Janet Jackson‘s seminal album Rhythm Nation 1814 changed music when she released it in 1989. At the time, personal computers were gaining popularity, albeit not as multimedia devices as they are today. So if you wanted to listen to Rhythm Nation back in the day, chances are your computer would crash.
Janet Jackson released ‘Rhythm Nation’ in 1989
Janet Jackson has been in the public eye since she was a little girl. As part of the famous singing Jackson family, music seemed to be a predetermined destiny for Janet, even if she wanted to be a lawyer.
Janet was under the management of her father, Joe Jackson, when she started releasing music as a solo artist in the early 1980s. It wasn’t until 1986 when Janet took control — literally — with her breakout third album Control.
Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814 was released three years later.
‘Rhythm Nation’ can crash some computers
Rhythm Nation‘s title track remains one of Janet’s calling cards to this day, with the music video being one of her most iconic visuals.
The “Rhythm Nation” video ended up being a problem for some Windows XP laptop users in the early 2000s. Microsoft chief software engineer Raymond Chen explained in a blog post how the “Rhythm Nation” music video disrupts laptop hard drives that spin at 5400 rpm.
“A colleague of mine shared a story from Windows XP product support. A major computer manufacturer discovered that playing the music video for Janet Jackson’s ‘Rhythm Nation’ would crash certain models of laptops,” he recounted.
“One discovery during the investigation is that playing the music video also crashed some of their competitors’ laptops.And then they discovered something extremely weird: Playing the music video on one laptop caused a laptop sitting nearby to crash, even though that other laptop wasn’t playing the video!” Chen continued.
“It turns out that the song contained one of the natural resonant frequencies for the model of 5400 rpm laptop hard drives that they and other manufacturers used,” Chen explain. “The manufacturer worked around the problem by adding a custom filter in the audio pipeline that detected and removed the offending frequencies during audio playback.”
Janet shared a clip on Instagram from Australian radio show Kyle and Jackie O of the hosts testing the theory with the radio show’s employees’ laptops. Despite having newer laptops running more recent Windows software, Janet’s “Rhythm Nation” video still made them shut off.
‘Rhythm Nation’ remains Janet’s most iconic album
Janet and her creative team reflected on the making of Rhythm Nation in her 2022 docuseries Janet Jackson. She knew she wanted to make a forward-thinking album that tackled serious issues, but producer and longtime collaborator Jimmy Jam didn’t see it gelling with the record label.
“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!”
Janet, meanwhile, knew that she had to speak up through her music: “There were things in the world that concerned me — things that I wanted to say.”