the most infamous performances of her career. The video was voted the second best female video of the decade by Idolator, and helped to rank Jackson at number one on Complex's list of Hottest Women of the '90s.

The sensual tone evoked in the song has been thought to influence Rihanna and Kesha, while the song's sonic influence has been likened to inspiring singles by LCD Soundsystem and Aaliyah. The "If" music video has inspired clips by Britney Spears, and has also been covered by Kelly Clarkson and Girls' Generation. "If" was featured in the season two premiere of the VH1 original series Hit the Floor as the Devil girls performed the song as their first dance of the season.


A 29-second sample of "If", fusing multiple genres into its production as Jackson sings in a low, breathy tone.

Problems playing this file? See media help.

"If" was released as the second single from Jackson's fifth studio album, janet. The song was a progression for Jackson, advancing from the industrial-based synthpop of her prior albums. It fuses elements of dance, rock, and trip hop with industrial influences. Jackson's vocals transition from her lower to upper register throughout the song, over various instrumentation such as violins and harpsichords. The song's lyrical content was a subject of controversy; harboring explicit themes previously unexplored in Jackson's music, which were still considered taboo within popular culture at the time. Its music video is regarded as iconic for its intricate choreography and sexuality. An account of Jackson's transition recalled "the ‘janet.‘ album established Janet Jackson as a role model as well as a stunningly gorgeous sex symbol all around the world. [...] the world had to deal with the fact that little Janet Jackson was all grown up, and was simply Janet from then on." The song was described as "the most eclectic song of her entire discography," while the "stunning video" is thought to portray "some of the most iconic choreography in history."[1] The song received various awards, including a BMI Pop Award for "Most Played Song" and an inclusion in Slant Magazine's "100 Best Singles of the '90s", among others.

Jackson's role in the film Poetic Justice gave her the confidence to attempt edgier themes musically, commenting "I know it would shock people, but I'm not doing it for shock value." "And I know there are some people that are going to say, 'No, I will not be able to accept this because this is a little girl that we saw when she was seven years old.'" She continued, "Everybody says, 'Oh, my God, you've changed so much. Is this really you?'," described to laugh before saying, "Of course it's me."[2] Virgin Records wanted the song to be janet's lead single, saying "it could have a great dance video." Jackson disagreed, deciding to release it as the album's second release.[3] The song was written by Jackson in a conference room during a label meeting.[4] Describing the process, Jackson said "Once you get into recording, it almost has a life of its own. We really got rolling when we did the song "If". Writing a song can happen any kind of way ... Jimmy [Jam] was watching a ballgame and playing around on the keyboards. I ask him to play the chords he was playing again ... "If" turned out to be funkier, gritter." Speaking about its theme, she stated "the song is about fantasizing. I've had those feelings [expressed in the song]..it's my time to share!"[4] Jackson added, "[its] about a girl who goes to a club and fantasizes about this guy: serious fantasies about the things she'd do to him if she was his girl – the positions and things like that. But she's not, so she can't, so she gets pretty frustrated in the second verse – without it being too much. It's still within good taste."[5]

Critical reception[edit]

"Jackson is consumed with sexual fantasies of a man who doesn't even know she exists. Wailing guitar chords and hip-hop programming move this punchy, fast-paced dance number as Jackson creates erotic pictures in the mind of her soon-to-be lover to get to his physique."

"A trip-hop fever dream of distorted guitars, trance-like backing vocals, and Janet’s erotic mumbles."

Telegram & Gazette and Vulture.com on "If"

