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Janet Jackson Bio
Janet Jackson (born May 16, 1966) is an American singer, songwriter, and actress. Known for a series of sonically innovative, socially conscious and sexually provocative records, as well as elaborate stage shows, television and film roles, she has been a prominent figure in popular culture for over 25 years. The youngest child of the Jackson family, she began her career with the variety television series The Jacksons in 1976 and went on to appear in other television shows throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, including Good Times and Fame.
After signing a recording contract with A&M Records arranged by her father and manager Joseph Jackson in 1982, she became a pop icon following the release of her third studio album Control (1986). Her collaborations with record producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis incorporated elements of rhythm and blues, funk, disco, rap, and industrial beats, which led to crossover success in popular music. In addition to receiving recognition for the innovation in her records, choreography, music videos, and prominence on radio airplay and MTV, she was acknowledged as a role model for her socially conscious lyrics.
In 1991, she signed the first of two record-breaking, multi-million dollar contracts with Virgin Records, establishing her as one of the highest paid artists in the industry. Her debut album under the label, Janet (1993), saw her develop a public image as a sex symbol as she began to explore sexuality in her work. That same year, she appeared in her first starring film role in Poetic Justice; since then she has continued to act in feature films. By the end of the 1990s, she was named the second most successful recording artist of the decade. The release of her seventh studio album All for You (2001) coincided with a celebration of her impact on popular music as the inaugural MTV Icon. After parting ways with Virgin she released her tenth studio album Discipline (2008), her first and only album with Island Records. In 2015, she partnered with BMG Rights Management to launch her own record label, Rhythm Nation Records.
Having sold over 160 million records, she is ranked as one of the best-selling artists in the history of contemporary music. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) lists her as the eleventh best-selling female artist in the United States, with 26 million certified albums. She has amassed an extensive catalog of hits, with singles such as “Nasty“, “Rhythm Nation“, “If“, “That’s the Way Love Goes“, “Together Again” and “All for You” among her most distinguished on records chart. She holds the record for the most consecutive top 10 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 by a female artist with 18. In 2008, Billboard magazine released its list of the Hot 100 All-Time Top Artists, placing her at number seven, while in 2010, ranking her fifth among the “Top 50 R&B/Hip-Hop Artists of the Past 25 Years”. One of the world’s most awarded artists, her longevity, records and achievements reflect her influence in shaping and redefining the scope of popular music. She has been cited as an inspiration among numerous performers.
1966–85: Early life and career beginnings
Janet Jackson was born in Gary, Indiana, the youngest of ten children, to Katherine Esther (née Scruse) and Joseph Walter Jackson. The Jacksons were lower-middle class and devout Jehovah’s Witnesses, although Jackson would later refrain from organized religion. At a young age, her brothers began performing as The Jackson 5. In March 1969, the group signed a record deal with Motown, and soon had their first number-one hit. The family then moved to the Encino neighborhood of Los Angeles. Jackson had initially desired to become a horse racing jockey or entertainment lawyer, with plans to support herself through acting. Despite this, she was anticipated to pursue a career in entertainment, and considered the idea after recording herself in the studio. At age seven, Jackson performed at the Las Vegas Strip at the MGM Casino. A biography revealed her father, Joseph Jackson, was emotionally withdrawn, and told her to address him solely by his first name as a child. She began acting in the variety show The Jacksons in 1976. In 1977, she was selected to have a starring role as Penny Gordon Woods in the sitcom Good Times. She later starred in A New Kind of Family and later got a recurring role on Diff’rent Strokes, portraying Charlene Duprey from Seasons 3 to 6. Jackson also played the role of Cleo Hewitt during the fourth season of Fame, but expressed indifference towards the series. Jackson states her ethnicity is African American and Native American.
When Jackson was sixteen, her father and manager Joseph Jackson, arranged her a contract with A&M Records. Her debut album, Janet Jackson, was released in 1982. It was produced by Angela Winbush, René Moore, Bobby Watson of Rufus (band) and Leon F. Sylvers III, and overseen by her father Joseph. It peaked at number sixty-three on the Billboard 200, and number six on the publication’s R&B albums chart, receiving little promotion. Jackson’s second album, Dream Street, was released two years later. Dream Street reached one-hundred forty-seven on the Billboard 200, and number nineteen on the R&B albums chart. The lead single “Don’t Stand Another Chance” peaked at number nine on Billboard ’s R&B singles chart. Both albums consisted primarily of bubblegum pop music. Jackson eloped with singer James DeBarge in 1984, divorcing shortly afterwards, with the marriage annulled the following year.
