Janet Jackson Kept Her ‘Rhythm Nation’ Album a Secret From Her Record Label Because of Its Socially Conscious Message

Janet Jackson‘s albums have played a major role in music over the years, including her iconic 1989 album Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814. It was revolutionary at the time for several reasons including its political messages. And while Jackson was passionate about including her ideas in her music, her record label wasn’t on board with it at first.

Janet Jackson flipping her hair
Janet Jackson | François Nel/Getty Images

Janet Jackson’s album ‘Rhythm Nation’ had a powerful message

Janet Jackson wasn’t give much of a choice when it came to her career: she was the youngest child in the famous Jackson family, who had risen to prominence thanks to her brothers and their band, The Jackson 5. As a child, Jackson performed with her family on their TV show and in their various stage performances. 

She launched her solo music career in 1982 — the same year her brother Michael released his smash album Thriller. But it wasn’t until 1986 when she broke through with her Control album. Three years later, she changed music forever with her Rhythm Nation 1814 album. 

For years, pop music was meant to be lighthearted and fun for the listener, rather than exploring current-day issues. With Rhythm Nation, Jackson wanted to face the day’s most important topics issues head-onThe album polarized critics as she sang openly about issues such as racism, poverty, and substance abuse.

Janet Jackson kept ‘Rhythm Nation’ from her record label

Jackson reflected on making Rhythm Nation 1814 in her 2022 docuseries Janet Jackson. She affirmed that her music — including Rhythm Nation — came entirely from her and her heart.

“I love the creative process,” she said proudly. “There’s a lot of people that think I just come into the studio and I sing a sing, but I write. I write lyrics, I write melodies.”

When it came time to record her next album after Control, she knew she wanted to incorporate modern-day topics into her lyrics. Her producer and longtime collaborator Jimmy Jam confessed that he didn’t think that Rhythm Nation would fly with her record label, A&M Records.

“She’s talking about race relations; she’s talking about crime and drugs and lack of education. And that was not the kind of record that was on the pop charts at the time,” he admitted. “Rhythm Nation was a little bit of a risk. We knew that making a socially conscious album was probably not what the record company or anybody else was thinking we should probably be doing. So we didn’t tell them!”

For her part, Jackson knew she wanted to use her voice for good. “There were things in the world that concerned me — things that I wanted to say.”

The ‘Rhythm Nation’ tour made Janet Jackson a superstar

With a hit album under her belt, Jackson embarked on her Rhythm Nation World Tour in 1990. Since she hadn’t toured in support of her Control album, it was her debut tour and first chance to introduce herself to the world.

Having pulled in over 2 million attendees around the world, the Rhythm Nation World Tour was the biggest debut tour of any artist ever — a record that she still holds on to to this day.

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