"If" was acclaimed for its innovation and sonic progression, as well as its sexuality and usage of multiple genres. Entertainment Weekly exclaimed it "takes Jackson into exciting new terrain," blending her vocals with "a traffic jam in a city of cyborgs."[6] Billboard declared it a "rockin' dance track," with strings that "anchor the climax." The song's theme of avoiding temptation to interfere with monogamy was also noted, adding "Though Jackson lets her mind race with naughty thoughts [...], she ultimately stops herself from going after someone else's man."[7] A writer for Idolator called it an "industrial dance/sex epic" in addition to "infectious and raunchy," saying "Janet Jackson's unmistakable voice is used to perfection to create an eerily tropical but beautiful track."[3][8] David Nathan of B&S Magazine remarked "If" pulls no punches. Listening to it and reading the lyrics Janet wrote in a Virgin Records conference room, I blush - in itself a rare occurrence."[4] Nicholas Jennings of Maclean's called the "guitar-driven" song a "standout" for its explicit lines.[9] Craig S. Semon of the Telegram & Gazette stated "the naughty seducer" to be one of Jackson's "most exciting tracks."[10] Jon Pareles of The New York Times observed the song to open with a "screaming guitar and a chanted verse, rising to a sweet melody."[11] Kot from Chicago Tribune wrote, "There's a surprising, fuzzed-up guitar riff lifted from Peter Gabriel's 'Sledgehammer' that gives 'If' some punch."[12] BBC Radio 3's commended it as an "impressive industrial fury" based on "oral satisfaction", also called "a weird masterpiece" by Vibe.[13][14] "If" was also interpreted as "a swirling epic number", fusing "90s disco with guitar-rock," using a "Hendrix-lite guitar" throughout the song. Jackson's vocals were delivered at "break-neck speed, practically rapping about the salacious pleasures of her lover," while its production had "a lot of styles on display," including "distorted synth meets acoustic guitar."[15][16]

Rolling Stone qualified it as both "subtle and bold," with Jackson's "bedroom fantasies" given "a fierce dressing-up — tough jeep beats, hard-rock guitar, and a Diana Ross & The Supremes sample — and some missed just what she was on about."[17][18] Yahoo! Music considered "If" a "fast and frenzied dance tune", using "unmistakable background chords which anchor the song down and dirty all the way through to the end."[19] A similar critique said it "starts with guitar feedback" before transitioning into "a sweaty, sexy dance workout", adding it "blew us away." The song's "raunchy lyric and vibe" saw Jackson's "beginning of embracing her sexual self."[20][21] The song's explicit theme received praised for its shock value and maintaining an imaginative quality. Sal Cinquemani of Slant Magazine said its content was "impending or simply imagined", adding "the very title of which embodies that fact, is essentially about masturbation, with Janet describing what her lover's "smooth and shiny [cock]" feels like against her lips while ostensibly rubbing herself off under the covers".[22] An anecdote also stated Jackson became "the sex kitten every man dreamed she would be," opposed to formerly known as "a sweet fresh faced girl singing little ditties about young love." The lyrics "purposely leaves something to the imagination," leaving one to wonder what Jackson is referring to: "Could Janet be talking about the lips, chest, or a man’s procreation stick? For freakiness’ sake, I’d like to go with the last option over everything."[23] Music critic Richard Croft raved "the janet. album was a big sex-fest from beginning to end but nowhere was it hotter than ‘If’," labeling the chorus "infectious, at the same time bitchy and vulnerable, defiant and desperate." The song's sexuality was considered to accomplish "the rare thing of being feminist and feminine at the same time without compromising either," saying the song is "a big pleading love song that put her totally at the whim of the man, and a big fuck-off anthem that said “I’m here, I’m Janet freaking Jackson, but if you’re not gonna notice me then get bent”. Phrased a little differently, of course."[24]

Chart performance[edit]

"If" debuted at number 57 on the Billboard Hot 100.[25] It peaked at number four and was certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) on September 28, 1993.[26][27] It reached number three on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart and peaked atop the Hot Dance Club Play chart.[26] It placed at number nineteen on the annual year-end chart.[28] In Canada, the song debuted at number ninety-two[29] before peaking at number three in October.[30] It spent a total of nineteen weeks on the chart[31] and was ranked at number twenty-five on Canada's RPM year-end chart.[32] In the United Kingdom, "If" debuted on UK Singles Chart at number twenty-three and peaked at number fourteen the following week.[33] It spent a total of seven weeks on the chart.[33] The song performed moderately in Europe and Oceania. The song peaked in the top ten of Sweden, the Netherlands, and New Zealand, also peaking within the top twenty in Australia.[34][34][35][36]

On April 2, 2011, the song debuted on the Billboard Dance/Electronic Digital Songs chart at number forty-five.[37][38]

Music video[edit]


"If" takes place in an Asian nightclub, displaying touch-screen technology and web cameras used to monitor the interactions of patrons. Jackson is the club's main performer, being observed by patrons through screens who are able to enter the function by saying the correct password.[39] The video's themes of sexual fantasy, desire, and voyeurism were intended as an elaborate metaphor for the song's racy content.[39] The video was also thought to have a "Blasian" theme, portraying interracial lust in the clip's "body language, the atmosphere and her smoldering off-stage eye contact" with Jackson's male interest, Michael Gong.[40] Its choreography and main dance breakdown are regarded as iconic in pop culture for its complexity. The video's debut of Jackson's edgier and sex-driven persona also made the clip notorious. It was directed by Dominic Sena and choreographed by Tina Landon and Jackson, with additional choreography by Omar Lopez and Keith Williams.

