This week, I’m breaking my own rules for a very good reason. On Friday, Janet Jackson’s Janet documentary premieres. My hope is that this will begin to set right a decades-long exile fueled by those classic American bedfellows: racism and sexism.
Janet’s name comes up occasionally on this blog. Her career – from sound to style to execution – is a blueprint for so many K-pop acts. She’s my all-time favorite artist – a forever idol in these eyes. And with a new era soon to begin, it seems right to finally share some of my favorite songs.
Each day this week, I’m going to write about one of her mammoth singles. I don’t think I can rank them, so I’m just picking five that stand out most to me. Don’t worry… The Bias List isn’t going to suddenly turn into a pop music blog. I have no plans (or much desire) for that.
But, it’s Janet! She gets the exception.
Though this single arrived over a decade after her breakthrough Control album, it’s where my journey as a fan began. I was in high school when The Velvet Rope was released, and the album meant so much to me. When it comes to pop music, I was a late bloomer. I really wasn’t interested until the very end of middle school. But once I got sucked in, all bets were off.
I consider Rhythm Nation 1814 my favorite album of all-time, but if you asked me to vote purely with my heart, The Velvet Rope would probably eke it out. I so admire its vulnerability and intimacy, the depth of its thought and breadth of its style. K-pop fans, you’d find A LOT to love here (especially you SM fans!).
Mega-hit Together Again is easily the album’s most pop-oriented moment, bounding along a gorgeous melody and gentle house beat. I throw around the word “euphoric” a lot, but this is pretty much the definition of pop music euphoria. It’s uplifting and pure, seemingly spawned from an otherworldly presence. Given its subject matter (an ode to friends stolen by the AIDs crisis), this sense of spiritual intervention seems almost a foregone conclusion.
Whatever the case, this is gorgeous songcraft – and it absolutely goes off at concerts. Janet’s sweet tone puts the listener at ease through an extended introduction, heralded by harp-like arpeggios before the beat kicks in. Do yourself a favor and listen to the album version. The groove really gets a chance to breathe before bursting into the opening verse.
As Together Again surges and crests, Janet’s trademark harmonies buttress the track with a satisfying sense of depth and texture. She’s never gotten enough credit for her skill as a vocalist. She’s not a powerhouse, but I’d take those lush harmonies any day. Just listen to how they build toward this song’s climax. It’s just blissful. Together Again could have easily become a morose, grief-stricken affair. Instead, it’s reassuring and celebratory. It’s the mood-lifter of all mood-lifters, and had me scrambling to catch up with the rest of her discography back in 1997.
the song is very euphoric but the gentleness of the vocals make me want to open up my heart and let the light in.
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ohmigod ohmigod ohmigod! It’s Janet, Ms Jackson if you’re nasty!
I love this song. It is written in tribute to a dear friend of hers of who died of AIDS, and it is the most uplifting joyous celebration of life ever.
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In honor of this break from tradition, I’m going to list which K-Pop group I think could have pulled off each release that Nick posts about. For this release (Together Again), I’m going to go with “CSJH” (CSJH The Grace).
“Stand Up People”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XK7VfBk9N6w
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Oh wow, those are some vocals!
MISS JACKSON IF YOUR NASTY. Between this and the top 50 pop songs from earlier this year. Wouldn’t be opposed to the westernification (slight one ofc) of TBL.
Hah, are you a geriatric millennial, Nick? I always took you for Gen X. I was also in high school when “Velvet Rope” came out and it was certainly one of the albums that defined that period of my life. We listened to a lot of pop and pop-adjacent music when I was growing up so I was familiar with her already, but that four year gap between “janet.” and “Velvet Rope” let me grow up enough to connect with her music the way I hadn’t before. “Velvet Rope” was my Janet.
Haha I guess I am! What an awful name that is, though. I don’t want to be a geriatric anything! 😮
I think it’s hilarious, but I also think “U MAD” was the third best k-pop song to come out last year, so you know, tastes differ. 😀
I’d heard this song growing up in the 90’s, but I only really discovered it a few years ago. I think in 2018 listened to it all summer. And am I the only one that hears the Full House theme when the chorus starts? That just adds to the nostalgia for me.
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