Album Review: Janet Jackson – “Rhythm Nation 1814”

Janet Jackson released the album Rhythm Nation 1814 in 1989.  Topically, the album focused on both social issues of the time and on love and relationships.  Socially, the album was also rather diverse.  However, through the use of various interludes, Janet was able to meld all of these songs together into an album that has a natural flow.

The album opens with the first interlude, “Pledge.”  With this interlude, she sets up the idea that we are all one, bound together through our beliefs.  This goes right into the song, “Rhythm Nation,” which declares that we are all part of the rhythm nation, and that we can use music to “break the color lines” and to “join voices in protest to social injustice.”  It should also be noted that the bassline for this song is sampled from Sly & the Family Stone’s “Thank You (Falettin’ Me Be Mice Elf Agin).”   This song was the second single from the album.

This is followed by the next interlude, “T.V.,” which sounds like someone flipping through television channels, mixing news sound bites with cartoon sound effects.  This is followed by the song, “State of the World,” a song where the verses are vignettes about people going through times in their lives; in the first verse it’s a teen mother, and in the second verse it’s a young homeless boy.  This song was the final single from the album.

Next is the interlude, “Race,” which declares: “We are in a race between education and catastrophe.”  This is followed by the song, “The Knowledge,” a song which encourages the listener to gain knowledge of what is going on in the world.

Then the interlude, “Let’s Dance” leads into “Miss You Much,” which was the lead-off single for the album.  “Miss You Much” is a straightforward song about love and relationships, where Janet proclaims how much she misses the person she’s in love with.

Next is the “Come Back Interlude,” which includes a short piece of the ending strings from the song “Come Back to Me,” which appears later on the album.  Next is “Love Will Never Do (Without You),” which is a song about how Janet and her significant other may have problems in their relationship, but they find ways to work them out.  This was the seventh single from the album. This is followed immediately by the song “Livin’ in a World (They Didn’t Make),” which is a ballad about how children are innocent until they are exposed to the negative things by the adults in their lives.

The next song is “Alright,” which picks up the tempo and the mood of the album.  It’s an upbeat love song, and it was the fourth single from the album.  The interlude “Hey Baby” leads in to “Escapade,” another upbeat song.  This is another love song, but it’s also a song about leaving your worries behind.  “Escapade” was the third single from the album.

The interlude “No Acid” leads in to “Black Cat,” which is much more of a “rock” song compared to the other songs on the album; the guitars appear very prominently on this song.  In the song, Janet is sending a strong message to her love interest about his attitude and the games that he plays.  “Black Cat” was the sixth single from the album.  This is followed by “Lonely,” a ballad where Janet says she’ll be there for someone when they’re lonely.

Next on the album is “Come Back to Me,” another ballad.  This one is about wanting someone to come back to you after they’ve broken off a relationship with you.  This song was the fifth single from the album.  The final song on the album is “Someday is Tonight,” a ballad where Janet is telling someone that how they would be together someday, and that “someday is tonight.”  The album closes with the interlude, “Livin’… In Complete Darkness”; in the interlude, it opens with part of “Livin’ in a World (They Didn’t Make),” followed by Janet saying, “In complete darkness we are all the same.  It is only our knowledge and wisdom that separate us.  Don’t let your eyes deceive you.”

To me, Rhythm Nation 1814 is the best album that Janet Jackson has released during her career; not only that, I also believe that Rhythm Nation 1814 is one of the best albums of the late 1980s and early 1990s.  With songs ranging from “Miss You Much” to “Black Cat” to “Come Back to Me,” there’s at least one song that should appeal to most people on this album.  Rhythm Nation 1814 belongs in the collection of anyone who is either a fan of Janet Jackson, or is a fan of music from this time period.

I wrote this review after listening to a copy of  Rhythm Nation 1814 that I purchased.


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