Review #339: Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814, Janet Jackson

Karla Clifton
3 min readJan 2, 2023

#339: Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814, Janet Jackson

Say what you want about Janet and Michael, the two true heads of the Jackson Clan: they shared a flair for drama. See: the title of this album, which features the numbers “1814” because that was the year Francis Scott Key wrote the United States’ national anthem. I wonder what that could mean???

One of the best things this album review project has done for me is make me much less of a snob. Two years ago, I would have belly-laughed if anyone suggested that I listen to a Janet Jackson record. “Does she even make music?” I would have said, feigning ignorance. Honestly, it’s so much less exhausting to just admit that Janet Jackson is super cool.

That said… this isn’t my favorite of her records. Makes sense, that higher-ranking records Control (#111) and The Velvet Rope (#318) are the ones I prefer. This record seems to be released the year that Janet Jackson discovered the news, what with all the rudimentary social commentary. “State of the World” points out that people are poor and struggling, while “Livin’ In A World (They Didn’t Make)” has a children-are-the-future bent. The best social justice song is “The Knowledge,” where Janet decries ignorance and bigotry to a knowing beat.

But that does bring us to the interludes. Eight of eighteen songs on here are interludes. (“Pledge, “T.V.,” “Race,” “Let’s Dance,” “Come Back,” “Hey Baby,” “No Acid,” and the most underwhelming of them all, “Livin’ … “In Complete Darkness.”) Somebody needs to talk to Janet, man. Maybe De La Soul can show her how to do an interlude.

And for every interlude there’s a love song. “Miss You Much,” “Escapade,” and “Love Will Never Do (Without You)” all have pretty peppy backbeats, but the rest of them became mildly grating. Guess the tempo and vocal range for the songs “Lonely,” “Come Back To Me,” and “Someday Is Tonight”? If you guessed “slow” and “breathy falsetto,” congratulations, I guess.

But of course there are some bangers here, because Janet Jackson is incapable of releasing an album without a banger. Title track and enlistment anthem “Rhythm Nation” samples Sly & the Family Stone’s crown jewel “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin).” And “Alright” made me stupid happy. I don’t know why I needed Janet Jackson to tell me that I was Alright with her (shoo-ba-doo-ba-doo-ba-now), but man, I really did.

So, it’s not my favorite Janet record. In fact, according to Wikipedia, it’s the “only album in the history of the US Billboard Hot 100 singles chart to have seven commercial singles peak within the top 5 positions.” Something tells me this record was “of the moment.” It’s probably not the Janet album I’ll come back to, but I’ve been wrong before.

Favorite Song: Every time “Black Cat” comes on, I always think it sounds exactly like “I Hate Myself for Loving You.”

Fun Fact: This was recorded in Minneapolis (a place fit for a Prince and yet unworthy of a Madonna).

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