She also details how boyfriend Jermaine Dupri surprised her on Valentine’s Day last year with a romantic dinner at the Atlanta Aquarium.
The magazine is out now and excerpts from the article can be read on Janet Love.
Thanks to Touch Magazine.
HOW JANET GOT HER GROOVE BACK
Words: Paul McKenzie Pictures: Debbie Bragg
Ok, let’s go. Sitting comfy? You’d better be. This one’s a good ‘un. But before we begin a few house rules.
Rule number one. Ms Jackson doesn’t want to talk about her older brother. You know that older brother. The one who sang Thriller, did the moonwalk and broke every record on the way to becoming a global phenomenon.
Rule number two. No chit chat about weight issues. Well that suits me fine. This is TOUCH, Britain’s leading urban magazine, not Weight Watchers Today. For what it’s worth, the 41 year old I see before me is a sexy size 10 with curves in all the right places.
And finally, rule number three. Do not mention the infamous Superbowl ‘wardrobe malfunction’. Hey, no worries, I wasn’t gonna go anywhere near that subject. Why? Because I’m still miffed that Justin got away with the whole darn blown-out affair while the media and the evangelicals gave Janet hell. Not fair.
So pull up a seat with me at the world famous Trump International and listen in on the most famous girl in pop/R’n’B, as we talk about love, life, music and the infamous split from Virgin Records.
We got a glimpse of Janet’s talent when she came into our world via the small screen and the hit TV sitcom Good Times. All good family fun. We got to know the singer Janet back in 1986 when she came at us with her multi-platinum album Control. The album made her a bona fide superstar. She was no longer Michael’s kid sister. Her follow up album Rhythm Nation 1814 was pop R’n’B perfection. Looking back on those classic albums, Janet says “When we set out to do those albums we were just kids, Jimmy [Jam] and Terry [Lewis] were babies they were only 22, I was only 18, we were all babies, just babies in the studio. We were just doing what we loved, creating music that we loved and never knowing they would be classic songs, classic albums”. The albums lived long into the night and went on to sell a staggering 22 million copies worldwide.
In 1993 Janet signed to Virgin Records. The good times continued. Her self-titled album Janet sold 13 million worldwide and the 1997 release The Velvet Rope notched up 8.3 million worldwide sales. Then sales take a ‘dive’. Though even in this ‘slump’ Ms Jackson clocked up platinum trophies for the next three lesser albums All of You, Damita Jo, 20 Y.O. In 2006 cracks in the relationship appeared and the strains started to show. What went wrong at Virgin? Janet explains “I wanted to release another song [Enjoy] but unfortunately I didn’t have the support of the record company, we didn’t see eye to eye and I only had the support of the urban department, not the company as a whole.” The creatives who had signed Janet had exited, the money men had moved in. “Everyone expects you to do the numbers that you used to do, and no-one nowadays is doing those numbers”.
Shocked at the lack of support, Janet split from a company that she had previously thought of as family. Her upset is palpable. “It hurt a great deal, not to bad mouth Virgin because I’ve never been that kind of a person, it was my home for 10 years and it felt like family. A new group of people came in, got rid of everyone and I was like, what’s going on here and it hurt a great deal. You know I’ve heard people say, ‘You keep the lights on in this place, you shouldn’t be going through this’.” And they were right, Janet deserved better. It’s probably safe to say that Virgin’s personnel have been removed from her Christmas card list.
We move on. The good times are back and Janet is so excited. She’s signed to Def Jam, a stellar label that has her long-term boyfriend Jermaine Dupri at the helm. But don’t make assumptions, it wasn’t her beau who made the moves to sign her, it was all-round super producer LA Reid. The Chairman of the Island/Def Jam music group, Antonio ‘LA’ Reid jumped at the chance to sign her. “Janet comes from a bloodline, with heritage. I’ve always been a fan. In my mind there was Janet and there was Madonna”. You can’t stop him now. Mr Reid is on a roll. “Madonna may have exercised more creativity in imaging, meaning she probably did a better job in recreating her image, but I think Janet for my taste made the better records”. His final words on the relevancy of Janet Jackson are worth a listen. “Janet still lives in a relevant way, in other words she still surrounds herself with people who are close to whatever it is she loves. Her boyfriend [Jermaine Dupri] is one of the top producers in the world who does hip hop, R’n’B and pop music, her friends go to clubs and they dance, so she is surrounded with popular culture. She is always living in the new, there is not going to be a new dance that Janet doesn’t know about, there is not going to be a new song that Janet doesn’t know about. She is always going to remain relevant so for that reason I believe in her. To me the fact that she has been in the market since the mid-Eighties, and she can still hang with Ciara, Rihanna, says ‘my god, this is a true star”.
What do we make of the new album? Some critics at the recent London playback dubbed it ‘the same old Janet sound’. Pity the poor fools who don’t know the difference between a ‘classic sound’ and an ‘old Eighties sound’. LA Reid played me seven tracks in his swish New York office. The tracks ranged from good, The Greatest Ex Ever to the excellent Rollercoaster. But one track, This Can’t Be Good is a cut above the rest. The Ne-Yo penned mid-tempo ballad is knockout stuff. That one I’m keeping close and sending to my sweetheart with a loving kiss. When I tell Janet this, she smiles and says “I think he [Ne-Yo] is very talented, he’s definitely a fan of the family, you can hear it in the songs. I can tell he is a fan of my brother’s and it was nice to know that he can create something so close to you”.
That’s The Way Love Goes
Not only is Janet excited about the new album and the planned tour, the twice married singer is truly, madly, deeply in love. Jermaine Dupri is the lucky guy. This really might be the one. As the 14th February approaches Janet is waiting to see what Jermaine has in store for her this Valentine. Last year’s effort was pretty special. “Jermaine did something really sweet,” she all but gushes, “We have a place in Atlanta and there is a fantastic aquarium there. Jermaine had it closed off for the night and we had the whole place to ourselves. We had someone to take us round, then we went into one area and there was a whole place set for dinner with candles and everything in front of the belugas, which are like dolphins but the size of whales”. Smooth JD, real smooth. So what sounds would Ms Jackson choose when night falls and romance is in the air, “R Kelly or maybe jazz, Miles in his blue period,” she laughs. There’s that smile again.
Time flies when you’re having fun. It’s hard to believe Janet Jackson has been in our lives for over 20 years. It’s hard to believe that our afternoon together has flashed by. We shake hands. She’s flashes that fantastic smile. I count a zillion perfectly formed white teeth. I tell her it’s the most perfect smile. “It’s too big,” she giggles. It’s that laugh again. The fun is back in her life. She’s happy. She’s got her groove back. Finally, life is good.