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Janet Damita Jo Jackson (born May 16, 1966) is an American recording artist and actress. Known for a series of sonically innovative, socially conscious and sexually provocative records, as well as elaborate stage shows, television appearances, and film roles, she is a prominent figure in popular culture.
After signing a recording contract with A&M, she came to prominence following the release of her third studio album, Control (1986). Her collaborations with record producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis incorporated elements of pop with rhythm and blues, dance, funk, hip-hip, and industrial overtones, leading to appeal in popular music. Her fourth album, Rhythm Nation 1814 (1989), focused on socially conscious themes and various musical styles, and made Jackson the only artist in history to garner seven top five singles from the same album. In addition to receiving recognition for the innovation of her records, choreography, music videos, and prominence on radio and music channels, she was acknowledged as a role model for her lyrical substance.
Jackson signed the first of two record-breaking, multimillion dollar contracts with Virgin Records, establishing her as one of the industry's highest paid artists. Her debut album under the label, janet. (1993), saw her develop a public image as a sex symbol as she began to explore carnality in her work. Upon its release, she played the starring role in the film Poetic Justice; and has continued to act in feature films, including The Nutty Professor II: The Klumps and the Why Did I Get Married? franchise. Her following album, The Velvet Rope (1997), discussed themes of depression and sadomasochism, spawning the biggest hit of her career, "Together Again." By the end of the nineties, Billboard named her the second most successful recording artist of the decade, following Mariah Carey. All for You (2001), Jackson's seventh album, returned to an upbeat, optimistic sound. It was succeeded by Damita Jo (2004), 20 Y.O. (2006), and Discipline (2008).
Having sold over 130 million records, she is ranked as one of the best-selling artists in the history of contemporary music. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) lists her as the eleventh best-selling female artist in the United States, with 26 million certified albums. In 2012, Billboard declared Jackson the seventh most successful female artist of the past twenty years, the ninth most successful overall, and was previously ranked second during the mid-decade. In 2010, the publication declared her as the fifth most successful R&B artist of the past twenty-five years. She is currently the third most successful artist on the Hot Dance Club Songs chart. Jackson has a total of five albums among the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's "Definitive 200 Albums," Rolling Stone's "500 Greatest Albums of All Time," and The Telegraph's "120 Essential Pop Albums," considered among the most influential in popular music. She has amassed an extensive catalog of hits, with singles such as "Nasty", "Rhythm Nation", "That's the Way Love Goes", "Together Again," and "All for You" her most iconic.
One of the world's most awarded artists, her longevity, records and achievements reflect her influence in shaping and redefining the scope of popular music. Her influence is thought to rival that of Madonna and Michael Jackson. Jackson's accolades include six Grammy Awards, an Emmy Award, MTV's Video Vanguard Award, and Academy Award and Golden Globe Award nominations. She has been awarded the Radio Music Award's "Legend Award," Recording Academy's "Governor's Award," Billboard Award's "Artistic Achievement Award," MTV's inaugural Icon tribute, American Music Award's "Award of Merit," MTV Japan's "Inspiration Award," and was also the recipient of the "Legend Award" at the World Music Awards. Her film career has garnered industry recognition, receiving MTV Movie Awards and Image Awards. Jackson holds a record of over thirty Billboard Awards, and is the only artist in history to receive Grammy nominations spanning five different genres.
Life and career
1966–82: Early life and career beginnings
Janet Jackson was born in Gary, Indiana, the youngest of ten children, to Katherine Esther (née Scruse) and Joseph Walter Jackson. The Jacksons were lower-middle class and devout Jehovah's Witnesses, although Jackson would later refrain from organized religion. At a young age, her brothers began performing as The Jackson 5. In March 1969, the group signed a record deal with Motown, and soon had their first number one hit. The family then moved to the Encino neighborhood of Los Angeles. Jackson had initially desired to become a horse racing jockey or entertainment lawyer, with plans to support herself through acting. Despite this, she was anticipated to pursue a career in entertainment, and considered the idea after recording herself in the studio. At age seven, Jackson performed at the Las Vegas Strip at the MGM Casino. A biography revealed her father, Joseph Jackson, was emotionally withdrawn, and told her to address him solely by his first name as a child. She began acting in the variety show The Jacksons in 1976. In 1977, she was selected to play a recurring role as Penny Gordon Woods in the sitcom Good Times. Jackson's first recording, "Long Song for Kids," a duet with Randy Jackson, was released as a b-side in 1978. She later starred in A New Kind of Family before joining the cast of Diff'rent Strokes, portraying Charlene Duprey for two years. Jackson also played the recurring role of Cleo Hewitt during the fourth season of Fame, but expressed indifference towards the series.
1982–92: Early recordings, Control, and Rhythm Nation 1814
When Jackson was sixteen, she was arranged a contract with A&M Records. Her debut album, Janet Jackson, was released in 1982. It was produced by Angela Winbush, René Moore and Leon F. Sylvers III, and overseen by her father Joseph. It peaked at number sixty-three on Billboard, and number six on the publication's R&B albums chart, receiving little promotion. Jackson's second album, Dream Street, was released two years later. Dream Street reached one-hundred forty-seven on the Billboard 200, and number nineteen on the R&B albums chart. The lead single "Don't Stand Another Chance" peaked at number nine on Billboard's R&B singles chart. Both albums consisted primarily of bubblegum pop music. Jackson eloped with singer James DeBarge in 1984, divorcing shortly afterwards, with the marriage annulled the following year.
After her sophomore album, Jackson terminated business affairs with her family, commenting "I just wanted to get out of the house, get out from under my father, which was one of the most difficult things that I had to do." Attempting a third album, Jackson recruited producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis to collaborate. Jackson set to achieve crossover pop appeal, while also creating a strong foundation within the urban market. Within six weeks, Jackson and the duo crafted her third studio album, Control, released in February 1986. The album peaked at number one on Billboard, and was certified fivefold platinum, selling over fourteen million copies worldwide.
It received six Billboard Awards, including "Top Pop Singles Artist," and three Grammy nominations, most notably "Album of the Year." It also won four American Music Awards from twelve nominations, an unbroken record. Control was declared "remarkably nervy and mature" for a teenage act, also considered "an alternative to the sentimental balladry" which permeated radio, likening Jackson to Donna Summer's position of "unwilling to accept novelty status and taking her own steps to rise above it." At this point, Jackson was successfully "shaking off the experience of being a shadow Jackson child," becoming "an artist in her own right." Control spawned five top five singles, "What Have You Done for Me Lately," "Nasty," "When I Think of You," "Control," and "Let's Wait Awhile," and a top fifteen hit with "The Pleasure Principle." "When I Think of You" becoming her first number one. The album's lyrical content included several themes of empowerment, inspired by an incident of sexual harassment, with Jackson recalling "the danger hit home when a couple of guys started stalking me on the street ... Instead of running to Jimmy or Terry for protection, I took a stand. I backed them down. That's how songs like 'Nasty' and 'What Have You Done for Me Lately' were born, out of a sense of self-defense." Its innovative fusion of dance pop and industrial music with hip-hop and R&B undertones influenced the development of the new jack swing genre by bridging the gap between the latter two styles. The album's music videos became infamous on MTV, also obtaining a then-unknown Paula Adbul a recording contract for her choreography work with Jackson. Billboard stated "[Jackson's] accessible sound and spectacularly choreographed videos were irresistible to MTV, and helped the channel evolve from rock programming to a broader, beat-driven musical mix."