After her second album, Jackson terminated business affairs with her family, commenting “I just wanted to get out of the house, get out from under my father, which was one of the most difficult things that I had to do.” Attempting a third album, Jackson teamed with producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. They set out to achieve crossover pop appeal, while also creating a strong foundation within the urban market. Within six weeks, Jackson and the duo crafted her third studio album, Control, released in February 1986. The album peaked at number one on the Billboard 200, and was certified fivefold platinum by the RIAA, selling over fourteen million copies worldwide.
Control was declared “remarkably nervy and mature” for a teenage act, also considered “an alternative to the sentimental balladry” which permeated radio, likening Jackson to Donna Summer‘s position of “unwilling to accept novelty status and taking her own steps to rise above it.” The album spawned five top five singles, “What Have You Done for Me Lately“, “Nasty“, “When I Think of You“, “Control“, and “Let’s Wait Awhile“, and a top fifteen hit with “The Pleasure Principle“. “When I Think of You” became her first number one hit on the Hot 100. Control received six Billboard Awards, including “Top Pop Singles Artist”, and three Grammy nominations, most notably “Album of the Year”. It also won four American Music Awards from twelve nominations, an unbroken record. At this point, Jackson was successfully “shaking off the experience of being a shadow Jackson child”, becoming “an artist in her own right”.
The album’s lyrical content included several themes of empowerment, inspired by an incident of sexual harassment, with Jackson recalling “the danger hit home when a couple of guys started stalking me on the street … Instead of running to Jimmy or Terry for protection, I took a stand. I backed them down. That’s how songs like ‘Nasty’ and ‘What Have You Done for Me Lately’ were born, out of a sense of self-defense.” Its innovative fusion of dance-pop and industrial music with hip-hop and R&B undertones influenced the development of the new jack swing genre by bridging the gap between the latter two styles. The album’s music videos became infamous on MTV, also obtaining a then-unknown Paula Abdul a recording contract for her choreography work with Jackson. Billboard stated “[Jackson’s] accessible sound and spectacularly choreographed videos were irresistible to MTV, and helped the channel evolve from rock programming to a broader, beat-driven musical mix.”
1989–92: Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814
Jackson released her fourth album, Rhythm Nation 1814, in September 1989. Although her record label desired a direct sequel to Control, Jackson chose to include a socially conscious theme among various musical styles. She stated, “I know an album or a song can’t change the world. I just want my music and my dance to catch the audience’s attention, and to hold it long enough for them to listen to the lyrics.” The album’s central theme of unity was developed in response to various crimes and tragedies reported in the media.
Peaking at number one on the Billboard 200, the album was certified sixfold platinum by the RIAA and sold over fourteen million copies internationally. Rolling Stone observed Jackson’s artistic growth shifted from “personal freedom to more universal concerns—injustice, illiteracy, crime, drugs—without missing a beat.” The album was also considered “the exclamation point on her career”, consisting of a “diverse collection of songs flowing with the natural talent Jackson possesses”, which effectively “expanded Janet’s range in every conceivable direction”, being “more credibly feminine, more crucially masculine, more viably adult, more believably childlike.” With singles “Miss You Much“, “Rhythm Nation“, “Escapade“, “Alright“, “Come Back to Me“, “Black Cat” and “Love Will Never Do (Without You)“, it became the only album in history to produce number one hits in three separate calendar years, as well as the only album to achieve seven top five singles on the Hot 100. Famous for its choreography and warehouse setting, the “Rhythm Nation” video is considered one of the most iconic and popular in history, with Jackson’s military ensemble also making her a fashion icon. The video for Love Will Never Do (Without You) is notable for being the first instance of Jackson’s transition into sexual imagery and midriff-baring style, becoming her trademark. Rhythm Nation 1814 became the highest selling album of 1990, winning a record fifteen Billboard Awards. The long-form “Rhythm Nation” music video won a Grammy Award.
