It’s that time of the week again people! What time you ask? Time for you to get out of that couch, put your hands up in the air and give a MAJOR shout-out to a BIG-ASS song that made a mark and blazed a trail!
Do we ever stop praising the iconic legendary brilliance of Queen Janet Jackson? NO WE DON’T. Women want to be her. The gays want to be like her. Men want to do morally questionable things to her. The current crop of ‘artists‘ (who we all love) including Gaga, Rihanna, Beyoncé, Britney etc ALL follow her trail-blazing footsteps.
This week I wanted to give my favorite video of all time..yes, MY FAVORITE EFFIN’ VIDEO OF ALL TIME a shout-out! A video that made my jaw drop the first time I saw it, and to this day makes me go weak in the knees every time I see it!
By early 1992, Janet Jackson had established herself as a one-woman industry. Her previous album ‘Rhythm Nation 1814′ (known today as one of the greatest albums of ALL time) released in 1989 shattered and created records that still remain unbroken (seven consecutive top 5 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 from a single album, and #1 singles from a single album over 3 calender years), and became the biggest selling album of 1990 (with over 6 million units sold in the US alone by 1990, and 15 million sold till date). She won every music award on earth including her first Grammy for the poignant ‘Rhythm Nation‘ video, embarked on her first world-tour that became the most successful and highest grossing début tour in history (yet another unbroken record), and she signed a deal with Virgin Records in the midst of a high-profile bidding war by the most prolific record companies, that led her to earn a cool 40-million-dollar contract that made Janet Jackson THE highest paid performer in the world, a record she would break yet again in 1997 when Virgin Records would pay an unprecedented 80 million dollars to Janet for a 5-album deal.
With the release of her 1993 album ‘janet.‘ (pronounced janet, period), the first album under the Virgin label, Janet Jackson changed the face of contemporary pop music forever, and left all competition far behind to emerge as THE defiant icon of the 90’s. The album debuted at # 1 on the Billboard 200, setting a record for the highest first-week sales by a female artist, went on to produce six top 10 hits, including two # 1 singles, won Janet her second Grammy, and eventually sold over a whopping 21 million copies world-wide. Shocking, bold, daring, provocative as well as experimental, austere, eclectic and genre-bending (infusing Rock, Rap, Hip Hop, Jazz, Opera, R’n’B, House, New Jack-swing) the ‘janet.‘ album established Janet Jackson as a role model as well as a stunningly gorgeous sex symbol all around the world.
Firstly, the look. She went from this :
YOUR FAVES COULD QUITE LITERALLY NEVER. PERIOD.
This 1993 Rolling Stone cover shot by Patrick Demarchelier featuring Janet with her breasts covered by the hands of her then husband Rene Elizondo Jr still remains one of the most iconic images in contemporary music history!
By the time the first single from the album, ‘That’s The Way Love Goes’ hit radio and MTV, the world had to deal with the fact that little Janet Jackson was all grown up, and was simply Janet from then on. She didn’t need the Jackson family name to make it big. Within 2 weeks, ‘That’s The Way Love Goes’ reached # 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart, staying there for 8 consecutive weeks.
But it was the second single ‘If’ that remains the most eclectic song of her entire discography, while the stunning video for the song featuring some of the most iconic choreography in history is arguably one of her best works to date.
Produced by Janet Jackson and her trusty team of collaborators Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, ‘If’ was a song about hypothetical sexual fantasies, with an undertone of sadness (‘If I was your girl, oh the things I’d do to you’). Explicit, erotic and defiant, the seductive lyrics were enough to make anybody and their mama blush!
‘You on the rise, when you’re touchin’ my thighs’!!
With wailing guitar chords, insanely catchy Hip-Hop beats, a sample of Diana Ross And The Supreme’s ‘Someday We’ll Be Together’ and some of Janet’s best vocals till date, ‘If’ packs a punch like no other song of Janet’s entire career.
While the song itself was amazing, it was the video that catapulted ‘If’ to staggering new heights. The Dominic Sena produced video pushed the envelope by dealing with voyeurism, while Tina Landon’s ground-breaking choreography created one of the greatest dance-break routines in music video history.
Everything about that video was iconic, legendary, amazing..I could just go on and on. The video is based on a futuristic Asian nightclub, with spy cameras hidden everywhere, and patrons are ushered inside after they utter the secret password, which is ‘If‘. Once inside, it’s an all out erotic yet classy raunch-fest! Indications of threesomes, voyeurs, e-chats and hook-ups, it’s ALL there! And remember this was 1993 people! In the midst of all the action of the patrons in their private boudoirs, Janet Jackson and her team of back-up dancers execute some of the most manically mind-blowing moves in the history of EVER. From the male back-up dancers being suspended upside-down and lowered from the ceiling during the intro, to Janet’s stunning entry through doors which blast open with red fabric flowing everywhere, to the crotch grabbing and grinding moves to the iconic break-down, Janet pushed the envelope far with this one, and yet kept it classy, unlike her biggest rival Madonna, who’s prime intention at that point of time was to show off her nude body parts as well as her sexual prowess and skills to anybody who was willing and unwilling to see (for the record I love Madonna as well, and she’s another one of my idols, so stop with your rantings about me being a Madge hater. I call it as I see it, so DUH).
For obvious reasons, the original video was edited for general viewing, and an ‘All-Dance’ version was released on MTV. Watch it below :
But my fave video of all time remains the original version. It’s stunning imagery, ground-breaking choreography and Janet’s fierce attitude is what made this a masterpiece. Watch the original version below :
‘If’ went on to peak at # 4 on the Billboard Hot 100, and at # 1 on the Billboard Dance Charts, was certified Gold, and won the 1994 MTV Video Music Award for Best Female Video, the second win for Janet in the same category. She previously won the award just 2 years ago for ‘Love Will Never Do (Without You)’.
To me, ‘If’ represents power, freedom and fierceness. Watching the video for the first time, I still remember being dumbstruck for hours after the video was over, wondering what hit my obese arse. Dancing to Janet’s music is pretty much every Janatic’s fave past-time. And ‘If’ was THE song that I danced to the most, meticulously picking up the steps of the grand break-down. That would be my escapism back in the day as a kid!
And it still remains my escapism today, along with being my fave video of all time! Through ups and downs, I’ve always turned to this song and video if I ever need to feel powerful, inspired, rebellious or if I just feel like getting back at someone (mentally of course). And boy does it work!
Even today, traces of Janet’s choreography as well as the video are seen in the works of some of the biggest names in music of the past and present decade, from Paula Abdul (especially ‘My Love Is For Real’), Lil’ Kim (‘No Matter What They Say’), Christina Milian (‘Dip It Low’) to multiple videos by Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez, Ciara, Pink, Mya, Missy Elliot, Lady Gaga, N’Sync, Beyoncé etc. The list goes on.
Just goes on to show the influence the living legend had and continues to have irrespective of an unfortunate incident in 2004 (namely the nipple-gate incident at the Superbowl for the royally uneducated) that was blown out of proportion, leading Janet Jackson to bear the brunt of a racist and hypocritical society that clearly does not have its priorities chalked out.
Irrespective of that, even today Janet Jackson commands a level of respect a handful of people can boast of earning. Her latest world tour ‘Up, Close and Personal’ has sold out and garnered rave reviews everywhere, along with slowly re-affirming her position as one of the greatest live performers of all time, as well as reconnecting her with her fan base all around the world, especially the fans who were left out during the ’20 Y.O.’ and ‘Discipline’ era. And why wouldn’t she be respected??