Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814

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Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814
A young woman photographed in black and white wears an all-black, military-styled uniform accented by silver-plated accessories. A spotlight shines on her face. To her left reads the text "Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814".
Studio album by Janet Jackson
Released September 19, 1989 (1989-09-19)
Recorded
Genre
Length 64:32 (standard)
61:19 (vinyl)
Label A&M
Producer John McClain, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Janet Jackson, Jellybean Johnson
Janet Jackson chronology
  • Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814
  • (1989)
Singles from Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814
  1. "Miss You Much"
    Released: August 22, 1989
  2. "Rhythm Nation"
    Released: October 24, 1989
  3. "Escapade"
    Released: January 8, 1990
  4. "Alright"
    Released: March 3, 1990
  5. "Come Back to Me"
    Released: June 18, 1990
  6. "Black Cat"
    Released: August 28, 1990
  7. "Love Will Never Do (Without You)"
    Released: November 5, 1990
  8. "State of the World"
    Released: February 6, 1991

Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814 is the fourth studio album by American recording artist Janet Jackson, released on September 19, 1989, by A&M Records. Despite demands from label executives for material similar to her previous album, Control (1986), she insisted on creating a concept album addressing social injustice. Collaborating with her producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, she co-wrote six of the album's tracks. Its remaining songs were written by Jam and Lewis, with the exception of "Black Cat", which is Jackson's composition. She also co-produced the album, with label executive John McClain serving as executive producer. While writing lyrics for the album, Jackson, Jam and Lewis drew inspiration from news media, exploring subject matter such as racism, poverty and substance abuse. Although critics viewed the album's theme as transparent—too generalized to adequately address any of these issues—she was hailed as a role model for youth because of her socially conscious lyrics.

Produced during the height of the new jack swing genre, the album blends rhythm and blues with industrial music and the utilization of rap vocals, swing note, synthesized percussion and the use of sample loop. The title track "Rhythm Nation" embodies each of these traits, laying the foundation for trends in R&B music throughout the next decade. Other songs on the album range from mechanized dance rhythms to soft balladry, giving it the broad appeal of multi-radio format regarding airplay. Due to its innovative production and lyrical exploration, critics have regarded the album as the pinnacle of Jackson's artistic achievement. It became her second consecutive album to hit number one on the Billboard 200, as well as the top of the charts in Australia and the top ten in Japan, New Zealand and the UK. Certified sixfold platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), it has sold over fourteen million copies worldwide. It has been named by Rolling Stone magazine as one of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time and is listed in the Quintessence Editions Ltd. reference book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.

Its seven commercial singles all peaked within the top five on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming the first album to achieve that feat. Jackson received nine Grammy Award nominations, winning Best Music Video, Long Form for "Rhythm Nation" in 1990. Music videos for the singles, which displayed a mix of Broadway-style choreography and militant imagery gained heavy rotation on MTV; Jackson was presented with the MTV Video Vanguard Award in 1990 for significant contribution to the art form. The supporting Rhythm Nation World Tour became the world's most successful debut concert tour by a recording artist. It proved her to be a consummate performer rather than a studio-only phenomenon, as well as a fashion icon among young women.

Conception[edit]

Following the commercial and critical success of her 1986 album, Control, Jackson was motivated to continue songwriting and took a larger role in the creative production of her new album.[3] Executives at A&M requested that she expand on the ideas presented on Control, suggesting a concept album entitled Scandal that would have been about the Jackson family. She wrote a song titled "You Need Me" which was directed at her father Joseph, but was unwilling to devote an entire album to the subject and substituted her own concept for theirs.[4] She commented that "[a] lot of people wanted me to do another album like Control and that's what I didn't want to do. I wanted to do something that I really believed in and that I really felt strong about."[5] "You Need Me" was added as the B-side of the album's lead single "Miss You Much".[4]

