A lot of people still seem to think Janet lived in the shadows of her brother, sometimes even addressing her as “Michael’s sister”. Not only is that unfair but also inaccurate: Janet was the only other Jackson to solidify a career on her own. She did not need help, and even if she had, help alone didn’t do much for Michael’s protégés – even inside the family. Here’s a list of reasons Janet was not following his steps, but sometimes was even paving the way for him.
1 – Nasty & Bad
The lead single from Michael 1987’s album, eponymously titled ‘Bad’, featured an edgy, street-wise Michael dancing with a gang of boys. The similarities between the two music videos were so striking that a couple of gifs can do the talking. After Janet came out with Control in 1986, overflowing with elements of black culture that were not publicly embraced or did not dominate the airwaves before, Bad was a turn in this direction. Attitude, hard beats and piercing lyrics.
2 – Multi-million deals
Janet herself has stated that she and Michael got a little competitive at times. In 1991, Janet closed a multi-million dollar contract with Virgin Records: 40 million, to be exact. That was unseen and record-breaking, but Michael wouldn’t let her shine for long. Nine days later, he closed a 60 million dollar deal with Sony Records, breaking her record. That set a precedent for other multi-million deals in the industry.
Janet, however, broke the record again in 1996 when she renewed her contract with Virgin Records for a whopping 80 million dollars.
3 – Rappers
Along with Paula Abdul, Janet popularized a “fad” that holds strong until this very day: pop acts featuring rappers (even though they weren’t the first to do it). After Janet hit the Top 5 with Heavy D. in 1990, Michael had him rap on ‘Jam’, and he’d proceed having A-list rappers on his songs throughout his career.
4 – Interludes
Despite not actually separating a track for the interludes, Janet started doing them back in 1986 in Control with spoken intros (e.g What Have You Done For Me Lately). She is regarded as the artist that popularized them to the point that most 90’s albums had to have an interlude. Michael wasn’t an exception, since Dangerous had several: the Macaulay Culkin opening for ‘Black Or White’, the little girl in the beginning of ‘Heal The World’ and Princess Stephanie of Monaco – the Mystery Girl – in ‘In The Closet’.
5 – Love Will Never Do & In The Closet
In 1990, Janet had models in a black & white setting, directed by Herb Ritts in a desert in California.
In 1992, Michael had a model in a sepia setting, directed by Herb Ritts in a desert in California. ‘Nuff said.
6 – Rhythm Nation & They Don’t Care About Us
In 2008 Janet had a backdrop of a thousand men marching for her ‘Rhythm Nation’ in her ‘Rock Witchu Tour’. Michael had a very similar concept for ‘They Don’t Care About Us’ a year later, for his ‘This Is It’ tour.
7- Jimmy & Terry
Back in the mid 90’s, Janet was at the height of her career, and Michael recruited her longtime partners to produce his new album/compilation, HIStory. Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis showed him a couple of tracks they had in mind for Janet, and he chose ‘Scream’, which would become their duet. Janet also oversaw the direction of the video, while Michael mostly agreed on her concepts and ideas, and it eventually became the most expensive music video ever made.
Jimmy and Terry, on the other hand, produced several tracks for the album, including the title track.
8 – Icon vs. 30th Anniversary
Back in March 2001, MTV instituted “Icon”, honoring Janet for her accomplishments and recruiting all of the stars at the time to sing her songs in tribute. Later that year, Michael set up the 30th anniversary of his career in a series of two concerts in Madison Square Garden and later broadcasted by CBS. It featured lots of the stars singing his songs, including Usher, Destiny’s Child, Mýa and N’Sync (who had taken part in Janet’s tribute).
9 – The Knowledge & Black Or White
Janet hadn’t let out her anger in a violent way until ‘The Knowledge’, when she was smashing windows and breaking things in an urban setting, protesting the ills of the world. Michael said this was his favorite song by Janet, and, two years later, he also let his anger out in the ‘Panther Segment’ of ‘Black Or White’. The resemblance is uncanny, if you ask us.
10 – New Jack Swing
Michael had a thing for ‘Rhythm Nation 1814’ and its sound, having said it was his favorite from Janet. This was basically the most successful ‘New Jack Swing’ album, the popular genre that was widespread in the late 80’s, mixing hip hop sounds with R&B and pop elements. Music experts credit Janet, along with Jimmy and Terry, for having bridged this genre gap in ‘Control’ and opening the way for New Jack Swing, which would be then mastered by Teddy Riley in 1987.
Teddy would go on to be the producer for ‘Dangerous’, which featured hard-yet-funky beats and numerous New Jack Swing tracks, much like Rhythm Nation.
P.S. The last New Jack Swing hit on the charts was Janet’s ‘Because Of Love’ in 1994! And Janet would work with Teddy in the late 90’s, when he was part of BLACKstreet.