It was January 1996 and Janet Jackson had just signed a multi million-dollar contract with Virgin Records. In current values, she was earning more than 120 million dollars to stick to her record label and was, therefore, again, the highest-paid entertainer in the music market. Being at the peak of her career, Janet had everything to be happy. But she wasn’t. “There’s nothing more depressing than having everything, but still feeling sad”. The words of Interlude: Sad from The Velvet Rope defined how Janet felt. Since 1995, she was very sad – for depression was not the term that she liked to use – for reasons that not even she understood well. The album’s recording process involved a lot of pain.
The pain of facing the wounds of the past, of understanding where this sorrow was coming from, of resolving pending issues. Janet also mentioned meeting a mysterious 50-something cowboy whom she met in a desert, who helped in the process cathartic. Also, at this time, Janet tattooed the Ghanaian Sankofa symbol, which would come to be the symbol of the album. The Sankofa represents the legend of a bird that flew looking back, and means that we must learn from the past to move forward.
You don’t have to hold on to the pain to hold on to the memory.
There’s nothing more depressing than having everything and still feeling sad.
We must learn to water our Spiritual garden.
CAN’T BE STOPPED
In her most experimental album, both in sound and themes, Janet approached taboos, such as: internet relationships, depression, domestic abuse, homo and bisexuality, sadomasochism etc. It was also the longest time she took to record an album to that point. The singer eventually said in interviews that it took about six months to complete the recordings and that due to the weight of her emotions and the content of the album, she several times walked away from the studio for up to a week to “cool off”.
As if the risk she was taking with the content of the album was not enough, the first single was ‘Got ‘ Til It’s Gone’, met with hesitation both by the critics and by some fans. This was not the hit that she hoped for and Janet did not dominate the radio as usual. In an atmosphere more and more eccentric, the promotion of the album involved appearances alongside Michael’s ex-wife, Lisa Marie Presley; interviews talking about her relationship with him; and also about her most intimate piercings, which, according to her, gave her pleasure.
The Velvet Rope is until today her most praised album among fans and critics. In addition to having released her most successful single of all time worldwide, ‘Together Again’, the album sold more than 10 million copies.
1. Interlude: Twisted Elegance 2. Velvet Rope (feat. Vanessa-Mae) Janet Jackson, James Harris III, Terry Lewis, René Elizondo, Jr., Malcolm McLaren, Trevor Horn, Mike Oldfield 3. You Jackson, Harris, Lewis, Elizondo, Harold Brown, Sylvester Allen, Morris Dickerson, Howard Scott, Leroy Jordan, Lee Oskar, Charles Miller 4. Got ‘til It’s Gone (feat. Joni Mitchell & Q-Tip) Jackson, Harris, Lewis, Elizondo, Joni Mitchell, Kamaal Ibn Fareed 5. Interlude: Speaker Phone 6. My Need Jackson, Harris, Lewis, Elizondo, Marilyn McLeod, Pam Sawyer, Nickolas Ashford, Valerie Simpson 7. Interlude: Fasten Your Seatbelts 8. Go Deep Jackson, Harris, Lewis, Elizondo 9. Free Xone Jackson, Harris, Lewis, Elizondo, James Brown, Billy Buttier, Archie Bell, Michael Hepburn 10. Interlude: Memory 11. Together Again Jackson, Harris, Lewis, Elizondo 12. Interlude: Online 13. Empty Jackson, Harris, Lewis, Elizondo 14. Interlude: Full 15. What About Jackson, Harris, Lewis, Elizondo 16. Every Time Jackson, Harris, Lewis, Elizondo 17. Tonight’s The Night Rod Stewart 18. I Get Lonely Jackson, Harris, Lewis, Elizondo 19. Rope Burn Jackson, Harris, Lewis, Elizondo 20. Anything Jackson, Harris, Lewis, Elizondo 21. Interlude: Sad 22. Special (Hidden track: Can’t Be Stopped) Jackson, Harris, Lewis, Elizondo
BONUS & B-SIDES
JAPANESE BONUS TRACK 23. God’s Stepchild (Hidden track: Can’t Be Stopped)
Jackson, Harris, Lewis, Elizondo
AUSTRALIAN ‘TOUR EDITION’ BONUS TRACKS 1. Got ‘til It’s Gone (Armand Van Helden Bonus Beats) 2. Together Again (Tony Humphries 12″ Edit Mix) 3. I Get Lonely (Janet vs Jason – The Club Remix) 4. Go Deep (Vocal Deep Disco Dub) 5. Every Time (Jam & Lewis Disco Remix)
B-SIDES 1. Accept Me 2. Ask for More 3. Together Again (Deeper Remix) 4. Together Again (DJ Premier 100 In A 50 Remix) 5. Together Again (Jimmy Jam Deep Remix)