Producer James "Jimmy Jam" Harris recalled: "We would always have a TV turned on, usually to CNN ... And I think the social slant of songs like 'Rhythm Nation', 'State of the World' and 'The Knowledge' came from that."[6] He commented that the Stockton massacre inspired the song "Living in a World (They Didn't Make)", explaining, "[i]t says that kids aren't responsible for what the adults have done."[6] Jackson was also inspired by reports of youth-based communities throughout New York City, which were formed as a means of creating a common identity. She stated: "I thought it would be great if we could create our own nation ... one that would have a positive message and that everyone would be free to join."[4] Her album's title is inspired by the pledge, "We are a nation with no geographic boundaries, bound together through our beliefs. We are like-minded individuals, sharing a common vision, pushing toward a world rid of color-lines" and her creed, "Music, Poetry, Dance, Unity"."[7] The use of the number "1814" is twofold. First, R (Rhythm) is the 18th letter of the alphabet and N (Nation) is the 14th. The second, she explained, is that "[w]hile writing [Rhythm Nation] I was kidding around, saying, 'God, you guys, I feel like this could be the national anthem for the '90s' ... Just by a crazy chance we decided to look up when Francis Scott Key wrote the national anthem, and it was September 14, 1814."[8]

Although protest songs were commonplace among rap artists in the late 1980s, the concept was rare within other genres. Alex Henderson of Allmusic suggests that Jackson adopted the embodiment of classic rap by addressing social concerns on her fourth album.[1] Jackson revealed that she was inspired by other socially conscious artists, such as Tracy Chapman and U2.[9] She also cited her mother Katherine as her inspiration; she dedicated the album to her mother on the album's interior booklet stating: "I have never known a more beautiful, caring, loving, understanding, and intelligent woman than you, mother. Someday I hope to be exactly like you. I love you with all my heart."[10] She also stated in an interview: "I'm not naive—I know an album or a song can't change the world. I just want my music and my dance to catch the audience's attention, and to hold it long enough for them to listen to the lyrics and what we're saying. Hopefully that will inspire them, make them want to join hands ... and make some sort of difference.[11]

Composition and production[edit]

The album was produced by James "Jimmy Jam" Harris III and Terry Lewis, with co-production credit given to Janet Jackson.[12] A&M executive John McCain served as the album's executive producer.[12] Lyrics for each of the songs were included in the album. All the tracks were recorded at Flyte Tyme Records productions studio in Minneapolis, Minnesota and mixed at Flyte Tyme, Edina, Minnesota. Jam and Lewis also penned or co-wrote the songs with Jackson, as well as arranging and programming the music, and playing much of the instrumental tracks.[12] Total production time for the album was seven months.[11] Like its predecessor, Control, the album is a construct of rhythm and blues, rap, funk and synthesized percussion. Author Ken Hughes of Keyboard Magazine notes that although considered to be crude by modern standards, "[t]he startling, groundbreaking production work and sound design done by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis on Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814 album owes its existence to the creative exploitation of the [ Ensoniq Mirage keyboard's ] severe limitations."[13] The New York Times music critic Jon Pareles described the album as having a multi-radio format, containing songs that appeal to a wide variety of radio airplay, including top 40, mainstream rock, quiet storm, and Adult Contemporary (AC).[2] He commented: "The pleasures of 'Rhythm Nation' come from technique—the sudden sputters of drum-machine triplets, the richness of electronic sounds meshed with vocals ... Most of the music was made on synthesizers and samplers, and there's no attempt to disguise the artificial timbres of drums, tape loops and sampled guitars."[2] This style of music was coined new jack swing in 1987 by Teddy Riley. In The New Blue Music: Changes in Rhythm & Blues, 1950–1999 (2006) musicologist Richard J. Ripani describes Riley as "probably the most important innovator of this style."[14] However, Ripani observes that Riley was likely influenced by Jackson's single "Nasty" from Control, arguing "[s]ince Jackson's album was released in 1986 and was hugely successful, it is not unreasonable to assume that it had at least some impact on the new jack swing creations of Teddy Riley."[14]

The use of sample loop and triplet swing are present, while vocals for the song are alternatively sung in octaves or rapped in spoken verse.

Recorded using a mixture of rockman and Marshall amplifier to give it a heavy metal sound.

Problems playing these files? See media help.

