It's about time: Janet Jackson to receive 'Billboard Icon Award' 2018
The 51-year-old entertainer would receive the coveted award, which recognizes an artist's cultural impact, both inside and outside the music industry
Dick Clark Productions and NBC announced on Monday (May 8) that music legend, Janet Jackson, will be honored with the prestigious ICON Award at the “2018 Billboard Music Awards,” and will deliver a highly-anticipated performance — her first on television in nine years.
Over the years, Janet has managed to create a name for herself and leave a mark on the music industry like no other female performer.
Performing from a very young age, Janet knew how to capture the attention of the people. Her main idea centered on the fact that people should fall in love with the music and video in such a way that they are forced to pay attention to the lyrics of the song. She managed to achieve this feat, which eluded many other artists.
Even though Janet is famously known for her innovative, fearless, sexually provocative records, and elaborate stage shows, she started her career by being introduced as Penny Gordon Woods in front of the world for 1977's sitcom 'Good Times'. One could say it was the gateway for a lifetime of fame which even Janet had probably not anticipated.
At the age of 16, Janet was introduced to the world of record labels and music industry. One would think that the daunting music world might make a teenager anxious or nervous, but for Janet, things were different.
With the help of her father and manager Joseph Jackson, Janet managed to land a contract with A&M Records. Her debut album, 'Janet Jackson', was released in 1982. The album did exceptionally well and peaked at No. 63 on the Billboard 200, and No. 6 on the publication's R&B albums chart.
At the same time, the album appeared on the Billboard Top Black Albums of 1983. This was also the time when Janet was the highest-ranking female vocalist on the Billboard Year-End Black Album Artists. Two years later, Janet released her second album, 'Dream Street', which managed to reach No. 147 on the Billboard 200, and No. 19 on the R&B albums chart. One interesting thing to notice about Janet and her singing career is that with time, she kept getting better and the Billboard rankings of her songs was a proof of that.
The biggest leap in her career came when she broke all the ties with her family and sailed out to find what was best for her. Janet believed that it had been the toughest decision she had to ever make but undoubtedly, career-wise, it was probably the best one. After cutting ties with her family, within six weeks Janet was out with yet another album.
In February 1986 she released her album 'Control', which embodied her feelings and thoughts after she decided to break free from the bonds of her family.
The album shot to No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and sold over ten million copies worldwide. Many people thought that her album was mature for a teenager but loved how Janet was able to give her thoughts meaning with the help of song and lyrics.
Another reason for the album to be held in such high regard by critics and the audience was the fact that Janet decided to put her life experience on a platter for the world to see. The theme of empowerment could be heard in her songs as she wrote down about an incident which involved sexual harassment.
Janet encouraged the idea of self-defense and how one should stand up for themselves without the fear of the world. Control received six Billboard Awards, including "Top Pop Singles Artist", and three Grammy nominations, most notably "Album of the Year". It also won four American Music Awards from twelve nominations, an unbroken record. With her fourth album, Rhythm Nation 1814, Janet tried to bring attention to various crimes and tragedies reported in the media at that time. The ultimate goal of Janet through her album was to show people what they had been refusing to see- a reality which was right in front of them but being ignored.
Peaking at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, the album was certified sixfold platinum by the RIAA and sold over 12 million copies worldwide. The album also managed to become the only album in history to produce number one hits in three separate calendar years, as well as the only album to achieve seven top five singles on the Hot 100. At the same time, the video of her single, "Rhythm Nation" is considered one of the most iconic and popular in history. Moreover, her military attire for the video also got her a place as one of the most fashionable icons.
While Janet was doing extremely well in the music industry, she also succeeded in changing the lives of many. She established the "Rhythm Nation Scholarship," donating funds from the tour to various educational programs. Following this, in 1993 Janet released her fifth album, 'Janet,' which opened at number one on the Billboard 200, making Jackson the first female artist to do so. In this album, Janet did not hesitate to explore different genres of music. Meanwhile, unlike some of the artists at that time, Janet was not afraid of talking about her mental health.
Suffering from depression and anxiety, her sixth album, 'The Velvet Rope', which was released in October 1997, spoke about her battles with mental health. During this album, Janet showed a side of her that was never seen by people. With red hair, nasal piercing, and tattoos, it was almost like the Janet people previously knew wasn't the same anymore. However, with this, Janet felt a sense of freedom and independence as she was able to portray her in the way she felt like. Billboard ranked it as "the best American album of the year and the most empowering of her last five."
The Velvet Rope received an award for "Outstanding Music Album" at the 9th Annual GLAAD Media Awards and was honored by the National Black Lesbian and Gay Leadership Forum as the album also dealt with topics such as same-sex relationships, homophobia, and domestic violence. Janet's seventh album, 'All for You,' was released in April 2001 and opened at number one on the Billboard 200 with 605,000 copies being sold.
When everything was going right, there is bound to be an obstacle. Janet faced her first downfall when she was chosen by the National Football League and MTV to perform at the Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show in February 2004. During the event, Janet performed a medley of "All for You", "Rhythm Nation", and an excerpt of "The Knowledge". Everything seemed to go well in the performance until it came for her to perform "Rock Your Body" alongside surprise guest Justin Timberlake.
As Justin sang the lyric "I'm gonna have you naked by the end of this song", he tore open her costume, exposing her right breast to 140 million viewers. Janet later issued an apology after the performance, saying that the incident was accidental and unintended. The incident became the most recorded and replayed moment in Super Bowl history and is also regarded as one of the most controversial television events to have ever happened.
Following this incident, Janet experienced a number of fallbacks. She was not allowed to attend 46th Grammy Awards ceremony even though she was listed as one of the presenters. Her eighth studio album 'Damita Jo' also suffered due to the same and received mixed reactions from the critics. While things did not seem so good for a number of years, Janet was back again to rule the industry with her tenth studio album, 'Discipline,' which was released in February 2008. The album opened at number one.
During the same year, Janet was awarded the Vanguard Award at the 19th annual GLAAD Media Awards, honoring her contributions in promoting equal rights among the gay community. In 2011, she also gave the world a glimpse of herself as a writer as she released the self-help book 'True You: A Journey to Finding and Loving Yourself,' which was co-written with David Ritz. The book spoke about Janet's struggle with weight and how she managed to fight all the demons inside her. It topped The New York Times' Best Seller list the following month.
On May 16, 2015, Jackson announced plans to release a new album and to embark on a world concert tour. At that time, Janet announced the release of her album to announce her own record label, Rhythm Nation, distributed by BMG Rights Management.
The launch of Rhythm Nation established Jackson as one of the few African-American female musicians to have their very own record label.
On September 7, 2017, Janet launched her revamp tour which focused on socially conscious messages taken from all of her music. Most of her songs that she chose for the tour reflected issues pertaining to racism, white supremacy, fascism, and police brutality.
The tour got her wide range of positive response. Looking back at Janet and her work there is no doubt that she fully deserves the ICON award and many more that are to come her way.