Jackson released her fourth album, Rhythm Nation 1814, in September 1989. Although her record label desired a direct sequel to Control, Jackson chose to include a socially conscious theme among various musical styles. She stated, "I know an album or a song can't change the world. I just want my music and my dance to catch the audience's attention, and to hold it long enough for them to listen to the lyrics." The album's central theme of unity was developed in response to various crimes and tragedies reported in the media.
Peaking at number one on the Billboard 200, the album was certified sixfold platinum and sold over fourteen million copies internationally. The release became the only album in history to produce number one hits in three separate calendar years, as well as the only album to achieve seven top five singles. The album spawned seven singles; "Miss You Much," "Rhythm Nation", "Escapade", "Alright," "Come Back to Me," the metal-influenced "Black Cat," and "Love Will Never Do (Without You)." The latter's music video began Jackson's transition into a sexual image and midriff-baring style, becoming her trademark. Famous for its choreography and warehouse setting, the "Rhythm Nation" video is considered one of the most iconic and popular in history, with Jackson's military ensemble also making her a fashion icon. Rhythm Nation 1814 became the highest selling album of 1990, winning a record fifteen Billboard Awards. The long-form "Rhythm Nation" music video won a Grammy Award, with Jackson also awarded "Songwriter for the Year" from BMI. Rolling Stone observed Jackson's artistic growth, shifting from "personal freedom to more universal concerns—injustice, illiteracy, crime, drugs—without missing a beat." The album was also considered "the exclamation point on her career," consisting of a "diverse collection of songs flowing with the natural talent Jackson possesses," which effectively " expanded Janet's range in every conceivable direction," being "more credibly feminine, more crucially masculine, more viably adult, more believably childlike." Jackson was also commended as she "assumed the role of mouthpiece for a nationless, multicultural utopia."
Jackson's premiere tour, the Rhythm Nation World Tour, became the most successful debut tour in history, and set a record for the fastest sell-out of Japan's Tokyo Dome. She established the "Rhythm Nation Scholarship," donating funds from the tour to various educational programs. Jackson became increasingly acknowledged for her cultural impact, called "a fixture on MTV and a major role model to teenage girls across the country," as well as a social leader, praised for the album's message "having positive effects" among youth. The massive success experienced by Jackson placed her among Michael Jackson, Madonna, and Tina Turner for her achievements and influence. A publication reported, "No individual or group has impacted the world of entertainment as have Michael and Janet Jackson," saying despite many imitators, few could surpass Jackson's "stunning style and dexterity." In 1992, Jackson provided guest vocals on Luther Vandross's "The Best Things in Life Are Free," becoming a top ten Billboard hit and reaching the top ten internationally.
1993–96: janet., Poetic Justice, and Design of a Decade
Jackson fulfilled her contract with A&M Records, signing a multi-million dollar contract with Virgin Records estimated between thirty-two to fifty million dollars, making her the highest paid recording artist at the time. Prior to starting work on her fifth album, Jackson filmed Poetic Justice with director John Singleton, opposite Tupac Shakur.
Jackson's fifth studio album janet., read "Janet, period," was released in May 1993. The record opened at number one on the Billboard 200, making Jackson the first female artist in the Soundscan era to do so. It was also the highest first-week sales for a female artist at the time, selling 350,000 units. It peaked within the top five of nine countries, with sales exceeding twenty million copies in total. The album experimented with diverse genres, including deep house, swing jazz, hip-hop, rock, and contemporary R&B with pop. Its content and imagery saw Jackson developing a sexual image as an adult, in particular her videos for "That's the Way Love Goes" and "If," the latter depicting Jackson performing at an Asian brothel. Jackson's transition to a sultrier image was considered a shocking contrast and iconic, establishing her as a sex symbol. Jackson declared "sex has become a celebration, a joyful part of the creative process." It is the best-selling pop album by a female solo artist in Soundscan history, selling over seven million units in the United States, and the fourth best selling R&B album.
The album spawned five singles and four promotional singles, receiving various certifications worldwide. Lead single "That's the Way Love Goes" won a Grammy Award and topped the Billboard Hot 100 for eight consecutive weeks, longer than any singles by Madonna or Michael Jackson. "Again" reached number one for three weeks, while "If" and "Any Time, Any Place" peaked in the top four. "Because of Love" and "You Want This" charted within the top ten. Rolling Stone wrote, "everything Janet Jackson does is important. [...] she's influential. And when she announces her sexual maturity, as she does on her new album, Janet., it's a cultural moment." The album's material was thought to display "grown-up desires," considered "enough to make her the Queen of Pop."
In July 1993, Jackson made her film debut in Poetic Justice. Her performance was described as "beguiling" and "believably eccentric," receiving positive acclaim. Jackson's ballad "Again" was used in the film, receiving Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations for "Best Original Song." In September 1993, Jackson appeared topless on the cover of Rolling Stone, with her breasts covered by former husband René Elizondo, Jr. The photograph is the original version of the cropped image used on the janet. album cover, shot by Patrick Demarchelier. The Vancouver Sun reported, "Jackson, 27, remains clearly established as both role model and sex symbol; the Rolling Stone photo of Jackson ... became one of the most recognizable, and most lampooned, magazine covers." Her second world tour, the janet. World Tour, garnered critical acclaim. The spectacle was described as erasing the line between "stadium-size pop music concerts and full-scale theatrical extravaganzas."
During this time, her brother Michael was immersed in a child sex abuse scandal, of which he denied any wrongdoing. She provided moral support, defending her brother, and denied abuse allegations regarding her parents made by her sister La Toya. She collaborated with Michael Jackson on "Scream", the lead single from his album HIStory, released 1995. The song was written by both as a response to media scrutiny. It debuted at number five on the Hot 100 singles chart, becoming the first song ever to debut within the top five. "Scream" is featured in the Guinness Book of Records as the "Most Expensive Music Video Ever Made," costing $7 million. The clip won the 1995 Grammy Award for Best Short Form Music Video.