The use of sample loop, triplet swing, rap vocals and blues notes are present in the album's title-track "Rhythm Nation".[14] It samples a single measure of "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)" performed by Sly and the Family Stone, which became the basic background loop for the song.[14] Vocals are alternatively sung in octaves or rapped in spoken verse. Ripani wrote that "Rhythm Nation" articulates the broad spectrum of rhythm and blues music, noting its significance to the development of R&B in the early 1990s.[14] "Escapade" was inspired by the Martha and the Vandellas 1965 single "Nowhere to Run", which Jackson originally intended to remake, but instead chose to record a new song with a similar feel after a suggestion from producer Jimmy Jam.[15] The background vocals for "Love Will Never Do (Without You)" and "Miss You Much", both penned by Jam and Lewis, were recorded in late 1988 prior to Jackson recording the lead vocals in 1989.[16] The song "Black Cat" was written solely by Jackson and was produced by Jellybean Johnson; it was the final song to be recorded on the album.[17] "Black Cat" departed from Jackson's typical musical style, being the sole rock production of the album.[16] Jackson was inspired to write a song about a young man who was suffering from substance abuse and asked Jimmy Jam for his assistance in writing the chorus and verse.[16] Once the initial track was established, Jam suggested Jackson speak to Jellybean Johnson to produce the song, as he was a "closet rock-and-roller."[16] Johnson later confirmed his love of heavy metal guitar and agreed to produce the song.[16] Johnson asked David Barry, who had worked on Jackson's previous album, Control, to play guitar for "Black Cat".[16] To give the song a heavy metal feel, it was recorded using a mixture of Rockman and Marshall amplifier.[16]

Release and promotion[edit]

When A&M released the album's lead single "Miss You Much" to radio in August 1989, the label issued a press statement announcing "[s]ocial themes run throughout much of the material" on Jackson's fourth studio album.[18] A 30-minute long-form music video, Rhythm Nation 1814, was produced to promote the album, which aired on MTV prior to release. The video was referred to as a "telemusical" and featured a compilation of the album's songs.[19] The film project had a budget of $1.6 million.[20] Jackson worked with director Dominic Sena, executive video producer René Elizondo, Jr., and production designer Vance Lorenzini.[6] Jackson and Sena developed a full screenplay centered around two boys whose dreams of pursuing a music career together are ruined because one of them becomes a victim of substance abuse.[6] Shot on location in Los Angeles, Sena referred to the shoot as the "1814 Project" to keep the general public unaware that Jackson was filming on the streets of LA. He also revealed: "Her brother Michael came by one day, but it was purely on a personal level. He didn't come onto the set. He saw some rough cuts of what we were doing and remarked that he liked them, but he never interfered. He knew this was Janet's project."[6] Jefferson Graham of USA Today commented: "Michael Jackson's kid sister is taking her brother's approach to video ... Like Michael, she dances up a storm in the moody black-and-white video's three songs—Miss You Much, Rhythm Nation and The Knowledge—wears military-like attire and plays the role of a mystical figure to young kids."[20] Jon Pareles remarked that it "juxtaposes her dance routines with grim urban imagery and a plot line about drugs versus dreams; it's like a sequel to Michael Jackson's "Bad" video."[2] Gender and Qualitative Methods (2003) documents: "The choreography suggests self-control and military discipline ... The factory environment, the black-and-white scenery and the choreography hinting at Asian martial arts, underline the atmosphere of remorseless determination."[21]

Released on September 19, 1989, the album debuted at number 28 on the Billboard 200 and 87 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums and rose steadily to the number one position on both charts.[22] It remained at number one on the Billboard 200 for four consecutive weeks and sold three million copies within the first four months of its release.[11] In November 1989, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) certified the album gold, denoting 500,000 unit shipments within the United States.[23] This number rose to a platinum certification, denoting 1,000,000 units, and double platinum by the end of the year.[23] By the end of 1992, it was certified sixfold platinum by the RIAA.[23] As of 1998, the album had sold over 14 million copies worldwide.[24] The film was released to VHS in October 1989, and re-issued as Rhythm Nation 1814 compilation in November 1990 following the release of the album's final single; the re-issue features all music videos produced for the album.[25] Both versions of the video release earned double platinum certification by the RIAA.[26] The film has sold over four million copies worldwide.[27]

