Before the all-time conquering Beyonce, there was Janet Jackson. Prior to Rhythm Nation, she’d been something of a sweetie pie, the wholesome, apple- cheeked kid sister to Michael, forever in his shadow. A few good singles aside, she hadn’t really resonated in the UK .
But, teaming up again in 1989 with super-producers Jam and Lewis, Jackson proved her music could have teeth. Sampling Sly and the Family Stone, leaning into a tougher rhythm section and using militarism in the imagery, not to mention speaking about “social injustice “, this brilliant track arrived at the right time. It’s like a funk goddess joining the Black Panthers just as her global superstar brother was starting to act questionably, and disappear up his own err… myth.
It still sounds killer today. Jackson may have wrecked her career through that infamous “wardrobe malfunction” at the Superbowl, but we’ll always have this amazing track. It’s both prescient, and timeless. The choreography, co-directed with Anthony Thomas, is right on point too.