The Timeless Legacy of Janet Jackson: Celebrating 58 Years of an Icon

To honor Janet’s birthday, here are albums that showcase her artistic evolution and enduring influence.


For more than 40 years, Janet Jackson has been a fixture in pop culture whose influence still reverberates in contemporary music. Her legendary songs, sultry vocals, and impeccable dance moves have garnered millions of fans, and her impact is undeniable.

In a career that has earned her numerous accolades, Jackson has sold over 100 million records, making her one of the best-selling artists ever.

As an actress, she starred in “The Jacksons” variety television series “Good Times, “Diff'rent Strokes,” “Fame" and was the subject of a documentary, "Janet Jackson" which aired on Lifetime and A&E.

On the big screen, she’s starred in “Poetic Justice”, “Nutty Professor II: The Klumps”, “Why Did I Get Married franchise”, “For Colored Girls.” and several more.

With five Grammy Awards, numerous NAACP Image Awards and Soul Train Awards, eleven American Music Awards, an Academy Award nomination, and being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Jackson is among the most successful and innovative artists the music industry has ever witnessed.

To celebrate the icon’s birthday as she turns 58 on May 16, here are the albums that are quintessentially Janet.

Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation, 1989

If there were one album that encompasses the artistic boldness and brilliance of Janet Jackson, it would be Rhythm Nation. Released on September 19, 1989, during an era when some of the most seminal albums were released, Rhythm Nation still stands out for its remarkable songwriting and cutting-edge production. Working with the dynamic duo Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, the conceptual LP explores the themes of racism, substance abuse, poverty, and romance. Rhythm Nation is the only album in the chart's history with seven commercial singles in the top five positions. Also, the LP is the first to have number-one hits on the chart in three separate calendar years, with "Miss You Much" in 1989, "Escapade" and "Black Cat" in 1990, and  "Love Will Never Do (Without You)" in 1991. Simply put, Rhythm Nation is a masterpiece.

Control, 1986

After two consecutive albums in the vein of the traditional R&B of the early 80s, Jackson made substantial changes in her career and documented it in her third LP, Control. Released on February 4, 1986, the album marked her first time working with Jam and Lewis, and the results were phenomenal. A stark departure from her earlier sound, Control embodies the “Minneapolis Sound” that infused funk, soul, and post-disco with a mastery of synthesizers that would influence contemporary R&B for years to come. The LP spawned several hit singles, including "What Have You Done for Me Lately," “Nasty,” “When I Think of You,” and “Control,” which all went to the top 5 on the Billboard. Eventually, Control sold over 10 million copies worldwide and was the announcement that Jackson was a force to be reckoned with.

The Velvet Rope, 1997

By 1997, Jackson was a global icon and could have rested on laurels. Instead, she delivered an introspective body of work with The Velvet Rope. Released on October 7, 1997, it was recorded during a time when Jackson was dealing with severe depression, which almost caused the project to be shelved. However, the creative process became therapeutic for the singer/songwriter. “I needed to do this album for myself, for people to know what was going on with me,” Jackson told the Washington Post in 1998. The album tackles themes such as self-worth, domestic violence, and overt sexual themes, including sexual orientation, same-gender-loving relationships, and BDSM. With a string of singles including "Got 'til It's Gone" featuring  Q-Tip, "Together Again", and "I Get Lonely (TNT Remix Edit) featuring Blackstreet, The Velvet Rope was another captivating album by Jackson.

Janet, 1993

As was her tradition, Jackson was intent on making bold statements with her albums, and janet was another gem in her tremendous canon. Released on May 18, 1993, the LP incorporates R&B, pop, soul, funk, rock, and more, with the scarlet thread of the album being sexual liberation. Producing several hits, “That’s the Way Love Goes,” “If,” “Again,” and “Any Time, Any Place,” the album became the singer's third consecutive album to top the Billboard 200. Also, the album was her first to debut at number one eventually selling more than 14 million copies worldwide. Without question, Jackson’s creative prowess was on full display on janet.

All For You (2001)

On her seventh album, Jackson was still at the top of her game with another multi-platinum album, All For You. Released on April 16, 2001, the album was her first following her divorce from René Elizondo Jr. The title track was an instant smash produced by Jam and Lewis that samples "The Glow of Love" by Change. Other standouts are “Doesn’t Really Matter” and  “Son of a Gun (I Betcha Think This Song Is About You)” featuring Missy Elliot. All For You garnered three Grammy Award nominations, including Best Pop Vocal Album and she took home the prize for Best Dance Recording for the title track. Also, the album became Jackson's fifth consecutive album to top the Billboard 200.

Damita Jo (2004)

The Dream that resulted in Jackson’s blacklisting from major platforms, overshadowed Damita Jo, which was a great project. Released on March 30, 2004, and titled after her middle name, Damita Jo was another musical reinvention for Jackson. Along with long-time collaborators Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Jackson enlisted several other prominent producers, such as Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds, Dallas Austin, Kanye West, and Scott Storch, to produce on the album. Because of the diversity of producers, Damita Jo has a sample-driven sound that reflects the growing influence of hip-hop that Jackson incorporated into her sound over her last few projects. Damita Jo was one of Jackson's best albums in the 2000s that boasted hot singles such as “R&B Junkie,” “I Want You,” and “All Nite.”

Discipline, 2008

With Discipline, Jackson achieved another career milestone with her 10th solo album. Released on February 22, 2008, the project also marked the first time that a Janet Jackson album did not have any contributions from Jam and Lewis, with whom she had worked closely for more than two decades. On the project, she worked with Darkchild, Ne-Yo,  Jermaine Dupri, Tricky Stewart, and The Dream, who helped to create a sonic landscape where Jackson kept pushing the boundaries of her artistry. "Feedback,” the album's lead single, landed at number nineteen on the US Billboard Hot 100, and "Rock with U,” and “Luv” were among the album’s notable tracks. Discipline debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200, the sixth time that one of her LPs topped the chart in her stellar career.

20 Y.O., 2006

20 Y.O. was Jackson’s ninth album and commemorated the 12th anniversary of Control. Released on September 20, 2006, the album's producers include Jam and Lewis, No ID, Manuel Seal, her then-boyfriend Jermaine Dupri, and several others. Singles from the project were “Call on Me" featuring Nelly, "So Excited," and "With U,". Eventually, 20 Y.O. sold more than 1.5 million copies and was nominated for Best Contemporary R&B Album making it a solid project by Jackson.

Dream Street, 1984

After the “bubblegum soul” of her self-titled debut, Dream Street, Jackson’s sophomore album, went in a more pop-oriented direction. Like her first effort, Dream Street was not a world shaker by any means, but the project showed glimpses of success just around the corner. Her single  "Don't Stand Another Chance," produced by her brother Marlon, who also produced several tracks on the project, landed in the top ten of the R&B chart. In hindsight, Dream Street was warmed up before Jackson catapulted into global superstardom.

Janet Jackson, 1982

Although she was still discovering her voice and was a few years away from her major breakthrough, Jackson’s first album displayed her enormous potential at just 16 years old. While still in the shadow of her famous family, namely her brother Michael, who released Thriller the same year, her self-titled debut did not make much noise. With production handled by Renee Moore and Anglea Winbush, the album’s standout single, “Young Love,” is in the tradition of early 80s R&B. Although the numbers were not major, Jackson had unquestionable talent and took the first step in what would become an amazing career,

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