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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)
  • September 1988 – May 1989 [1]
Label A&M
Janet Jackson chronology
Control: The Remixes
Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814
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 4, 1990
  5. "Come Back to Me"
    Released: June 18, 1990
  6. "Black Cat"
    Released: August 28, 1990
  7. "Love Will Never Do"
    Released: October 2, 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 label executives desiring material similar to her previous album, Control (1986), Jackson insisted on creating a concept album addressing social change. Jackson co-produced the album with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, writing "Black Cat" as her own composition. She drew inspiration from various tragedies reported within the media, exploring racism, poverty, and substance abuse. Although it initially received mixed reception from critics, Jackson was hailed as a role model for youth due to her socially conscious lyrics.

The album blends dance-pop and rhythm and blues with industrial music and funk.[2][3][4] It also utilizes swing note, synthesized percussion, and the use of sample loop throughout its production. Other songs on the album range from mechanized dance rhythms to soft balladry, giving it broad appeal within multiple radio formats. It has been regarded as one of the defining examples of dance-oriented pop music of its time. 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 reach number one on the Billboard 200, also peaking atop the charts in Australia and the top ten in Japan, New Zealand, and United Kingdom. Certified sixfold platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), it became the biggest selling album of 1990. It has sold nearly twenty million copies worldwide. Rolling Stone included it among their list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. It is also listed in the British reference, 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.

The album became the first in history to have seven commercial singles peak within the top five of the Billboard Hot 100. It is also the only album to achieve number one hits in three separate calendar years. Jackson received nine Grammy Award nominations, winning Best Long Form Music Video for "Rhythm Nation." She also became the first female artist to be nominated for Producer of the Year. For promotion, Jackson released the Rhythm Nation 1814 Film. Jackson was presented the MTV Video Vanguard Award for her significant contributions to popular culture. Her Rhythm Nation World Tour became the world's most successful debut concert tour, in addition to setting venue records in Japan. Jackson also became regarded as a fashion icon, as her "Rhythm Nation" attire was emulated by fans worldwide. The album has been critically cited to influence various musical trends and has inspired artists such as Lady Gaga, Sleigh Bells, and Jamie Lidell, in addition to Robyn, Bok Bok, and Britney Spears.


Following her breakthrough album, Control, Jackson was motivated to take a larger role in her album's creative process.[5] A&M Records desired Jackson to record an album similar to Control, suggesting a concept album titled Scandal, discussing her personal and family life.[6] However, Jackson opposed the idea, deciding to focus on social change. She commented, "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."[7] Jackson was initially criticized upon the proposition, explaining, "When I first proposed a socially conscious concept, there were voices of doubt. But the more I thought about it, the more committed I became, I no longer had a choice. The creativity took over, Rhythm Nation came alive. I saw that a higher power was at work."[8] Producer Jimmy Jam stated:

Jackson developed the album's title during a conversation with her producers, in which she stated the phrase "Rhythm Nation."[6] Rolling Stone related its title to the album's opening pledge, which states, "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."[9] Jackson related its theme to various youth-based groups, 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."[6] The usage of the number "1814" represents the year the national anthem "The Star-Spangled Banner" was written, which Jackson discovered as she joked, "I feel like this could be the national anthem for the '90s!"[10] Several critics noted that "R" (Rhythm) and "N" (Nation) are the eighteenth and fourteenth letters of the alphabet, though Jackson said this was coincidental.[6]

Within the album's content, Jackson desired to reach a teenage audience who may have been unaware of socially conscious themes. She commented, "I want to grab their attention. Music is my way of doing that. It's okay to have fun—I want to be certain that point is clear... It pleases me when the kids say my stuff is kickin', but it pleases me even more when they listen to the lyrics. The lyrics mean so much to me."[8] Jackson was partially influenced by Joni Mitchell, Tracy Chapman, and U2, though felt their music did not reach the same audience, appealing mainly to adults who were already aware of these themes.[11] She also stated, "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. [...] If I just touched one person, just to make that difference, make them change for the better, that's an accomplishment."[1]


