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As a member of the Jackson clan, Janet was exposed to the entertainment industry from an early age. She performed with the Jackson 5 and appeared on their US TV show.
However, she also took on acting jobs outside the family—appearing as Penny Woods in the television series Good Times from 1977-1979. She subsequently had roles in A New Kind Of Family, Diff'rent Strokes, Fame and The Love Boat.
Jackson's recording career began with small roles. A duet with brother Randy on "Love Song For Kids" (1978); backgrounds on two songs by sister LaToya (both tracks were also co-written by Janet Jackson); and backgrounds on brother Michael's "P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)" from his mega-successful "Thriller" album (1982).
At the age of sixteen, she released her first album. Simply called "Janet Jackson" it didn't achieve the commercial success of her siblings' recordings—reaching number 63 in the US charts. However, two single releases from the album hit the Pop Charts, "Young Love" and "Come Give Your Love To Me" (peaking at #64 and #58 respectively). Both tracks did well on urban radio, with "Young Love" reaching the Top 10. An additional release "Say You Do" also hit the Top 20 of the urban charts.
In 1984, she released a second album, "Dream Street." It marked a musical progression from her debut, with more funky, up-tempo production by brother Marlon. The album produced two hits on the R&B charts, one single, "Don't Stand Another Chance" reaching #9. However, the album only peacked at #147 on the album charts, failing to reach the mediocre sales of her first release.
That same year, she eloped with singer James DeBarge and married him. The marriage didn't last long, with DeBarge's drug habit often cited as the reason for the break-up.
One year later Jackson recorded a single only to be released in Japan. The song "Start Anew" was very much in the same vein as the material from her last album. Ironically, Jackson would start anew with her next project.
For her next album, Jackson was put in touch with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. The duo had been producing hits for the likes of Luther Vandross and the SOS band. They steered Jackson away from the light pop of her first two albums towards a more stripped-down funk. Importantly, they also encouraged Jackson to write more personal lyrics. In particular, the title track "Control" speaks of her stuggle to escape her family's influence.
The album went to number one on both the pop and r&b charts. Six of the nine tracks were released as singles. Five singles went to the Top 5 of the Pop charts, with Jackson achieving her first number 1 single with "When I Think Of You". Five of the singles, except "When I Think Of You" hit #1 on the R&B charts.
A&M Records co-founder and artist in his own right, Herb Alpert would record three songs with Jackson and singer Lisa Keith in 1987 for his next album. Only two would make the cut, but both tracks would be released to radio. The single "Diamonds" would hit #5 on the Pop charts and #1 on the R&B charts, and "Making Love In The Rain" would hit the Top 40 on the Pop charts, and Top 10 on the R&B charts. Herb and Janet had two extra hits on their hands.
It took until 1989 for a new album to surface. The release date was pushed back several times as Jackson, along with Jam and Lewis, struggled to commit their ideas to record.
Rhythm Nation 1814 was the result. Jackson explained that "Control was about my life; Rhythm Nation is about what's going on in the world around us."
The album opens with a suite of songs about drugs, homelessness, education and prejudice. Musically, there is a much harder edge than on "Control" but the public did not flinch. The album hit #1 on Pop and R&B charts spawning four US number ones and a further three Top 5 hits.
Jackson headed back to the studio to record "2300 Jackson Street" with her brothers. The track would feature all but 2 of the Jackson siblings. A video was also filmed.
A massive world tour followed in 1990. Trailing Madonna's "Blond Ambition" tour around the globe, Jackson's tour nevertheless won favourable comparisons. The show set the standard for all of her future live performances—pyrotechnics, large set-piece dance numbers and even a panther took the stage every night.
Once the tour finished, Jackson would hardly have some time to herself.
Jackson would record backgrounds on the all-star Eddie Murphy track "Yeah" and record the hit duet "The Best Things In Life Are Free" with Luther Vandross. The latter becoming a Top 10 hit for the duo.