Jackson’s Rhythm Nation World Tour 1990 became the most successful debut tour in history and set a record for the fastest sell-out of Japan’s Tokyo Dome. She established the “Rhythm Nation Scholarship,” donating funds from the tour to various educational programs. As Jackson began her tour, she was acknowledged for the cultural impact of her music. Joel Selvin of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote “the 23-year-old has been making smash hit records for four years, becoming a fixture on MTV and a major role model to teenage girls across the country”, and William Allen, then-executive vice president of the United Negro College Fund, told the Los Angeles Times, “Jackson is a role model for all young people to emulate and the message she has gotten to the young people of this country through the lyrics of ‘Rhythm Nation 1814’ is having positive effects.” She also received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in recognition of her impact on the recording industry and philanthropic endeavors. The massive success experienced by Jackson placed her in league with Michael Jackson, Madonna, and Tina Turner for her achievements and influence. Ebony magazine remarked: “No individual or group has impacted the world of entertainment as have Michael and Janet Jackson,” arguing that despite many imitators, few could surpass Jackson’s “stunning style and dexterity.” With her recording contract under A&M Records fulfilled in 1991, she signed a multimillion-dollar deal with Virgin Records—estimated between thirty-two to fifty million dollars—making her the highest paid recording artist at the time. The recording contract also established her reputation as the “Queen of Pop.” In 1992, Jackson provided guest vocals on Luther Vandross‘s “The Best Things in Life Are Free“, becoming a top ten Billboard hit and reaching the top ten internationally.
1993–96: Janet, Poetic Justice, and Design of a Decade
Jackson’s fifth studio album Janet, stylized as janet. and read “Janet, period”, was released in May 1993. The record opened at number one on the Billboard 200, making Jackson the first female artist in the Nielsen SoundScan era to do so. Certified sixfold platinum by the RIAA, it sold over 20 million copies worldwide. Janet spawned five singles and four promotional singles, receiving various certifications worldwide. Lead single “That’s the Way Love Goes” won the Grammy Award for Best R&B Song and topped the Billboard Hot 100 for eight consecutive weeks. “Again” reached number one for three weeks, while “If” and “Any Time, Any Place” peaked in the top four. “Because of Love” and “You Want This” charted within the top ten.The album experimented with a diverse number of genres, including contemporary R&B, deep house, swing jazz, hip hop, rock, and pop, with Billboard describing each as being “delivered with consummate skill and passion.” Jackson took a larger role in songwriting and production than she did on her previous albums, explaining she found it necessary “to write all the lyrics and half of the melodies” while also speaking candidly about incorporating her sexuality into the album’s content. Rolling Stone wrote “[a]s princess of America’s black royal family, everything Janet Jackson does is important. Whether proclaiming herself in charge of her life, as she did on Control (1986), or commander in chief of a rhythm army dancing to fight society’s problems (Rhythm Nation 1814, from 1989), she’s influential. And when she announces her sexual maturity, as she does on her new album, Janet., it’s a cultural moment.”
In July 1993, Jackson made her film debut in Poetic Justice. While the film was critically panned, her performance was described as “beguiling” and “believably eccentric.” Jackson’s ballad “Again”, which was written for the film, received Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations for “Best Original Song.” In September 1993, Jackson appeared topless on the cover of Rolling Stone, with her breasts covered by former husband René Elizondo, Jr. The photograph is the original version of the cropped image used on the Janet album cover, shot by Patrick Demarchelier. The Vancouver Sun reported, “Jackson, 27, remains clearly established as both role model and sex symbol; the Rolling Stone photo of Jackson … became one of the most recognizable, and most lampooned, magazine covers.” The Janet World Tour launched in support of the studio album garnered criticism for Jackson’s lack of vocal proficiency and spontaneity, but earned critical acclaim for her showmanship. It was described as erasing the line between “stadium-size pop music concerts and full-scale theatrical extravaganzas.”
During this time, her brother Michael was immersed in a child sex abuse scandal, of which he denied any wrongdoing. She provided moral support, defending her brother, and denied abuse allegations regarding her parents made by her sister La Toya. She collaborated with Michael Jackson on “Scream“, the lead single from his album HIStory, released 1995. The song was written by both siblings as a response to media scrutiny. It debuted at number five on the Hot 100 singles chart, becoming the first song ever to debut within the top five. “Scream” is listed in Guinness World Records as the “Most Expensive Music Video Ever Made”, costing $7 million. The clip won the 1995 Grammy Award for Best Short Form Music Video.Jackson’s first compilation album, Design of a Decade: 1986–1996, was released in 1995. It peaked at number three on the Billboard 200. The lead single, “Runaway“, became the first song by a female artist to debut within the top ten of the Hot 100, reaching number three. Design of a Decade 1986/1996 was certified double platinum by the RIAA and sold ten million copies worldwide. Jackson’s influence in pop music continued to garner acclaim, as The Boston Globe remarked “If you’re talking about the female power elite in pop, you can’t get much higher than Janet Jackson, Bonnie Raitt, Madonna and Yoko Ono. Their collective influence … is beyond measure. And who could dispute that Janet Jackson now has more credibility than brother Michael?” Jackson renewed her contract with Virgin Records for a reported $80 million the following year. The contract established her as the then-highest paid recording artist in history, surpassing the recording industry’s then-unparalleled $60 million contracts earned by Michael Jackson and Madonna.
