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HomeMusicJanet Jackson's Albums Ranked

Janet Jackson’s Albums Ranked

As we all eagerly await the Janet documentary (airing in the UK on Sky Documentaries on 31st Jan and 1st Feb), I have reimmersed myself in all her studio albums to bring you my personal ranking.

Having been a Janet fan since I borrowed the Rhythm Nation cassette from the library as a kid, I have followed her career ever since. I have definitely got my favourites that I listen to all the time, but in preparing for this piece, it has been hard to order them.

This is only my opinion and I’m sure you all have your own ranking so please share yours with us @entfocusmusic.

11. Dream Street

It’s perhaps a little unfair on Janet’s first two studio albums as they are the ones I am least familiar with, however listening nearly 40 years on there is still much to like, if not quite standing up to her later work.

On ‘Dream Street’ Janet’s second album you can feel the start of what would lead to ‘Control’ but it is definitely far more saccarine and sweet pop. It even includes a schmaltzy duet with Cliff Richard, which seems a slightly odd pairing, but fits the wholesome image she had at the time.

Released in 1984 in the US, it wasn’t a commercial success but did spawn one Top 10 Hot R&B Songs chart entry for lead single ‘Don’t Stand Another Chance’ which was written and produced by Janet’s brother Marlon.

10. Janet Jackson

Ms Jackson’s debut album was released in 1982 and she kept it simply by calling it ‘Janet Jackson’. At eight tracks long, it was a sweet introduction to the youngest Jackson sibling who was just 16 years old when she began recording the album.

A mix of 70s disco, funk, R&B and pop it’s a fun record that feels perfect for her teenage years, despite Janet not actually writing on the album. Stand out tracks include the ‘Off The Wall’ esque album opener ‘Say You Do’ and the lead single ‘Young Love’.

9. Discipline

Janet’s tenth album saw her first and only release with Island Records’ Def Jam label, helmed by her then beau Jermaine Dupri. The end result was an album with no Janet writing credits, although she did executive produce the album. A host of big names in R&B did however contribute with Darkchild writing and producing much of the album as well as Neyo, Tricky Stewart and more.

Lead single ‘Feedback’ is still and underrated classic for me and although songs like ‘Rock with U’, ‘2Nite’ and ‘So Much Betta’ are great additions to Janet’s back catalogue, overall there’s a little too much filler on this album. Perhaps Janet’s lack of lyrical input made it somehow deliver less personality than her other albums?

8. Damita Jo

Janet’s first album following the backlash of her wardrobe malfunction at the Superbowl saw Janet in a more laidback mood and nostalgic. Old skool R&B is present in songs like ‘R&B Junkie’, ‘I Want You’ and title track ‘Damita Jo’.

It was a strange choice to go for ‘Just A Little While’ as the lead single here in the UK. More guitar-pop and a bit out of place sonically with the rest of the album.

The highlights for me are thr pounding ‘All Nite(Don’t Stop)’, ‘Sexhibition’ and the mellow vibes of ‘Spending Time With You’. As well as the R&B tracks mentioned above.

7. All For You

Released in 2001, ‘All For You’ saw Janet in a fun and sexy mood. The playful title track launched the campaign proper (although the album also features ‘Doesn’t Really Matter’ from The Nutty Professor 2 in which Janet starred). An extremely catchy burst of sunshine with a cheeky hook about a ‘nice package’ – it is one of Janet’s highest ranking UK hits peaking at No.3.

This was followed by ‘Someone to Call My Lover’ and one of my faves ‘Son of a Gun’ which not only sampled, but featured Carly Simon (and Missy Elliott jumped on the single version). Other album highlights include the operatic ‘Trust A Try’ and ‘You Ain’t Right’.

6. Unbreakable

Janet’s last studio album to date (will we get ‘Black Diamond’ soon?) was heralded as a great success by many critics and rightly so. Lead single ‘No Sleep’ felt like ‘That’s The Way Love Goes’ for the Noughteens, and elsewhere the album felt like a blend of all the things I love about Janet.