Jackson's first compilation album, Design of a Decade 1986/1996, was released in 1995. It peaked at number three on the Billboard 200. The lead single, "Runaway," became the first song by a female artist to debut within the top ten of the Hot 100, reaching number three. Design of a Decade 1986/1996 was certified double platinum by the RIAA and sold ten million copies worldwide. Jackson's influence in pop music continued to garner acclaim, as The Boston Globe remarked "If you're talking about the female power elite in pop, you can't get much higher than Janet Jackson, Bonnie Raitt, Madonna and Yoko Ono. Their collective influence ... is beyond measure. And who could dispute that Janet Jackson now has more credibility than brother Michael?" Jackson renewed her contract with Virgin Records for a reported $80 million the following year. The contract established her as the then-highest paid recording artist in history, surpassing the recording industry's then-unparalleled $60 million contracts earned by Michael Jackson and Madonna.
1997–03: The Velvet Rope, Nutty Professor II: The Klumps and All for You
Jackson began suffering from severe depression and anxiety, leading her to chronicle the experience in her sixth album, The Velvet Rope, released October 1997. The album also encompassed themes of sadomasochism and same-sex relationships, as well as addressing social issues such as homophobia and domestic violence. Jackson returned with a dramatic change in image, boasting vibrant red hair, nasal piercings, and tattoos. The record was hailed as an introspective glimpse into Jackson's struggle, described as a "critical self-examination and an audio journal of a woman's road to self-discovery." It was also praised as a "richly dark masterwork," illustrating "amid the whips and chains, there is nothing sexier than emotional nakedness." Rolling Stone included it among the "500 Greatest Albums of All Time," and Billboard ranked it as "the best American album of the year and the most empowering of her last five." The album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 and was certified triple platinum, selling over ten million worldwide.
Lead single "Got 'til It's Gone" was released in August 1997, featuring guest vocals from folk singer Joni Mitchell and rapper Q-Tip. The song was considered a stark contrast from Jackson's prior upbeat dance pop style, and peaked at number twelve on the Billboard Rhythmic Airplay Chart. The song's music video, depicting a pre-Apartheid celebration, won a Grammy Award for Best Short Form Music Video. Following single "Together Again" became Jackson's eighth number one hit on the Billboard Hot 100, placing her on par with Elton John, Diana Ross, and The Rolling Stones. It spent a record forty-six weeks on the Hot 100 and nineteen weeks on the United Kingdom's singles chart. It sold six million copies worldwide, becoming one of the best-selling singles of all time. "I Get Lonely" peaked at number three on the Hot 100, and received a Grammy nomination for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance. The song was Jackson's eighteenth consecutive top ten hit, which made her the only female artist to garner the achievement, surpassed only by Elvis Presley and The Beatles. Several other singles were released, including "Go Deep" and ballad "Every Time," which was controversial for the nudity displayed in its music video.
The album fully established Jackson as a gay icon for its themes regarding homosexuality and protesting homophobia. "Together Again," a "post-Aids pop song," and "Free Xone," considered "a paean to homosexuality" and an "anti-homophobia track," were praised for their lyrical context, in addition to Jackson's lesbian reinterpretation of Rod Stewart's "Tonight's the Night." The Velvet Rope received an award for "Outstanding Music Album" at the 9th Annual GLAAD Media Awards and was honored by the National Black Lesbian and Gay Leadership Forum. A portion of the proceeds from "Together Again" were donated to the American Foundation for AIDS Research.
Jackson embarked on The Velvet Rope World Tour, traveling to Europe, North America, Asia, Africa, New Zealand, and Australia. The tour received praise for its theatrics, choreography, and Jackson's vocal performance. It was likened to "the ambition and glamour of a Broadway musical," and exclaimed as "only fitting that the concert program credits her as the show's 'creator and director'." The tour's HBO special, The Velvet Rope: Live in Madison Square Garden, garnered more than fifteen million viewers. It surpassed the ratings of all four major networks among viewers subscribed to the channel. The concert won an Emmy Award from a total of four nominations. Jackson donated a portion of the tour's sales to America's Promise, an organization founded by Colin Powell to assist disenfranchised youth.
As the tour concluded, Jackson lent guest vocals to several collaborations, including Shaggy's "Luv Me, Luv Me," used for the film How Stella Got Her Groove Back, as well as "Girlfriend/Boyfriend" with Teddy Riley's group Blackstreet, and "What's It Gonna Be?!" with Busta Rhymes. The latter two music videos are both among the most expensive music videos ever produced, with "What's It Gonna Be?!" becoming a number one hit on the Billboard Hip-Hop Singles and Hot Rap Tracks charts, reaching the top three of the Hot 100. Jackson also contributed the ballad "God's Stepchild" to the Down in the Delta soundtrack. Jackson recorded a duet with Elton John titled "I Know the Truth," included on the soundtrack to Elton John and Tim Rice's Aida. At the 1999 World Music Awards, Jackson received the Legend Award for "outstanding contribution to the pop industry." Billboard ranked Jackson as the second most successful artist of the decade, behind Mariah Carey.
In July 2000, Jackson appeared in her second film, The Nutty Professor II: The Klumps, as the role of Professor Denise Gaines, opposite Eddie Murphy. Director Peter Segal stated "Janet Jackson was a natural fit, and an obvious choice." Jackson's performance in the film was highly praised; her character considered "beautiful and intelligent" as well as "totally convincing and, at the end, even poignant." The Orlando Sentinel commented "With her doe eyes, soft voice and enough cleavage to make Jessica Rabbit jealous, she plays the role perfectly." The film became her second to open at number one, grossing an estimated total of nearly $170 million worldwide. Jackson's single "Doesn't Really Matter," used for the film's soundtrack, became her ninth number one single and reached the top five in the United Kingdom. It also made Jackson the first artist to have a number on hit in three separate decades. The song's music video reportedly cost $2.5 million, and is one of the most expensive of all time. The same year, Jackson's husband Rene Elizondo Jr. filed for divorce, revealing their private marriage to the public. Entertainment Weekly reported for eight of the thirteen years she and Elizondo had been acquainted, "[they] were married—a fact they managed to hide not only from the international press but from Jackson's own father." Elizondo filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit against her, estimated between $10–25 million, which did not reach a settlement for three years.
Preceding the release of her seventh album, MTV honored Jackson with the network's inaugural "MTV Icon" ceremony, in recognition of Jackson's "significant contributions to music, music video and pop culture while tremendously impacting the MTV generation." The event paid tribute to Jackson's career and influence, including commentary from Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez, Aaliyah, and Jessica Simpson, and performances by 'N Sync, Pink, Destiny's Child, Usher, Buckcherry, and Outkast. The American Music Awards also awarded Jackson the Award of Merit for "her finely crafted, critically acclaimed and socially conscious, multi-platinum albums." Jackson's seventh album, All for You, was released in April 2001. It opened at number one on the Billboard 200 with 605,000 copies sold, the highest first-week sales of her career, and among the highest first-week sales by a female artist in history. Jackson began experimenting with other producers outside of Jam and Lewis, working with Rockwilder and The Neptunes, although songs recorded with the latter were not released. The album was a return to an upbeat dance style, and received generally positive reception. AllMusic declared the album "luxurious and sensual," with the capability of "luring you in even when you know better." Jackson also received praise for indulging in "textures as dizzying as a new infatuation," in contrast to other artists attempting to "match the angularity of hip-hop" and following trends. Following its release, Jackson also recorded the unreleased theme for the film Chicago.
