Follow all of Pitchfork’s coverage of the 34th Annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.
Hello. I’m here tonight to induct the legendary queen of black girl magic into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Ms. Janet Damita Jo Jackson. Our fearless leader is one of the biggest selling artists in music history. This five-time Grammy Award winner and Academy Award nominee has sold 180 million albums worldwide. With an epic career spanning over four decades and nine No. 1 albums, this gifted singer, songwriter, producer, dancer, actress is an icon. She is a bold visionary, a rulebreaker, a risk taker, and a boundless visual artist. Quite simply, y’all, there is only one Janet.
I remember the first time my momma showed me a clip of our Janet Jackson. And I saw this resplendent, assertive, talented girl with an afro puff on the top of her head. And it was just so refreshing to see someone who looked like me and million of other little black girls around the world. And even then at the earliest stages of her career, you could see she was a different kind of star. Working with her trusted collaborators, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, she created an unforgettable sound.
When Janet wrote big with Control, it was like a big bang happened. Her intro on the title track made it clear I am in control of my voice, my life, and my art. Janet, the powerful woman with agency, had arrived. Songs like “Nasty,” “What Have You Done For Me Lately,” and “When I Think of You” are still some of the most jammin’, woman-est statements ever recorded. Let’s talk about how no one else but Janet could make a video by filling an empty warehouse with just her beautiful face and kineticism in “The Pleasure Principle.” Control is one of the greatest moments in music history and showed all she would not be subjugated.
If Control was the big bang, Rhythm Nation 1814 was her bold vision for this new world she had created. And on the album’s 30th anniversary, it still inspires. Clad in her all black universe, she unleashed her manifesto, but tonight we’re callin’ it a womanifesto, but believe an army of socially aware young people could affect change
She became a blueprint for writing socially conscious jams, and hits like “Alright,” “Miss You Much” and “Escapade” made us want to learn every eight-count of choreography.
It’s also important to note that Janet also has her own category. There’s pretty, there’s beautiful, there’s fine, and then there’s Janet Jackson level fine. Am I right? Gorgeous and carefree on the beach being in love will never do without you. And the sublime “Come Back to Me,” along with the gritty rock of “Black Cat.” She let us know that her artistry could not be contained by any genre. She climbed even deeper into herself with the self-titled Janet album.
On these albums she was a human filled with sexual freedom and the beautiful flaws of all humanity. She honored friends she lost to HIV and AIDS with her song “Together Again.” Through music, Ms. Jackson unified through the weapons of rock’n’roll and rhythm. Every album a risk, and every moment a revelation. Cultural impact cant be quantified.
Now I was not gonna get up here and tell the whole world how you have been my phone screensaver for seven years but it is true. And every time I look at it, I'm reminded to focus, to be fearless in the way I approach art. In fact, when I was writing my last album Dirty Computer, it was you who gave me the confidence to embrace all of me.