The Return Of Ms. Jackson

Janet Jackson

If I needed just two words to describe myself, they would be – people person. Of course those words can be applied to just about anyone in the world today, or yesterday, but it is how the words are applied that makes the difference. I’ll use an example to help explain what I mean. There have been several times when I was out to lunch or dinner with family or friends, and other local or national celebrities also are dining at the same restaurant. Sometimes the celebs get close enough where I feel I must at least greet them by saying hello. Other times I get an opportunity to engage in a brief conversation. I never bother any celebrity with autograph requests, but if allowed I like conversing about matters common to all people. I can remember one encounter where I met a local news anchor. As I spoke, he enthusiastically shook my hand and began to talk about his work, and his happiness at having a few days off. I guess he was even more of a “people person” than I thought I was. My wife thought I initiated the conversation, but I assured her that the news anchor was just a friendly person. A people person.

The reason I am writing about this is to point out that entertainers are people first. They may be famous, have lots of money and seem to be without problems, but remember they are human like the rest of us. We all share a common fragility that comes with being human. Each one of us can be hurt, in different ways. If we experienced a childhood without great pain, most likely we will suffer adverse events somewhere in our adult lives. In preparing for this week, many thoughts about the experiences that bond all humans crossed my mind. Perhaps it was because of the musician I chose to feature. In any case, this week we will look at some of the issues faced by superstar singer/actress Janet Jackson.

In writing about Janet Jackson, it would be difficult to mention things that are not already common knowledge. She has grown up in front of an international audience as the youngest of her very famous siblings – The Jacksons. Born May 16, 1966, Janet Jackson began her career with the variety television series The Jacksons in 1976 and went on to appear in other television shows throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, including Good Times and Fame. When Jackson was sixteen, her father and manager Joseph Jackson, arranged her a contract with A&M Records. Her début album, Janet Jackson, was released in 1982.

It certainly helps when anyone aspiring to gain access into the entertainment industry starts with famous family members. Janet Jackson, although  an extremely talented child, at least was able to find the door opened when the time came for a decision-maker to see her. Even with the boost of name recognition she had to make hard choices to take another step. After her second 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.” Looking back on things it turns out that this was the correct decision. Jackson teamed with producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. They set out to make crossover pop appeal, while also creating a strong foundation within the urban market. Their plan worked to perfection as Control, released in February 1986, peaked at number one on the Billboard 200, and was certified fivefold platinum by the RIAA, selling over fourteen million copies worldwide. Control 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. At this point Janet had become more than the youngest Jackson child, but an artist with her own name and voice.

Since Control Janet Jackson has released eight more studio albums and five other feature films. Along the way she has achieved an iconic place in modern music, setting the bar higher for the female vocalists who follow. Now, after seven years since her previous recording, Ms. Jackson returns with a new album Unbreakable. The album was released on October 2, 2015. It received largely positive reviews, including those by The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, and The Guardian. Released under her own record label, Rhythm Nation Records, and distributed by BMG Rights Management, Unbreakable is historic because the launch of Rhythm Nation established Jackson as one of the few African-American female musicians to own a record label. Unbreakable debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, becoming Janet’s seventh album to top the chart in the United States.

Janet Jackson has also embarked on a world tour to promote the Unbreakable album. The tour is going well as I have heard only positives from some of those who have had the opportunity to attend. Many have stated the difference in wardrobe Janet Jackson is wearing as opposed to earlier years. Some attribute the change to her marriage to Qatari business magnet Wissam Al Mana and respect for his Islāmic beliefs. Others have perceived her age, now 49, might have a lot to do with her choice of attire. I tend to think her decision may be a mixture of both factors.

I also noticed that Janet has postponed a few shows for personal issues. Earlier in the first leg of concerts her father, Joe Jackson, fell ill in Brazil. It was reported that Janet took time away from the tour to be by his side while he recovered. Like most of us, Janet Jackson still has concern for her older parents. Fame and fortune cannot change the issues that may arise within a family. More recently Jackson required rest from singing, and a few more postponed shows followed. This is very common for professional singers. After a brief period of vocal rest, Janet Jackson’s show will go on. The music will continue playing. Yes, Ms. Jackson has returned.

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