The album's lead single, "All for You," debuted on the Hot 100 at number fourteen, setting a record for the highest debut by a single that was not commercially available. Jackson was titled "Queen of Radio" by MTV as the single made airplay history, being "added to every pop, rhythmic and urban radio station" within its first week. The song broke the overall airplay debut record with a first week audience of seventy million, and debuted at number nine on the Radio Songs chart. It peaked and remained at number one for seven weeks, also reaching the top ten in eleven countries. The song received a Grammy Award for Best Dance Recording. The following single, "Someone to Call My Lover", fused soft rock and dance music. It peaked at number three on the Hot 100 and also achieved success internationally. Third single "Son of a Gun (I Betcha Think This Song Is About You)" featured Missy Elliott and incorporated themes of voodoo[disambiguation needed] and black magic in its music video. An additional promotional single, "Come On Get Up," was released in selected areas internationally. All for You was certified double platinum by the RIAA and sold nine million copies worldwide.
In July 2001, Jackson embarked on the "All for You Tour," which was also broadcast on a concert special for HBO watched by twelve million viewers. The tour traveled throughout the United States and Japan, although European and Asian dates were required to be canceled following the events of September 11th. The Washington Post considered the show an elaborate "series of evolving tableaux built around costume changes, set designs and focused tempos, with little drop-off in energy," prasing Jackson as a "dancing dynamo." Jackson's "chiseled abs" and "willingness to work ensemble-style" were also commended, in addition to Jackson involving "jubilant entertainment over somber art" and having "embraced the past instead of avoiding it." The show was regarded as superior to Madonna's Drowned World Tour by several critics, described as "downright cold compared with Jackson's concerts." Additional commentary stated "Janet outdid the Material Girl by a mile," also citing Jackson's performance as a direct influence to Britney Spears. Similarly, The Los Angeles Times complimented Jackson's showmanship, stating Jackson "hasn't skipped a beat" and is "still the Queen of Pop." Jackson donated a portion of the tour's proceeds to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.
The following year, Jackson began receiving media attention for her rumored relationships with Justin Timberlake, actor Matthew McConaughey, and record producer Jermaine Dupri. Upon the release of Timberlake's debut solo album Justified, Jackson provided vocals on "(And She Said) Take Me Now" per Timberlake's request, with the song initially planned as a single. Jackson collaborated with reggae artist Beenie Man for the song "Feel It Boy," produced by The Neptunes.
2004–05: Super Bowl XXXVIII controversy and Damita Jo
Jackson was chosen by the National Football League and MTV to perform at the Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show in February 2004. Jackson performed a medley of "All for You," "Rhythm Nation," and an excerpt of "The Knowledge" before performing "Rock Your Body" alongside surprise guest Justin Timberlake. As Timberlake sang the lyric "I'm gonna have you naked by the end of this song," he tore open her costume, exposing her right breast to 140 million viewers. Jackson issued an apology after the performance, saying the incident was accidental and unintended, explaining that Timberlake was only meant to pull away a bustier and leave the red-lace bra intact. She commented, "I am really sorry if I offended anyone. That was truly not my intention ... MTV, CBS, the NFL had no knowledge of this whatsoever, and unfortunately, the whole thing went wrong in the end." Timberlake also issued an apology, calling the accident a "wardrobe malfunction", although he was not required to issue a video apology as Jackson was. The incident became the most recorded and replayed moment in TiVo history, enticing an estimated 35,000 new subscribers. A company representative stated "the audience measurement guys have never seen anything like it. The audience reaction charts looked like an electrocardiogram." Regarded as one of the most controversial television events in history, Jackson was later listed in Guinness World Records as the "Most Searched in Internet History" and the "Most Searched for News Item." Jackson's performance was the inspiration for Youtube, and the launch of Facebook commenced within three days of the incident to capitalize on its controversy through social networking. Following the incident, "Janet Jackson" became the most searched term, event, and image in Internet history, and also set the record for "most searched event over one day." "Janet Jackson" was also the most frequently searched term of 2004 and the following year. The event also coined the phrase "wardrobe malfunction," which was added to the dictionary. CBS, the NFL, and MTV (CBS's sister network, which produced the halftime show), denied any knowledge of, and all responsibility for, the incident. The Federal Communications Commission heavily fined all companies involved, and continued an investigation for eight years, ultimately losing its appeal for a $550,000 fine against CBS.
Following the incident, CBS permitted Timberlake to appear at the 46th Grammy Awards ceremony but did not allow Jackson to attend, forcing her to withdraw after being scheduled as a presenter. People Magazine revealed Jackson "had been slated to speak before the accolade but was being pressured to bow out gracefully – or face being uninvited," before being completely barred from attending. The controversy halted plans for Jackson to star in the biopic of singer and activist Lena Horne, which was to be produced by ABC-TV. Although Horne was reportedly displeased by the incident, Jackson's representatives stated she withdrew from the project willingly. A Mickey Mouse statue wearing Jackson's iconic "Rhythm Nation" outfit was mantled at Walt Disney World theme park the previous year to honor Jackson's legacy, but was removed following Jackson's controversial performance. A spokesman for Disney said "Considering all the controversy it [the performance] drew, we talked it over for a couple of days and decided it would be best to replace hers with a new one." Andy Beta of The Wall Street Journal referred to Jackson's career run until the incident as "indomitable."