In 1993 Jackson turned her attention to acting again and took a part in John Singleton's "Poetic Justice". Playing opposite Tupac Shakur, Jackson played Justice, a young African-American poet.
In the meantime, she had left A&M records and signed a two-album, $32 million dollar deal with Virgin Records. At the time it was the largest recording deal in history.
The first album for her new record company was "janet." (with a period in the title). Often referred to by fans as her "sex album", it was trailed by the slinky, seductive "that's the way love goes". The single would become Jackson's biggest hit on the Pop charts, (#1 for 8 weeks).
In retrospect, it seems that this album was a love letter to her new husband and long-time friend Rene Elizondo. The couple had married in secret to avoid press speculation, and Elizondo is said to have co-written many of the tracks on "janet." It is his hands that cover the singer's breasts on the record's cover.
Again, the record was a huge success. "janet." debuted at #1 on the Pop and R&B charts selling more than 350,000 copies (which the most at that time). The album spawned six top ten singles, two of which hit the top spot. The album track "where are you now" managed to hit #12 on the Rhythmic Top 40. The non-album track "and on and on" (only available on the single to Jackson's "any time, any place) also managed a spot on the Rhythmic Top 40, hitting #17. Jackson's international success was expanding. In the UK, for example, the single releases saw Jackson return to the top 10 for the first time since 1986.
Jackson performed a second consecutive world tour. She was on the road for the "janet." tour for two years.
In 1995, Janet Jackson recorded the duet "Scream" with her brother Michael. Another number huge hit, reaching the Top Five on the Pop and R&B charts. The video became the most expensive video ever, weighing in at a cost of around $7.89million.
Also in 1995, A&M Records released Jackson's first greatest hits album. Titled 'Design Of A Decade 1986/1996', the album featured all of Jackson's hits from her "Control" and "Rhythm Nation 1814" albums, as well as including Jackson's big hit "that's the way love goes. Also included were two new recordings. One of those songs, "Runaway" became a big hit for Jackson. The single peaked at #3 on the Pop charts and #6 on the R&B charts. The second, "Twenty Foreplay" would hit the Top 40 mainstream charts at #36.
After the success of the "Janet" album, Jackson re-negotiated her deal with Virgin Records for a reported $80 million.
In 1997, Jackson released "The Velvet Rope". Sonically, it was much more adventurous than previous albums, featuring tinges of Euro-trance and jungle alongside the familiar pop and funk tracks. Jackson's first release "Got 'til It's Gone" would not become an official release, although it was received quite favourably at radio. The second single "Together Again", dedicated to friends who had died of AIDS, was a worldwide smash and has become an anthem for many Jackson fans. The following single "I Get Lonely" became another Top 5 hit for Janet. The remix version featuring R&B group Blackstreet would end up reaching the #1 spot on the R&B charts. Two additional tracks were released to radio, one, "Go Deep" becoming a favourite.
The Velvet Rope also saw Jackson toy with her sexy image. In particular, a cover of Rod Stewart's "Tonight's The Night" seemed to be addressed to a female love interest. Additionally the album had some fairly blatant sexual material. Photographs inside showed Jackson tied up in bondage ropes on a bed. Close ups of her nipples (with a piercing through them) were featured. There was also a non-musical interlude track featuring Jackson (possibly simulating) having phone sex with a female.
Other lyrics on the album pointed to a troubled state of mind in their author. The album's "concept" was that happiness comes from within—and Jackson seemed to be struggling with the fact that fame and money had not brought her happiness.
Jackson's voice could be heard all over the radio even after the last single from "The Velvet Rope" was released. First she would appear on the Shaggy single "Luv Me, Luv Me". The song would only make it as high as #76 on the Hot 100.
Busta Rhymes would also recruit Jackson to sing on the track "What's It Gonna Be?!", with help from a steamy video, the song would hit the Top 5 of the Pop charts, and #1 on the R&B and Rap charts. This single would mark Jackson's first appearance on the rap charts.
