State of the World (song)

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"State of the World"
Single by Janet Jackson
from the album Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814
Released February 6, 1991 (1991-02-06)
Format CD, 12"
Recorded April 1989 – December 1990;
Flyte Tyme Studios
(Minneapolis, Minnesota)
(Edina, Minnesota)
Length 4:47
Label A&M
Writer(s) Janet Jackson, James Harris III, Terry Lewis
Producer(s) Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis
Janet Jackson singles chronology
"Love Will Never Do (Without You)"
"State of the World"
"The Best Things in Life Are Free"

"State of the World" is a song by American singer-songwriter Janet Jackson, recorded for her fourth studio album, Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814 (1989). It was written and produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, with additional writing by Jackson. The song is musically decorated with sirens, heavy synthesizers and a groove, while it focuses lyrically on homelessness. While recording the album, Jackson and the producers watched television, specially news channels. The song was conceived after that. "State of the World" was released as the eighth and final single from the album on February 6, 1991, by A&M Records.

"State of the World" received mixed reviews from contemporary critics, with some complimenting its sound, while others found it not convincing. The song was not released commercially in the United States, being was ineligible to chart on the Billboard Hot 100 or the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, but reached number five on Billboard's Hot 100 Airplay chart. No music video was made to accompany the song. Jackson has only included "State of the World" on her Rhythm Nation World Tour in 1990.


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.[1] 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.[2] 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."[3] 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."[4]


On Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814, the song is preceded with an interlude titled "T.V.", which included "little snippets of discouraging news headlines and static as someone switches the channels". This leads into "State of the World", which is sonically decorated with sirens, heavy synthesizers and a groove.[5] The song focuses lyrically on homelessness. According to Jon Pareles of The New York Times, Jackson tries to stay optimistic with the world's state: "Let's weather the storm together", and compared the song musically to the music by Prince.[6] In the book Born in the U.S.A.: The Myth of America in Popular Music from Colonial Times to the Present by Timothy E. Scheurer, the writer noted that she attempts to spread a message of hope.[7] Pace magazine described the song as an "aggressive dance assault".[8]

Critical reception[edit]

"State of the World" received mixed reviews from music critics. Jon Pareles of The New York Times considered that "despite its platitudinous message, [the song] has stark edges and angles".[6] Sputnikmusic's Zachary Powell commented that "'State of the World' keeps the upbeat motion that Rhythm Nation begins, but with more of a socially conscious twist. It shares with the preceding track a groovy beat and dancability, but takes it to another direction lyrically and shows the caring side of Janet Jackson".[9] Dennis Hunt of Los Angeles Times commented positively saying that the move to social commentary was a rocky decision. However, he felt that "State of the World" was not interesting enough musically to carry the messages.[10] According to Entertainment Scene 360° in a retrospective review, the song had "not aged".[5]

On the book Michael Jackson A Life In Music: A Life in Music, by writer Geoff Brown focusing on Jackson's brother Michael, he noted that like her brother, she can focus on problems, as shown on the song, but offers no solutions.[11] The New Rolling Stone Album Guide commented that "heartfelt pleas for racial unity and cloudy musings on the 'State of the World' don't obscure the pulsating beat of other songs" from the album.[12] Jonathan Van Meter from Spin was critical of the song, saying that "State of the World", "Rhythm Nation" and "The Knowledge" formed "a Spike Lee-esque trilogy made even less convincing by a tiresome house music back-beat and that infortunate, outdated beat on every fourth count".[13] AllMusic's editor Alex Handerson called the song "disturbing".[14]

Chart performance[edit]

The song was released as a radio-only single, being ineligible to chart on the Billboard Hot 100 or the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs.[15] However, it peaked at number five on the US Billboard Hot 100 Airplay chart.

Live performance[edit]

Jackson has only included the song on her Rhythm Nation 1814 Tour.[16]

Track listings[edit]


Chart (1991) Peak
Australian Singles Chart[22] 94
US Billboard Hot 100 Airplay[23] 5
US Billboard Hot Dance Club Play[24] 9


  1. ^ Strong, Martin (2004), The Great Rock Discography: Complete Discographies Listing Every Track, Canongate U.S., p. 749, ISBN 1-84195-615-5 
  2. ^ Bronson, Fred (2002), Billboard's Hottest Hot 100 Hits, Watson-Guptill, p. 362, ISBN 978-0-8230-7738-0 
  3. ^ Johnson, Robert E. (1989-11-06). Janet Jackson Turns Serious: 'It's Nice To Laugh, But Don't Be The Joke'. Jet. p. 60. Retrieved 2010-09-05. 
  4. ^ Morse, Steve (1989-11-20), "Changing Her Tune Janet Jackson's New Conscience", The Boston Globe: 30, ISSN 0743-1791 
  5. ^ a b
  6. ^ a b Pareles, Jon (September 17, 1989). "Janet Jackson Adopts a New Attitude: Concern". New York Times. 
  7. ^ Born in the U.S.A. p. 244. 
  8. ^ Pace. 
  9. ^ "Janet Jackson - Rhythm Nation 1814 (album review ) - Sputnikmusic". 
  10. ^ "Jackson Gets Thoughtful : JANET JACKSON". latimes. 
  11. ^ Michael Jackson A Life In Music. p. 236. 
  12. ^ The New Rolling Stone Album Guide. p. 411. 
  13. ^ SPIN. p. 101. 
  14. ^ Alex Henderson. "Rhythm Nation 1814 - Janet Jackson - Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards - AllMusic". AllMusic. 
  15. ^ Eric Henderson (6 September 2009). "Janet Jackson: Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814 - Album Review - Slant Magazine". Slant Magazine. 
  16. ^ "Janet is worthy of family name". The Pittsburgh Press. March 14, 1990. Retrieved May 24, 2015. 
  17. ^ "Janet Jackson State Of The World Australian CD single (CD5 / 5") (2121)". 
  18. ^ Janet Jackson - State Of The World
  19. ^ Janet Jackson - State Of The World
  20. ^ "Janet Jackson State Of The World - 4 Mixes Canadian Promo 12" vinyl single (12 inch record / Maxi-single) (95239)". 
  21. ^ Janet Jackson - State Of The World (The Remixes)
  22. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970-1992. St Ives, NSW, Australia: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6. 
  23. ^ "Hot 100 Airplay – Chart Listing For The Week Of Apr 06 1991". Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. Retrieved April 28, 2015. 
  24. ^ "Rhythm Nation 1814 > Charts & Awards > Billboard Singles". Allmusic. Retrieved April 8, 2009. 

External links[edit]