Janet Jackson was honoured at the OUT100 Gala in New York last night. She won a Music Icon Award, as she should. Janet Jackson is a music icon. This is not up for debate. Put some respect on her name. But no matter how much we glow up Janet on this site, the fact still remains that Janet Jackson hasn’t been awarded the respect she’s deserved in years.
Last week, I saw Janet Jackson live for the first time. I bought tickets hours before the show because I spend all my money on grey sweaters, Thai food and cable like a real grown up and I didn’t think I could afford another concert this year. My friend Denise, the biggest Janet Jackson stan I know, convinced me that it would be worth it – that I needed to see this icon live at least once in my life. She was right. Janet’s State of the World show is exceptional. There’s less pyrotechnics than a Katy Perry concert, less pomp and circumstance than you’ll find at Lady Gaga and less faux sincerity than Taylor Swift’s mid-show monologues. There’s just Janet, proving that she still reigns over pop music and paved the way for the aforementioned artists and still can out-perform them.
Seeing Janet Jackson live was emotional. I’m all up in my feelings at all times on any given day but watching 51-year-old Janet hit choreo harder than Britney Spears ever has in her life and sing (almost) every note as flawlessly in person as she does on the tracks we’ve worn out over the years was something magical. When Janet teared up during What About, I had to choke back my own tears. But there was another overwhelming emotion that accompanied the joy of singing and dancing along to Janet: anger. It’s a bit infuriating to watch this black woman excel on stage knowing that her career isn’t what it should have been.
Another friend of mine, also named Denise, wrote a review of Janet’s Toronto show for The Globe and Mail and she broke down the exasperation that comes with enjoying a Janet Jackson show.
There's also, in this age of minutely parsed identity, the maddening fact that both her musical and physical skills have always been forced to take second place: to white women, perhaps namely Madonna, and to men, her brother Michael most obviously.
There’s that. There’s also the other man Janet’s talent has taken a backseat to. #NeverForget. I didn’t want to be thinking about Justin Timberlake during Janet’s show and while he only flashed through my brain a couple of times, I couldn’t help but think of f-cking Nipplegate and the upcoming Super Bowl. Janet Jackson would SLAY that stage. What world do we live in that the question people are asking is whether Justin Timberlake will invite Janet Jackson to be a part of HIS halftime show. HE SHOULD BE SO F-CKING LUCKY. As Lainey has written multiple times, this Super Bowl situation is f-cked but she’s also written about how performing for the NFL right now isn’t a great look and that JT is doing it in a year when so many people have chosen to tune out of a league that still hasn’t given Colin Kaepernick a job. Janet doesn’t need the NFL. She doesn’t need Justin Timberlake. If you saw Janet absolutely OWNING that stage, you know that Janet is still sitting comfortably atop her Pop Queen throne. Put some goddamn respect on her name.
I’ll leave you with a video I took of Janet destroying Rhythm Nation, a moment I will never forget.