The lead single "Miss You Much" became the first of four to reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100. The single hit number one in October 1989 and topped the chart for four weeks.[28] It also topped the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and Hot Dance Club Songs.[29] The single was certified platinum by the RIAA in November 1989.[30] According to Radio & Records magazine, "Miss You Much" was the number one radio hit of 1989.[11] Selling over four million copies worldwide, it was named by TIME magazine as the second best-selling single of the year behind "Another Day in Paradise" by Phil Collins.[31][32] The album's second single and title-track, "Rhythm Nation", peaked at number two on the Hot 100, kept from the number one position by "Another Day in Paradise".[17] Stephen Holden of The New York Times referred to the song as "[a] militantly utopian dance-floor exhortation ... the song calls for racial harmony and cooperative struggle to create a better, stronger world."[33] It also topped the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and Hot Dance Club Songs and earned gold certification by the RIAA in January 1990.[29][30] "Escapade" became the second single to top the Hot 100, in addition to reaching number one on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and Hot Dance Club Songs.[29] It was certified gold in May 1990.[30]

"Alright" peaked at number four on the Hot 100, at number two on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and became the fourth and final single to top the Hot Dance Club Songs.[29] It was certified gold in June 1990.[30] In the corresponding music video for "Alright", Jackson pays homage to early 20th century Broadway theatre; cameo appearances are made by Cab Calloway and Cyd Charisse.[34] "Come Back to Me" peaked at number two on the Hot 100. "Black Cat" reached number one on October 27, 1990, six weeks after its September 15 debut, and was certified gold on November 13.[16][30] "Love Will Never Do (Without You)" became the seventh and final single to be released off the album on November 6, 1990; it rose to number one on January 19, 1991, topping the chart for one week.[16] The single was certified gold on February 12.[30] "State of the World" was released on radio airplay but not as a commercial single, as A&M executives felt the album would garner high sales if there was a song receiving airplay that was not commercially available.[16]

In September 1990, Jackson received two MTV Music Video Award nominations; Best Dance Video and Best Choreography for Rhythm Nation (co-nominated with choreographer Anthony Thomas), winning Best Choreography.[35] In addition, she received the MTV Video Vanguard Award, regarded as MTV's highest honor.[36]

Rhythm Nation World Tour[edit]

The Rhythm Nation 1814 Tour became Jackson's first world concert tour in support of a studio album. She was assisted by a team of eleven musicians, back-up singers, and six dancers.[37] Anthony Thomas was selected as chief choreographer for the tour.[38] Musician and record producer Chuckii Booker was hired as Jackson's musical director; his band became the tour's opening act.[39] Reporter Doug Adrianson wrote: "Because of the inevitable comparisons with brother Michael, 32, expectations for the Rhythm Nation Tour are higher than a moonwalk. To make sure the show is suitably spectacular, Jackson and musical director Chuckii Booker rehearsed with a sizable crew for two weeks at the Pensacola Civic Centre ... the same place Michael fine-tuned his Bad tour."[39] Total production cost was an estimated $2 million.[40]

The debut concert in Miami, Florida on March 1, 1990 sold out prior to the performance.[41] Music Critic Deborah Wilker remarked that "[Janet] does not present a serious threat to brother Michael, though she has proven beyond any doubt she is a formidable force in her own right."[40] She also reported on the media attention surrounding the opening concert, stating, "[t]he kick-off of this tour was a media event, with reporters and film crews from across the country on hand. In the audience was Janet's brother Jackie and mother Katherine, as well as singer Whitney Houston and producers Jam and Lewis."[40] Described as "an elaborately choreographed spectacle" by Entertainment Weekly, the tour aimed to re-create the award-winning, visually innovative music videos of Rhythm Nation 1814's numerous hit singles and those of its predecessor, Control.[41] Jay Cocks of Time magazine stated that her stage show integrated "sleek high tech and smooth dance rhythm into an evening of snazzy soul with a social conscience" and that the tour "leaves no doubt that she's not a studio-made creature."[42] Critic Chris Willman expressed: "If the dancing in Janet's tour is even more enthralling than that of brother Michael ... it's because she spends so much of her stage time working with six other dancers as part of a hip-hop chorus line. It represents the pinnacle of what can be done in the popping 'n' locking style—a rapid-fire mixture of rigidly jerky and gracefully fluid movements."[43] Some observed that Jackson, like many of her contemporaries, lip-synched parts of her stage show.[44] Jon Pareles commented "[m]ost lip-synched shows are done by video-era pop performers whose audiences are young and television trained. They fill arenas to enjoy a spectacle like what they saw on television—the dancing ... the stage effects and incidentally the songs."[45] Critic Michael MacCambridge described lip-synching as a "moot point", stating, "Jackson was frequently singing along with her own pre-recorded vocals, to achieve a sound closer to radio versions of singles."[46]

