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.
Love Will Never Do (Without You)
Not many albums spawn seven huge hits, and Rhythm Nation 1814’s multi-year run was so sprawling that it inadvertently kicked off a new album era within its own confines. Love Will Never Do (Without You) may not have been part of the 1993 Janet project, but its transformative imagery certainly offered a prelude.
This song, this song, this song. It’s the sort of pop perfection I just want to bottle up and enjoy every time I need a lift in mood. Initially pitched as a duet, it’s one of the few tracks I can remember where an artist essentially duets with themselves. Verse one is pitched at a lower octave, presumably with a male voice in mind. Verse two flips expectations by pulling up and taking advantage of the higher tone we’ve come to expect from Janet. In theory, this is a simple trick. But, you’ve got to have the right performer to pull it off. Janet nails the contrast, and the end result is very striking.
Of course, this isn’t the only element that makes Love Will Never Do pop. The percussion thuds with brute force, simplifying the rhythms of new jack swing but upping the intensity. The bassline is equally simple, and this focus makes it even more powerful. Then, that anthemic chorus rushes in with a welcome fullness. Janet’s lush vocals create instant harmony. It’s an absolute headrush of the highest order.
I’m linking both the iconic music video and the album version, and I encourage you to listen to the latter. Extended by over a minute, the second half of the track is given time to build toward an almost hymnal climax. The vocal ad-libs are diverse and dynamic, echoing the chanted repetition of the title. The instrumental returns to the dulcet tones of the introductory riff before the vocals slam back in. Janet’s ad-libs become integral to the celebratory rhythm. As always, the details are just as important as the song’s overall effect, and their presence allows Love Will Never Do to wrap its musical arms around you.
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Just we when all have just about lost faith in the brotherhood of man, or to know how to love or to know how to give, we get this song here today about how love and life is a very special kind of thing for each and every living breathing thing.
This song, this song, THIS SONG, this song is so joyous, it is infectious. You cannot bop along to this song without a smile.
Speaking of that beat, this beat is a fine example if you have a strong enough hook, you don’t need to overproduce the rest. Kpop, listen up! That beat cycles for almost 5 minutes straight, and we don’t get tired of it. I swear the Funk Friday DJ on the radio (on Friday) samples that beat just about every week, and if isn’t this song then it is “Escapade” (which Nick might review next, or maybe “When I think of you” which is another mighty fine Ms Jackson song).
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Shockingly, I won’t be writing about any songs from Control this week. I can’t believe it myself, but with only five slots there just wasn’t room. With that said, I could probably run this feature for 50 days straight and still have plenty to talk about!
With that said, if I did write about a Control single, it would probably be The Pleasure Principle. I adore that track. I mean, I adore all of them… but that one is so quintessentially 80’s in the best way.
What, how wow you crazy?! What about, perhaps, one post of several songs with shorter 1 paragraph reviews as to why we should listen to it.
I just find it incredibly surprising that she manages to make even a 5-minute song so goddamn compelling. HOW?!
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Strength of melody and power of momentum! (along with a million other things)
I knew “As One” was going to come up at some point when it came to K-Pop acts that could’ve released a JJ track; today is that day. Clearly, these two songbirds are heavily influenced by western pop and that has earned them extra gold stars from me.
Ref #1: As One “For The Night” (2014)
Ref #2: As One (Feat. Bumkey) “What Are We?” (2013)
Ref #3: As One “Mr. A-Jo” (2003)
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I’m convinced Rhythm Nation 1814 is one of the best albums of all time!! I think Black Cat might be my favorite but this song Love Will Never Do (Without You) is indeed splendid and there’s something about it that just feels so organic such as with the harmonies, that makes it feel truly joyful.