We have discussed Janet Jackson’s many contributions to the entertainment industry in numerous articles here on The Lava Lizard but as we celebrate the icon’s 47th birthday today, there is period of her incredible career that deserves particular attention. Yes, as you guessed from the iconic artwork, I’m referring to The Velvet Rope.
Jackson had established herself as an undeniable force on the charts as well as on the tour circuit in the early 1990s but as the decade introduced a string of young acts all eager to follow in her footsteps, artistic progression became a necessity. What resulted from months of deep introspection was a bolder, more unapologetic Jackson who transcended beyond the proverbial Pop music rat race with an album that crossed genre borders and appealed to all ages in the 16 to 45 years bracket.
Indeed, The Velvet Rope represented artistic evolution and introduced Jackson as a mature artist. With clever writing and production, Jackson disguised serious social issues, such as domestic abuse, homophobia and the devastating losses caused by HIV/AIDS, in a veil of sultry melodies and basslines on an album that was undeniably ahead of its time.
Jackson also challenged ideals governing female sexuality with her daring performances, videos and styling that further defined the cultural significance of both The Velvet Rope and 1990s era of second wave feminism. Bordering on raunchy without crossing the line into Hookerville (governed by Madonna), Jackson’s brand of sex appeal stemmed from her flirtation with the art during the janet. period of her career, which had already inspired the works of TLC, Aaliyah and even Mariah Carey.
That last point of our lengthy yet crucial reflection on The Velvet Rope brings us to the bottom line of this piece: Jackson’s work has influenced performers of her time and beyond, particularly the visual artists of the current generation. Despite often being unfavourably compared to Madonna in rankings of important female Pop stars, there is no denying that Jackson has contributed to the blueprint to which many acts adhere, as exemplified by those who have emulated the branding of The Velvet Rope.
From Beyonce and Kelly Rowland to Rihanna and Ciara, there have been dozens of artists who either knowingly or unknowingly adapted aspects of The Velvet Rope to their own projects. They copy Jackson’s fashions, performances, singing style and vocal arrangements, thus proving that the work she put forward wasn’t dated or confined to any specific period of time – a problem that grossly affected the material she released during the 1980s. Remember when 1998 Jackson performance of “I Get Lonely” was ripped off by Rowland at the 2011 BET Awards?
It is quite unfortunate that the media in the post-2004 Super Bowl era of Jackson’s career have tried to diminish the significance of her impact on Pop culture, especially since Madonna has been repeatedly excused for doing far worse than just flashing a breast on television for half a second. What has resulted is a level of ignorance by music fans who are too young to remember The Velvet Rope era and praise they favourite artists for blatantly copying Jackson’s work with little credit given to the original.
Still, even if critics refuse to acknowledge the impact of The Velvet Rope, it won’t change the fact that the record stands as one of the important releases of the last 30 years of recorded music. The material is still relevant to radio and could easily be adapted to radio today. Just ask Drake because as the majority of his catalogue proves, he’s clearly a fan.
Before we go, watch Jackson’s entire The Velvet Rope Tour below and see where your favourite female artist under 35 years learned her moves: