The 18th of May 1993 was a big day in my life; it was the day I picked up my GCSE results from school. Needless to say I was terrified, as what was in that envelope could affect my whole life. I had dreams of being a veterinary nurse back then and I needed certain grades to get into my course of choice. Whilst other friends were meeting up and going up together, I decided instead I wanted to make that journey alone. I didn’t want to talk to anyone.
There was another reason I wanted to go alone. The new Janet Jackson album was out that day too, which was an equally big a deal for me.
I’d fallen in love with the youngest of the Jackson siblings since the release of her Rhythm Nation 1814 album. Control had been a little bit before my time, but I did still know the big hits like Nasty and What Have You Done For Me Lately, which I later grew to love too. But it was Rhythm Nation that came out when I first started to love and buy music.
But then she released the first single off the follow up album, Janet. That’s The Way Love Goes, a sexy mid-tempo R&B track was released a few weeks ahead of the album. It was the start of what would be a whole new sound for her.
I decided I would make the half an hour walk to school, but detour by the nearest record shop, Hillsborough Records first to pick up my copy of the brand new album. I’d been listening to the CD single nonstop since I bought it a few weeks earlier. It had gotten to number two in the charts, which seemed like a huge pop injustice. But then again, it was held off the top spot by Ace of Base’s classic tune All That She Wants; A worthy rival, I’m sure you’ll agree. The video featured Janet hanging out with her cool mates and acting all shy as they asked to hear her new track, which of course she inevitably played and sang along to. There’s even a glimpse of a pre-fame J-Lo busting some moves to the track.
Janet was the amazing follow up album I had been waiting for. There were many differences to its predecessor and it was the start of what would be a whole new sound for her. Gone we’re the political themes of the last album and in came a more fun, sexually charged Janet. That wasn’t clear just how much from the CD cover of the album that featured a closed up picture of her head and shoulders. Later when I bought the video, and special two disc edition, I would find out was cut down from a bigger picture, showing a pair of disembodied hands on her otherwise naked breasts. That picture was more of a true representation of the kind of sound on the album. It may seem quite tame by today’s standards, but back in ’93, that was pretty raunchy stuff. Many years later at her Superbowl performance, there wouldn’t be a hand to cover her modesty. Although Justin Timberlake’s weren’t far away.
Janet was more of a versatile album that its predecessor. It showed a sassy side to Janet (Miss Jackson if you’re nasty). Tracks like second single If and don’t-fuck-with-me anthem, This Time, showed her tougher side. If you were ever thinking on cheating on our Janet, then let this song be your warning.
Her sexy side comes out on Any time, any place; a sultry R&b ballad. I remember seeing her play live on the album tour. One lucky chap was pulled from the crowd, placed on a chair whilst Janet performed the rest of the song sat on his knee. I bet he still dines out on that story.
She turns the sex dial up a few more notches on Throb. It see her moving into house music with this huge club track. She’s clearly become more confident expressing her sexual side on this album and this track in particular. Not something we’d seen on amy of her previous work, but something we’d see from her more regularly going forward.
And then there’s her softer side too. She’s always had a knack for making a good ballad, with Let’s wait a while and Come back to me from her previous albums. Janet is no different. Again is probably my favourite Janet ballad to date, which is built predominantly around a piano and vocal arrangement. It became one of the seven hit singles from the album. Equally deep cut Where are you now is equally as beautiful, although my favourite version of this song is on the remix album. Nellee Hooper of Soul II Soul fame gets his hands on it and creates more upbeat R&B vibe.
I’ve been a fan of Janet Jackson ever since her Rhythm Nation album. Whilst I still enjoy her music, for me there were three of her albums that stand out as classics. Janet was the second (after RN1814), with Velve Rope being the third. All three of those records hold special place on my heart (and you never know I might get to do something on the others at some point too). These were the albums in which she stood from under her brother’s shadow and showed the world she was a serious artist in her own right.