Janet Jackson is one of the greatest pop and R&B artists to emerge in recent decades. For proof, look no further than her career, which has seen her sell more than 100 million records on a worldwide basis. A number that is more than enough to make Jackson one of the best-selling artists ever.
11. Dream Street
There is a stereotype of artists stumbling when it comes to their sophomore albums. One can make an argument that Dream Street can be considered an example. After all, it is Jackson’s single worst-performing album, with the result that it failed to get a single hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Still, the single “Don’t Stand Another Chance” did manage to find some success.
10. Janet Jackson
Jackson made her self-titled album when she was still at the age of 16. As such, it should come as no surprise to learn that this was her debut album as well. Music-wise, Janet Jackson has been called bubblegum soul, meaning that it wasn’t necessarily bad but nonetheless nowhere near as substantial as the artist’s later work.
9. 20 Y.O.
It is interesting to note that the name of 20 Y.O. was a reference to Jackson’s third album Control. Simply put, 20 Y.O. came out in 2006 while Control came out in 1986, meaning that one was inspired to some extent by the other. Unfortunately, Jackson’s ninth album wasn’t capable of hitting the same heights as her third album. It still did very well in a commercial sense, but it met with a rather mixed response from the critics. On the whole, 20 Y.O. was fun. The issue was that it was fun in a way that had already been done before again and again.
Often-times, critics and consumers can have very different opinions of the same work. To name an example, Jackson’s tenth album Discipline was well-received by the critics. In contrast, well, suffice to say that it was a commercial failure that ended her new relationship with Island Records. It is perhaps telling that more than one critic praised Discipline because it was an improvement on her previous two albums at the time.
7. Damita Jo
Damita Jo is often remembered more because of the wardrobe malfunction that happened at the Super Bowl halftime show than its merits. It wasn’t a bad album. For proof, consider how it managed to sell more than two million copies, which isn’t exactly the kind of thing that just anyone can do. Unfortunately, Damita Jo had an issue in that it was retreading trod-upon ground. As such, it had a whiff of stagnancy to it.
6. All for You
All for You was rooted in Jackson’s separation from Rene Elizondon, Jr. This is something that becomes very clear when one listens to her seventh studio album. However, this is also something that worked out very well. All for You didn’t go out of its way to tackle darker issues. Instead, it decided on an upbeat feel, which combined very well with the sense of innovation that showed on more than one of its songs.
There are some artists who undergo a long, slow decline from which there is no recovery and no reversal. However, Jackson can’t be considered one of them. After all, she did make Unbreakable, which would be the 11th of her 11 albums. Subject-wise, it is an album that couldn’t have been made by a younger artist because it is very much influenced by the experiences that Jackson has had over the course of her life. Furthermore, Unbreakable also had more of a focus on social consciousness, thus enabling it to break away from some of the patterns that Jackson had settled into with some of her later work. Combined, it was no wonder that Unbreakable claimed the number one position on the Billboard 200. Something that was particularly remarkable because that meant that she became just the third act in the history of the chart to have a number one album in every single one of the last four decades.
Some people might wonder why janet. has such an unusual name. If so, they should know that it was Jackson’s fifth album, meaning that it came out at a very different point in her life than her later works. For example, she was still being hounded by accusations that her success came from her being a member of the Jackson family in those days, which is why she made sure to write all of her lyrics for it. Similarly, the name of the album was meant to emphasize her personal name while deemphasizing her status as a member of the Jackson family. Regardless, janet. is also interesting because this was the album that saw her abandon her once-conservative image in preference for the sexuality that would become iconic in her later career.
3. Rhythm Nation 1814
Rhythm Nation 1814 followed in the footsteps of Control. As such, there was considerable pressure on Jackson to do something similar. However, she opted to make a different kind of album that was quite concerned about being socially conscious. Of course, that wouldn’t have mattered if the album wasn’t also a superb work packed with crossover appeal, so much so that it remains one of Jackson’s most influential releases.
2. The Velvet Rope
The Velvet Rope was a concept album born of introspection. It had a huge impact on Jackson’s image as well as Jackson’s career for a number of reasons. For example, its interest in darker topics reminded people of her breadth. Similarly, its often sexually-explicit content further cemented her status as one of the most prominent sex symbols of the 1990s. Besides this, it is also interesting to note that The Velvet Rope helped Jackson develop a gay following because of its opposition to homophobia as well as interest in related issues.
Neither one of Jackson’s first two albums did particularly well. Instead, it was Control that put her on top of the Billboard 200 for the very first time. Said album was extremely influential, so much so that it has been seen as a template for other female artists to pattern their careers upon. For what it is worth, this is no coincidence. After all, Control is named thus because it was the product of an incredible act of self-actualization on Jackson’s part, which was made possible by her choosing at last to go her own way.