janet. (1993)

How Janet Jackson’s janet. Album Remains A R&B/Pop Classic 30 Years Later

Janet Jackson’s 1993 album janet. completely redefined the pop music landscape and remained an iconic and classic masterpiece. The album, which marked Jackson’s fifth studio effort and was released on May 18, 1993, was a significant departure from her previous landmark albums, Control (1986) and Rhythm Nation 1814 (1989), and showcased her incredible versatility as a musician, performer, and cultural icon.

At its release, the public was already familiar with Janet Jackson’s impressive musical and artistic range, having seen her evolve from a teenage pop singer and actress in the early ’80s to a socially conscious multi-genre dance artist by the early ’90s. But janet. represented an entirely different side of her artistry, showcasing her growth as a woman, a lover, and a musical pioneer.

scene from the "If" music video

One of the most striking features of janet. is the album’s ability to blend genres seamlessly. From R&B to funk to pop to house music, Jackson was unafraid to mix it up and try new things throughout the tracks. This reflected Jackson’s personal life at the time, including her recent marriage to dancer and director Rene Elizondo Jr. With production work from the legendary Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis and Jackson’s writing and vocal talents; the album keeps the listener engaged from start to finish.

Perhaps the most enduring aspect of janet. is its exploration and celebration of Jackson’s sexuality and femininity, both sonically and visually. The album’s opening track, “Morning,” sets the tone with a sultry whisper of “Shhhh… it’s okay, baby.” From then on, songs like “That’s The Way Love Goes,” “If,” “Throb,” “The Body That Loves You,” and “Any Time, Any Place” all showcase her uninhibited expression in a way that was groundbreaking in pop music.

the iconic Janet Jackson "Rolling Stone" magazine cover

The album’s visuals also contributed to this aspect, with Jackson’s iconic cover art featuring a topless image of herself. At the same time, the accompanying music video flirted with the daring and sensual side that she had backed away from in previous video appearances. This willingness to directly confront matters of love and sexuality was and still is strikingly courageous for a mainstream pop artist, and helped pave the way for future artists like Beyoncé, Britney Spears, and Rihanna.

Apart from its groundbreaking themes, janet. also proved to be a commercial success. It debuted at #1 on the US Billboard 200 chart and was certified six-times platinum. Even the critical acclaim the opus received was impressive, as publications such as Rolling Stone and Entertainment Weekly hailed it as a showpiece that solidified Jackson’s position as a pop music icon and an artist unafraid to experiment and continue pushing boundaries.

Rolling Stone magazine editor Touré declared, “As princess of America’s black royal family, everything Janet Jackson does is important. Whether proclaiming herself in charge of her life, as she did on Control (1986), or commander in chief of a rhythm army dancing to fight society’s problems (Rhythm Nation 1814, from 1989), she’s influential. And when she announces her sexual maturity, as she does on her new album, Janet, it’s a cultural moment.”

“The princess of America’s black royal family has announced herself sexually mature and surrendered none of her crown’s luster in the process. Black women and their friends, lovers, and children have a victory in Janet,” Toure’s review concluded.

scene from the "That's The Way Love Goes" music video

The lead single, “That’s the Way Love Goes,” was a massive hit, spending eight weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100. The song’s sultry, laid-back vibe set the tone for the rest of the album. It was not the intended first single by Janet’s record label “Virgin.” It took the convincing of the song’s producers, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, along with album collaborate Chuck D. of Public Enemy fame, to lead the janet. album with “That’s The Way Love Goes.”

janet.‘s second single “If” was Virgin’s original choice to be the album’s first single as the fiery number contains the elements of dance, pop, rock, and soul that hits from Jackson’s previous studio album, Rhythm Nation, possessed and caused to become the biggest-selling American album of 1990. “If” was acclaimed for its innovation and sonic progression, as well as its sexuality and usage of multiple genres. Music editor Larry Flick from Billboard described it as a “moist, seductive teaser, wrapped in an equally sexy pop/hip-hop groove.” The song’s videos possess one of the most iconic choreographed dance routines ever as Janet and her female dancers make the male dancers submissive to their self-empowered sexuality.

“Again,” janet.‘s third single was the album’s standout pop ballad that topped the American music charts and was nominated for a Golden Globe and Academy Award as the song was featured in the 1993 film Poetic Justice. Billboard called the tune a “delicate ballad” and added, “Her evocative voice is swathed in elegant piano lines and quasi-orchestral strings that will thrill ardent fans at top 40 radio. Melancholy lyrics are icing on a sweet musical cake that millions will want to taste.” 20 years after becoming a hit in America and Europe, Essence magazine ranked “Again” as the number-four most excellent break-up song of all time.

scene from the "Any Time, Any Place" music video

“Any Time, Any Place,” janet.‘s fifth single, was the album’s single that cemented Jackson’s public image as a sex symbol. The jazzy, R&B quiet-storm tune is based on sexual liberation, similar to the music stylings of soul music legends Barry White and Marvin Gaye. Jackson sings about herself and her lover having public displays of affection. The song held the number-one position on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs for ten weeks and became Jackson’s biggest hit on that chart. It peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100 for several weeks. Troy J. Augusto from Cash Box wrote, “Exactly one year after the release of the janet. album comes the issue of one of its best tracks, this burning, down-tempo grinder. The single release prunes the original 7-minute song down to a tidy and most attractive four 1/2-minute winner [remixed by R. Kelly].”

Beyond the album’s music and image, janet. was also significant for its impact on music videos. Jackson’s iconic music videos have always been essential to her career, and janet. was no exception. From the sensual love-making in “Any Time, Any Place” to the breakdown dance routine in “If,” the janet. era featured Jackson’s groundbreaking choreography, fashion, and cinematography. Billboard praised the “If” video’s “head-slapping choreography.” Maureen Sajbel of The LA Times stated Jackson’s style in “That’s The Way Love Goes” abandoned “the masculine clothes,” becoming “refined and softened to a model-perfect feminine image.” “Any Time, Any Place” was praised for its “be responsible” warning to viewers at the video’s end, as the rapid growth of HIV/AIDS shook communities worldwide throughout the 1990s.

janet. is an iconic and classic album that cemented Janet Jackson’s status as a cultural force to be reckoned with. The album’s ability to explore themes of love, sexuality, and other personal issues in ways not seen in popular music at the time and its creative blend of genres make it stand out even today. It is an album that will live on for decades and inspire generations of pop artists who follow in Jackson’s footsteps.

About Waddie G.

Waddie G. is the Founding Editor of The G-Listed. Based in New York City, Waddie G.’s writing shows off his biggest passions for pop and gay cultures. Born in Sacramento, raised in Kansas City, developed in Atlanta, and matured in Chicago, Waddie G. is an unabashed foodie, proud R&B junkie, adventurous traveler, serial scribbler, and textbook Virgo. Waddie G. and his content has been featured on the "Wendy Williams Show," TMZ, Grindr, Vice, I-D, Windy City Times, and The Gothamist.