When you’re Michael Jackson’s sister, there’s a near certainty that you’re never going to escape being referred to simply as “Michael Jackson’s sibling.” The fact Janet Jackson was able to escape that fate speaks to how amazing she was as a performer. R&B songbirds Beyonce, Tinashe and Ariana Grande are a few of the many artists who’re inspired by her onstage craft and her recording excellence. Mrs. Jackson turns 50 today (May 16).
Janet’s legacy started with a bold decision. Frustrated with her father Joe Jackson’s management, the veteran singer decided to split from him and link up with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, who’d become longtime contributors. The result was her breakout 1986 album Control.
The album was both a feminist statement and a proclamation of her Billboard chart reign. “Nasty” laid that out succinctly; it was a No. 3 hit that’s known for the line that’s roughly Janet’s career thesis: “My first name ain’t baby, it’s Janet – Miss Jackson if you’re nasty.”
Control kicked off a decade and a half of continued commercial and critical excellence. In the process, Janet gave a multi-dimension look at what it means to be a woman in America. After Rhythm Nation 1814, a social commentary sweetened by ultra-popular tunes (it had an unprecedented seven Top 5 singles), Janet switched to sexual exploration with 1993’s janet.