The album merges dance-pop, rhythm and blues, and funk with industrial music.[2][3][4] It was produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis and co-produced by Jackson.[12] The album was recorded over a period of seven months.[1] Jon Pareles observed its diversity to cater to a wide variety of radio formats, including pop, mainstream rock, quiet storm, and Adult Contemporary.[13] Pareles also praised its "richness of electronic sounds meshed with vocals," which Richard J. Ripani analyzed to be derived from synthesizers, drums, tape loops, swung notes, and sampled guitars; regarded as new jack swing.[13][14] Jackson had previously been a leader in the genre's creation, following the release of "Nasty."[15] Of its lyrical themes, Kate Kelly stated, ""Rhythm Nation" reveals a social conscience speaking of getting an education, avoiding drugs, and feeding the homeless. All this might seem a little heavy for dance music or pop radio, but Jackson fuses her concepts with driving dance energy that hits the hearts of those hitting the dance-floor."[16] Andrew Barker of Variety described it as "a quasi-concept album whose opening three songs directly addressed crime, the crack epidemic, racism, homelessness and youth illiteracy — not exactly a recipe for a party. And yet the record was somehow even more successful than Control, generating a then-record seven top 5 singles."[17]

"Rhythm Nation" features use of sample loop and a triplet swing beat, while vocals for the song are alternatively sung in octaves or rapped in spoken verse.

"Black Cat" was recorded using a mixture of rockman and Marshall amplifier to give it a heavy metal sound.

Problems playing these files? See media help.

Jackson desired to reflect her concerns within a "high-voltage funk-dance sound."[18] She commented, "Rhythm Nation contained my views about what was going on in the world and the problems we have trying to educate kids. The idea was to give them some hope."[18] Regarding its sequencing, Jimmy Jam stated, “The idea of putting ‘Rhythm Nation,’ ‘Living in the World’ and ‘The Knowledge’ as the first three songs on the record really set the tone as to what the record was. Then to have the segue after that where she says, ‘Get the point? Good. Let’s dance...’ and then go into ‘Miss You Much,’ that was purposely done.[19]

"Miss You Much" was described as "blocky dance-pop," regarded as "the appropriately sweet-and-sour bridge from efficacy to escapadery."[20][21] "Rhythm Nation" incorporates dance-pop, funk, and industrial rhythms within a "utopian dance-floor exhortation."[22][23] Jackson delivers an urgent cry, calling for racial harmony through "compassionate, dedicated people power."[9] Her vocals range from Bb3 to G5, climaxing within its middle eight.[24] "Escapade" is a "cheery" and euphoric pop song, described as "playfully chaste."[21][25][26] "Black Cat" was written solely by Jackson and produced with Jellybean Johnson. It departed from Jackson's general styles, delving into hard rock.[27][28] It was recorded using a mixture of Rockman and Marshall amplifier to give the song a heavy metal feel.[28] Its theme of substance abuse was thought to be written about her former husband, James DeBarge.[28] "Alright" was analyzed as a "warm, relentless surge of synthesized ecstasy," bringing her layered harmonies "front and center."[21] "Love Will Never Do (Without You)" was called "playful but seductive," utilizing a chorus which "nearly lifts you off the ground."[25][29] Other songs such as "Someday is Tonight" had "set the stage for the next phase of Janet's recording career."[30]

Release and promotion[edit]

Jackson in long-form Rhythm Nation Film with actor Joshua John Miller.[31]

Upon the release of "Miss You Much", A&M Records issued a press release for the album, announcing social themes to "run throughout much of the material."[32] Jackson performed "Rhythm Nation" on several television shows internationally, including Top of the Pops and the Royal Variety Performance, in celebration of Elizabeth the Queen Mother's ninetieth birthday.[33] She also performed a controversial rendition of "Black Cat" at the MTV Video Music Awards, considered to have "ushered in a new age of sexual spontaneity" and viewed as the first "shocking" performance of her career.[34][35]

