#259 – Janet Jackson – The Velvet Rope

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The second and final Janet Jackson appearance is her sixth studio album.  The 1997 release was heavily influenced by her emotional breakdown.  The album topped the Billboard 200 chart and was Jackson’s fourth album in a row to do so.  Jackson became the only female artist to release 18 top ten hits in a row with “I Get Lonely.”

 

Sara

It’s my first time listening to this in its entirety and I’m pumped to get more into Janet.  What jumps out right away is that this is a super-sexual punch to the face, with some brash and innovative sounds. Janet recorded this over two years and it’s deeply personal.  It follows an emotional breakdown triggered from issues that began in childhood.  She had hit rock bottom with addiction, body dysmorphia, an abusive marriage, bulimia, and even self-harm. She would regularly cancel recording sessions, sometimes for days at a time, as she struggled.

Here’s what Ms. Jackson-if-you’re-nasty had to say about ‘The Velvet Rope:

           Velvet Rope” is both the highest and lowest point. On a personal level, it was a low point, because I was going through a depression. That was a difficult time for me. At the same time it was my highest point, because I overcame the depression by talking about the crossroads I was at. There were so many things resurfacing that I’d suppressed: stuff from my childhood, stuff from all over the place. I was crazed trying to figure out where it was all coming from and how to deal with it. I could have made a wrong turn and tried to drink and drug it away. But drinking and drugs never appealed to me. I wanted it to stop. Talking it out and creating such an introspective work as “Velvet Rope” helped me do that.”[ 

If you spent the first three quarters of the 90s constantly wondering if and when Q-Tip and Joni Mitchell would team up (I mean, who didn’t?), your prayers were answered with 1997’s ‘Got Til It’s Gone.’ All kidding aside, Janet Jackson noted that what the two have in common is both being great poets, and this is why the song works. It’s much more alternative-sounding than the complex-yet-very-polished sound we often expect from Janet Jackson, and the rawness goes perfectly with the Mitchell samples. The video is also excellent, and was made way back when we loved music videos. It takes place in South Africa during apartheid and Jackson is a lounge singer. We see some of her amazing dance moves, but again, in a grittier, less choreographed presentation than what I’ve grown accustomed to from this artist. It’s a brilliant collaboration and listening while watching the video makes it feel like you’re watching some really talented friends play an open mic night.

 

If I could turn back
The hands of time I’d make you
Fall in love
In love with me again

So would you give me
Another chance to love
To love you
In the right way no games

Got ’til it’s gone

Don’t- don’t- don’t it always–, Don’t- don’t- don’t it always–

Here we go again…

Got ’til it’s gone

Don’t- don’t- don’t it always–, Don’t- don’t- don’t it always–

Joni Mitchell never lies

Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s

Gone

If I’m being honest, this wasn’t my favorite of Janet’s work. I think Rhythm Nation is far superior, but the hits on this album certainly have merit. My personal favorite is ‘Go Deep’ b/c it’s catchy as all get out. What it lacks in actual depth (it’s basically about hitting the club, picking up a dude, and bagging him) it makes up for with an infectious dance-friendly feel. Check out the remixes with Missy Elliott and Timbaland too. The non-hits didn’t get it done for me on this one. I was hoping to be a lot more impressed. Maybe I would have been if I wasn’t still rocking out to Rhythm Nation just a few albums ago.  A resounding ‘meh’ from me.

 

Steve

I actually preferred the other Janet Jackson album to this one.  There were some pretty good songs, but they were surrounded by a lot of garbage time.

“Together Again” is one of the biggest selling singles globally of all time.  You know this song.  Everyone knows this song.  It’s probably one of the most recognizable songs from the 90’s.  This is definitely not my kind of music but I love the song.  I did not know that the song was written as a tribute to one of her friends who succumbed to AIDS.

There are times
When I look above
And beyond
There are times when I feel your love
Around me baby
I’ll never forget my baby
(I’ll never forget you)

There are times when I look above and beyond
There are times when I feel your love around me baby
I’ll never forget my baby

When I feel that I don’t belong
Draw my strength
From the words when you said
Hey it’s about you baby
Look deeper inside you baby

[BRIDGE]
Dream about us together again
What I want us together again baby
I know we’ll be together again cuz

[CHORUS:]
Everywhere I go
Every smile I see
I know you are there
Smilin back at me
Dancin in moonlight
I know you are free
Cuz I can see your star
Shinin down on me

(together again, ooh)
Good times we’ll share again
(together again, ooh)
Makes me wanna dance
(together again, ooh)
Say it loud and proud
(together again, ooh)
All my love’s for you

Always been a true angel to me
Now above
I can’t wait for you to wrap your wings around me baby
Oooh wrap them around me baby

Sometimes hear you whisperin
No more pain
No worries will you ever see now baby
I’m so happy for my baby

[BRIDGE]

[CHORUS]

(together again, ooh)
Good times we’ll share again
(together again, ooh)
Ooh it makes me wanna dance
(together again, ooh)
Say it loud and proud
(together again, ooh)
All my love’s for you

There are times when I look above and beyond
There are times when I feel you smile upon me baby
I’ll never forget my baby

What I’d give just to hold you close
As on earth
In heaven we will be together baby
Together again my baby

Another guilty pleasure song is “I Get Lonely.”  This is a bit more subdued than most of the album, and less of a dance song.  The song is about being lonely and missing an old lover.

I get so lonely
Can’t let just anybody hold me
You are the one that lives in me, my dear
Want no one but you

Sittin here with my tears
All alone with my fears
I’m wonderin if I have to do
Withoutcha
But there’s no reason why

I feel asleep late last night
Cryin like a newborn child
Holdin myself close
Pretendin my arms are yours
I want no one but you

[CHORUS (2x)]

I still remember to the day
In fact is was a 3rd Monday
You came along to be the one for me
Now I’m alone

Sittin here by the phone
Call and say that you’re okay
So that I’ll have the chance
To beg you to stay
I want no one but you

[CHORUS (4x)]

Gonna break it down
Break it down, break it down
Gotta break it down
Break it down, break it down
Whoa

You know
That I know
That I get so lonely thinking of you
Oh-hooh
Noowhoahooo. . .

 

These two songs alone were enough to land this album on this list.  The rest of the album is pretty unimpressive.  This one seems a bit to highly ranked in my opinion, but that seems to be a theme with these middle albums.