Janet. is the 5th album by Janet Jackson. The album was released on May 18, 1993 on Virgin Records.
Prior to the album's release, Janet was at the center of a high-profile bidding war over her record contract.
Her original record label, A&M Records sought to renew her contract while Atlantic, Capitol, & Virgin Records all vied to sign her. After meeting with Virgin Records owner, Richard Branson, Janet signed with the label for a unprecedented multi-dollar contract, making her the world's then highest-paid musical act.
Due to the increasing commentary that Janet's success in the music industry was attributed to being a member of the Jackson family and a producer-dependent artist, Janet made a concentrated effort to take greater control of her new album.
The album title, "Janet, period" is meant to disassociate Janet's public image from that of her family, essentially dropping the Jackson surname.
Janet wrote all the lyrics for the album in addition to co-producing every song and co-writing each arrangments with producers and long-time collaborators Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis.
The album's critical reception was predominately positive. The theme of Janet. is sexual intimacy, an abrupt departure from her well-known conservative image.
Much of the acclaim for the album was centered around her lyrics that emphasized the female perspective on sexuality as well as the demand for practicing safe sex.
The album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 with the largest first week sales in history for a female artist at the time. It became Janet's third consecutive album to top the chart, as well as reaching the number one position in Australia, New Zealand and the UK.
The album was certified sixfold platinum by the RIAA, selling over 20 million copies worldwide and is one of the world's best selling albums.
The album also cemented Janet as an international icon and sex symbol. It is listed by the National Association of Recording Merchandisers and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as one of the "200 Definitive Albums of All Time."
It produced six top ten hits on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart and received two Grammy Award nominations in 1994, winning Best R&B Song.
Academics have noted that the erotic imagery in Janet's music videos released to promote the album's singles have contributed to a higher degree of sexual freedom among women.
The MTV-sponsored Janet World Tour supporting the album received critical acclaim for Janet's elaborate stage performances & reinforcing her reputation as one of the preeminent artists of the MTV generation.
Album Background & ProductionEdit
Rumors of a multi-million dollar bidding war over Janet's recording contract began to circulate in the spring of 1991.
Jet magazine reported: "A recording company has offered in excess of $50 million to sign superstar Janet Jackson to a recording contract, making the 24-year-old singer/songwriter/dancer/actress the key player in one of the hottest bidding wars among today's major record companies."
Reports indicated that Capitol, Virgin and Atlantic Records were all bidding for Janet's contract, as her ties to A&M would soon expire; by March, she had signed with Virgin.
The New York Times declared "Janet Jackson has signed what is believed to be the most lucrative contract in the history of recording. The 24-year-old singer, songwriter and actress signed an exclusive contract with Virgin Records it was announced yesterday."
Janet's new contract guaranteed a 22% royalty payment in addition to her then-historic signing bonus.
Chuck Philips of the Los Angeles Times reported that it had been the largest bidding war in recent memory and that "[o]ne reason the bidding was so heavy, various industry observers have noted, was that Jackson-at just 24-is still a relatively fresh face on the pop scene and that her dance-pop style is ideal for today's pop/video climate."
In addition, her potential as an international superstar proved to be the primary motivation for the label's investment.
Jeff Ayeroff, co-managing director of Virgin in the US stated: "Janet is a world-class artist and we expect her growth to be enormous."
Chairman Richard Branson spoke with Janet privately to seal the deal. He commented: "A Rembrandt rarely becomes available... When it does, there are many people who are determined to get it. I was determined."
Stephen Holden of The New York Times criticized the contract amount, considering it a gamble for Virgin. He stated that Janet "is a producer-dependent artist—i.e., someone who relies on others to make her sound interesting and trendy. She also lacks a sharply defined personality, both as an artist and celebrity. Where singers like Ms. Houston and Mariah Carey have commanding vocal power, Ms. Jackson's is a relatively indistinguishable studio voice."
Richard Branson rebutted this argument stating "Ms. Jackson has met with great success working with the production team of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, just as her brother Michael Jackson has experienced his greatest successes with the producer Quincy Jones. It is interesting that Mr. Holden doesn't mention this similar 'liability' when discussing Michael Jackson. To say that Ms. Jackson is 'dependent' on her producer is a shortsighted observation."
