Lifetime and A&E’s massive Janet Jackson documentary shines a light on one of pop music’s most iconic figures. Here were some of the most interesting takeaways.
Janet Jackson, the epic four-hour documentary that premiered over two nights on Lifetime and A&E last week, allowed legions of fans inside the life of one of the greatest artists of all time. Through conversations with family, friends, and colleagues, Janet Jackson used the documentary — which she executive produced, alongside brother Randy — as a vehicle to clear up lingering rumors, misconceptions, and controversies from her career.
The documentary is heavy on clearing up headlines. Because of that, there is a lack of understanding about the woman behind the art and the art behind the artist. We don’t truly see the evolution from Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814 to The Velvet Rope. We don’t have clarity on the creative relationships between dancer Tina Landon and Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis that crafted iconic moments that shaped entire generations.
Still, the documentary is worth a watch and an interesting look at one of the most guarded figures in pop music. Here are the most intriguing takeaways from Janet Jackson.
The Challenges of Working with Michael on “Scream”
Janet revealed that, while she and Michael Jackson did spend time writing recording together, when it came down to filming the iconic “Scream” video, it was Michael’s team — and label Sony — that created tension between the two siblings. Michael filmed at night while Janet shot in the day. And when she would try to visit or see her brother on set, she was blocked from stepping foot inside the $7 million set. Janet thought she could relive the old times. Unfortunately, by this point, those old times no longer existed.
The Real Reason Janet and Jermaine Dupri Broke Up
Janet Jackson and Jermaine Dupri were together for nearly 10 years, from 2002 to 2009. (We learn in the documentary that the two were engaged.) However, when both were questioned on why the relationship ended, the answers were met with awkward laughter. Jermaine states that it was because of his relationship with Janet that other women found him attractive which led him to cheat. While Janet revealed that she needed more. Between him constantly working and partying, she knew he didn’t have time for what she wanted from their relationship.
Janet Seems to Have Found Peace with the Super Bowl Incident
Justin and Janet’s relationship goes back to The Velvet Rope Tour. Long before Michael took Justin under his wing, it was Janet who gave his group, *NSYNC, a chance to open for her on her critically acclaimed tour. From there, the two developed professional friendships that led Janet to include him in her Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime performance in 2004. While it was never addressed why ripping off her shirt was included in the performance, Janet made it extremely clear that it was her that told Justin not to address it or say anything to the media. A last-minute edit also made it to the documentary. That moment featured Janet from her hotel room in Miami stating that she and Justin are friends, that they’ve been speaking, and that she wishes for everyone to let the moment go.
The Coca-Cola Deal That Never Happened
In the 1990s, Janet’s career had eclipsed that of her peers. Having the biggest record deal in music industry history, sold-out tours, and no. 1 albums and singles, it only made sense that she’d grow to have a huge sponsorship deal as well. When the first child molestation allegations against her brother Michael came front and center, Janet was in the middle of negotiating a million dollar deal with Coca-Cola that would become quashed. “Guilt by association,” she said of the ordeal.
Janet Hated Her Second Album
As Janet has revealed before, it was her father Joseph that forced her to enter the music industry as a performer and recording artist. As she became a teenager and her need for normalcy increased, she desired to “retire” and go away to college where she would study economics or law. But, when her brothers severed professional ties with Joseph as their manager, he set his eyes on making his youngest daughter his next big project, pushing her to create her self-titled debut album in 1982. By 1984, Janet released Dream Street, which Joseph had complete say over, from the songs to the sound to even the artwork. With the album flopping, Janet eventually fired her father.
LaToya Encouraged Janet to Marry James DeBarge
Janet and James DeBarge were long-time friends who essentially became close through bonding over their traumatizing childhoods. It was through this naive and toxic friendship that the two began dating. Eighteen years old and frustrated with the lack of control she had over her own life, Janet confided in her older sister LaToya about feeling trapped. Janet felt the only way she could find her independence would be to marry James. Understanding her sister’s concerns with independence and feeling emotionally and physically trapped, she encouraged her baby sister to rebel and marry James.
Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814 Almost Didn’t Happen
The partnership between Jam, Lewis, and Jackson is one of the greatest music relationships in music history. Through the Control era, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis were able to help Janet find her voice, establish her confidence in the studio and on stage while teaching her the ropes with writing, producing, and having a good ear for quality over quantity that would help them to evolve sonically over the years. But, as revealed in home video footage taken by ex-husband Rene, it would be during the sessions for RN1814 that the three collaborators would clash, having intense debates.
Kia Turner is a freelance journalist and music historian from Newark, New Jersey. Managing her album-based series Deconstructing or talking about Pussy Rap, you can find the Hoodaville princess at @ChasingKia on all platforms.