Song Review: Janet Jackson – “Rhythm Nation”

“Rhythm Nation” was the title song for Janet Jackson’s 1989 album, Rhythm Nation 1814, and it was released as the second single from the album on October 24, 1989. The song peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart.

I was 14 years old and in the ninth grade when this single was released. I really loved this song when I heard it on the radio and saw the video on MTV, because it had such a different sound to it, and I also appreciated its message of racial unity among people of all races and cultures and putting a stop to social injustice. I’m almost willing to go all the way and say that “Rhythm Nation” was a “call to arms” for my generation to fight against injustice and prejudice, as well to work at finding a better way of life.

At the time, though, I hadn’t realized that it contained a sample of Sly and the Family Stone’s “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin),” because I hadn’t been exposed to Sly and the Family Stone yet. So when I heard the Sly and the Family Stone song a few years later, I instantly recognized it from “Rhythm Nation.” And now that I know a lot more about various types of music, I realize just how many different styles were incorporated into this song; no wonder I had thought it had such a different sound back in 1989!

The music video for “Rhythm Nation” was taken from the black and white Rhythm Nation 1814 Film, which received airplay on MTV before the album was released. The “Rhythm Nation” portion of the film was set in a post-apocalyptic warehouse setting, with Janet and her dancers wearing black military garb. The choreography for the video was also rather incredible. The combination of all of these elements created a rather unforgettable music video.


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