An alternate version of the video known as the "All Dance Version" focuses solely on the video's choreography. This version was shown on many music channels due to the original's suggestive visuals regarded as very explicit at the time. The uncensored video appears on the From janet. to Damita Jo: The Videos compilation, while the alternate version is included on the janet. video release and re-release of All for You.[41]


The video opens with a moonlit scene of a woman wearing a Kimono walking towards a building in an Asiann village, as horns and chimes are heard in the background. A man accompanied by another woman is seen yelling obscenities at a large red door, demanding to be let into the building to no avail. The man tries to bribe his way inside but quickly follows the woman who angrily flees the scene. The woman in the Kimono walks to the door, looks into a hidden camera and says the correct password, "If". A man operating the door from the inside, garnished with long, sharp fingernails and white body paint with black facial accents, types an access code and grants her access to the festivities.

The inside of the bordello is shown as a green light turns on, signaling the club's workers to lower male dancers from the ceiling, who descend upside down on ropes in a winding fashion simulating a corkscrew. The woman is then shown entering the club and pays the bouncer a form of currency, who graciously accepts. A wider view of the club is then revealed, with club patron watching the stage as female dancers perform and bright strobe lights are emitted from the middle of the platform. Various scenes of people attending the club are shown through touch-screen monitors and web cameras, which were unavailable at the time. Multiple screens are shown, and a man watching some of the other patron on the monitor uses the futuristic touch-screen to select angles of the performance on the main stage.

The doors on the main platform rapidly open as Janet descends the stairs and enters the main stage, surrounded by blowing red fabric and a radiant white light. The club patron begin to focus on the stage as the dance routine begins. Close-up shots of Jackson are then shown, wearing a black and white top, black pants and a Bohemian choker. She focuses solely on the man in the audience watching her through the monitor as she continues performing, as various club workers are shown serving guests, dancing and observing the routine. A man in the audience uses a cane to select another view of the performance as a woman seated with other guests is seen observing a man on one of the monitors. The man extends his hand and simulates desire for fornication through the screen, as three women in high fashion outfits are shown walking through the club and observing the men in attendance. Janet continues to perform the main dance routine as beams of light persistently emit through the center of the stage and a red ambiance surrounds her and her dancers. The man in the audience is again shown watching Janet through the monitor, admiring her performance as Janet moves closer to the front of the platform and performs sexually suggestive choreography. Janet dances with a male dancer as the three women are shown selecting various views of the club through one of the monitors with their feet. Another woman is then shown straddling a man in bed in a secluded room, quickly closing the door.

As Janet continues entertaining the crowd, the woman who was originally shown entering the bordello is again seen walking through the event, quickly paying one of the guards to allow her into the club's private sector. Janet continues the routine as additional scenes on a monitor are briefly seen. This leads into the video's iconic choreographed breakdown, becoming one of the most infamous dance routines and video scenes in pop culture. Janet performs the routine as angles switch multiple times. Scenes of a woman undressing are briefly shown on a monitor during as a man caresses the screen. Janet continues the intricate dance while a woman is shown touching the image of a man's faces on another screen. Another woman is then shown on a webcam, becoming aroused while observing a couple engaging in sexual activity. The video's final dance sequence begins, with Janet grabbing a male dancer's crotch region and simulating oral sex, before placing him on the floor and bending him over. Janet continues to seductively watch the man in the audience as she performs, kneeling before the male dancer and then lowering him to floor. The video ends with the man in the audience passionately touching an image of Janet on the monitor, as the woman who was shown entering the club is then seen exiting and walking towards the village.