A thirty-minute long-form music video, Rhythm Nation 1814 Film, was produced to promote the album. Referred to as a "telemusical," it featured several performance videos, including "Miss You Much," "The Knowledge," and "Rhythm Nation."[36] The film had a budget of $1.6 million and was aired on MTV prior to the album's release.[36][37] Jackson and director Dominic Sena developed the film as a screenplay, centered around two boys whose dreams of pursuing a music career are destroyed through substance abuse.[38] Sena referred to the film as the "1814 Project", attempting to keep the public unaware of Jackson filming on the streets of Los Angeles.[38] The film received positive reception, as Jefferson Graham commented, "she dances up a storm in the moody black-and-white video's three songs [...] and plays the role of a mystical figure to young kids."[37] Jon Pareles remarked, "[it] juxtaposes her dance routines with grim urban imagery and a plot line about drugs versus dreams."[13] It was later released on VHS as the Rhythm Nation 1814 Compilation, and reissued the following year with each of the album's promotional music videos.[39]

Rhythm Nation World Tour[edit]

The Rhythm Nation Tour was Jackson's debut concert tour. Described as "an elaborately choreographed spectacle," the tour aimed to recreate the award-winning, innovative music videos of Rhythm Nation 1814 and those of its predecessor, Control.[40] In addition to Jackson's choreography, the tour was reported to portray "dazzling lighting effects and pyrotechnics," as well as illusionary magic, in which Jackson was transformed into a leopard on stage.[41] Anthony Thomas served as the tour's main choreographer, while Chuckii Booker became its musical director and opening act.[42][43] She was assisted by a team of eleven musicians, five back-up singers, and six dancers.[44] Jackson's total production and staging reportedly cost $2 million.[45] The opening concert was considered "a media event, with reporters and film crews from across the country on hand."[45]

The tour became the most successful debut concert tour in history, with an attendance of over two million.[46] It also set a record for the fastest sell-out of Japan's Tokyo Dome, selling out within seven minutes.[47] Jackson became the only female artist to fill arenas at the time, along with Madonna.[48] It was ranked the fifth most successful tour of 1990, making Jackson the only female artist to place within the top ten.[49] The tour also solidified Jackson's reputation as a fashion icon, as numerous fans imitated her "Rhythm Nation" outfit and regalia.[50] Media had reported, "hoards of teen girls were imitating her distinctive look—black quasi-military long jackets, black tight-tight pants, and big white shirts."[51] The tour notably inspired Justin Timberlake to become a performer, becoming "fascinated by her energy and exuberance" during his attendance.[52]


Jackson's "Rhythm Nation Tour" set a record for the fastest sell-out of Japan's Tokyo Dome.

Kate Kelly praised Jackson's showmanship and theatrics, stating, "Jackson thrilled throngs with flawless dance routines, illusionist stunts, fireworks and rockets."[16] Time observed the show to integrate "sleek high tech and smooth dance rhythm into an evening of snazzy soul with a social conscience," declaring it "leaves no doubt that she's not a studio-made creature."[53] Chris Willman considered Jackson's dancing "even more enthralling than that of brother Michael," adding, "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."[54] Jennifer Dunning of The New York Times observed Jackson to move "like a robot battalion in precision drill," being "taut yet alive in the way of a boxer edgily biding his time in the ring."[55] While in Japan, Los Angeles Times reported Jackson to convey "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."[56]

Dave Tianen praised the show's "sheer intensity," commending its energy, verve, and aggression.[57] Tianen added, "the star's short, muscular frame was in almost constant motion." Of its theatrics, Tianen commented, "this show is very much like seeing an ambitious video filmed before your eyes."[57] Kit Boss of Seattle Times added, "Army surplus flame throwers seemed to have been put to constructive peacetime use. You could feel your eyebrows starting to singe 20 rows back."[58] Boss concluded, "She saved some of her fastest and most furious steps for the final song of the encore, Rhythm Nation.... Meanwhile, her hands and feet and hips had traveled several country miles. Her brother Michael's moonwalk? Forget it. That was yesterday's space program. Class dismissed."[58] Several critics regarded Jackson to lip sync portions of the show, in a similar fashion to her contemporaries.[59] Jon Pareles commented, "most 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."[60] However, Michael MacCambridge called it 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."[61]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4.5/5 stars[62]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music 4/5 stars[63]
Los Angeles Times 3/4 stars[64]
Q 3/5 stars[65]
Rolling Stone 4/5 stars[9]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 3/5 stars[66]
Slant Magazine 5/5 stars[21]
The Village Voice A−[67]

