Old New Borrowed Blue #11: Janet
This Monday post of Old New Borrowed Blue is brought to you by my exploding excitement about seeing Janet Jackson live in Toronto tomorrow night. In case you missed it, Janet. Jackson. LIVE. To prepare myself, and invite all of you into my very happy expectations, let’s listen to some Old, New, Borrowed, and Blue songs from Ms. Jackson (if you’re nasty).
Something Old: Obviously the most difficult category to choose for, seeing as Janet has 3 decades packed full of energy, sass and nostalgia. Since I’ve spent some time in the past writing about Rhythm Nation, and recently included “Control” in an ONBB post, I think I will plant myself firmly in Janet’s 90’s catalogue. In 1993, Janet. (read Janet Period) was the album that signalled a new persona for the youngest Jackson. Not only did she create distance from the Jackson legacy (and controversy) by dropping her family name, she also changed from a modest, socially-conscious Rhythm Nation badass into an iconic sex symbol. And “If” is the single that signals this shift more than any other. So before I launch into an entire blog post about Janet., let’s enjoy this futuristic, genre-fusion dance track that is bold with desire – “If I was your girl, the things I’d do to you…” – while respecting your boundaries – “but I’m not, so I can’t, then I won’t”, while also making absolutely brilliant musical references to both Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer” and Diana Ross’ “Someday We’ll Be Together”. My wife recently asked me to pick my favourite Janet track from each decade and I suggested “Together Again” for my 90’s pick… but I think I just changed my own mind.
Something New: One of the many reasons I’m so excited for tomorrow night is to hear a few more new tracks that we can expect to find on Janet’s new album, Unbreakable. In the meantime I am very happy with the first single/music video “No Sl333p,” which is clearly from the same Janet that gave us the gifts of other sexy slow jams like, “That’s the Way Love Goes” and “Any Time, Any Place.”
Something Borrowed: Janet Jackson is a queen of both borrowing and being borrowed. I’ve heard that on the tour I’m about to experience, she actually shows video of Kendrick Lamar performing his Janet tribute, “Poetic Justice,” which is built on samples of “Any Time, Any Place”. When Janet borrows from someone else’s music, it’s usually both an intentional reference and a sign of great respect. She is known for not only sampling, but inviting Carly Simon and Joni Mitchell into the studio to rerecord lines from their hit songs for “Son of a Gun” and “Got Till It’s Gone” respectively. Although there are many examples of “something borrowed” in Janet’s discography, the choice was easy, since one of my favourite Janet dance tunes of all time samples one of my favourite jazz/funk tunes ever, recorded by Herbie Hancock as “Hang Up Your Hang Ups”. You will probably recognize Janet’s version, “All Nite”, from one of the most memorable music videos of her career.
Here is Hancock performing “Hang Up Your Hang Ups,” live for your reference and enjoyment.
Something Blue: This is already a category that I tend to stretch a little, as genres generally can be quite elastic. It seems most appropriate to offer something from Janet’s darker and more introspective album, The Velvet Rope, that maintains her sexually charged image while also addressing personal issues and conflicts such as domestic abuse, body image, and mental illness. Incidentally, this is also the album that secures Janet’s place as a gay icon, addressing AIDS, Homophobia, and reimagining Rod Stewart’s “Tonight’s The Night” as a lesbian love song. Have I mentioned that this woman is my hero? Anyway, what is the blues if it doesn’t include longing for an ex-lover? Without further ado, “I Get Lonely”.