There’s so much. Janet Jackson has been in the business for more than 35 years. She’s the blueprint—beyond a superstar. Want proof? Listen to Janet’s new Discipline. Want truth? The saga of Janet is all about her ever-changing look. The camera’s here so let’s take some shots. Danyel Smith just wants to watch.
Is it harder to be 20 now than it was when she was 20? Was everything more fun when she was younger? 'No,' she says, smiling. 'It’s still fun.'
Buttoned-up she was for that album as well, and padded around the shoulders, ultra-’80s style—one palm demurely, with subtlety, shadowing her va-jay-jay. Hair piled atop her head in an extravagant fluff. Control was Janet Damito Jo Jackson’s debutante ball.
It’s always been about her look. There was then-husband/boyfriend Rene Elizondo cupping her breasts for 1993’s janet. (Virgin). She was all teeny waist and big booty for 2004’s Damita Jo (Virgin). Big hair and a wrist full of bracelets for 20 Y.O. (Virgin). There have been Dorothy Dandridge-esque moments. Lacy bra and cargo pants for she and Nelly’s 2006 “Call On Me.” The paparazzi catch her between albums—ponytailed, bulky, and soft. She reappears at world-tour time as svelte as she was the first time she truly wowed with her winking navel in 1990’s “Love Will Never Do (Without You)” video. Yum. That was then, though, and this of course is now. Not to say she’s not trim and beautiful—she is. But Jackson’s beauty is about more than polished proportions. Check her insouciance.
The seductively aristocratic stance. The shade. It’s loud in the restaurant. Janet is eating salad and then what looks like toro, and it’s only noon or so and she gives a look: like it’s provincial of one to not enjoy raw fish in the morning, before an egg or oatmeal. She gives a look: One that proves she is not—and thank Heaven—all sweetness. There’s a person in there, a girl with some snark in her soul. Soul aside, Janet is fresh-faced, eyebrows impeccably shaped, cheeks delicately rouged, hair in a tidy chignon.
She seems to exist on her own chronometer, time zones long ago robbed of significance by private planes and schedules bound by contract, and the supernatural triumvirate of (pop) nobility, wealth, and talent. She picks at her salad and fish. Picks.
Is it harder to be 20 now than it was when she was 20? Was everything more fun when she was younger?
A cast iron teapot sits warmly by. “No,” she says smiling, preparing to sip. “It’s still fun.”
FREEZE FRAME: Janet Jackson at her zenith—in love, in New York City, traveling with Rocky, one of her three bulldogs (other two: Yeyo and Slash), on the verge of her 10th studio album, Discipline (Island), on the verge of another worldwide tour. Janet is undergoing another change, and this time it’s her music—no more Minneapolis funk legends Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, with whom she created some of the most unforgettable hits of the last 20 years. This time Miss Jackson is rolling with Ne-Yo, The-Dream, Johnta Austin, Stargate, and Rodney Jerkins, not to mention longtime boyfriend/superproducer Jermaine Dupri, the newly inaugurated President of Island So So Def. Many of the young producers she worked with on Discipline have been profoundly influenced by Jam and Lewis and grew up on the sound of the Jackson family—in many ways, she’s cycling back in on herself.
“I listened to the songs,” Janet says of recording with a new set of professionals, including Island Def Jam Chairman Antonio “L.A.” Reid, who, among many other things, brought the world TLC and the triumph of Mariah Carey’s 2005 The Emancipation of Mimi. “And I immediately fell in love with [them]. I said, ‘This sounds like something Jimmy and I would do; this sounds like something from a past album, so it’s still me.’”
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