That said, it was by no means treading old ground, ‘Unbreakable’ felt like a fresh and revitalised Janet, once again merging genres to create a solid mature pop album. Lyrically, Janet is in a reflective mood and there’s an existential theme on the brilliant ‘The Great Forever’ and ‘Well Travelled’, and she even deals with Michael’s death on ‘Broken Hearts Heal’ but in an upbeat fashion, much like how she did many years earlier on ‘Together Again’.

5. 20 Y.O.

I’m sure I’ll get some flack from many Janet fans for this album being so high, but for me it really is a great Janet album full of potential hits. Perhaps choosing the Nelly featuring duet ‘Call on Me’ as the lead single didn’t really get the album off to the best start but second single ‘So Excited’ is a certified Janet banger. ‘With U’ gives everything you want from a Janet ballad and then there’s classic Janet with the likes of ‘Daybreak’, ‘Enjoy’ and ‘Do It 2 Me’.

The concept of the album was 20 years on from ‘Control’ and was originally intended to be more dance music led (‘Weekend’ from the DVD version of the album would’ve made a great Janet single) but I think what was delivered was a great R&B pop album.

4. Control

And so we reach the tricky end of the ranking. Any of these Top 4 could be my number one depending on my mood, but I have to commit and today this is what that looks like.

In 1986, Janet..Miss Jackson if you’re nasty, came into her own with her third studio album ‘Control’ and she was certainly taking it. Co-writing every track with Jam & Lewis, Janet deliverd an album that proved beyond a doubt she was done being anyone else’s puppet and had grown into a strong independent woman.

Nearly every track was released as a single and what a set of hits they were; ‘What Have You Done For Me Lately?’, ‘Nasty’ and ‘When I Think of You’ in particular. The album launched Janet the superstar, starting a run of hits across the globe.

3. Janet

In 1993, Janet sexed things up with her album simply entitled ‘Janet’ and rather than start the campaign with an uptempo number as was the norm, she delivered the slinky ‘That’s The Way Love Goes’ and narrowly missed out on her first UK chart topper when it peaked at No.2.

This was followed by the equally sexy ‘If’ with one of Janet’s best choreography and videos, in my opinion. The album ramps up the pace with ‘You Want This’ and the sassy ‘This Time’ before we hit the overtly sexual, thumping beats of ‘Throb’.

There’s also sweet Janet on the album on ‘Because of Love’ and ‘Again’ – one of her finest ballads – and things once again get very late night on ‘Any Time, Any Place’ and ‘The Body That Loves You’. Who knew the seemingly shy gal could be such a seductress?

2. Rhythm Nation

This album has a special place in my heart as my introduction to the genius of Janet Jackson. Packed full of hits and an important message on social commentary and racism, much of which is still incredibly relevant today.

Janet asks us to join the Rhythm Nation, and create a world free of colour lines on the hypnotic title track. ‘The Knowledge’ and ‘State of The World’ stay on theme and vibe.

But there are also uplifting, joyful pop tracks like ‘Escapade’ and one of my all-time faves, ‘Love Will Never Do’. Janet slows it down with ‘Come Back To Me’ and serves more new jack swing on ‘Alright’.

1. The Velvet Rope

‘The Velvet Rope’ is Janet at her best blending pop, r&b, hip-hop and a little rock to deliver a sometimes dark, sometimes joyful album. For a shy person, she opens up about spousal abuse (‘What About’), loss (‘Together Again’), sexual fluidity (‘Free Xone’) and opening up about a need to feel special.

Playing with her aesthetic and delivering more iconic videos for the Joni Mitchell sampling ‘Got Til It’s Gone’ and taking it to the African plains for the ‘Together Again’ clip, like her hair, Janet was red-hot.

There’s also a nod to the ‘Janet’ album with some of her sexier songs like ‘Rope Burn’ and ‘My Need’. Beautiful ballads come in the form of ‘Everytime’ and her take on a Rod Stewart song ‘Tonight’s The Night’.

Janet Jackson’ the documentary is on Sky Documentaries on 31st January and 1st February in the UK.

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