Described by Jackson as "a female fantasy," David Ritz of Rolling Stone analyzed the video to include "tantalizing bodies" and "mock-cunnilingus," along with the "scrambled" reality and rampant voyeurism of Jackson watching herself as she's observed by others through various monitors.[17] Us Weekly described the set as an "elaborate, multilevel Chinese restaurant," complete with balconies, stairways and wide-screen monitors. The video's attire is all black, with the concept of "an overheated sexual fantasy," in specific a male dancer being "grabbed, pawed and shoved around" by Jackson as she "drops down, reaches through his legs and grabs his crotch," before she changes positions, "seizes his head and pulls it down to her own crotch." The excerpt concluded, "ignore the demure young woman whose musical message to a would-be lover used to be "Let's Wait Awhile." Ladies and gentlemen, cover your crotches: Janet Jackson has grown up."[42] Arena Magazine described it as a "dramatic" change, remarking "the black uniform ripped off to reveal a slimmed-down, body-conscious Janet. The transformation was dramatic."

Another publication described observed the video "portrayed sexual fantasy, lust and voyeurism" with "an abundance of skin and youthful sexuality." Jet Magazine thought the video displayed "a liberated Janet, who flirted with eroticism but steered clear of moves that would be considered pornographic," also used to "showcase her pelvic thrusts and flashy dance moves."[43] Jackson commented, "It's nothing nasty or dirty, but it's very sexy." "During taping I kept saying, 'Oh, my god, I'm glad my mother is not here.'"[44]


"If" helped Jackson solidify her transition from celibate teen to adult star, leading the trend which many subsequent artists would attempt. The New York Times stated "Ms. Jackson more or less invented the teen-pop makeover, blazing the trail that Usher and Ms. Spears and all the rest would later follow."[45] According to a music critic, "Until that time, Janet had a relatively squeaky clean image, never showing much skin (except for her video for "Love Will Never Do (Without You)", which bared her midriff) and rarely sang about sexual desires until this release which was dubbed as her "Sexual Awakening"."[46] The video's "seductive style of movement" was heralded as an evolution, replacing bulky militant uniforms with "midriff baring tops and chokers," embracing her "womanhood and sexuality."[47][48] The video was among the first to portray toned abs on a woman, which was mainly presented by males in popular culture at the time.[49] Sherman commented, "If you were a teenage boy in 1993, or a grown man with a pulse, you know the video I am talking about. This video would stop my friends and I in our tracks." Its sexuality was commended as "erotic yet classy" in comparison to her rival Madonna's, portraying sexuality in an alternate way as opposed to flaunting "her sexual prowess and skills to anybody who was willing and unwilling to see."[1]

"If" is one of several of Jackson's videos considered to influence a higher degree of sexual freedom among young women. Jean M. Twenge, author of Generation Me: Why Today's Young Americans are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled—and More Miserable Than Ever Before (2007), wrote "in the 1950s, only 3% of the young women had received oral sex from a man. By the mid-1990s, however, 75% of women aged 18-24 had experienced cunnilingus. Music videos by female artists have contributed to the trend," with Jackson "heavily implying male-on-female oral sex in music videos by pushing down on a man's head until he's in exactly the right position."[50] Similarly, Paula Kamen in Her Way: Young Women Remake the Sexual Revolution (2000) states that "[i]n the early to mid-1990s, oral sex even reached mainstream music as politically charged demand of truly liberated women," citing Jackson as a prime example of a female artist simulating cunnilingus in her videos, specifically in "If."[51]

The choreography performed in "If," specifically the main dance breakdown, garnered acclaim for its complexity, also regarded as "iconic" and "ground-breaking." Several other scenes, including male dancers descending from the ceiling, are also notable in pop culture. Billboard exclaimed "If" to be a "climax" which is "inseparable from its iconic music video," based on its "head-slapping choreography."[7] The routine was also praised as "something that every child of the 90s tried to mimic in his or her living room."[49] Slant Magazine thought the video fulfilled the purpose of "providing the impetus behind one of the greatest dance-break routines in music video history."[22] The video was also praised as featuring "some of the most iconic choreography in history," adding "it’s stunning imagery, ground-breaking choreography and Janet’s fierce attitude is what made this a masterpiece."[1] Jackson was also praised for dancing in "a sensual manner implying her naughty abilities," in comparison to "just shaking her T&A." Sherman considered many female entertainers confined in "quasi-adulthood," praising Jackson for embracing her entire sexuality in contrast, adding "I don't think a single starlet in the music industry could challenge the "If" video."[52] The "explosive dance break scene" was also thought to be "one of Janet's most acclaimed and heralded dance performances ever," named "the choreography heard 'round the world."[21][46]

