November 23, 2022
One Nation Under a Rhythm
The year is 1989. By industry standards, you are still considered a new artist because you’ve only released three projects, with the latest being your most successful after two record industry-standard failed attempts. After watching the news, the world, and most importantly, the children of the future, you make it your mission to record one of the most transformational albums of the time.
The album goes on to hold many records that garner record-breaking success and record-holding affiliation. You cement yourself in the Hall of Fame of records well before you ever get the official recognition, and you’ve inspired a generation of children and young adults to strive for much better. From ballads to pop hits, Rhythm Nation 1814 took the industry and world by storm, further proving that Janet Jackson was well on her way to securing her place in the mantle of top R&B performers.
What Janet accomplished with her fourth project, Rhythm Nation, was remarkable and unprecedented. Following the massive success of Control, it was more than likely intimidating to beat, but she lived up to and surpassed the challenge. As the kids say, she understood the assignment. And the assignment was a profoundly significant undertaking.
RN1814 was commercially released on September 19, 1989, and was considered a socially conscious album that eerily foretold the American experience of today. RN1814 had eight commercial chart-topping and placing singles, with each of her songs possessing impactful creativity and messaging. One song, in particular, is so timely that it is hauntingly beautiful yet sad in the same regard.
Livin’ in A World (They Didn’t Make) is a reflective song that message is unfortunately still a reality in this country. Between her soft yet urgent vocals and a convincing piano and background harmonies, this beautiful ballad becomes a plea for change and the future of America. The lyrics
“living in a world they didn’t make, living in a world that’s filled with hate, living in a world where grown-ups break the rules, living in a world they didn’t make, paying for a lot of adult mistakes, how much of this madness can they take,” can’t get any louder.
Between the loss of gun control in America, senseless mass shootings, and the economy acting as if the global pandemic wasn’t a pandemic, society and confident political leaders want to regress us back to darker times. When will the generations decide that enough is enough? Jackson asked this question almost 34 years ago, when will somebody step up to answer, “It ends now!”
But aside from her political and social change, she still shows that life can still be fun and meant to be enjoyed. In the song, Alright, she shows that friendship, like life, is cyclical but can be endured with the right intentions and love. Along with this single, she released a Harlem Renaissance-inspired music video that featured one of hip-hop’s most talented and commercially loved emcees, Heavy D.
Ms. Janet, and her dance crew, whom she lovingly calls “the kids,” sported Zoot Suits and danced around the city to the stylings of legendary cultural contributors Cab Calloway and the Nicholas Brothers. A dance number featuring actress and dancer Syd Charisse added to the fun and colorful video.
And lastly, the song that ushered in the new adult and sexy image for Janet would come from her tune that supported love with no racial boundaries. As one of RN1814 top 5 hit singles, Love Will Never Do was fun and socially conscious because it tackled the arena of interracial relationships. Aside from the video, Jackson’s tone on this lovely album was free and declarative in that the world was just beginning to see what she had in store.
Since 1989, Rhythm Nation 1814 propelled her into the superstar status she was destined for by earning her a record she still holds. The success of Rhythm Nation launched the beginning of Janet’s concert touring around the world, where she garnered the record for “the most attended debut concert tour.”
After this project’s release, she received a Hollywood Walk of Fame star and many awards and nominations. And over thirty years later, people still recognize the significance of Rhythm Nation, with its 2020 induction into the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress.
Ultimately, RN1814 will forever be preserved and cemented in history for its cultural importance and societal contribution proving that we are one nation under a rhythm.