The album received generally positive reviews, with a mixed reaction to Jackson's social and political themes.[5] Dennis Hunt of Los Angeles Times called it "intriguing" and diverse, ranging from "social commentary to lusty, sensual tunes, from dance music to songs laced with jazz and Brazilian textures."[68] Andy Ellis-Widders of Keyboard considered it "a powerful statement on racial integration, social accountability, and personal integrity." [69] Steve Morse of The Boston Globe compared its success to that of Aerosmith and Billy Joel, declaring it "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."[38] Jon Pareles compared the concept album to Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon (1973) and Guns N' Roses Appetite for Destruction (1987), referring to it as "a cause without a rebellion."[13] However, Pareles commended its musicality and vocals, 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."[13] Robert Christgau wrote in his review for The Village Voice, "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."[67]

Vince Aletti of Rolling Stone likened Jackson's themes to a politician, "abandoning the narrow 'I' for the universal 'we' and inviting us to do the same."[9] Aletti complimented Jackson's balance of "despair with optimism, anger with hope," incorporated within its theme of social progress.[9] Michael Snyder considered it a worthy successor to Jackson's previous album, Control, adding "a little sociopolitical substance" as she "bounces between the two extremes of romance and generalized, politically correct topicality."[70] Eric Henderson of Slant Magazine declared the album a "masterpiece."[21] Henderson also praised its diversity, stating: "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."[21] Though referring to Jackson's voice as "wafer-thin", Alex Henderson of AllMusic applauded Jackson's spirit and enthusiasm, praising its numerous "gems."[62] Henderson regarded it "an even higher artistic plateau" than her prior album, adding, "For those purchasing their first Janet Jackson release, Rhythm Nation would be an even wiser investment than Control—and that's saying a lot."[62]

Commercial performance[edit]

The album debuted at number twenty-eight on the Billboard 200 and eighty-seven on Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums, rising steadily to the number one position on both charts.[71] It peaked at number one on the Billboard 200 for four consecutive weeks, selling three million copies within the first four months of its release.[1] In November 1989, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) certified the album gold.[72] It was certified double platinum by the end of the year.[72] The album became the biggest selling album of 1990.[28] It was later certified sixfold platinum by the RIAA.[72] It sold an additional 1.10 million through BMG Music Club.[73] In Canada, it entered the top five and was certified platinum.[74]

Internationally, it reached number one in Australia, where it was certified double platinum by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA), and South Africa.[75] The album peaked at number four in the United Kingdom, receiving a platinum certification. It also entered the top ten of Japan and New Zealand, where it was certified double platinum and gold. It reached the top twenty-five of Sweden, as well as the top thirty in the Netherlands and Germany. It also received gold certifications in Switzerland and Hong Kong.[76] As of 2014, it has been estimated to sell nearly 20 million copies worldwide.[77] The Rhythm Nation 1814 video compilation and its reissue were each certified double platinum, selling over four million copies worldwide.[78][79]


Jackson performing "Rhythm Nation" during her Number Ones, Up Close and Personal tour, in 2011.

Rhythm Nation 1814 is the only album in history to have seven singles reach the top five of the Billboard Hot 100, surpassing a "seemingly impossible" record set by Michael Jackson's Thriller.[25] "Miss You Much" became its first of four singles to reach number one, peaking atop the chart for four weeks.[80] It also topped the Hot Dance Club Songs and Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs charts.[81] The single was certified platinum by the RIAA.[82] It also reached number two in Canada and New Zealand, one in Japanese airplay and South Africa, twelve in Australia, top fifteen in Belgium and the Netherlands, top twenty in Germany, Sweden, and Switzerland, twenty-two in the United Kingdom, and had charted in Brazil.[75][83] According to Radio & Records, "Miss You Much" was the biggest airplay hit of the year.[1] It sold over four million copies worldwide, and was declared the year's second best-selling single behind Phil Collins' "Another Day in Paradise."[84][85] "Rhythm Nation" peaked at number two, behind "Another Day in Paradise".[27] It peaked atop Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and Hot Dance Club Songs. It was certified gold by the RIAA.[81][82] It reached number six in Canada, two in Japanese airplay and South Africa, eleven in the Netherlands, fifteen in Belgium, top twenty of New Zealand and Sweden, and top twenty-five of Switzerland, Poland, and United Kingdom.[75][83]

