Editor’s Note: This article will also be featured in Insight Magazine’s upcoming spring issue.
Janet Damita Jo Jackson is a trailblazer in every sense of the word. A true powerhouse, she helped dominate one of the most revered eras of popular music with her sonically avant-garde records and fierce stage presence. With so many accolades, Jackson has an unparalleled work ethic spanning four decades. These illustrations compile only an ounce of what the pop superstar is all about.
After three nominations and years of campaigns led by diehard fans, Jackson is finally being inducted into music’s most prestigious hall of fame on Friday, March 29, at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. She will be inducted alongside The Cure, Def Leppard, Stevie Nicks, Radiohead, Roxy Music and The Zombies. While all these prominent artists and bands deserve their shine, Jackson’s induction has been long overdue and calls for a reminder of her boundless contributions to popular music as we know it.
As the youngest member of music’s most distinguished family, Jackson began her career as a child actress on the hit TV series “Good Times.” After releasing two albums in the early eighties that Jackson didn’t have much creative control over, it was time for reinvention. 1986’s “Control” gave her the long-awaited freedom she needed. “Control” served as the genesis of her legacy with longtime collaborators Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis and aided in the emergence of the new jack swing sound. In singing about taking charge of her own life in “Control”, or female empowerment in “Nasty,” the general public quickly realized she wasn’t just Michael Jackson’s little sister––she was a force to be reckoned with.
1989’s “Rhythm Nation 1814” called for a completely different subject matter. Rather than holding on to what was already working for her after the success of “Control,” Jackson decided to create a concept album pertaining to poverty, race and drugs. This was not a very common journey for a pop artist to embark on at the time. With anthems such as “Rhythm Nation” and “State of the World”, Jackson tackled these tough subjects with an irresistible groove.
After the magnificent triumph of “Rhythm Nation 1814,” Jackson continued to challenge herself creatively. 1993’s “janet.” delved into all aspects of love, and solidified her role as a voice for women’s sexual liberation. Seen as her most autobiographical body of work, 1997’s “The Velvet Rope” was inspired by the star’s own battle with depression and self-acceptance. With each album Jackson puts out, listeners can expect a profound outlook on a plethora of topics.
The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame described Ms. Jackson as “a pop icon immediately identifiable on a first-name basis.” Known for her trademark music videos and unprecedented choreography on top of her extensive discography, Jackson is the complete package.
Critics of her induction have argued the superstar is merely a “pop creation”, and “not rock and roll.” Although Jackson’s prowess as an entertainer cannot be ignored, her songwriting abilities and fearlessness when it comes to experimenting with different genres are often neglected. Jackson has effortlessly blended elements of pop, dance, R&B, rock, and funk into her music and continues to explore new sounds with her most recent single––the dancehall-inspired “Made For Now” featuring Daddy Yankee.
The impact Jackson has left on the music industry is much greater than her accolades. Traces of Jackson seem to be found everywhere in today’s music. From Rihanna to Beyoncé, there is a lengthy list of artists who have credited Jackson as an inspiration. Whether it is being a voice for women all around the world, or being an advocate for LGBTQ rights through music and humanitarian work, these artists have taken note of her legacy beyond the dancing and singing.
Although the ridiculousness of Jackson not being inducted earlier is still noticeable, there is a new sense of victory and elation surrounding her long-awaited arrival. The ceremony will be an astounding opportunity to celebrate Jackson and the other artists’ groundbreaking careers.
Rylee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @Nevada_Sagebrush.