The first international concert, which took place in Tokyo, Japan, sold out the Tokyo Dome within seven minutes—a record for the fastest sellout in the history of the Dome.[47] Los Angeles Times reported that "Japan became a 'Rhythm Nation' as Janet Jackson opened her tour at the Tokyo Dome, cascading thunderous waves of funk and choreography over 50,000 people ... The choreography, a cross between break-dancing and military maneuvers, sent some spectators dancing into the aisles."[48] Jackson also performed in Osaka and Yokohama before returning to the United States and then traveled to Europe for the final leg of her tour.[48] Grossing $28.1 million, the tour ranked number five among the best-selling of 1990, making Jackson the only female artist to place within the top ten.[49] The Rhythm Nation 1814 Tour, with an attendance of over two million patrons, remains the most successful debut tour by any recording artist.[50] A number of commentators began to acknowledge the social impact of Jackson's work during her tour. William Allen, then-executive vice president of the United Negro College Fund, told the Los Angeles Times, "Jackson is a role model for all young people to emulate and the message she has gotten to the young people of this country through the lyrics of 'Rhythm Nation 1814' is having positive effects."[51] Joel Selvin of the San Francisco Chronicle expressed, "the 23-year-old has been making smash hit records for four years, becoming a fixture on MTV and a major role model to teenage girls across the country."[52] Deborah Wilker stated: "Jackson is a rare positive role model for kids—particularly young women who have been video-bred on the bimbo look. Jackson thankfully keeps her clothes on ... she preaches brotherhood and racial unity; and she comes across as a confident young lady who is very much in control."[53] Ebony magazine reported on her reputation as a fashion icon stating that "[a]s Janet was entertaining 2 million fans during her triumphant Rhythm Nation tour, hoards of teen girls were imitating her distinctive look—black quasi-military long jackets, black tight-tight pants, and big white shirts."[54]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4.5/5 stars [1]
The Boston Globe (favorable) [6]
Los Angeles Times 3/4 stars [55]
The New York Times (favorable) [2]
Q 3/5 stars [56]
Rolling Stone 4/5 stars [7]
San Francisco Chronicle (favorable) [57]
Slant Magazine 5/5 stars [58]
Sputnikmusic 4/5 stars [59]
The Village Voice A− [60]

The album received predominantly positive reviews for its musical production, with a mixed reaction on Jackson's choice to dedicate the album to social and political themes.[3] Jon Pareles of The New York Times commented: "Her motives may be sincere; the results are unconvincing."[2] Comparing her creation of a concept album to The Dark Side of the Moon (1973) by Pink Floyd and Appetite for Destruction (1987) by Guns N' Roses, he states, "the album becomes a cause without a rebellion."[2] Though unmoved by the album's theme, he compliments its musical formula, stating: "The tone of the music is airless, sealing out imprecision and reveling in crisp, machine-generated rhythms; Ms. Jackson's piping voice, layered upon itself in punchy unisons or lavish harmonies, never cracks or falters."[2] Robert Christgau of The Village Voice commented: "if the P-Funk pretensions of 'nation' are a little much from somebody whose knowledge of the world is based on the 6 o'clock news, the 'rhythm' is real, and I give her credit for it. Her voice is as unequal to her vaguely admonitory politics as it was to her declaration of sexual availability, but the music is the message: never before have Jam & Lewis rocked so hard for so long."[60] James Jones of USA Today commented that "the lyrics get a bit corny at times, and Jackson's thin, wispy voice lacks the punch or emotion to convincingly preach on homelessness and drugs, but the slick production of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis keeps you dancing just the same."[61]