The video was innovative for its depiction of touch-screen technology and web cams, which were not yet invented at the time of its release. Jackson later said, "I don’t think people really realize what we were showing in that video that wasn’t available with technology then. The video featured futuristic technology, specifically high definition touch screens. I wanted the actors in the video to use these screens to communicate, and relate with each other in the clubs. Similar to what we all do with our smart phones and tablets today. As I look at our lives now, it seems that life is imitating art."[37] The video's settings of a "futuristic Asian nightclub" and "voyeuristic back rooms" notably made "If" the first video to take place in a modern club environment, leading the trend for numerous videos. Mitszuka commended the video as "ahead of her time", which "holds up surprisingly well" in comparison to other releases from the same time period.[49] An anecdote praised Jackson's "inspiring" bohemian style. Her balance of masculine ensemble with feminine outfits was also regarded as an immense part of her appeal, saying "Janet was the queen of tomboy looks and a full fledged sex symbol at the same time. She merged the two opposites seamlessly, from baggy jeans and floppy hats to skintight Navajo bra tops in the "If" video."[53][54]

Live performances[edit]

Jackson performed the song as a medley with "That's the Way Love Goes" at the MTV Video Music Awards.[55] The audio recording of the medley appears on the double disc edition of janet. "If" was also performed at the 2009 American Music Awards as promotion for Number Ones, during a medley with "Miss You Much", "What Have You Done for Me Lately", "Make Me", and "Together Again". It has also been performed on all of her following tours, the janet. World Tour, Velvet Rope Tour, All for You Tour, Rock Witchu Tour, and Number Ones: Up Close and Personal.

The MTV Video Music Awards performance is often considered one of the most infamous and intricate performances of Jackson's career. Complex considered the performance among "The 25 Sexiest Moments in VMA History," commenting "when Britney and Christina were busy dealing with midterms and acne, Janet Jackson was the queen of bringing sexy to the VMA stage. Though it'd no doubt be considered tame by today's standards, Janet's exposed stomach and bra made for the hottest performance of the year."[56] Another critique found it "on point, going from sexy to high energy and intricacy," considering the medley "easily one of her best performances, and one that most pop chicks should study."[57] The performance was introduced by actor Christian Slater, who declared Jackson to have "the sexiest bellybutton I've ever seen" during the announcement.[58] The studio version of the medley used during the set appears on the limited edition version of janet., while remixes of the medley entitled the "CJ FXTC Club Mix" and "CJ FXTC Bass Hit Dub" appear on Jackson's second remix album janet. Remixed.

On the janet. World Tour, Jackson performed "If" as the opening song.[59] Lenny Stoute of the Toronto Star stated "This pelvic-thrusting, butt-wiggling, lip-licking high-energy temptress is a long way from the cute 'n' chubby girl next door of her previous Rhythm Nation tour. And she came equipped with the tough dance moves, firm muscles and seven costume changes to emphasize the difference."[60] Jet Magazine wrote, "Janet mesmerzied the crowd by opening with the hit song, If."[61] On the Number Ones, Up Close and Personal tour, The Boston Herald called the performance "an all-out dance onslaught," praising her ability to still perform "the same stylized dance moves from the classic 1993 video."[62][63] The Seattle Times exclaimed "As a woman who has never been afraid to strut her sexuality, her oh-no-you-didn't dance moves are always a delight. "If's" crotch grabbing and finger licking were classic Ms. Jackson (if you're nasty)", also saying this "served as reminders that dancing is sometimes as important as the songs themselves."[64][65] An additional critique declared routine "defined her career and set her apart from contemporaries, including the newer crop of performers," adding "the in-you-face-sexy "If" made it "apparent that Ms. Jackson hasn't lost a step — even at 45."[66]


Rakesh Satwell of Vulture considered the song's fusion of dance, rock, and trip hop an inspiration for subsequent singles such as LCD Soundsystem's "One Touch", Rihanna's "Rockstar 101", and Aaliyah's "What If?". Its sensual nature was also considered to be subsequently evoked by artists such as Rihanna and Kesha, being "the sexual nugget that her music aims to send up."[67] Various artists such as Kelly Clarkson and Girls' Generation have performed live covers of the song. Jessica Simpson's "If You Were Mine" was also thought to be based on the lyrics of "If" by Rolling Stone.[68] "If" was the first pop hit to notably use the harpsichord, heard throughout the song's opening and second verse, setting the trend the instrument to gain prominence in later hits such as TLC's "No Scrubs", Jennifer Lopez's "If You Had My Love", Destiny's Child's "Say My Name", and Pink's "There You Go", among many others. In 2013, Esquire Magazine placed the song's "hypothetical" situation among their list of "Sexiest Janet Jackson songs," saying "Janet wants you but you're in another relationship and she respects boundaries (but her mind is still dirty)."[69]

