*The element of surprise has been a hallmark of superstar Janet Jackson’s 30+ year career.
If you’re too young to remember, Jackson’s landmark 1986 Control album, with its defiant distancing from her famous family, surprised even her most ardent fans.
I was one of them; I’ve loved that girl since she was little Penny on Good Times. I still can’t look at a clothes iron without experiencing a little anxiety, and I still have an emotional reaction whenever I see actress Chip Fields!
As I think about it, the launch of Jackson’s recording career was a complete surprise, with her having spent the first years of her career focused on acting instead of trying to compete with her incomparable older brother, Michael. Beginning with her eponymous album, the youngest Jackson delivered passable pop with an urban edge that suggested there was something more to come.
At the age of 19, Jackson fired her father (he’d been her manager) and shocked the entertainment world as she emerged from Michael’s enormous shadow via a series of huge hit records, courtesy of wünderkinds Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.
Then there was the follow-up album a few years later. Instead of issuing the anticipated Control 2, the artist released Janet’s Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814, an opus that was that decade’s What’s Going On? with a strong, running theme of social consciousness interspersed with a groove that just wouldn’t quit.
Rhythm Nation encapsulated visual joys as well. What an impression she made in those jeans — Lord, those jeans! — that push up bra, that blond, upswept wig, and that signature megawatt smile in her Herb Ritz-directed “Love Will Never Do Without You” video.
I had never before been jealous of a tank top. And with the stunning shots of Antonio Sabato Jr. and Djimon Hounsou, seeing the three of them prancing around that beach may have been the moment I knew I was bisexual. All three of them could have gotten this!
I still haven’t recovered from the sight of Janet in that video.
“They said it wouldn’t last, but we had to prove them wrong…”. WOW. Drop dead gorgeous.
Who can forget Jackson’s first secret marriage (to James DeBarge), her second secret marriage (to René Elizondo), her secret relationship (with Jermaine Dupri), or her third secret marriage (to Wissem Al Mana), which she has recently confirmed is ending just after having delivered her first baby — unless you believe a long-standing rumor that she had a baby with DeBarge when she was still in her teens).
Jackson surprised us again when, in the middle of her reign at the top of the pop charts, she returned to acting, in movies like Poetic Justice, The Nutty Professor II: The Klumps, and For Colored Girls.
And then there was the infamous Super Bowl “wardrobe malfunction.” I may never forgive JT. That white boy assaulted her!
So Jackson knows a thing or two about the element of surprise. Hence, it shouldn’t have been that much of a shock when she recently released a video that both confirmed her pending divorce and announced a new tour.
But it was a shock — and Jackson dominated entertainment news coverage the next day. She’s certainly proven her penchant for masterful media manipulation — we all ate it up.
The upcoming tour is not the resumption of her truncated 2015 Unbreakable tour but rather a new one, entitled State Of The World. The tour’s title echoes one of the more popular album tracks from Rhythm Nation, whetting fans appetite for what’s sure to be a great show — if Jackson shows up for it.
The superstar’s last tour was plagued with cancellations and rescheduled dates, so I’m hoping she’s ready to hit the road and solidify her place among pop music’s royalty. Sorry, Beyoncé but in my book, if anyone’s a triple threat, it’s Janet Jackson, having sung, danced, and acted her way into our hearts for over three decades.
To echo one of her brothers’ hits, I’ll be there to see Jackson in concert this fall. I sure hope she decides to show up.
Tickets for Janet Jackson’s State Of The World Tour are available at Ticketmaster.
Michael P Coleman is a freelancer writer who would extend his hand in marriage to Janet Jackson if he weren’t still holding out hope to marry Diana Ross. Then, there’s the little issue of his current husband. Connect with him at michaelpcoleman.com or on Twitter: @ColemanMichaelP.