1997–99: The Velvet Rope
Jackson began suffering from severe depression and anxiety, leading her to chronicle the experience in her sixth album, The Velvet Rope, released October 1997. Jackson returned with a dramatic change in image, boasting vibrant red hair, nasal piercings, and tattoos. The album is primarily centered on the idea that everyone has an intrinsic need to belong. Aside from encompassing lyrics relating to social issues such as same-sex relationships, homophobia and domestic violence, it also contains themes of sadomasochism and is considered far more sexually explicit in nature than her previous release, Janet. The record was hailed as “her most daring, elaborate and accomplished album” by The New York Times, while Billboard ranked it as “the best American album of the year and the most empowering of her last five.” The album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 and was certified triple platinum, selling over ten million worldwide.
Lead single “Got ’til It’s Gone” was released in August 1997, featuring guest vocals from folk singer Joni Mitchell and rapper Q-Tip. The song’s music video, depicting a pre-Apartheid celebration, won the Grammy Award for Best Short Form Music Video. “Together Again” became Jackson’s eighth number-one hit on the Billboard Hot 100, placing her on par with Elton John, Diana Ross, and The Rolling Stones. It spent a record forty-six weeks on the Hot 100 and nineteen weeks on the United Kingdom’s singles chart. It sold six million copies worldwide, becoming one of the best-selling singles of all time. “I Get Lonely” peaked at number three on the Hot 100, and received a Grammy nomination for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance. As Jackson’s eighteenth consecutive top ten hit, it made her the only female artist to garner that achievement, surpassed only by Elvis Presley and The Beatles. Several other singles were released, including “Go Deep” and ballad “Every Time“, which was controversial for the nudity displayed in its music video.
The album fully established Jackson as a gay icon for its themes regarding homosexuality and protesting homophobia. “Together Again”, a “post-Aids pop song”, and “Free Xone”, considered “a paean to homosexuality” and an “anti-homophobia track”, were praised for their lyrical context, in addition to Jackson’s lesbian reinterpretation of Rod Stewart‘s “Tonight’s the Night“. The Velvet Rope received an award for “Outstanding Music Album” at the 9th Annual GLAAD Media Awards and was honored by the National Black Lesbian and Gay Leadership Forum. A portion of the proceeds from “Together Again” were donated to the American Foundation for AIDS Research.Jackson embarked on The Velvet Rope World Tour, traveling to Europe, North America, Asia, Africa, New Zealand, and Australia. The tour received praise for its theatrics, choreography, and Jackson’s vocal performance. It was likened to “the ambition and glamour of a Broadway musical”, and exclaimed as “only fitting that the concert program credits her as the show’s ‘creator and director’.” The tour’s HBO special, The Velvet Rope: Live in Madison Square Garden, garnered more than fifteen million viewers. It surpassed the ratings of all four major networks among viewers subscribed to the channel. The concert won an Emmy Award from a total of four nominations. Jackson donated a portion of the tour’s sales to America’s Promise, an organization founded by Colin Powell to assist disenfranchised youth.
As the tour concluded, Jackson lent guest vocals to several collaborations, including Shaggy’s “Luv Me, Luv Me“, used for the film How Stella Got Her Groove Back, as well as “Girlfriend/Boyfriend” with Teddy Riley‘s group Blackstreet, and “What’s It Gonna Be?!” with Busta Rhymes. The latter two music videos are both among the most expensive music videos ever produced, with “What’s It Gonna Be?!” becoming a number-one hit on the Billboard Hip-Hop Singles and Hot Rap Tracks charts, reaching the top three of the Hot 100. Jackson also contributed the ballad “God’s Stepchild” to the Down in the Delta soundtrack. Jackson recorded a duet with Elton John titled “I Know the Truth,” included on the soundtrack to Elton John and Tim Rice’s Aida. At the 1999 World Music Awards, Jackson received the Legend Award for “outstanding contribution to the pop industry”. Billboard ranked Jackson as the second most successful artist of the decade, behind Mariah Carey.