Following the incident, Jackson's singles and music videos were blacklisted on many radio formats and music channels worldwide, enforced by conglomerates involved with producing the Halftime show who were heavily fined by the FCC and taken to Supreme Court. Conglomerates involved in the boycott include Viacom and CBS, and subsidiaries MTV, Clear Channel Communications, and Infinity Broadcasting, the latter two among the largest radio broadcasters. The blacklist was placed into effect preceding the release of Jackson's eighth studio album Damita Jo, and continued throughout the course of Jackson's following two albums. Timberlake, who also performed with Jackson during the incident, did not receive the same treatment. Rolling Stone disclosed "CBS and MTV's parent company Viacom, angered that an unannounced addition to the Super Bowl performance has now cost them all future halftime shows, hits back at Janet by essentially blacklisting her, keeping her music videos off their properties MTV, VH1, and radio stations under their umbrella. The blacklist spreads to include non-Viacom media entities as well", adding "Thanks to the radio and music television blacklist, the LP underperforms compared to Janet's previous releases [...] Despite the backlash, the album eventually goes platinum several times over." Newsweek also commented, "Unfortunately, it's not clear whether these songs will get heard," saying after the incident, "Jackson has been put in the pop culture penalty box. The result is that despite some initial backing for "Just a Little While," radio and TV support for her music has withered, as the conglomerates worry about angering the FCC and Congress," in fear of receiving fines for supporting Jackson. Additionally, a senior executive for entertainment conglomerate Viacom, which owns MTV, VH1, and many radio formats, commented they were "absolutely bailing on the record. The pressure is so great, they can't align with anything related to Janet. The high-ups are still pissed at her, and this is a punitive measure." Several critics provided commentary on the boycott. Billboard reported Damita Jo "was largely overshadowed by the Super Bowl fiasco," saying "The three singles it spawned were blacklisted by pop radio—they were also the albums biggest highlights—the electronic guitar studded "Just a Little While," Motown-influenced "I Want You" and the funky, heavily dance orientated "All Nite (Don't Stop)." Langston Wertz Jr. of The Charlotte Observer said Jackson became one of the "most villified female artists of all time" in the media, stating due to the blacklist, "radio wouldn't play it and MTV wouldn't play her videos for "I Want You" and "All Nite," two songs that would've been out-of-the-park hits at any other point in Jackson's career."
Jackson's eighth studio album Damita Jo, titled after Jackson's middle name, was released in March 2004. It debuted at number two on the Billboard 200. Jackson worked with a variety of producers, including Dallas Austin, Télépopmusik, Cathy Dennis, BAG & Arnthor, and Scott Storch. The album received mixed to positive reviews, praising the sonic innovation of selected songs and Jackson's vocal harmonies, while others criticized its frequent themes of carnality. However, several critics observed many reviews biasedly focusing on Jackson's Super Bowl incident, rather than critiquing the album itself. Blender declared it "Artfully structured, unapologetically explicit" and "erotica at its friendliest and most well-balanced." The New York Times also commented "the album is even sleeker and sexier than its predecessor, All for You, and in saner times, that would be enough to ensure its success." By the end of the month it was certified platinum by the RIAA, and sold over three million copies worldwide. The album's performance was largely affected by public backlash and the blacklisting from radio and music channels. Prior to the incident, the album was expected to outsell prior release All for You. Its three singles received positive reviews, but failed to achieve high chart positions, although each were predicted to perform extremely well under different circumstances. Its lead single, the pop-rock "Just a Little While," became the most-added song on radio upon its release, increasing nearly five-hundred percent in airplay and garnering "sizeable" digital downloads. However, it was quickly removed from airplay upon the blacklisting. Following single "I Want You" was certified platinum and received a Grammy nomination. "All Nite (Don't Stop)" became the album's third release, fusing electropop, funk, and samba, and was declared "one of the biggest records this year in several different scenes" due to its popularity.
For the album's promotion, Jackson appeared as a host on Saturday Night Live, performing two songs, and was also a guest star on sitcom Will & Grace, portraying herself. Jackson received several career accodales upon the album's release, including the "Legend Award" at the Radio Music Awards, "Inspiration Award" from the Japan Video Music Awards, "Lifetime Acheivement Award" at the Soul Train Music Awards, and a Teen Choice Awards nomination for "Favorite Female." In November 2004, Jackson was honored as a role model by 100 Black Men of America, Inc., presented with the organization's Artistic Achievement Award saluting "a career that has gone from success to greater success'." In response to criticism, the organization responded "an individual's worth can't be judged by a single moment in that person's life." In June 2005, she was honored with a Humanitarian Award by the Human Rights Campaign and AIDS Project Los Angeles as recognition for her involvement in raising money for AIDS charities.
2006–10: 20 Y.O., Why Did I Get Married?, Discipline, and Number Ones
Jackson began recording her ninth studio album, 20 Y.O., in 2005. Jackson initially worked with various producers, including The Neptunes, Dr. Dre, Kwamé, and Polow Da Don, but the concept was changed when Jermaine Dupri was selected to manage the project after becoming a division president at Virgin Records. Jackson then recorded with Dupri and Jam and Lewis for several months during the following year. The album's title was a reference to the two decades since the release of her breakthrough album Control, representing the album's "celebration of the joyful liberation and history-making musical style." To promote the album, Jackson appeared in various magazines, and performed on the Today Show and Billboard Awards. Jackson's Us Weekly cover, revealing her slim figure after heavy media focus was placed on her fluctuations in weight, became the magazine's best-selling issue in history. 20 Y.O. was released in September 2006 and debuted at number two on the Billboard 200. The album received mixed reviews, with multiple critics chastising the production and involvement of Jermaine Dupri. Rolling Stone disagreed with the album's reference to Control, saying "If we were her, we wouldn't make the comparison." Following the album's release, a producer who worked on the original 20 Y.O. concept prior to Dupri's involvement stated, "the finished project we had before Jermaine took everything over is crazy. Ask Jimmy & Terry how they felt when Jermaine came in and changed almost everything."
Jackson's airplay and music channel blacklist remained persistent, massively affecting her chart performance and exposure. However, lead single "Call on Me," which featured rapper Nelly, peaked at number twenty-five on the Hot 100, number one on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, and number six in the United Kingdom. The video for the album's second single, "So Excited", was directed by Joseph Kahn and portrayed Jackson's clothes disappearing through a complex dance routine. 20 Y.O. was certified platinum by the RIAA and sold 1.2 million worldwide, also receiving a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary R&B album. After the album's release, Dupri was condemened for his production and misguidance of the album, and subsequently was removed from his position at Virgin Records. Slant Magazine stated, "After promising a return to Janet's dance-pop origins, [Dupri] opted to aim for urban audiences, a colossal mistake that cost Dupri his job and, probably, Janet her deal with Virgin."
Jackson was ranked the seventh richest woman in the entertainment industry by Forbes, having amassed a fortune of over $150 million. In 2007, she starred opposite Tyler Perry as a psychotherapist in the film Why Did I Get Married?. It became her third consecutive film to open at number one at the box office, grossing $60 million in total. Jackson's performance was prasied for its "soft authority," though also described as "charming, yet bland." In February 2008, Jackson won an Image Award for "Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture" for the role. Jackson was also approached to record the lead single for the film Rush Hour 3.
Jackson signed with Island Records after her contract with Virgin was fulfilled. She interrupted plans for touring and began recording with various producers, including Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins, Tricky Stewart, and Stargate. Her tenth studio album, Discipline, was released in February 2008, opening at number one. Despite radio blacklisting, the album's first single "Feedback" peaked at number nineteen on the Hot 100, becoming her highest charting single since "Someone to Call My Lover." The second single, "Rock With U", peaked at number four in the United Kingdom. Jackson was awarded the Vanguard Award at the 19th annual GLAAD Media Awards, honoring her contributions in promoting equal rights among the gay community. The organization's president commented, "Ms. Jackson has a tremendous following inside the LGBT community and out, and having her stand with us against the defamation that LGBT people still face in our country is extremely significant."
