How Janet Jackson Opened the Door for Beyoncé


Beyoncé and Janet Jackson’s creative paths might be more similar than you realize. In terms of a child star maturing and transforming from daddy’s little pop princess to an iconic global superstar, there are parallels between 1993’s Janet and 2013’s Beyoncé albums.

… long before her accidentally exposed nipple during a Super Bowl half-time show made her an Enemy of the State, Jackson was a chubby-faced girl in black, who smiled nice and spoke softly at the camera, who promised suitors she’d be “worth the wait.” The last of the Jackson Dynasty, her music was autobiographical (“Control”), sure, and socio-politically conscious (the critically-acclaimed “Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814”), but never sexy, and certainly never sexual.

This video for “Love Will Never Do (Without You),” released in 1990, was Janet’s first official makeover that repositioned her public image. The ’93 record, released when Jackson was 27, drove the point home. Like Knowles, Jackson also broke managerial ties with her father, seeking more autonomy, a move that has proven to be instrumental in the successes of both artists.

For Beyoncé, dropping her father Matthew Knowles allowed her to be free in a way she couldn’t totally before. I guess Ms. Tina, Beyoncé’s mom like Mrs. Jackson before her, is more forgiving, but according to Beyoncé, like Janet all those decades ago, mommy didn’t get to hear those breathy sex-positive lyrics before the general public either. Some things aren’t ever for mom’s ears, no matter how old you are I guess.

These days, Janet might not have the same star power she wielded during the 1990s and early aughts but Ms. Jackson’s legacy of shutting down every stage, and movie screen — sans Damita Jo, Discipline, and The Nutty Professor II (sorry, stans) — created the space for black pop artists like Beyoncé to smash their own “good little girl” images. And we’re all the better for it.

Image via Getty.

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