2000–03: Nutty Professor II: The Klumps and All for You
In July 2000, Jackson appeared in her second film, Nutty Professor II: The Klumps, as the role of Professor Denise Gaines, opposite Eddie Murphy. Director Peter Segal stated “Janet Jackson was a natural fit, and an obvious choice.” The film became her second to open at number one, grossing an estimated total of nearly $170 million worldwide. Jackson’s single “Doesn’t Really Matter“, used for the film’s soundtrack, became her ninth number-one single on the Hot 100. The same year, Jackson’s husband Rene Elizondo Jr. filed for divorce, revealing their private marriage to the public. Entertainment Weekly reported for eight of the thirteen years she and Elizondo had been acquainted, “[they] were married—a fact they managed to hide not only from the international press but from Jackson’s own father.” Elizondo filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against her, estimated between $10–25 million, which did not reach a settlement for three years.
Preceding the release of her seventh album, MTV honored Jackson with the network’s inaugural “MTV Icon” ceremony, honoring her “significant contributions to music, music video and pop culture while tremendously impacting the MTV generation.” The event paid tribute to Jackson’s career and influence, including commentary from Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez, Aaliyah, and Jessica Simpson, and performances by ‘N Sync, Pink, Destiny’s Child, Usher, Buckcherry, and Outkast. The American Music Awards also honored Jackson with the Award of Merit for “her finely crafted, critically acclaimed and socially conscious, multi-platinum albums.” Jackson’s seventh album, All for You, was released in April 2001. It opened at number one on the Billboard 200 with 605,000 copies sold, the highest first-week sales of her career, and among the highest first-week sales by a female artist in history. The album was a return to an upbeat dance style, receiving generally positive reception. Jackson received praise for indulging in “textures as dizzying as a new infatuation”, in contrast to other artists attempting to “match the angularity of hip-hop” and following trends. All for You was certified double platinum by the RIAA and sold nine million copies worldwide.
The album’s lead single, “All for You“, debuted on the Hot 100 at number fourteen, setting a record for the highest debut by a single that was not commercially available. Jackson was titled “Queen of Radio” by MTV as the single made airplay history, being “added to every pop, rhythmic and urban radio station” within its first week. The song broke the overall airplay debut record with a first week audience of seventy million, debuting at number nine on the Radio Songs chart. It topped the Hot 100 for seven weeks, also reaching the top ten in eleven countries. The song received a Grammy Award for Best Dance Recording. “Someone to Call My Lover” peaked at number three on the Hot 100. Built around a sample of the iconic 1972 hit “You’re So Vain” by Carly Simon, “Son of a Gun (I Betcha Think This Song Is About You)” featured Simon herself, along with Missy Elliott on remixes of the single.
In July 2001, Jackson embarked on the All for You Tour, which was also broadcast on a concert special for HBO watched by twelve million viewers. The tour traveled throughout the United States and Japan, although European and Asian dates were required to be canceled following the September 11 terrorist attacks. The Los Angeles Times complimented Jackson’s showmanship. Richard Harrington of the Washington Post said Jackson’s performance surpassed her contemporaries, but Bob Massy of Spin thought her dancers “threw crisper moves” and her supporting singers were mixed nearly as high, though declared “Janet cast herself as the real entertainment.” Jackson donated a portion of the tour’s proceeds to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.
The following year, Jackson began receiving media attention for her rumored relationships with Justin Timberlake, actor Matthew McConaughey, and record producer Jermaine Dupri. Upon the release of Timberlake’s debut solo album Justified, Jackson provided vocals on “(And She Said) Take Me Now” per Timberlake’s request, with the song initially planned as a single. Jackson collaborated with reggae artist Beenie Man for the song “Feel It Boy“, produced by The Neptunes.
2004–05: Super Bowl XXXVIII controversy and Damita Jo
Jackson was chosen by the National Football League and MTV to perform at the Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show in February 2004. Jackson performed a medley of “All for You”, “Rhythm Nation”, and an excerpt of “The Knowledge” before performing “Rock Your Body” alongside surprise guest Justin Timberlake. As Timberlake sang the lyric “I’m gonna have you naked by the end of this song”, he tore open her costume, exposing her right breast to 140 million viewers. Jackson issued an apology after the performance, saying the incident was accidental and unintended, explaining that Timberlake was only meant to pull away a bustier and leave the red-lace bra intact. She commented, “I am really sorry if I offended anyone. That was truly not my intention … MTV, CBS, the NFL had no knowledge of this whatsoever, and unfortunately, the whole thing went wrong in the end.” Timberlake also issued an apology, calling the accident a “wardrobe malfunction.” The incident became the most recorded and replayed moment in TiVo history, enticing an estimated 35,000 new subscribers. Regarded as one of the most controversial television events in history, Jackson was later listed in Guinness World Records as the “Most Searched in Internet History” and the “Most Searched for News Item”. CBS, the NFL, and MTV (CBS’s sister network, which produced the halftime show), denied any knowledge of, and all responsibility for, the incident. The Federal Communications Commission heavily fined all companies involved, and continued an investigation for eight years, ultimately losing its appeal for a $550,000 fine against CBS.