Vince Aletti of Rolling Stone magazine likened Jackson to a politician, "abandoning the narrow 'I' for the universal 'we' and inviting us to do the same."[7] Aletti complimented Jackson's political resolve and musical accompaniment as she "[balances] despair with optimism, anger with hope, in the currently fashionable formula", without forgetting social progress is a result of hard work.[7] San Francisco Chronicle writer Michael Snyder considered the album a worthy successor to Jackson's previous album, Control, because it "adds a little sociopolitical substance to the usual high-grade hip-hop" as she "bounces between the two extremes of romance and generalized, politically correct topicality."[57] Dennis Hunt of Los Angeles Times compared Jackson to Madonna, stating that she aspires to become "the kind of dance-music queen who can also sing ballads and pop tunes. The album runs the gamut from social commentary to lusty, sensual tunes, from dance music to songs laced with jazz and Brazilian textures."[55] Steve Morse of The Boston Globe compared the album's commercial success of to that of Aerosmith, Billy Joel, and other members of the Jackson family, attributing such accomplishment to the fact that Jackson created "a dance record with a ruthlessly frank social conscience that addresses drugs, homelessness, illiteracy and teen runaways. She's reached far beyond dance music's fluffy image to unite even serious rockers and rappers who usually look the other way."[6]

The album earned five Grammy Award nominations in 1990: Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female and Best Rhythm & Blues Song for "Miss You Much", Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocal(s) and Best Music Video, Long Form for "Rhythm Nation", and Producer of the Year, Non-Classical, winning Best Music Video.[62] Music critic Deborah Wilker stated the fact that Jackson was not nominated for Album of the Year was a "huge oversight."[63] The following year Jackson earned nominations for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Female for "Black Cat", and Best Rhythm & Blues Song and Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female for "Alright".[64]

Some commentary on the success of the album was centered around the idea that Jackson was a manufactured act. Music critic Robert Hilburn wrote: "Known for years as simply 'Michael's little sister,' Jackson, 24, was supposed to have graduated to a stronger identity in 1986 when her Control album sold 9 million copies worldwide and established her as a queen of dance pop ... [but because] her two earlier solo albums had been so forgettable, it was easy for outsiders to assume that the success of Control was due solely to Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, the former Prince allies who produced the album and co-wrote most of its songs."[65] Hilburn adds that the commercial success of her former choreographer, Paula Abdul, as a solo act fueled this belief.[65] In response, Jackson stated "... it bothers me that some people think someone gave me an image or told me what songs to sing or what clothes to wear. I'm not a robot. I want people to know that I'm real ... 'She's only successful because of Terry Lewis and Jimmy Jam or Paula Abdul ... or she's Michael's sister' or whatever. That really bothered me."[65] Jimmy Jam stated "when someone says, 'Well, she brought in Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis,' you've got to remember that we weren't exactly ... Quincy Jones ... 'Control' was our first smash. The same with Paula. It wasn't like Janet [hired] Fred Astaire ... She took a chance on all of us."[66] Diana Baron, then-executive director of A&M publicity stated: "Janet is probably one of the hardest-working and most determined artists I've ever been around ... She has incredible strength and focus. She's willing to put in all the work to achieve her desired end. All this talk about her being a 'pop creation' couldn't be further from the truth."[65]

A later review by Alex Henderson of Allmusic criticized Jackson's "wafer-thin" voice, but commented that her soul, spirit and enthusiasm make up for the limits of her vocal range on the numerous political and non-political "gems" throughout the album.[1] Henderson describes the album as "an even higher artistic plateau" than Control, and adds: "For those purchasing their first Janet Jackson release, Rhythm Nation would be an even wiser investment than Control—and that's saying a lot."[1] Sputnikmusic's Zachary Powell stated that while her first three albums took her out of the Jackson family shadow, "Rhythm Nation put the exclamation point on her career ... The album itself is powered by the quality invested in it, top notch production from Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis and a musically diverse collection of songs flowing with the natural talent Jackson possesses make for a work of many natures."[59] Eric Henderson of Slant Magazine calls the album the "perfect storm that is her 1989 masterpiece".[58] He also complimented Jam and Lewis's production, stating: "Jam and Lewis's work on Rhythm Nation expanded Janet's range in every conceivable direction. She was more credibly feminine, more crucially masculine, more viably adult, more believably childlike. This was, of course, critical to a project in which Janet assumed the role of mouthpiece for a nationless, multicultural utopia. Jam and Lewis helped sell Janet's notion of a consciousness raised."[58]

Legacy[edit]

Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814 emerged the best-selling album of 1990 in the US and made history as the first and only album to generate seven top-five Billboard hits; "Miss You Much", "Rhythm Nation", "Escapade", "Alright", "Come Back to Me", "Black Cat", and "Love Will Never Do (Without You)" all peaked within the top five on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart.[16][67] It is the only album to score number one hits on the Hot 100 in three separate calendar years—"Miss You Much" in 1989, "Escapade" and "Black Cat" in 1990, and "Love Will Never Do (Without You)" in 1991.[68] After "Love Will Never Do Without You" reached its peak,"State Of The World" was released to Top 40 radio stations. There was speculation that Janet would become the very first recording artist to achieve 8 top 10 singles from one album. A feat that would give her a unique page in music history. A & M records decided not to issue a single. Choosing instead to let radio play the song and let people buy copies of the album if they desired to have it. It was given a commercial release in Australia, Japan, and South Africa. In the U.S.,it had to settle for a #5 peak on the Airplay chart. No video was produced either.

The commercial success of Jackson's album became part of an important turning point for black women in the recording industry.[citation needed] Cheris Kramarae and Dale Spender wrote in their book, Routledge International Encyclopedia of Women: Global Women's Issues and Knowledge (2000), that prior to the 1980s, black artists were often segregated, being limited to disco, soul, and rhythm and blues charts and radio airplay. As such, "one important struggle for black women has been in their 'crossover' from dance music to white-dominated pop and rock."[69] While the dominance of female superstars on the mainstream charts had been led by Madonna, "[b]y the late 1980s, black women too, were achieving greater financial success in the pop mainstream. Artists such as Janet Jackson, Tina Turner and Whitney Houston reached superstar status."[69] Author Stan Hawkins comments the success of the album "helped secure Jackson a position on par with Madonna" as she headlined her first world concert tour in 1990.[70]

Jackson's image of America is one of hope. It may remind some of Sly Stone prior to There's a Riot Going On and other African-American artists of the 1970s in its tacit assumption that the world imagined by Dr. King is still possible, that the American Dream is a dream for all people.

Timothy E. Scheurer, Born in the USA: The Myth of America in Popular Music from Colonial Times to the Present, 2007[71]

Anthony DeCurtis, author of Present Tense: Rock & Roll and Culture (1992) wrote that through her lyrics and image, "its clear Jackson wants to present herself as a professional, as the creative intellect behind a product that has as one of its aims the betterment of black people and the creation of role models for black women."[72] In Reflecting Black: African-American Cultural Criticism (1993), author Michael Eric Dyson argues that the album's utilization of rap music, as not only a form of self-expression, but as a means of protesting voids in society created by social injustice was a "crucial" effort, adding that "Janet Jackson says it herself ... she wanted to get to the people who weren't socially conscious, who wanted to party and dance."[73] Rickey Vincent author of Funk: The Music, The People, and The Rhythm of The One (1996) comments: "Her 1989 Rhythm Nation album was the boldest and most successful pop attempt to combine social commentary, celebration, and state-of-the-art dance funk since her brother Michael's efforts to be Bad."[74]

There was speculation that her brother Michael's personal record label, MJJ Music (a joint-venture between himself and Sony Music Entertainment) would have signed her as its premier artist; he reportedly intended to name the label Nation Records as a tribute to her, but the copyright had already existed. She instead went on to negotiate a $32 million contract with Virgin Records in 1991—at the time, the largest recording contract in history.[75] Sal Cinquemani of Slant Magazine commented that her success "found Janet eclipsing her big brother for the first time—as she would continue to do for more than a decade."[76] In July 2008, Entertainment Weekly magazine placed Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814 at number 54 in their list of Top 100 Best Albums of the past 25 years.[77] In 2003, the album was also ranked number 275 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.[78] In a revised list compiled in 2012, it dropped two spots to number 277.[79] It is included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[80]

Accolades[edit]

