So here we are, three shows in and Miss Janet Jackson has given us, the fans, an astonishing amount of new material delivered with sheer precision in both its marketing strategy and its content.
Since her initial announcement in May, Janet and her team have engineered her return to world domination with gentle but well planned and meticulous timing.
Through a series of coordinated tweets and posts, Janet has been in control of her own content releasing new material in a steady fashion but giving fans enough to “keep the conversation going”.
Very little has been released exclusively to national media outlets, with the focus instead being on reporters and blogs picking up on material Janet has published herself usually through her Twitter page.
Janet hasn’t done any major sit down interviews, nor has she graced the cover of magazines but the frenzy surrounding her return has been palpable with multiple media outlets regularly giving air time and column inches to Janet’s return.
So how has this new strategy evolved? Firstly, it’s the fact she’s been out of the public eye for an extended period of time. She’s never been one to release albums every year like some of today’s pop empresarios. But this is the first time that Janet has released an album in the new sphere of heavy social media, rapid music turnover and streaming music services.
You’ll notice that by looking at the tracklisting for her new album Unbreakable you’ll see a host of songs and they’re all songs, not interludes. But when you listen to the title track Unbreakable you’ll notice it’s sandwiched between two very distinctive Janet interludes but they form the body of the album track. It’s likely that this is a very clever ploy to ensure that singles can continue to be released in traditional format without the interludes to enable fans to purchase slightly different versions of the song when they are released down the line and to give the album a shelf life longer than others. As far as I’m aware it’s the first time any artist has done this but it’s clear that Janet intends to make sure that this album lasts the duration of her tour.
These days artists tend to release several singles before then announcing the album and releasing it in order to generate as many sales and streams as possible. Janet’s team openly acknowledge that chart positions aren’t the prime goal here. They are an added bonus, but the message Janet is portraying is the key.
Lyrically we know that Janet’s most recent albums haven’t reached the depths of the introspective and contemplative Velvet Rope. But it’s clear that Unbreakable will see a return to the profound lyrics we all know and love Janet for. Lyrics that touch each and every one of her fans in different ways.
Only recently have I discovered a book called The Velvet Rage by Alan Downs which is named after the album and talks about issues faced by gay men as they grow up and the need to self reflect, analyse and find contentment in oneself. It’s an analysis that Janet plunged into in the Velvet Rope with lyrics such as “we all have the need to feel special” and “check in the mirror my friend, no lies will be told then, pointing the finger again, you can’t blame nobody but you”. It shows just how far and deep Janet’s message can permeate.
On Unbreakable we’ve already had insight into the depths Janet is going to with this album. Reuniting with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis she sings: “I lived through my mistakes, it’s just a part of growing”, presumably in reference to failed marriages and public vitriol that came as a result of the Superbowl.
And the track titles reveal their own depth with the album being clearly dedicated to falling in love, breaking up and being augmented with socially conscious messages such as that displayed on Shoulda Known Better and Lessons Learned.
The opening of the Unbreakable Tour in Vancouver also brought with it total surprises for the fans. Premièring new tracks, until the lights went down and the show started no one had even caught wind of the fact that Janet had a new track with Missy Elliott.
The surprises kept on coming with new choreography and three further new tracks taken from the album. We’ve already been told by Janet’s choreographer Gil Duldulao to expect changes between leg one and two and I understand that Janet is set to perform at London’s O2 Arena on 30th April 2016 which means we’re already expecting a third leg.
And the surprises will keep on coming I’m reliably informed. The regular use of the hashtag #ConversationsInACafe still hasn’t become apparent. It will in due course.
Reiterating the lyrics of the track The Great Forever, in which Janet tells others not to speculate about her life or the way she lives it, we’re reminded that that’s exactly what she’s doing with the release of Unbreakable. She is releasing the music directly to the fans through Rhythm Nation Records, when she wants and how she wants. And my word should we be grateful she’s even doing it at all.
Let’s keep the conversation going (by leaving your comments below).
Darren Burn – Founder, Janet Love / OutOfOffice.com