She is a formidable talent who stands on her own." Michael Jackson would break his sister's record only days later, when he signed a $60 million contract with Sony Music Entertainment. Both siblings' contracts garnered considerable criticism.
Los Angeles Times reported that "A&M Records President Al Cafaro, whose company lost the fierce bidding battle over Janet Jackson to Virgin Records said record companies may be vesting too much importance in individual performers" as the funds used as advances to the Jacksons could have launched recording careers for numerous unknown talents.
Cliff Burnstein of Q-Prime management commented that recording artists demands for advances upon signing would begin to escalate from that point forward.
Prior to her first release with Virgin, Janet was asked by Jam and Lewis to record a song for the sound track to the feature film "Mo' Money" that was released in 1992 by their label Perspective Records.
Jon Bream of the Star Tribune reported:
"For most movie soundtracks, producers negotiate with record companies, managers and lawyers for the services of big-name singers. Like the Hollywood outsiders that they are, Edina-based Jam and Lewis went directly to such stars as Janet Jackson, Luther Vandross, Bell Biv Devoe, Color Me Badd and Johnny Gill."
She and Vandross recorded the duet "The Best Things in Life Are Free" which peaked at number 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 and topped the Hot R&B Singles chart.
Shortly afterward, Janet began filming for her first feature length role in John Singleton's "Poetic Justice."
Although she was encouraged by a major studio executive to take on a film in which she could portray a singer, she insisted on finding a different role.
"About that same time John Singleton asked me to read his new script. John and I became buddies—I loved Boyz N the Hood—so I thought he was just asking my advice. I was shocked and honored to learn the screenplay had been written with me in mind. 'Would you play Justice?' he wanted to know. Yes! I'd finally found a role—a dramatic nonsinging role—that was right."
Released in July of 1993, "Poetic Justice" debuted at number one at the box office, grossing $11,728,455. It grossed a grand total of $27,515,786.
After writing songs with themes of independence for "Control" and social injustice for Rhythm Nation 1814, Janet desired to devote her new album to love and relationships, describing the theme of her new album as "intimacy" and that "[s]exual communication is the name of the game."
She stated in an interview with David Wild for Rolling Stone that "[w]hile I was doing Rhythm Nation, I was thinking about how things were so hard, so regimented and so black and white ... I thought I'd do something on the sexy side—which is hard for me since I grew up as a tomboy and don't really think of myself that way. But I think this album is more on the feminine tip."
Janet also commented on how her experience acting in "Poetic Justice" played a role in taking a new direction with her music.
Speaking with biographer David Ritz, Janet stated that "Rhythm Nation was a heavy record, and Poetic Justice was a heavy movie. I wanted to do something lighter but also daring ... When I wrote the album, I was still in a poetic frame of mind, inspired by Maya's beautiful language. You can hear that inspiration or the interludes and especially on the song 'New Agenda.' This time I felt much freer expressing myself."
The album was produced at Flyte Tyme studios in Edina, Minnesota. The songs on the album (with the exception of "What'll I Do") were written by Janet, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis & mixed by Steve Hodge and Dave Rideau; "What'll I Do" was written and produced by Jackson and Jellybean Johnson.
Janet took a larger role in songwriting and production than she did on her previous albums.
She explained that "[a]ll my records are personal, and janet, is the most personal of them all. That's why this time around it was important for me to write all the lyrics and half of the melodies."
Jam described the record as being "a more mature album musically." David Ritz noted that Janet and her producers took risks by experimenting with musical influences that had not appeared in their previous work.
"She asked Kathleen Battle and Public Enemy's Chuck D to contribute—an opera diva and a hardcore rapper, two artists one would not associate with Janet—and somehow pulled if off. Beyond Jam and Lewis, there's now a recognizable Janet Jackson production style that's gutsy and, in some cases, even eccentric."
The song "That's The Way Love Goes" contains a sample loop of "Papa Don't Take No Mess" written by James Brown, Fred Wesley, Charles Bobbit and John Starks.
The song "Again" was originally just an experimental sound the production duo was considering.
While Janet found its melody compelling, the trio didn't give the song serious contemplation until the film producers from "Poetic Justice" requested a ballad for the film's soundtrack.