"Escapade" became its second single to top the Hot 100, also peaking atop Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and Hot Dance Club Songs.[81] It was certified gold in May 1990.[82] It reached number one in Canada and Japanese airplay, four in South Africa, ten in Sweden and Belgium, thirteen in the Netherlands, seventeen in the United Kingdom, and twenty-three in Germany.[75][83] "Alright" peaked at number four on the Hot 100 and Hot Dance Club Songs, reaching number two on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs.[81] It was certified gold in June 1990.[82] It reached number six in Canada, three in South Africa, and one in Japanese airplay.[75][83] "Come Back to Me" peaked at number two on the Hot 100. It reached number three in Canada, as well as number one in Japanese airplay and South Africa, and top twenty in Poland, Sweden, and United Kingdom.[75][83]

"Black Cat" reached number one on the Hot 100 six weeks after its debut, and was certified gold.[28][82] It reached number four in Canada and three in Japanese airplay, five in Norway, six in Australia, the top ten in Sweden, France, and Switzerland, top fifteen in the United Kingdom, top twenty of Belgium, and twenty-one in the Netherlands.[75][83] "Love Will Never Do (Without You)" became the album's seventh and final single. It reached number one on January 19, 1991, topping the chart for one week. It reached number one in Canada and Japanese airplay, and two in South Africa.[28][75][83] The single was certified gold by the RIAA.[82] "State of the World" was issued solely for airplay and did not receive a commercial release, making it ineligible to chart.[86] It reached number five in pop airplay.[87] Billboard noted it likely would have been the album's eighth top five hit if a commercial product had been distributed.[86]


Rhythm Nation 1814 became the best-selling album of 1990 and made history as the only album to generate seven top-five hits on the Billboard Hot 100.[28][88] It is also the only album to achieve number one hits 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.[89] Glenn Gamboa of Newsday regarded it to have "changed the way radio sounded and MTV looked."[90] Charles Whitaker considered the album to create modern dance music, using various "kinetic, electronic sounds."[91] Pitchfork declared it the most current album of its era, "given its mixture of conceptual ambition and immediate-thrill pop."[92] Entertainment Weekly stated, "Rhythm Nation has barely aged—it sounds as rich and vital as it did when it was first released, and stylistically as contemporary as anything on the Billboard charts."[77] Joseph Vogel commented, "Twenty-five years later, those songs still pop with passion and energy [...] it’s still hard to listen and not want to join the movement."[25]

Jackson's "Rhythm Nation" outfit has been referenced by Rihanna and Cheryl Cole.

Rolling Stone observed Jackson's "Rhythm Nation" video to "set the template for hundreds of videos to come in the Nineties and aughts."[93] Its popularity was declared "its own pop cultural phenomenon," as it became "legendary," "groundbreaking," and "instantly recognizable."[94][95][96] Mike Weaver added, "Janet Jackson and her crew's innovative, one-of-a-kind, funk-and-groove choreography was unlike anything seen in the history of pop music."[97] Jackson's "Rhythm Nation" outfit set global fashion trends, later being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame along with the song's lyrics.[50][98][99] Beyoncé stated, "I used to dress up like her. [...] I had the lipstick, had the hair — even had some leather boots."[100] Jennifer Love Hewitt commented, "after I saw Janet Jackson's "Rhythm Nation" video, I went and cut it off and got a perm and had like three-inch bangs sticking out from my forehead."[101] Artists such as Cheryl Cole and Rihanna have also paid homage to the outfit.[102][103] The headset microphone was notably brought to prominence by Jackson throughout the Control and Rhythm Nation eras.[104] Entertainers such as Will Ferrell,[105] Jennifer Aniston,[106] Alex Wagner,[107] Pink,[108] Liz Phair,[109] and Thunderheist[110] have referred to it as the "Janet Jackson headset mic" or headpiece.

