All-Time Favorite Albums - WEEK 3
Updated: Jul 26, 2020
Happy Post Mother's Day everyone. Hope you had a fantastic weekend and your week is doing the same. In case you missed my first round of albums and are curious, you can find them here:
I now give you Day 3...
Fun fact, this was also my first CD. Ah...go ahead and laugh, I just recently listened to this thing a few months ago, and I to this day, I am still blown away. Maybe it's because I had a man crush on Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis (and also Babyface and LA Reid) and how I basically bought everything they produced and released. However, maybe, just maybe, this was the perfect pop album to lead into the 90's.
Released September 19th,1989, it was her second studio album with the dynamic production duo from Minneapolis. Courtesy of Weekly Top 40 site here is what was going on at the time this dropped:
( just scroll down a few, and you will see it)
US Top 40 Singles Week Ending September 23, 1989
This Week / Last Week / TITLE / Artist(Label)-Weeks on Chart (Peak to Date)
1 2 GIRL I’M GONNA MISS YOU –•– Milli Vanilli – 8 (1)
2 3 HEAVEN –•– Warrant – 10 (2)
3 7 IF I COULD TURN BACK TIME –•– Cher – 12 (3)
4 8 18 AND LIFE –•– Skid Row – 12 (4)
5 10 CHERISH –•– Madonna – 6 (5)
6 1 DON’T WANNA LOSE YOU –•– Gloria Estefan – 12 (1)
7 5 SHOWER ME WITH YOUR LOVE –•– Surface – 13 (5)
8 15 MISS YOU MUCH –•– Janet Jackson – 4 (8)
9 4 HANGIN’ TOUGH –•– New Kids On The Block – 11 (1)
10 6 COLD HEARTED –•– Paula Abdul – 14 (1)
As you can see "Miss You Much" was the first single released ahead of the album and this was its peak position. What I remember most about this song, was learning the dance choreography....because all the ladies knew it! Cute girls dancing and dudes too scared to go along? Check. Opportunity to get acquainted with cute girls? Check. It was loads of fun and don't regret it for one minute, HA! Ask me if I remember it now...ah no. But I'll learn that shit lickety split if need be! ;)
Here is the complete track listing:
1.Interlude: Pledge 0:47
2.Rhythm Nation 5:31
3.Interlude: T.V. 0:22
4.State Of The World 4:48
6.The Knowledge 3:54
7.Interlude: Let's Dance 0:03
8.Miss You Much 4:12
9.Interlude: Come Back Interlude 0:21
10. Love Will Never Do (Without You) 5:50
11.Livin' In A World (They Didn't Make)4:41
12. Alright 6:26
13.Interlude: Hey Baby 0:10
15.Interlude: No Acid 0:05
16. Black Cat 4:50
18. Come Back To Me 5:33
19.Someday Is Tonight 6:00
20. Interlude: Livin'... In Complete Darkness1:07
"Pledge" kicks this album off right. With an intro auction set to a backdrop of church bells, hits, weird atmospheric textures...you know you're not listening to just any old album. You are about embark on a journey.
The first 6 tracks I consider are part of a suite of songs highlighting social issues. What is sad that in some ways, 30 years later, the same social issues are still around.
One of the many reasons why I love Jam and Lewis production style is their heavy use of synths, and their creative way of sampling. Remember, back in the 80's is where sampling started taking off, due to early Hip Hop trends crossing over into pop and New Wave. Jam and Lewis were masters at this. "Rhythm Nation" is completely its own thing, BUT it gets its groove from Sly and Family Stone "Thank You". It is crafted, blended and so well executed, one doesn't really notice it at first thanks to all the other eargasms happening in the arrangement.
The "Interlude" before "State of the World" Is a classic setup of someone flipping through tv stations, each channel talking about something happening in the world at the time. I never considered "State of the World" a New Jack Swing song until recently, cause really, I just considered it a Janet pop song. The synth bass is so damn hooky, I can jam to that all day!
Another "Interlude" discussing how "We are in a race between education and catastrophe" and then BOOM, "The Knowledge". Some funky infused groove with another classic synth bass line anchoring that shit.
Now we begin to enter the pop suite, starting with the Interlude of "Let's Dance" setting up "Miss You Much". I already touched upon this song, so I will just move along.
"Come Back" interlude is a nice string arrangement foreshadowing the romantic suite that is coming up later. "Love Will Never Do Without You" is another hooky pop song, not one of my fav's but I appreciate never less. "Living in a World They Didn't Make" seems a little out of place thematically, for its a ballad talking about the social injustices thrust upon kids. This song belongs more in the front end, but it would slow down the flow of the album, hence why I understand the choice to place it here.
"Alright" ... Now the video for this song was not at all like the album version, and that's a good thing. Set in the time where Zoot Suits were the hight of fashion and featuring the late legend Cab Calloway, Janet took a page out of her brother's playbook and made a colorful, visually stunning fun video giving a shout out to a bygone era. Amazing choreography, and an upbeat groove, there was much to like about this gem. See for yourself:
Moving on, there's another interlude "Hey Baby" setting up the good time adventure track "Escapade" Total pop pleasure, it hits all the marks of another classic Jam and Lewis pop song.
'Interlude:No Acid" sets the tone for her rock infused anthem "Black Cat". If there was any doubt if Janet couldn't make an rock track, this blew the doors off of that idea. Capitalizing on the popularity of what was dominating the rock scene, 80's Hair Metal, the team nailed this...arguably better than some of the bands known to make their living off this style.
"Black Cat" ends by fading outing a thunderstorm, blending into the contemplative track "Lonely". Letting the listener know she will be there for you in your time of need, a nice little pan flute motif, over lush, beautiful pads, creates this dream like texture that one can just zone out too.
"Come Back to Me" was THE ballad hit for this album. This ditty got me through a lot of teenage sorrow, mostly brought on by my own doing cause hey, what did any of us really know at 16? It is a gorgeous sounding track through and through, highlighting the production teams excellent use of vocal stacking, back by a string arrangement that is complementary and haunting at the same time.
"Someday is Tonight" is the get your swerve on track. When you hear this song, there is no doubt it was written for one thing and one thing only, body rocking.
The last "Interlude" is a somber reminder of the overall theme of the album, social awareness and how knowledge is the key. In today's terms, it can be simply be said by #staywoke
As I am writing this conclusion, I am having a hard time wrapping my head around this album is almost 30 years old...how did that happen? I remember it like yesterday, which I guess is good thing, for my memory has not failed me yet. Yes it is unapologeticaly 80's in production and style, but it was also pushing forward where pop music had to go. It came out at the perfect time, bridging the end of 80's pop and paving the way for what was to come in the 90's. Thanks for reading my ramblings, I hope you enjoyed my little walk down memory lane. Until the next time!