Britney Spears was influenced by "If" for videos such as "I'm a Slave 4 U", saying "And Janet's video for 'If'. I saw that, and I admired it and wanted to be like her," calling Jackson a "powerful role model" with "her own identity".[70] Neon Hitch included "If" among her "favorite sexy music videos", commenting "You know you have tried to do that dance sequence in your mirror over and over again."[71] Artist and entrepreneur Vashtie Kola said, "for my birthday, i need to see someone do this entire choreography! choker is optional."[72] Elements of the "If" choreography has been referenced frequently, including "multiple videos" by Britney Spears, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez, Pink, Ciara, Mýa, Missy Elliott, and N' Sync, with specific examples including Christina Milian's "Dip It Low", Lil' Kim's "No Matter What They Say", and Paula Abdul's "My Love Is for Real".[1] 'N Sync also performed the video's dance breakdown during the opening performance on their debut tour and in their "I Want You Back" video.[73] A critique of the video added, "Women want to be her. The gays want to be like her. Men want to do morally questionable things to her... The current crop of artists, "including Gaga, Rihanna, Beyoncé, Britney etc ALL follow her trail-blazing footsteps."[1]

Jackson's videography, the "If" video in particular, helped establish Tina Landon's career as a legendary choreographer, with nearly every subsequent female pop artist, including Britney Spears, Rihanna, Jennifer Lopez, Pink, Shakira, and Christina Aguilera, requesting to work with her for their own music videos and projects.[47] It was also one of the first music video appearances by dancer and choreographer Jamie King. The video's choreography was also referenced in the film White Chicks. Dance troupe A.S.I.I.D. performed a routine to "If" on an episode of America's Best Dance Crew titled "Janet Jackson Challenge". Charmaine P. Dennis of Cinema Blend commented "Everyone knows the famous hand blade/shuffle move, and the group pulls it off lovely."[74] The video's Asian theme and setting, referred to as a "prominent mainstream piece of Japanica," was observed to be the influence for Gwen Stefani's former backing dancers the Harajuku Girls, used during promotion for Stefani's Love.Angel.Music.Baby album. Vulture.com stated "Gwen Stefani would return to this well ten years later with her Harajuku Girls, but her approach would be tongue-in-cheek where Janet's was cheeky."[67]


Rakesh Satwell of New York Magazine praised "If" as "a punch to the eardrum", declaring that it remains "as fresh as it did then" and a departure from radio trends twenty years after its release. Satwell considered the song "overwhelming" in the current mainstream landscape, in comparison to "our David Guetta glut". The song was commended as a "more impressive feat" for sounding "as it if it's from the future", in contrast to hits such as Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" and Outkast's "Hey Ya!" which glorified "musical silk of the past".[67] In a similar comparison, its overall tone was considered "ten times more effective" than Rihanna's "S&M". Additionally, Satwell considered "If" one of Jackson's defining artistic moments, with the song's "sinister" and erotic tone evoked in future releases by artists such as Rihanna and Ke$ha. Satwell expressed consistently hearing "strains of its DNA" in various songs; its fusion of varied genres was considered to inspire subsequent stylistic songs such as LCD Soundsystem's "One Touch", Rihanna's "Rockstar 101", and Aaliyah's "What If?". The orchestral sample used twice was regarded as "genius" as an "innocuous but extremely effective garnish", allowing Jackson to "seethe with intnsity" over the sound of "multiple drones". Satwell considered Jackson to make a "definitive sexual statement" in a way which was "groundbreaking, indelible, and mesmerizing way," concluding "few people have ever had more rhythm and control than Janet Jackson did in the summer of 1993."[67]