Following the album's success, Jackson "ended the decade as a massive global superstar."[111] Stan Hawkins stated the album "helped secure Jackson a position on par with Madonna."[112] Sal Cinquemani noted her popularity to eclipse Michael Jackson's, "as she would continue to do for more than a decade."[113] The success of the album has been considered to break racial boundaries in the recording industry. Joseph Vogel stated, "Just seven years earlier, black artists couldn’t get on MTV; FM radio was dominated by album-oriented (white) rock; and the music industry was largely segregated by genre. Now a black woman was at the helm of a new pop-cultural “nation,” preaching liberation through music and dance, while calling on her audience to keep up the struggle."[25] Recalling Jackson's diverse appeal among youth, Vogel commented: "Janet didn’t have the vocal prowess of Whitney Houston, or the poetic subtlety of Kate Bush; she didn’t have Annie Lennox’s penchant for the avant-garde or Madonna’s predilection for shock. But none of these artists achieved the cross-racial impact (particularly on youth culture) of Janet. And none of them had an album like Rhythm Nation 1814."[25]


Artists such as Lady Gaga have been cited to emulate the album.

Rhythm Nation 1814 pioneered several musical trends. Kyle Anderson stated, "The ebullient smash single 'Escapade' sounds like a building block for the turn-of-the-century teen pop craze. Any pop star who has borrowed the swagger and crunch from hair metal—Rihanna, Pink, Christina Aguilera—owes something to 'Black Cat.' Every Gwen Stefani song is essentially 'Miss You Much.' And title track 'Rhythm Nation' remains an incredibly kinetic workout that provided the DNA for everything from Lady Gaga’s 'Paparazzi' to the bulk of Beyoncé’s 4."[77] The single edit and music video for "Alright" featuring Heavy D made Jackson the first pop artist to collaborate with a rapper, setting the trend for future pop and hip-hop collaborations and remixes.[114] "Black Cat" was observed to influence pop artists transitioning into pop rock.[115][116][117] Brian McCollum noted the album to contain early forms of "aggressive electro pop."[118] It has also set a trend for pop albums to include various spoken interludes.[87]

Britney Spears declared it among her favorite albums, citing it as the inspiration for her eighth album, Britney Jean.[119] The album has been considered a predecessor to Lady Gaga's Born This Way due to its usage of industrial music and similar lyrical themes.[30] It has also been observed to influence several songs on Michael Jackson's Dangerous and HIStory albums.[120][121][122] Of Jackson's European influence, Jam stated, "[it influenced] a lot of music I heard, particularly coming out of Sweden... Robyn talks all the time about the influence Janet Jackson records had on everybody there, sonically and style-wise. A lot of the music coming from Europe definitely embraced a lot of that sound and the sonic textures."[123] Stuart Price described "‘Rhythm Nation’-esque qualities" while producing Kylie Minogue's Aphrodite.[124] Jamie Lidell called its vocals and instrumentation the inspiration for his self-titled fifth album.[125][126] Bok Bok called it an influence to artists such as Kelela, stating, "it's almost like fusion jazz in the way that it's wrong, but it's still totally pop music."[127] Yoo Young-jin based productions for Girls' Generation and TVXQ on the album's title track.[128] Martin Falck of The Knife declared it his favorite album.[129] Grimes' Visions was also thought to emulate the album.[130] Anastacia called it her first and only musical purchase.[131] Albums by Louise Nurding and Karyn White have also emulated the record.[132][133][134]

Jackson's albums, particularly Rhythm Nation 1814, have gained a notable following within indie rock and alternative music.[135] Sleigh Bells cited it as the inspiration for Bitter Rivals, with lead vocalist Alexis Krauss stating, "I was obsessing with the singing and the melodies of Rhythm Nation 1814."[136][137][138] Amy Lee of Evanescence and Lzzy Hale of Halestorm have also praised the album.[139][140] It has also influenced Lissie, A Sunny Day in Glasgow, and St. Vincent, who praised Jackson's vocal arrangements.[141][142][143] Due to Jackson's frequent usage of industrial rhythms, Trent Reznor had stated mainstream industrial music "sounds like a Janet Jackson record."[87][144]