Following the incident, CBS permitted Timberlake to appear at the 46th Grammy Awards ceremony but did not allow Jackson to attend, forcing her to withdraw after being scheduled as a presenter. The controversy halted plans for Jackson to star in the biographical film of singer and activist Lena Horne, which was to be produced by American Broadcasting Company. Although Horne was reportedly displeased by the incident, Jackson’s representatives stated she withdrew from the project willingly. A Mickey Mouse statue wearing Jackson’s iconic “Rhythm Nation” outfit was mantled at Walt Disney World theme park the previous year to honor Jackson’s legacy, but was removed following Jackson’s controversial performance.
Jackson’s eighth studio album Damita Jo, titled after Jackson’s middle name, was released in March 2004. It debuted at number two on the Billboard 200. The album received mixed to positive reviews, praising the sonic innovation of selected songs and Jackson’s vocal harmonies, while others criticized its frequent themes of carnality. However, several critics’ reviews focused on the Super Bowl incident, rather than critiquing the album itself. It was certified platinum by the RIAA within a month, and sold over three million copies worldwide.
The album’s performance was largely affected by public backlash and the blacklisting from radio and music channels. Conglomerates involved in the boycott include Viacom and CBS, subsidiaries MTV, Clear Channel Communications, and Infinity Broadcasting, the latter two among the largest radio broadcasters. The blacklist was placed into effect preceding the release of Damita Jo and continued throughout the course of Jackson’s following two albums. A senior executive for entertainment conglomerate Viacom, which owns MTV, VH1, and many radio formats, commented they were “absolutely bailing on the record. The pressure is so great, they can’t align with anything related to Janet. The high-ups are still pissed at her, and this is a punitive measure.” Prior to the incident, Damita Jo was expected to outsell prior release All for You. Its three singles received positive reviews, but failed to achieve high chart positions, although each were predicted to perform extremely well under different circumstances. Billboard reported that Damita Jo “was largely overshadowed by the Super Bowl fiasco,” saying “[t]he three singles it spawned were blacklisted by pop radio—they were also the album’s biggest highlights—the electronic guitar studded “Just a Little While“, Motown-influenced “I Want You” and the funky, heavily dance orientated “All Nite (Don’t Stop)“. “I Want You” was certified platinum and received a Grammy nomination.
For the album’s promotion, Jackson appeared as a host on Saturday Night Live, performing two songs, and was also a guest star on sitcom Will & Grace, portraying herself. Jackson received several career accolades upon the album’s release, including the “Legend Award” at the Radio Music Awards, “Inspiration Award” from the Japan Video Music Awards, “Lifetime Achievement Award” at the Soul Train Music Awards, and a Teen Choice Awards nomination for “Favorite Female.” In November 2004, Jackson was honored as a role model by 100 Black Men of America, Inc., presented with the organization’s Artistic Achievement Award saluting “a career that has gone from success to greater success’.” In response to criticism for honoring Jackson in light of the Super Bowl incident, the organization responded “an individual’s worth can’t be judged by a single moment in that person’s life.” In June 2005, she was honored with a Humanitarian Award by the Human Rights Campaign and AIDS Project Los Angeles as recognition for her involvement in raising money for AIDS charities.
2006–07: 20 Y.O. and Why Did I Get Married?
Jackson began recording her ninth studio album, 20 Y.O., in 2005. She recorded with producers Dupri, Jam and Lewis for several months during the following year. The album’s title was a reference to the two decades since the release of her breakthrough album Control, representing the album’s “celebration of the joyful liberation and history-making musical style.” To promote the album, Jackson appeared in various magazines, and performed on the Today Show and Billboard Awards. Jackson’s Us Weekly cover, revealing her slim figure after heavy media focus was placed on her fluctuations in weight, became the magazine’s best-selling issue in history. 20 Y.O. was released in September 2006 and debuted at number two on the Billboard 200. The album received mixed reviews, with multiple critics chastising the production and involvement of Jermaine Dupri. Rolling Stone disagreed with the album’s reference to Control, saying “If we were her, we wouldn’t make the comparison.”Jackson’s airplay and music channel blacklist remained persistent, massively affecting her chart performance and exposure. However, lead single “Call on Me“, which featured rapper Nelly, peaked at number twenty-five on the Hot 100, number one on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, and number six in the United Kingdom. The video for the album’s second single, “So Excited“, was directed by Joseph Kahn and portrayed Jackson’s clothes disappearing through a complex dance routine. 20 Y.O. was certified platinum by the RIAA and sold 1.2 million worldwide, also receiving a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary R&B Album. After the album’s release, Dupri was condemened for his production and misguidance of the album, and subsequently was removed from his position at Virgin Records. Slant Magazine stated, “After promising a return to Janet’s dance-pop origins, [Dupri] opted to aim for urban audiences, a colossal mistake that cost Dupri his job and, probably, Janet her deal with Virgin.”
