Monday, July 5, 2010

Janet Jackson over Lady GaGa, Any Day

Seeing that I'm going to depart my 20s rather soon, I think it's okay to get over what is arguably the most pretentious decade in any music lover's life.  You get really excited about everything you learn about during that decade, be it through college professors or thumbing through record stores, talking to the employees.  On average, at about this age (the undisclosed age I am now), you stop apologizing for the things you really like but might have been too ashamed to admit when you were 23.

And seeing that I've now taught at least 12 weeks of general music, focusing on the development of hip-hop and its modern varieties, I can own up to a lot of stuff that I used to love in my childhood but left behind in favor of not looking lame in high school.

The foremost of these things I liked as a youngster?  Janet Jackson.  The first song my mom remembers me dancing around the house to at age 2 was a Michael Jackson song - "Beat It", to be specific - but I was too young when his career was at its zenith to really remember him in his glory days. 

When I was a Tween, Janet ruled, and for good reason.  Sure, her dancing was more about Paula Abdul than her, and her music was all about Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, but damn. 

I mean, seriously!  The choreography is freaking awesome, and she's covered up, head to toe.  The girls in this video didn't have to wax an inch of their bodies before appearing in it.  In the late 80s, when Madonna had the cone bra and videos were just starting to get steamy, dressing Janet in military garb must have seemed like it would be a terrible move. 

It wasn't.  Supposedly Rhythm Nation was the first album to ever spawn 7 number one hits...and the only one to do so to this day?  Check Billboard for that.  Apparently, on, you can also stream music, and if you're like me, you can sing almost every damn word to the entire album.  Brings me back. 

When I was in elementary school, and insistent that I would be a singer/dancer when I grew up, my mom brought the family to Blockbuster and rented the Rhythm Nation "short film" that included this video.  It included three other music videos and a plot line to string them all together somehow, focusing on a young man from the ghetto, who realizes that he can rise above all the madness around him by dancing his way out.

Ah, a plotline for the ages.

Regardless, Janet turned out to maybe not be the best role model for young girls throughout the years.  She inherited the Jackson family crazy, sampled a Joni Mitchell song (poorly), had some unfortunate plastic surgery, had a secret marriage, and showed her boobs at the Super Bowl.  Okay, so that last one might not have been her fault.  Still.

When I was 7 or 8 years old, being a typical little girl and relishing in the pop music of my day (and of the year or two prior), because of stuff like Rhythm Nation, I would go around saying things like "Racism sucks!!!!!" rather than "these boys be blowing up my phones".  It might have been the vogue of the time, but I'm never opposed to the vogue of the time actually doing something productive for the whole of society.

I'm just saying.

"I tell anyone who's heart can comprehend / send it in a letter, baby / tell you on the phone! / I'm not the kind of girl who likes to be alone..."

(The "short film" also has an extended dance sequence at the end of "Miss You Much", if memory serves me correctly.)

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