Janet Jackson’s Top Ten Songs of All Time

With yesterday’s big announcement out of Janet Jackson’s camp, I thought I’d do a little resurrecting of an old piece I wrote for Yahoo Voices.  You see, I used to do a lot of musical “top ten” lists, on all sorts of things, from artists to themes and more, and they always got great page views.  I’ve been contemplating re-posting several of my old pieces, as they are no longer found anywhere on the Internet, and this is an opportunity for my opening.

With new music coming out very soon from Miss Janet, now’s a great time to revisit some of the songs that made her the superstar she is, and here are my choices for her very best.  Of course, there’s much more to the Janet catalog than what appears here, and I’m sure that some of my picks won’t match yours, but please read on, just for fun, and if there are songs I didn’t include, feel free to leave a comment…


Straight out of the very large shadow of her big brother, Janet Jackson emerged in the mid 1980’s to achieve her own status as a bona fide superstar.  Over the last two-plus decades, Miss Jackson has amassed an incredible array of music, adding her own voice to the thread of American culture.

Though her success has waned in recent years, (ostensibly ever since the backlash against her “Wardrobe Malfunction” at the 2004 Super Bowl), Janet Jackson has continued to entertain us with her keen aptitude for making great music.  It’s difficult to pare her catalog down to a top ten, but the following is my personal best of Miss Jackson.  I’ve included the popular and the not so popular, the ballad and the up tempo, the happy and the hopeful.  Surely some will hearken memories in your own minds.

10- Feedback – Janet’s most recent hit from 2008’s Discipline album reached #19 on Billboard’s Hot 100 and #1 on its Hot Dance Tracks.  The song is a throwback to past Jackson songs, with up tempo beats and great vocals to match.

9- Son of a Gun – As with many Janet Jackson songs, this one reflects her love for the music she grew up listening to.  Oftentimes, she’s employed the use of samples, lyrics, and even guest vocals by the original artist to make her homage instantly familiar to the listener.  Son of a Gun, coupled with its prelude Clouds is loosely based on Carly Simon’s hit You’re So Vain.  Ms. Simon provides original guest vocals on both tracks, and its bass-driven beat is an irresistible sensation  Unfortunately, the use of vulgar language in the chorus didn’t convert well to a radio-friendly version (which featured the likes of Missy Elliot, as well) prevented the tune from becoming a successful hit.  It’s a great song anyway!

8- Again – This ballad, off the 1993 album, janet, is a beautiful love song that’s easy on the ears.  The tune was featured on the soundtrack to Poetic Justice (in which Jackson starred) and garnered an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song.

7- (tie) When I Think of You / Escapade – (Yes I know this is a top ten list, but these two songs, to me, are similar in nature and I just couldn’t decide between them.)

When I Think of You – This song is classic Janet Jackson from a younger, more innocent period in her life and career.  The fun hit was the third release off of her 1986 Control album and was her first #1 single.

Escapade – Much like the previous song, Escapade is another fun ditty that’s simply irresistible.  The carnival-like music of the song and its catchy chorus make this one a fan favorite.

6- Black Cat – This one showcases the rocker side of Miss Janet, with memorable guitar riffs and blazing vocals.  Off the Rhythm Nation set, this fan favorite reached #1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 and is always enthusiastically received in all of her shows.

5- Got Til It’s Gone – Though not a major smash by Janet’s standards, this song is an innovative veneration of Joni Mitchell’s hit Big Yellow Taxi.  This is yet another example of Janet’s reverence for the wide variety of music she listened to growing up and its arrangements are created to update the song to accurately reflect the sounds of the day.  Featuring a guest appearance by rapper Q-Tip and a groove reminiscent of That’s the Way (Love Goes), this one’s a Jackson classic in my eyes.

4- Nasty – Who can forget this naughty tune from Janet’s 1986 breakout Control?  The song typified the popular sounds coming out of Minneapolis at the time and begat the catchphrase, No, my first name ain’t baby…It’s Janet! Miss Jackson if you’re nasty.

3- Together Again – Although the music to this #1 hit, from 1997’s Velvet Rope, is upbeat and danceable, the reasoning behind its composition is not as pleasant.  The song represents the dream of a day when Janet will be reunited with the many loved ones in her circle lost to the specter of AIDs. Together Again hearkens within all of us a relevant yearning to be together once again with people we’ve lost.

2- That’s the Way (Love Goes) –

Like a moth to a flame, burned by the fire…

My love is blind, can’t you see my desire.

So begins the sultry groove that garnered Janet a Grammy Award for Best R&B Song in 1994.  The tune is a feel-good song from beginning to end and surely belongs towards the top of any Janet Jackson fan’s list.

1-Love Will Never Do (Without You) – This irresistible charmer from 1991 was an unprecedented fifth Top Five single off of the previous year’s Rhythm Nation album.  Coupled with the typical Minneapolis sounds made popular by Prince, (taken to further heights by Prince alum and the album’s producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis), and Janet’s nasally vocals, was a memorable black and white video (produced by Herb Ritts) and featuring Antonio Sabato Jr. and Djimon Hounsou, two popular male models of the time.  The video was stylistically produced and is as memorable as the song.


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