5, 4, 3, 2, 1: 25 Years of Rhythm Nation

Today marks 25 years since Janet Jackson released her album Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814 (RN). The socially conscious dance album was a monster success as it spawned several hits and truly ushered in Jackson as a force to be reckoned with on her own. Here are five reasons why the album will forever be great.


Janet wanted to create a socially conscious dance album and she succeeded in do so. But with a dance album, you must bring all the right moves along; add in being a Jackson and those moves have to be extra crisp. We saw flashes of Janet’s skills when she hooked up with Paula Abdul for her Control era, but RN brought an entirely different beast. Teaming up with Anthony Thomas and a team of on point dances, really helped Janet achieve that togetherness militarized feel that was so vital to her message. The influence of Janet’s staging and moves inspired a generation and will no doubt continue for generations after.

Janet’s Voice:

Janet took a risk by choosing to go the socially conscious route for RN. After the success of her breakthrough third album Control, record label executives wanted her to follow suit with the same type of material on her next album. Luckily for us, Janet had some things to say and wanted to share them with us. The fact that 25 years later these same themes are still so relevant today is amazing and sad at the same time. Some critics found Janet’s sincere concern for the world as nothing more than a marketing ploy but as she proved here in the clip below, they weren’t the ones who truly mattered to her. Drag and slay, Damita Jo. Drag and slay!


Keeping in step with her social awareness, Janet took the same approach when making videos to accompany the album. There was a noticeable trend within the videos; they were filmed in black and white. Janet explained her reasoning to Arsenio Hall back in 1989. The dramatic effect was one reason for the choice but the main reason is the fact that everyone would be a different shade of gray. A greater sense of togetherness could be built if no one is focusing on the differences. Mix in the dancing that was mentioned earlier and you’ve got the perfection. Janet’s fashion choices during this time were also attention grabbing. She made militarized themed outfits hip. Yeah.


Best-selling album of 1990

35 Weeks in Top 10

4 weeks at#1

7 Top 5 Hot 100 Singles (first and only album ever to do so)

15 Billboard Music Awards

5 American Music Awards

4 Soul Train Awards

3 MTV Video Music Awards (including the Vanguard Award)

1 Grammy Award

Highest grossing debut tour ever

Only album to ever score number one hits in three separate calendar years

The Music:

None of those other factors would have mattered or happened if it had not been for the fact that the album itself was stacked with quality music. Janet teamed up with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis and put together songs with a message that people would actually draw people in to listen. New Jack swing was the new thing and it was certainly present. The album also utilized the very strong emergence of hip hop as one of the loudest voices on the music scene. But not to be too heavy, the album gave you a great balance of fun and important issues.


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