Jackson was ranked the seventh richest woman in the entertainment industry by Forbes, having amassed a fortune of over $150 million. In 2007, she starred opposite Tyler Perry as a psychotherapist in the film Why Did I Get Married?. It became her third consecutive film to open at number one at the box office, grossing $60 million in total. Jackson’s performance was praised for its “soft authority”, though also described as “charming, yet bland”. In February 2008, Jackson won an Image Award for “Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture” for the role. Jackson was also approached to record the lead single for the film Rush Hour 3.
2008–09: Discipline and Number Ones
Jackson signed with Island Records after her contract with Virgin was fulfilled. She interrupted plans for touring and began recording with various producers, including Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins, Tricky Stewart, and Stargate. Her tenth studio album, Discipline, was released in February 2008, opening at number one. Despite radio blacklisting, the album’s first single “Feedback” peaked at number nineteen on the Hot 100 and nine on Pop Songs, her highest charting single since “Someone to Call My Lover“. The second single, “Rock With U“, peaked at number four in the United Kingdom. Jackson was awarded the Vanguard Award at the 19th annual GLAAD Media Awards, honoring her contributions in promoting equal rights among the gay community. The organization’s president commented, “Ms. Jackson has a tremendous following inside the LGBT community and out, and having her stand with us against the defamation that LGBT people still face in our country is extremely significant.”
Jackson’s fifth concert tour, the Rock Witchu Tour, began in September 2008. Jackson parted with Island Records through mutual agreement. Billboard disclosed Jackson was dissatisfied with LA Reid‘s handling of the album and its promotion, saying “the label agreed to dissolve their relationship with the artist at her request.” Producer Rodney Jerkins expressed “I felt like it wasn’t pushed correctly…. She just didn’t get her just-do as an artist of that magnitude.”
In June 2009, Jackson’s brother Michael died at age fifty. She spoke publicly concerning his death at the 2009 BET Awards, stating “I’d just like to say, to you, Michael is an icon, to us, Michael is family. And he will forever live in all of our hearts. On behalf of my family and myself, thank you for all of your love, thank you for all of your support. We miss him so much.” In an interview, she revealed she had first learned of his death while filming Why Did I Get Married Too?. Amidst mourning with her family, she focused on work to deal with the grief, avoiding any news coverage of her sibling’s death. She commented, “it’s still important to face reality, and not that I’m running, but sometimes you just need to get away for a second.” During this time, she ended her seven-year relationship with Jermaine Dupri. Several months later, Jackson performed a tribute to Michael at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, performing their duet “Scream”. MTV stated “there was no one better than Janet to anchor it and send a really powerful message.” The performance was lauded by critics, with Entertainment Weekly affirming the rendition “as energetic as it was heartfelt”.
Jackson’s second hits compilation, Number Ones (retitled The Best for international releases), was released in November 2009. For promotion, she performed a medley of hits at the American Music Awards, Capital FM‘s Jingle Bell Ball at London’s O2 arena, and The X-Factor. The album’s promotional single “Make Me“, produced with Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins, debuted in September. It became Jackson’s nineteenth number one on the Hot Dance Club Songs chart, making her the first artist to have number-one singles in four separate decades. Later that month, Jackson chaired the inaugural benefit of amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, held in Milan in conjunction with fashion week. The foundation’s CEO stated “We are profoundly grateful to Janet Jackson for joining amfAR as a chair of its first event in Milan…. She brings incomparable grace and a history of dedication to the fight against AIDS.” The event raised a total of $1.1 million for the nonprofit organization.
2010–14: Film projects, True You, concert tour, and philanthropy
In April 2010, Jackson reprised her role in the sequel to Why Did I Get Married? titled Why Did I Get Married Too?. The film opened at number two, grossing sixty million in total. Jackson’s performance was hailed as “invigorating and oddly funny”, and praised for her “willingness to be seen at her most disheveled”. Her performance earned an Image Award for “Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture”. Jackson recorded the film’s theme, “Nothing“, released as a promotional single. The song was performed on the ninth season finale of American Idol along with “Again” and “Nasty”. In July, Jackson modeled for the Blackglama clothing line featuring mink fur. Jackson then helped design a signature line of clothing and accessories for Blackglama, to be sold at Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdales. Universal Music released the hits compilation Icon: Number Ones as the debut of the Icon compilation series.
