Local Current Blog

Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814 turns 25: Talking points

Detail of 'Rhythm Nation 1814' album cover (A&M)

• Rhythm Nation 1814 was Janet Jackson’s fourth solo album, although she was just 23 years old when it came out.

• One of the most commercially successful albums ever to come out of Minnesota, Rhythm Nation 1814 was produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, and all of the tracks were recorded at their Flyte Tyme studio in Minneapolis. (You can cut your own classic on the Rhythm Nation board: the Flyte Tyme recording console now lives at RiverRock Studios in Northeast Minneapolis.)

• Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis wrote or co-wrote almost every song on the album. In addition to producing and arranging the music, they also performed much of the accompaniment themselves.

• Recently, the production duo gave Billboard a track-by-track rundown of the album. Among the revelations: “Love Will Never Do (Without You)” was originally conceived as a duet with Prince.

• Released on Sept. 19, 1989, the album went to #1 in the U.S. and produced seven top-five hits—including four #1 hits (“Miss You Much,” “Escapade,” “Black Cat,” and “Love Will Never Do [Without You]”). It’s the only album ever to generate seven top-five hits, and has to date sold over 14 million copies worldwide.

• The year in the album’s title is a reference to the year “The Star-Spangled Banner” was written, alluding to a joking observation by Janet that the title track could be “the national anthem for the ’90s.”

• Minneapolis gets a prominent shout-out in “Escapade.”

• Janet’s brother Michael was so impressed with the album’s hard-edged sound that he told his producers that was the sound he wanted for his next album, 1991’s Dangerous.

• Sonically, the album is considered a landmark of the New Jack Swing genre.

• Prior to the album’s release, a half-hour “telemercial” for the album ran on MTV. The video used the album’s songs to tell the story of two boys who aim to share a musical career, until one is lost to substance abuse.

• The world tour that followed the album—Jackson’s first—played to sellout crowds and is regarded by some (depending on how, precisely, you define “debut” and “tour”) as the most successful debut tour ever.

• In Rolling Stone, Vince Aletti gave the album a four-star review. “Bracketing the record between politics and erotics places Jackson firmly in control of the two hottest topics in the nation, rhythmic or otherwise.”

Get the point? Good. Let’s dance.