Jackson next hit the charts again with R&B group Blackstreet with the track "Girlfriend/Boyfriend". The song would just miss the Top 40 of the pop charts, but still hit the Top 20 of the R&B charts.
The singer would then record a duet with legend Elton John for his "AIDA" soundtrack. The song "I Know The Truth" was a touching ballad, showcasing Jackson's ever-growing versatility as an artist. Jackson would also write, produce and record a song for a Pepsi promotional campaign. The campaign and accompanying song "Ask For More" would never reach North America, but nonetheless a single released overseas. Jackson had returned to her pop roots while maintaing the euro-influences from her last album.
However, after this project, it was announced that Jackson had split up from her second husband Rene. To most fans this was a shock—they'd never known that the couple were married. It was widely reported that Rene was planning to sue for lost earnings (his co-writing credits had been omitted from all songs before "The Velvet Rope" as part of the couples vow of secrecy). However, Jackson maintained that the break-up was amicable.
This seemed to be blown out of the water by a track on her next, and most recent album "All For You"... On "Son of a Gun" the refrain taunts an un-named lover "Ha Ha... thought you'd get the money too, greedy motherf***ers try to have their cake and eat it too".
However the All For You album (released 2001) was much more upbeat than The Velvet Rope. Songs dealt with the joys of romance and being single.
Commercially, it was not as successful as previous efforts and only three singles were released. However the title track became Janet's second biggest hit, reaching #1 for 7 weeks. The second single "Someone To Call My Lover" hit the Top 5 of the Pop charts, an equally big hit for Janet.
Jackson's box-office appeal was not in doubt, as another sell-out tour proved. Although the European leg of the concert was cancelled in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks on America, extra dates were added around the USA and the television / DVD release of the final, Hawaiian date of the tour was a massive success.
Jackson returned to the studio to feature on young singer Justin Timberlake's song "(And She Said) Take Me Now". Jackson was also featured on Beenie Man's "Feel It Boy", the song and video would become another hit for Jackson. However controversy was caused when Jackson's fans protested her collaboration with Beenie Man whose album's lyrics very blatantly promoted the violent attack on and killing of homosexuals.
Jackson's well-wishes can also be heard on fellow artist, and one-time duet partner MC Lyte's newest release.
Jackson's newest album Damita Jo was released in March 2004. Its first single, "Just A Little While", which has a pop-rock feel to it, was marketed to mainstream and adult contemporary radio in early spring 2004. However, likely due in part to the Super Bowl controversy (see below), it was a commercial flop. The fact that MTV and VH1 had declined the video did not help matters. It was almost immediately followed by the second, more urban single, "I Want You". To date, "I Want You" has not fared any better than "Just A Little While" at either pop radio or urban radio. The one promising sign is that MTV, VH1, and BET did decide to play the "I Want You" video; nevertheless it has not been spun as frequently as many of Jackson's previous videos.
Because of the poor sales of her album, in 2004 Jackson also began doing television talk show promotions, a first for her. She hosted Saturday Night Live and was heavily criticized because of the extremely sexual content of many of the sketches in which she was involved (notably one which made a joke of the phrase 'cork-soaker' sounding like something more perverse.)
Jackson is currently dating Jermaine Dupri.
Super Bowl XXXVIIIDuring the halftime show of Super Bowl XXXVIII on February 1, 2004, Janet Jackson performed with Justin Timberlake to an audience of over 100 million people. During this live performance, her top was torn open by Timberlake, exposing Jackson's right breast; the nipple was partially covered by a piercing. Timberlake called the incident a "wardrobe malfunction". Jackson apologized at first, calling it an accident and saying that Timberlake was supposed to pull away the bustier and leave the red-lace bra intact.
CBS, the NFL, and MTV, which produced the halftime show, disclaimed all responsibility under a hailstorm of controversy. The FCC has announced an investigation.
As a result, CBS cancelled its invitation to Jackson to perform at the 2004 Grammy Awards ceremony.