Organization Country Accolade Year Source
Parents' Choice Foundation United States Parents' Choice Award 1989 [81]
Billboard Music Awards United States Top Hot 100 Singles Artist of the Year, Top Selling Album of the Year, Top Selling R&B Album of the Year, Top Selling R&B Albums Artist of the Year, Top Selling R&B Artist of the Year, Top Dance Club Play Artist of the Year, Top Hot Dance 12" Singles Sales Artist of the Year 1990 [82]
Billboard/Tanqueray Sterling Music Video Awards United States Best Female Video Artist, Black/Rap, Best Female Artist, Dance, Director's Award, Black/Rap (Rhythm Nation 1814), Director's Award, Dance ("Alright"), Tanqueray Sterling Music Video Award for Artistic Achievement (Rhythm Nation 1814) 1990 [83]
MTV Music Video Awards United States Best Choreography (Rhythm Nation), MTV Video Vanguard Award 1990 [36]
Grammy Awards United States Best Music Video, Long Form (Rhythm Nation 1814) 1990 [84]
Rolling Stone United States "Women In Rock: The 50 Essential Albums" (Rank 27) 2002 [85]
Quintessence Editions Ltd. United Kingdom 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die (No rank) 2003 [80]
Rolling Stone United States The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time (Rank 275) 2003 [78]
Rolling Stone United States The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time (Rank 277) 2012 [79]
Entertainment Weekly United States The 100 Best Albums of the Past 25 Years (Rank 54) 2008 [77]
Slant Magazine United States "Best Albums of the '80s" (ranked 43) 2012 [86]

Track listing[edit]

No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Interlude: Pledge"     0:47
2. "Rhythm Nation"   Janet Jackson, James Harris III, Terry Lewis 5:31
3. "Interlude: T.V."     0:22
4. "State of the World"   Jackson, Harris, Lewis 4:48
5. "Interlude: Race"     0:05
6. "The Knowledge"   Harris, Lewis 3:54
7. "Interlude: Let's Dance"     0:03
8. "Miss You Much"   Harris, Lewis 4:12
9. "Interlude: Come Back"     0:21
10. "Love Will Never Do (Without You)"   Harris, Lewis 5:50
11. "Livin' in a World (They Didn't Make)"   Harris, Lewis 4:41
12. "Alright"   Jackson, Harris, Lewis 6:26
13. "Interlude: Hey Baby"     0:10
14. "Escapade"   Jackson, Harris, Lewis 4:44
15. "Interlude: No Acid"     0:05
16. "Black Cat"   Jackson 4:50
17. "Lonely"   Harris, Lewis 4:59
18. "Come Back to Me"   Jackson, Harris, Lewis 5:33
19. "Someday Is Tonight"   Jackson, Harris, Lewis 6:00
20. "Interlude: Livin'...In Complete Darkness"     1:07

Note:

  • All songs except interludes and "Black Cat" are produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.
  • "Black Cat" is produced by Janet Jackson and Jellybean Johnson.
  • All songs except interludes and "Black Cat" are co-produced by Janet Jackson.

Personnel[edit]

Charts[edit]

Weekly charts[edit]

Chart (1989–91) Peak
position
Australian Albums Chart[89] 1
Canadian Albums Chart[90] 5
Dutch Albums Chart[89] 28
German Albums Chart[91] 39
Japanese Albums Chart[92] 8
New Zealand Albums Chart[89] 9
Swedish Albums Chart[89] 24
Swiss Albums Chart[89] 23
UK Albums Chart[93] 4
US Billboard 200[22] 1
US Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums[22] 1

Year-end charts[edit]

End of year chart (1991) Position
Australian Albums Chart[94] 13

Singles[edit]

Year Title Chart positions Certifications
U.S. U.S. Dance U.S. R&B AUS CAN FRA GER NL NZ SWI UK
1989 "Miss You Much" 1 1 1 12 2 66 16 15 2 20 22
"Rhythm Nation" 2 1 1 45 6 83 11 17 22 23
1990 "Escapade" 1 1 1 25 1 23 17 13 15 17
"Alright" / "Alright (Remix)" (featuring Heavy D.) 4 1 2 100 6 43 35 28 20
"Come Back to Me" 2 2 79 3 20
"Black Cat" 1 17 10 6 4 34 21 25 10 15
"Love Will Never Do (Without You)" 1 4 3 14 1 33 27 34
1991 "State of the World" ^^ 9 23 94

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Sales/shipments
Australia (ARIA)[98] 2× Platinum 140,000^
Canada (Music Canada)[99] Platinum 100,000^
Japan (RIAJ)[100] 2× Platinum 400,000^
New Zealand (RMNZ)[101] Gold 7,500^
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[102] Gold 25,000x
United Kingdom (BPI)[103] Platinum 300,000^
United States (RIAA)[104] 6× Platinum 6,000,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone
xunspecified figures based on certification alone

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]