In November 2010, Jackson starred as Joanna in the drama For Colored Girls, the film adaptation of Ntozake Shange‘s 1975 play For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf. The Wall Street Journal stated Jackson “recites verses written by Ntozake Shange, the author of the play that inspired the film … But instead of offering up a mannered coffeehouse reading of the lines, Jackson makes the words sound like ordinary—though very eloquent—speech.” Jackson’s portrayal the film was likened to Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada. Her performance earned Black Reel Awards nominations in the categories of Outstanding Supporting Actress and Outstanding Ensemble.
Jackson announced plans to embark on her largest world tour in support of her second hits collection, Number Ones. The tour, entitled Number Ones, Up Close and Personal, held concerts in thirty-five global cities, selected by fans who submitted suggestions on her official website. During the tour, Jackson performed thirty-five number one hits and dedicated a song to each city. Mattel released a limited-edition Barbie of Jackson titled “Divinely Janet”, auctioned for over $15,000, with proceeds donated to Project Angel Food. Jackson released the self-help book True You: A Journey to Finding and Loving Yourself in February 2011, co-written with David Ritz. It chronicled her struggle with weight and confidence, also publishing letters from fans. It topped The New York Times ’ Best Seller list the following month. Additionally, she signed a film production contract with Lions Gate Entertainment to “select, develop and produce a feature film for the independent studio.”
Jackson became the first female pop singer to perform at the I. M. Pei glass pyramid at the Louvre Museum, raising contributions for the restoration of iconic artwork. Jackson was selected to endorse fashion line Blackglama for a second year, being the first celebrity in the line’s history chosen to do so. She partnered with the label to release a fifteen-piece collection of luxury products. In 2012, Jackson endorsed Nutrisystem, sponsoring their weight-loss program after struggling with weight fluctuations in the past. With the program, she donated ten million dollars in meals to the hungry. She was honored by amfAR for her contributions to AIDS research when chairing the Cinema Against AIDS gala during the Cannes Film Festival. She also participated in a public service announcement for UNICEF to help starving children. In February 2013, Jackson announced she was married to her third husband, Qatari billionaire Wissam Al Mana, during a private ceremony the previous year.
2015: Rhythm Nation Records and Unbreakable
On May 16, 2015, Jackson announced plans to release a new album and to embark on a world concert tour. She outlined her intention to release her new album in the fall of 2015 under her own record label, Rhythm Nation Records, distributed by BMG Rights Management. The launch of Rhythm Nation established Jackson as one of the few African-American female musicians to own a record label. On June 15, 2015, Jackson announced the first set of dates for the North American leg of her Unbreakable World Tour. On June 22, the lead single “No Sleeep” was released from the album. Jackson’s solo version of the single debuted on the Hot 100 at number 67, marking her 40th entry on the chart. The song went to number 1 on the Billboard + Twitter Trending 140 immediately following the release. The album version featuring J. Cole enabled it to re-enter the Hot 100 with a new peak position at number 63, while also topping the Adult R&B Songs chart.
BET presented Jackson with their inaugural Ultimate Icon: Music Dance Visual award at the BET Awards 2015, which also featured a dance tribute to her performed by Ciara, Jason Derulo and Tinashe. It was announced she would launch a luxury jewelery line called the “Janet Jackson Unbreakable Diamonds collection,” a joint venture between herself and Paul Raps New York. On August 20, she released a preview of a new song “The Great Forever,” while also confirming the title of her eleventh studio album as Unbreakable. Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis stated that Jackson’s concept for the album was developed simultaneously with the accompanying tour’s production and that its composition will differ from the majority of her catalog. They also stated that the album’s theme reflects “being able to be vulnerable and to be able to withstand what comes to you,” drawing on Jackson’s experiences over the past several years. The album’s title track “Unbreakable” was released on September 3, 2015, debuting on Apple Music‘s Beats 1 radio station, hosted by Ebro Darden. The album was also made available for pre-order on iTunes the same day. “Burnitup!” featuring Missy Elliot debuted on BBC Radio 1 on September 24, 2015.
Unbreakable was released on October 2, 2015. It received largely positive reviews, including those by The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, and The Guardian. The following week, Jackson received a nomination to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Her album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, becoming her seventh album to top the chart in the United States.