Janet subsequently wrote the lyrics for "Again" and shaped them around Jam's melody.
The song was arranged by Lee Blaskey and accompanied by members of the Minnesota Orchestra and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra.
Despite the critical and commercial success of her two previous albums, Janet continued to receive numerous comparisons to her brother Michael, often with doubts that she held staying power in the music industry.
When Edna Gundersen of USA Today questioned her about the subject, Janet responded:
"Certain people feel I'm just riding on my last name ... That's why I just put my first name on janet. and why I never asked my brothers to write or produce music for me."
Virgin Records expressed the album title "punctuates the declaration of strength the singer, songwriter and producer boldly expresses on this moving collection of songs which explore love, sensuality, the power of sisterhood and her own evolving self-identity."
Thomas Harrison, the author of "Music of the 1990s" (2011) wrote that "[t]he conscious decision was made, by the company and/or Jackson, to put her into the same league as other one-named artists, such as Madonna, Bono, and Prince, or at least to put her on the same standing as others in the industry who are often called by one name, such as Whitney, Mariah, Diana, Dolly, and Garth among others. Jackson could now, in a sense, stand on her own and not be seen as a product of the family entertainment machine."
Sal Cinquemani of Slant magazine recounted the title of the album ultimately "announced the singer as completely independent of her male-dominated family [and] it positioned her as the person in charge of her sound."
Album Release and PromotionEdit
Rolling Stone CoverEdit
In September of 1993, Janet appeared topless on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine with the hands of her then-husband René Elizondo, Jr. covering her breasts.
The photograph is the original full-length version of the cropped image used on the cover of the Janet album, shot by Patrick Demarchelier.
In the cover story, "Sexual Healing" by David Ritz, Janet explained, "sex has been an important part of me for several years. But it just hasn't blossomed publicly until now. I've had to go through some changes and shed some old attitudes before feeling completely comfortable with my body. Listening to my new record, people intuitively understand the change in me."
Ritz likened Janet's transformation to Marvin Gaye as he stated, "just as Gaye moved from What's Going On to Let's Get It On, from the austere to the ecstatic, Janet, every bit as serious-minded as Marvin, moved from Rhythm Nation to Janet, her statement of sexual liberation."
The image was cropped to show only Janet's face on the album cover and her midriff in the interior booklet.
The full version appears as the cover of the limited edition double disc edition of the album, as well as the video compilation Janet released later that year.
Sonia Murray of The Vancouver Sun later 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 of the year."
- That's the Way Love Goes (released on April 20, 1993)
- If (released on July 13, 1993)
- Again (released on October 12, 1993)
- Because of Love (released on January 18, 1994)
- Any Time, Any Place (released on May 23, 1994)
- Throb (released on June 18, 1994)
- You Want This (released on October 11, 1994)
- Whoops Now (released on January 31, 1995)
- What'll I Do (released on February 2, 1995)
[All songs written & produced by Janet Jackson, Jimmy Jam, & Terry Lewis except where noted]
- Interlude: Morning (0:31)
- That's the Way Love Goes (4:24)
- Interlude: You Know... (0:12)
- You Want This (5:05)
- Interlude: Be a Good Boy... (0:07)
- If (4:31)
- Interlude: Back (0:08)
- This Time (6:58)
- Interlude: Go On Miss Janet (0:05)
- Throb (4:33)
- What'll I Do (4:05)-[written by Janet Jackson, Steve Cropper, & Joe Shamwell; produced by Janet Jackson & Jellybean Johnson]
- Interlude: The Lounge (0:15)
- Funky Big Band (5:22)
- Interlude: Racism (0:08)
- New Agenda (4:00)
- Interlude: Love Pt. 2 (0:11)
- Because of Love (4:20)
- Interlude: Wind (0:11)
- Again (3:46)
- Interlude: Another Lover (0:11)
- Where Are You Now (5:47)
- Interlude: Hold On Baby (0:12)
- The Body That Loves You (5:32)
- Interlude: Rain (0:18)
- Any Time, Any Place (7:08)
- Interlude: Are You Still Up (1:36)
- Sweet Dreams (includes the hidden track "Whoops Now" which starts at 1:04) (5:31)-[written by Janet Jackson]
Album Chart PerformanceEdit