By Michael Arceneaux, @youngsinick
It is a simple sentiment, but no less genuine: It is so nice to see people excited about Janet Jackson again.
As we await the formal release of the pop icon’s new album, Unbreakable, I can’t help but note that this is the first time in an awfully long one that we’ve been in the midst of anything reminiscent of the mania that used to surround her projects. Where people are not merely curious to hear a new Janet album, but giddy and excited. Where fans and news outlets alike speak of Janet’s new music with great anticipation. Where she is truly appreciated once again by the masses.
Part of the excitement is rooted in this being the first new studio album from Janet in seven years. Even so, the album that precedes Unbreakable, Discipline, was not greeted with as much excitement. The single, “Feedback,” was one of the youngest Jackson family member’s strongest singles of the last decade. There was also “Rock With U,” which, much like many of Janet’s best dance-pop offerings, was ahead of the curve, but not as successful as similar works from her expansive catalog. Neither made the impact they should have, but might have with another star at the time.
Before that was 20. Y.O., which produced the R&B hit “Call On Me” featuring Nelly. I tend to pretend that that duet never happened, but it landed at number one on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. It’s a feat not worth dismissing, but it does speak to the reality that any musical success Janet has enjoyed in the past decade has been relegated to R&B and dance charts. Those have long been her staples, but so have the pop charts.
2004’s Damita Jo did not follow the success of 2001’s All For You, though it was a more cohesive offering. To this day, I curse the world for not appreciating the Kanye West-produced single “I Want You.” Janet’s other albums were admittedly inconsistent, but the same can be said of her contemporaries — only she was given less passes.
Due to that wayward nipple and sexist double standards, much of Janet’s past decade was overshadowed by scandal. The reality is that, as Janet’s star dimmed following the Super Bowl, it was her core group of fans who kept her name alive. Janet did go on to tour, and thanks to Tyler Perry, net more success as an actress, but she was once someone as big as brother Michael and Madonna. But people failed to treat Janet as such.
That’s why no matter what happens with Unbreakable in terms of album sales and chart positions, it’s already a success. Janet’s legacy and influence is being spoken of more frequently. Her tour is selling out in the large arenas to which she is accustomed to performing in. She is back with her longtime collaborators, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, and recording music that is familiar as opposed to chasing trends.
In a description posted on the singer’s official site, Unbreakable is said to “mark the first time Janet Jackson has opened up about her brother Michael and with reflections concerning her youth.” The album will also explore “Janet’s views on where we stand today as individuals and as the inter-related elements of a planet.”
In essence, the album will be quintessential Janet Jackson. Judging from her three released songs so far — “No Sleeep,” “Unbreakable,” and “BURNITUP!” featuring Missy Elliott — she sounds inspired again. Thank goodness she decided to treat us to more music. Be grateful that she’s back on tour (covered or not). Let’s be happy that after 11 years, “Nipplegate” is no longer spoken of. Janet has always been more than that one night. After the way she was mistreated, Janet could have easily stayed away and told us to go listen to her four fantastic albums and watch the tours she released to DVD (or VHS, if you’re that much of a purist) while she continued to be rich abroad.
It all feels like a genuine comeback. And people are honoring her the way they always should have. It’s about f**king time.