The album earned Grammy Award nominations for "Best Female R&B Vocal Performance" and "Best Rhythm & Blues Song" for "Miss You Much", and "Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist" and "Best Long Form Music Video" for "Rhythm Nation", winning the latter award. Jackson was also nominated for "Producer of the Year, Non-Classical", becoming the first woman to be nominated for the award.[145][146] The following year, Jackson received nominations for "Best Female Rock Vocal Performance" for "Black Cat," in addition to "Best Rhythm & Blues Song" and "Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female" for "Alright."[147] Jackson also received two MTV Music Video Award nominations for "Best Dance Video" and "Best Choreography" for "Rhythm Nation", winning the latter.[148] She also received the MTV Video Vanguard Award, regarded as MTV's highest honor.[149] The album has been included among Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time,[93][150] in addition to the United Kingdom's 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[151] Jackson would later negotiate a $32 million recording contract with Virgin Records, the largest recording contract in history at the time.[152]

Organization Award Year Source
Parents' Choice Foundation Parents' Choice Award 1989 [153]
American Music Awards Favorite Dance Artist, Favorite Pop/Rock Female Artist, Favorite Soul/R&B Female Artist, Favorite Dance Single ("Miss You Much"), Favorite R&B Single ("Miss You Much") 1990-91 [154][155]
Billboard Awards 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 [156]
Billboard's Tanqueray Sterling Music Video Awards Best Female Video Artist, Black/Rap, Best Female Artist, Dance, Director's Award, Black/Rap (Rhythm Nation 1814 Film), Director's Award, Dance ("Alright"), Tanqueray Sterling Music Video Award for Artistic Achievement (Rhythm Nation 1814 Film) 1990 [157]
MTV Music Video Awards Best Choreography ("Rhythm Nation"), MTV Video Vanguard Award 1990 [149]
Grammy Awards Best Music Video, Long Form (Rhythm Nation 1814 Film) 1990 [158]
Rolling Stone "Women In Rock: The 50 Essential Albums" — #27 2002 [159]
Quintessence Editions Ltd. 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die 2003 [151]
Rolling Stone The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time — #275 2003 [150]
Rolling Stone The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time — #277 2012 [93]
Entertainment Weekly The 100 Best Albums of the Past 25 Years — #54 2008 [160]
Slant Magazine "Best Albums of the '80s" — #43 2012 [161]

Track listing[edit]

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



Weekly charts[edit]

Chart (1989–91) Peak
Australian Albums (ARIA)[163] 1
Canadian Albums (Billboard)[164] 5
Dutch Albums (MegaCharts)[163] 28
German Albums (Official Top 100)[165] 39
Japanese Albums (Oricon)[166] 8
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[163] 9
South Africa (RiSA)[75] 1
Swedish Albums (Sverigetopplistan)[163] 24
Swiss Albums (Schweizer Hitparade)[163] 23
United Kingdom Albums (OCC)[167] 4
US Billboard 200[71] 1
US Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums[71] 1

Year-end charts[edit]

End of year chart (1990) Position
US Billboard 200[168] 1
End of year chart (1991) Position
Australian Albums Chart[169] 13


Region Certification Sales/shipments
Australia (ARIA)[170] 2× Platinum 140,000^
Canada (Music Canada)[171] Platinum 100,000^
Japan (RIAJ)[172] 2× Platinum 400,000^
New Zealand (RMNZ)[173] Gold 7,500^
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[174] Gold 25,000x
United Kingdom (BPI)[175] Platinum 300,000^
United States (RIAA)[176] 6× Platinum 9,600,000[*]

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


  • ^ * As of December 2009, the album has sold 8,500,000 copies in the U.S. according to Nielsen SoundScan, which does not count albums sold through clubs like the BMG Music.[177] Combined, it has sold over 8,600,000 copies in the U.S. with additional 100,000 copies sold at BMG Music Clubs.[178] Nielsen SoundScan does not count albums sold through clubs like the BMG Music Service, which were significantly popular in the 1990s.

See also[edit]


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External links[edit]