The song was applauded as a "sweaty, sexy dance workout" which "still holds up" twenty years after its premiere, also praised as an "iconic hit" which "helped musically define the 90s".[20][49] It also represented "something completely different that probably could not be done now from a female or black artist," heralding the song's diverse instrumentation, placing it within the pop, rock and R&B genres. Described as "really hard for a pop princess," the song was called a unique moment which cannot be dulplicated within pop culture, as "there is more pressure for artists to conform to means of media" considered the standard for pop.[52] Slant Magazine ranked it the twenty-second best song of the nineties, saying the "dance rock" song "found Miss Jackson asserting her right to have an orgasm the likes of which would dwarf your puny muscular spasms." Over filted production suggesting "a cybernetic logjam," the song effectively "prowls, marking its prey, staking its claim," likened to Jackson "playing with your mind". The song's peak of "sweet harmonies of the bridge" plunges into "the crunching paradox of the chorus," ultimately decided to be "more metallic than carnal".[22] The song's sexual content was a notable contrast for Jackson, making her the pioneer of the teen pop evolution; transitioning from a celibate image into a sensual young adult. An analysis recalled, "the sexual content of the song, and the album in general, was at the forefront of discussion among critics [...] Until that time, Janet had a relatively squeaky clean image, never showing much skin [...] and rarely sang about sexual desires until this release which was dubbed as her "Sexual Awakening". Although the topic on everyone's lips were lyrics like "Your smooth and shiny feels so good against my lips, sugar", critics were also impressed by Janet's fusion of rock and trip hop funk music as well as her vocal performance which starts with a low vocal chant at the beginning of the verses and then swings up into a strong melodic pre-chorus. Also to be noted is the orchestral flourish sampling which opens the instrumental bridge, and explosive dance break scene in the video, which is arguably one of Janet's most acclaimed and heralded dance performances ever."[46] The track was also heralded as "a BIG-ASS song that made a mark and blazed a trail." The song's theme of "hypothetical sexual fantasies" with undertones of sadness were considered "erotic and defiant", and its production of "wailing guitar chords, insanely catchy hip-hop beats, and some of Janet’s best vocals" determined it as potentially "the most eclectic song of her entire discography."[1] Alicia Jackson of The Redefined said the song's "soft, sing-song nature" melded with "pure raunchiness" were "the gateways to who I am today", in relating the lyrics contrasted with Jackson's shy persona.[75]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Covers and samples[edit]

Kelly Clarkson performed "If" on many dates of her All I Ever Wanted Tour.[78] Kwon Yuri of Girls' Generation performed covers of "If" during the 2011 Girls' Generation Tour. A studio version was released the following year.[79] Moon Boots sampled for "If" for "Sugar", released in July 2012. The track was described as a "nu-disco gem" replacing "the edgy Janet that we knew" with "smiles and rainbows".[80][81]

The song has notably gained popularity for various remixes. Electronic artist EPROM released a remix of "If" in December 2011, compared to The Weeknd and omits "the original’s sexy rock/dance hybrid vibe" with "a short ‘n’ sweet late night club lullaby."[82] Okayfuture described it as a "bubbly, reverb infused, deep bass remix", and Hypetrak said "Janet was one of the most influential pop albums during the early nineties. Thus, it is more than right that its standout single, "If," is still a demanded subject to reinterpretation."[83][84] Kaytranada released a remix of "If" in October 2012, inspired by Flying Lotus.[85] It gained notoriety on various websites and blogs, labeled as "one hell of a remix" and an "incredibly groovy spin" which qualified as "a contender for remix of the year".[86] Another critic wrote "There’s no denying that Janet Jackson has a killer back catalog, and one of my favorites is the 1993 hit ‘If.‘ This talented Montreal-based guy has given it a total rework, incorporating lots of new elements and resulting in a banging makeover which is an absolute delight. Hurry back Ms. Jackson and bring us some more jams like this!"[87] Okayplayer stated "Janet Jackson is timeless and has always been a fixture in remix culture. Because her voice and her melodies sound perfect over any beat, her music so exquisitely produced, Janet evolves with us no matter where we go," calling the edit "Kaytranada‘s most recognized and celebrated remix, which arguably put the Montréal producer on the radar."[83]

Track listings[edit]

Official versions[edit]


Credits adapted from the janet. liner notes.[99]



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  • Halstead, Craig; Cadman, Chris (2003), Jacksons Number Ones, Authors On Line, ISBN 0-7552-0098-5 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
"Gimme Luv (Eenie Meenie Miny Mo)" by David Morales and the Bad Yard Club
US Billboard Hot Dance Club Play number-one single
September 4, 1993 – September 11, 1993
Succeeded by
"Love for Love" by Robin S.