Jackson's fifth concert tour, the Rock Witchu Tour, began in September 2008. Jackson parted with Island Records through mutual agreement. Billboard disclosed Jackson was dissatisfied with LA Reid's handling of the album and its promotion, saying "the label agreed to dissolve their relationship with the artist at her request." Producer Rodney Jerkins expressed "I felt like it wasn't pushed correctly.... She just didn't get her just-do as an artist of that magnitude."
In June 2009, Jackson's brother Michael passed away at age fifty. She spoke publicly concerning his death at the 2009 BET Awards, stating "I'd just like to say, to you, Michael is an icon, to us, Michael is family. And he will forever live in all of our hearts. On behalf of my family and myself, thank you for all of your love, thank you for all of your support. We miss him so much." In an interview, she revealed she had first learned of his death while filming Why Did I Get Married Too?. Amidst mourning with her family, she focused on work to deal with the grief, avoiding any news coverage of her sibling's death. She commented, "it's still important to face reality, and not that I'm running, but sometimes you just need to get away for a second." During this time, she ended her seven-year relationship with Jermaine Dupri. Several months later, Jackson performed a tribute to Michael at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, performing their duet "Scream." MTV stated "there was no one better than Janet to anchor it and send a really powerful message." The performance was lauded by critics, with Entertainment Weekly affirming the rendition "as energetic as it was heartfelt."
Jackson's second hits compilation, Number Ones, was released in November 2009. For promotion, she performed a medley of hits at the American Music Awards, Capital FM's Jingle Bell Ball at London's O2 arena, and The X-Factor. The album's promotional single "Make Me," produced with Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins, debuted in September. It became Jackson's nineteenth number one on the Hot Dance Club Songs chart, making her the first artist to have number one singles in four separate decades. Later that month, Jackson chaired the inaugural benefit of amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, held in Milan in conjunction with fashion week. The foundation's CEO stated "We are profoundly grateful to Janet Jackson for joining amfAR as a chair of its first event in Milan.... She brings incomparable grace and a history of dedication to the fight against AIDS." The event raised a total of $1.1 million for the nonprofit organization.
2010–present: Film projects and philanthropy
In April 2010, Jackson reprised her role in the sequel to Why Did I Get Married? titled Why Did I Get Married Too?. The film opened at number two, grossing sixty million in total. Jackson's performance was hailed as "invigorating and oddly funny," and praised for her "willingness to be seen at her most disheveled." Her performance earned an Image Award for "Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture." Jackson recorded the film's theme, "Nothing," released as a promotional single. The song was performed on the ninth season finale of American Idol along with "Again" and "Nasty." In July, Jackson became a spokeswoman for fashion label Blackglama, following entertainers such as Elizabeth Taylor, Lena Horne, Lauren Bacall, and Diana Ross. The company described Jackson as "an icon in the world of music and entertainment, a true legend. She represents everything that this storied campaign embodies. Janet is to entertainment what Blackglama is to luxury." Jackson launched a line of clothing and accessories under Blackglama's Janet Jackson Blackglama Collection. Jackson was personally involved in the design process, with the line retailed at select Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdales stores. Universal Music released the hits compilation Icon: Number Ones as the debut of the Icon compilation series.
In November 2010, Jackson starred as Joanna in the drama For Colored Girls, the film adaptation of Ntozake Shange's 1975 play For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf. The Wall Street Journal stated Jackson "recites verses written by Ntozake Shange, the author of the play that inspired the film ... But instead of offering up a mannered coffeehouse reading of the lines, Jackson makes the words sound like ordinary—though very eloquent—speech." Jackson's portrayal the film was likened to Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada. Her performance earned Black Reel Awards nominations in the categories of Outstanding Supporting Actress and Outstanding Ensemble.
Jackson announced plans to embark on her largest world tour in support of her second hits collection, Number Ones. The tour, entitled Number Ones, Up Close and Personal, held concerts in thirty-five global cities, selected by fans who submitted suggestions on her official website. During the tour, Jackson performed thirty-five number one hits and dedicated a song to each city. Mattel released a limited-edition Barbie of Jackson titled "Divinely Janet," auctioned for over $15,000, with proceeds donated to Project Angel Food. Jackson was offered a judging position on the second season of The X Factor USA, but declined due to prior commitments.
Jackson released the self-help book True You: A Journey to Finding and Loving Yourself in February 2011, co-written with David Ritz. It chronicled Jackson's struggle with weight and confidence, also publishing letters from fans. It topped The New York Times' Best Seller list the following month. Jackson signed a film production contract with Lions Gate Entertainment to "select, develop and produce a feature film for the independent studio." Lionsgate stated, "She is a powerful on-screen presence, with a vast audience, and we believe she will be an equally powerful presence behind the scenes ... We are honored to be able to provide a home for her ideas, passion and immense talent." Tim Palen, co-president of Lions Gate Entertainment, stated "A recording of Janet Jackson breathing for four minutes should be in the Smithsonian as far as I'm concerned." Jackson became the first female pop singer to perform at the I. M. Pei glass pyramid at the Louvre Museum, raising contributions for the restoration of iconic artwork. Louvre President-Director Henri Loyrette stated "Janet Jackson is one of the world's greatest artistic treasures ... Accordingly, we are profoundly honored, and believe it most fitting, that her performance in the Louvre Museum will be yet another masterpiece captured under our glorious glass pyramid." Jackson was selected to endorse fashion line Blackglama for a second year, being the first celebrity in the line's history chosen to do so. The company exclaimed, "It became clear in our discussions of who the Legend should be this year, that continuing the momentum with Janet made complete sense ... She embodies glamour, luxury, and sophistication, everything that Blackglama stands for." Jackson partnered with the label to release a fifteen-piece collection of luxury products. In 2012, Jackson endorsed Nutrisystem, sponsoring their weight-loss program after struggling with weight fluctuations in the past. With the program, she donated ten million dollars in meals to the hungry. Jackson attended the amFAR Cinema Against AIDS ball in Cannes in a white Pucci gown, revealing her toned figure. Jackson was honored by amfAR for her contributions to AIDS research when chairing the Cinema Against AIDS gala during the Cannes Film Festival. Jackson also participated in a public service announcement for UNICEF to help starving children. In February 2013, Jackson announced she was married to her third husband, Qatari billionaire Wissam Al Mana, during a private ceremony the previous year.
Jackson confirmed she is recording a new album and "creating the concept and initial thoughts on the music." She has collaborated with producers including Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins, Jean Baptiste, and Bangladesh for the upcoming project.
