Rhythm Nation 1814

Janet Jackson

A&M Records, 1989




Janet Jackson sells through the power of myth. Each of her albums have a central theme where the songs and videos are built around, using images, soundscapes and lyrics to invoke certain territories within the collective unconscious. It all comes together to create a great towering musical colossus of "Janet". This is no accident; this is marketing at the micro-levels.

But in the end, it's a myth and not everyone will be swept in the sentimental awe of it all. Rhythm Nation 1814 was the first myth-creating Jackson album, and it does not show the subtlety she and her Flyte Time producers will come to with the following my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 janet. or The Velvet Rope. Yet it is the album that showed her new "funky" image was probably going to last, and the success of the honest Control was not an accident.

The album is divided into "socially conscious" tracks and pop tracks (I love you you love me let's do it etc.) and the socially conscious part gets old quickly. Jackson is no Marvin Gaye... her naive sentiments ("things are getting worse / we have to make them better / it's time to give a damn / let's work together") give that feeling of second-hand political fervor you feel in certain college campuses.

Subtlety is genuine; flat-out forced anthems such as "Rythym Nation" and "The Knowledge" don't hit the same note. Not that she seems to be deliberately phony; like the aforementioned second-hand activists her heart is in the right place, but political change is not just about coming together or fighting for a common cause. Political change is tedious, involves a lot of calm dialogue, patience and lack of angry motivation. It is clear that the Jackson camp is unwittingly exploiting the spirit of revolution, not the substance of it, only the symbols (the industrial strength beats, the militaristic costumes in the "Rythym Nation" video) and not the real thing. Her revolution is empty; let's dance!

The pop tracks are much better. "Love Will Never Do Without You" is a joyful dance song up there with Madonna's "Express Yourself", and "Escapade" is along the same vein of perfectly produced funk-pop dance tracks Flyte Time is known for. The amazingly vital rocker "Black Cat" (written by Jackson herself) is guarenteed to raise the roof live. The beautifully crafted ballad "Come Back To Me" is as perfect as perfect comes, and while "Someday Is Tonight" has better incarnations in Jackson's subsequent albums, it does a good job of sinking the fervor of the album in a soft, sensuous way. The incredibly lush sound of all these tracks makes for an audio-myth that this reviewer can finally lose himself into.

The entire album sounds good, but the quasi-political myth probably won't work for those who don't share Jackson's rather austere vision. But it's got a great, great beat.

Rating: B

User Rating: A


I give this CD an A because unlike the reviewer I don't care if the social commentary tunes don't move you to rebel. They sound good that's all a listener needs. Social commentary albums and songs
"what's going on can move you in many ways. But this CD does what it is suppose to do. Keep you dancing, and if you feel the message, cool. If not nothing is lost because it still bangs.

© 2001 JB and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of A&M Records, and is used for informational purposes only.