Music and voice
Jackson has a mezzo-soprano vocal range. Her vocal tone has been praised as suitable for her style of music. Eric Henderson of Slant magazine claimed critics opposing her voice "somehow missed the explosive 'gimme a beat' vocal pyrotechnics she unleashes all over 'Nasty' ... Or that they completely dismissed how perfect her tremulous hesitance fits into the abstinence anthem 'Let's Wait Awhile'." Classical composer Louis Andriessen has praised Jackson for her "rubato, sense of rhythm, sensitivity, and the childlike quality of her strangely erotic voice." Several critics also consider her voice to often be enveloped within her music's production. Biographer David Ritz commented, "on Janet's albums—and in her videos and live performances, which revealed a crisp, athletic dance technique [...] singing wasn't the point," saying emphasis was placed on "her slamming beats, infectious hooks, and impeccable production values." Music critic J. D. Considine noted "on albums, Jackson's sound isn't defined by her voice so much as by the way her voice is framed by the lush, propulsive production." Wendy Robinson of PopMatters said "the power of Janet Jackson's voice does not lie in her pipes. She doesn't blow, she whispers, yet consistently delivers a musical message that hits home with her loyal fan base. ... Jackson's confectionary vocals are masterfully complemented by gentle harmonies and balanced out by pulsing rhythms, so she's never unpleasant to listen to." Matthew Perpetus of Fluxblog suggested Jackson's vocal techniques as a study for indie rock music, considering it to possess "a somewhat subliminal effect on the listener, guiding and emphasizing dynamic shifts without distracting attention from its primal hooks." Perpetus added, "her presence is essential to the success of the piece. Her voice effortlessly transitions from a rhythmic toughness to soulful emoting to a flirty softness without overselling any aspect of her performance, [...] a continuum of emotions and attitudes that add up to the impression that we're listening to the expression of a fully-formed human being with contradictions and complexities."
Jackson's music has encompassed a broad range of genres with contemporary pop, including R&B, dance, rock, hip-hop, soul, house, and industrial music. The diversity within Jackson's discography has influenced subsequent stylistic albums in contemporary pop. Qadree EI-Amin, Jackson's former personal manager, commented, "she's bigger than Barbra Streisand because Streisand can't appeal to the street crowd [in addition to the pop audience], as Janet does. But Streisand's rich, elite crowd loves Janet Jackson." Her records from the 1980s have been described as being influenced by Prince, as her producers are ex-members of The Time. Sal Cinquemani wrote that in addition to defining Top 40 radio, she "gave Prince's Minneapolis sound a distinctly feminine—and, with songs like 'What Have You Done for Me Lately?,' 'Nasty,' 'Control,' and 'Let's Wait Awhile,' a distinctly feminist—spin." On Control, Richard J. Ripani documented Jam and Lewis and Jackson collaborating to "crafted a new sound that fuses the rhythmic elements of funk and disco, along with heavy doses of synthesizers, percussion, sound effects, and a rap music sensibility." Author Rickey Vincent stated that she has often been credited for redefining the standard of popular music with the industrial-strength beats of the album. Jackson was considered a leader among pop balladry, with an excerpt stating "the black pop ballad of the mid-1980s had been dominated by the vocal and production style that was smooth and polished, led by singers Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson, and James Ingram." Jackson continued her musical development by blending contemporary pop and urban music with elements of hip-hop in the nineties. This included a softer representation, articulated by lush, soulful ballads and up-tempo dance beats. She has been described as "an artist who has reshaped the sound and image of rhythm and blues" within the first decade of her career. Critic Karla Peterson remarked that "she is a sharp dancer, an appealing performer, and as 'That's the Way Love Goes' proves—an ace pop-song writer." Selected material from the following decade has been viewed less favorably, as Sal Cinquemani comments "except for maybe R.E.M., no other former superstar act has been as prolific with such diminishing commercial and creative returns."
Jackson has changed her lyrical focus over the years, becoming the subject of analysis in musicology, African American studies, and gender studies. David Ritz compared Jackson's musical style to Marvin Gaye's, stating, "like Marvin, autobiography seemed the sole source of her music. Her art, also like Marvin's, floated over a reservoir of secret pain." Much of her success has been attributed to "a series of powerful, metallic grooves; her chirpy, multi-tracked vocals; and a lyrical philosophy built on pride and self-knowledge." Ritz also stated, "The mystery is the low flame that burns around the perimeters of Janet Jackson's soul. The flame feeds off the most highly combustible elements: survival and ambition, caution and creativity, supreme confidence and dark fear." During the 1980s, her lyrics embodied self-actualization, feminist principles, and politically driven ideology. Gillian G. Gaar, author of She's a Rebel: The History of Women in Rock & Roll (2002), described Control as "an autobiographical tale about her life with her parents, her first marriage, and breaking free." Encyclopedia of African American Popular Culture (2010) author Jessie Carney Smith wrote "with that album, she asserted her independence, individuality, and personal power. She challenged audiences to see her as a transformed person, from an ingénue to a grow-up, multi-talented celebrity." Referring to Rhythm Nation 1814 as an embodiment of hope, Timothy E. Scheurer, author of Born in the USA: The Myth of America in Popular Music from Colonial Times to the Present (2007) wrote "It may remind some of Sly Stone prior to There's a Riot Going On and other African-American artists of the 1970s in its tacit assumption that the world imagined by Dr. King is still possible, that the American Dream is a dream for all people." On janet., Jackson began focusing on sexual themes. Shayne Lee, author of Erotic Revolutionaries: Black Women, Sexuality, and Popular Culture (2010), wrote that her music over the following decade "brand[ed] her as one of the most sexually stimulating vocalists of the 1990s." In You've Come A Long Way, Baby: Women, Politics, and Popular Culture (1996), Lilly J. Goren observed "Jackson's evolution from politically aware musician to sexy diva marked the direction that society and the music industry were encouraging the dance-rock divas to pursue." The Washington Post declared Jackson's public image over the course of her career had shifted "from innocence to experience, inspiring such carnal albums as 1993's 'Janet' and 1997's 'The Velvet Rope', the latter of which explored the bonds—figuratively and literally—of love and lust." The song "Free Xone" from The Velvet Rope, which portrays same-sex relationships in a positive light, is described by sociologist Shayne Lee as "a rare incident in which a popular black vocalist explores romantic or sensual energy outside the contours of heteronormativity, making it a significant song in black sexual politics." During promotion for janet., she stated "I love feeling deeply sexual—and don't mind letting the world know. For me, sex has become a celebration, a joyful part of the creative process." Upon the release of Damita Jo, Jackon stated "Beginning with the earlier albums, exploring - and liberating - my sexuality has been an ongoing discovery and theme," adding "As an artist, that's not only my passion, it's my obligation." The sexual explicit content of her latter albums have drawn mixed reactions—ranging from acclaim to abhorrence—often in juxtaposition to Madonna, who is known as her counterpart. Stephen Thomas Erlewine comments "while sex indisputably fuels much great pop music, it isn't an inherently fascinating topic for pop music—as with anything, it all depends on the artist."
Videos and stage
Jackson drew inspiration for her music videos and performances from musicals she watched in her youth, and was heavily influenced by the choreography of Fred Astaire and Michael Kidd, among others. Throughout her career, she has worked with and brought numerous professional choreographers to prominence, such as Tina Landon, Paula Abdul, and Michael Kidd. Janine Coveney of Billboard observed that "Jackson's musical declaration of independence [Control] launched a string of hits, an indelible production sound, and an enduring image cemented by groundbreaking video choreography and imagery that pop vocalists still emulate." Ben Hogwood of MusicOMH applauded the "huge influence she has become on younger pretenders to her throne," most notably Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez and Christina Aguilera." Qadree EI-Amin remarked that many pop artists "pattern their performances after Janet's proven dance-diva persona."
Beretta E. Smith-Shomade, author of Shaded Lives: African-American Women and Television (2002), wrote that "Jackson's impact on the music video sphere came largely through music sales successes, which afforded her more visual liberties and control. This assuming of control directly impacted the look and content of her music videos, giving Jackson an agency not assumed by many other artists—male or female, Black or White." Parallel Lines: Media Representations of Dance (1993) documents that her videos have often been reminiscent of live concerts or elaborate musical theater. Many of her videos from Control, including "Nasty" and "When I Think of You", were choreographed using influences from Broadway theatre. Multiculturalism has also been a cornerstone of the imagery represented in Jackson's music videos. The militant iconography of her "Rhythm Nation" video signifies a need for both racial and gender equality, as she and her dancers perform in identical uniforms while Jackson "is performing asexually and almost anonymously in front of, but as one of the members of the group." In the nineties, her videos such as "If"—which "[exudes a] 'Last Emperor' lust and mystery"—and "Runaway" drew cultural influences from the orient. Others, such as "Got 'til It's Gone" and "Together Again," explore African roots and the serengeti. Jackson's music videos have also found rapport within the gay community; the dramatic imagery in "Rhythm Nation" led to reenactments of the video in gay clubs, while her video for "Love Will Never Do (Without You)" is said to explore the aesthetic of the male body from both the heterosexual female and gay male perspective. She received the MTV Video Vanguard Award for her contributions to the art form, and became the first recipient of the MTV Icon tribute, celebrating her impact on the music industry as a whole. In 2003, Slant Magazine named the videos for "Rhythm Nation" and "Got 'til It's Gone" among the 100 Greatest Music Videos of all time, ranked at number 87 and number 10, respectively. In 2011, the "Rhythm Nation" music video was voted the tenth best music video of the 1980s by Billboard.
Her music videos have contributed to a higher degree of sexual freedom among young women, as Jean M. Twenge, author of Generation Me: Why Today's Young Americans are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled—and More Miserable Than Ever Before (2007), wrote "In Alfred Kinsey's studies in the 1950s, only 3% of the young women had received oral sex from a man. By the mid-1990s, however, 75% of women aged 18-24 had experienced cunnilingus. Music videos by female artists have contributed to the trend," with Jackson "heavily implying male-on-female oral sex in music videos by pushing down on a man's head until he's in exactly the right position." Similarly, Paula Kamen in Her Way: Young Women Remake the Sexual Revolution (2000) states that "[i]n the early to mid-1990s, oral sex even reached mainstream music as politically charged demand of truly liberated women," citing Jackson as a prime example of a female artist simulating cunnilingus in her videos. However, accusations of cosmetic surgery, skin lightening, and increasingly hypersexual imagery have led to her being viewed as conforming to a white, male-dominated view of sexuality, rather than liberating herself or others.
The Independent writer Nicholas Barber stated "Janet's concerts are the pop equivalent of a summer blockbuster movie, with all the explosions, special effects, ersatz sentimentality, gratuitous cleavage and emphasis on spectacle over coherence that the term implies." Jet magazine reported "Janet's innovative stage performances during her world tours have won her a reputation as a world-class performer." Chris Willman of Los Angeles Times stated the "enthralling" choreography of Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814 Tour "represents the pinnacle of what can be done in the popping 'n' locking style—a rapid-fire mixture of rigidly jerky and gracefully fluid movements." When Jackson was asked "do you understand it when people talk about [The Velvet Rope Tour] in terms of Broadway?", she responded, "I'm crazy about Broadway ... That's what I grew up on." Her "Number Ones: Up Close and Personal" tour deviated from the full-scale theatrics found in her previous concert arena settings in favor of smaller venues. Critics noted being scaled down did not affect the impact of her showmanship, and in some cases, enhanced it. Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune wrote, "In past tours, Jackson's thin voice was often swallowed up by the sheer size of her production ... In the more scaled-down setting, Jackson brought a warmth and a passion that wasn't always evident in stadiums ... the best Janet Jackson performance I've covered in 20-plus years."
Thor Christensen of The Dallas Morning News considered Jackson to lip sync in concerts; writing "Janet Jackson—one of pop's most notorious onstage lip-syncers—conceded ... she uses 'some' taped vocals to augment her live vocals. But she refused to say what percentage of her concert 'voice' is taped and how much is live." Richard Harrington of The Washington Post observed, "[s]ince the advent of MTV and the proliferation of dance-oriented singers" such as Jackson, "audience expectations have been drastically redefined," noting that few entertainers are capable of recreating the spectacle of elaborately choreographed music videos while delivering studio precision vocals. Michael MacCambridge of the Austin American-Statesman, who reviewed Jackson's Rhythm Nation World Tour, described lip-syncing as a "moot point", stating "Jackson was frequently singing along with her own pre-recorded vocals, to achieve a sound closer to radio versions of singles." MacCambridge also observed "it seemed unlikely that anyone—even a prized member of the First Family of Soul Music—could dance like she did for 90 minutes and still provide the sort of powerful vocals that the '90s super concerts are expected to achieve." Similarly, Chris Willman commented, "even a classically trained vocalist would be hard-pressed to maintain any sort of level of volume—or, more appropriately, 'Control'—while bounding up and down stairs and whipping limbs in unnatural directions at impeccable, breakneck speed." Critics observed that in the smaller scale of her "Number Ones: Up Close and Personal" tour, she forewent lip-syncing. Chris Richards of The Washington Post stated "even at its breat
with Snoop Dogg, Miguel, Mary J. Blige, Erykah Badu, Janet Jackson, Roots, Fantasia, Jill Scott, Daniel Caesar, Lloyd, DVSN, Marsha Ambrosius, Kool Moe Dee, Pell, Ledisi, Kelly Price, KeKe Wyatt, MC Lyte, Doug E. Fresh, Whodini, Yo-Yo, The Lady of Rage, DJ Captain Charles, DJ Lo Down Loretta Brown (aka Erykah Badu), Damien Escobar, Mykia Jovan, Victory Boyd