Janet Jackson's 'janet.' Album Turns 25: Ranking All the Songs (Critic's Picks)
If 1986’s Control was Janet Jackson’s declaration of independence, then 1993’s janet. marked her sexual liberation. The youngest sibling of the Jackson family was all grown-up and horned-up now, shedding inhibitions and clothing, too. This Jackson was most definitely getting some action.
The album—released 25 years ago on May 18, 1993—went on to become her biggest-selling LP, notching six top 10 singles (including two No. 1s) on the Billboard Hot 100. It also represented a turning point in her music career, setting the sultry template for much of her future work. In celebration of this classic’s silver anniversary, we rank every single song—minus those interludes.
14. “Whoops Now”
This hidden track is a playful romp about taking off for some fun in the sun. While it’s no “Escapade” in the getaway department, the tossed-off goofiness reveals that, although she may be music royalty, Jackson can be just as silly as the rest of us.
13. “Funky Big Band”
Taking you back to the golden era of Harlem’s Lenox Lounge, this jazzy joint wants to be Jackson’s “Sir Duke.” More of a production showcase for Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis to stretch their sonic chops, its reach exceeds Jackson’s grasp as a vocalist. Even so, it shows a willingness to experiment that Team Janet would continue on 1997’s The Velvet Rope.
12. “Where Are You Now”
It’s hard to imagine the Janet of “If” or “You Want This” pining away for a dude like this, but the wistful soul of “Where Are You Now” blends in with the more tender tone of tracks like “Again.”
11. “The Body That Loves You”
The light island vibes of this midtempo come-on take the romantic warmth of “That’s the Way Love Goes” to the Caribbean, with Jackson promising that “sensual, physical love is waiting here for you.”
10. “Because of Love”
Dipped in the pure sweetness of “When I Think of You” or “Escapade,” the fourth janet. single lacks the hot sauce of the album’s best moments. Still, riding a shuffling new jill swing groove, it’s an easy-breezy charmer.
9. “What’ll I Do”
Jackson gives a deserved salute to her family’s roots on this throwback to the Motown sound. With those horns blaring and the singer letting loose on a more forceful vocal, the track is full of live energy. And while the musical approach may be old-school, Janet’s need for satisfaction isn’t so traditional.
8. “New Agenda”
“Again” may have been the janet. song featured in Poetic Justice, but “New Agenda” was the track that really captured the Maya Angelou spirit of Jackson’s poet character in the movie. Embracing the star’s blackness—and including an inspired guest rap from Public Enemy’s Chuck D—this anthem celebrating the African-American woman would have made a better single choice than “Because of Love.”
7. “You Want This”
The “Someday We’ll Be Together” bite on “If” may get more love, but the Supremes sample on “You Want This”—from the trio’s 1968 hit “Love Child"—makes more sense. Indeed, the sixth single from janet. feels like a sassy update of the Supremes with the new jack swing of Rhythm Nation 1814, all rocking a sexier swag.
This piano ballad—which, playing in Jackson’s 1993 film Poetic Justice, earned an Oscar nomination for best original song in addition to hitting No. 1 on the Hot 100—is a total tearjerker. But hey, it still gets you every time. Call this her “She’s Out of My Life”: Like big bro Michael on his 1980 hit, Janet gets weepy at the end too.
5. “This Time”
On this seven-minute mini-opera—one of the most ambitious tracks on janet.—Jackson gets help from a classical diva in Kathleen Battle, whose wordless wailing pours on the drama along with the sweeping strings. Perhaps inspired by this different kind of soprano, JJ delivers a full-bodied vocal that makes her defiant declaration all the more convincing.
Playing like the love child of Madonna’s “Vogue” and Donna Summer’s “Love to Love You Baby,” this boom-boom-booming house workout is heavier on moans than lyrics. But although there are meatier tracks on janet., the do-me hedonism of “Throb” makes it one of the album’s key cuts. Taking it directly to the club with that sax riff and that sinuous synth line, it was the harbinger to other Jackson jams like “All Nite (Don’t Stop)” and “Feedback.”
3. “Any Time, Any Place”
Jackson had demonstrated that she could slay a sexy slow jam on Control’s “Funny How Time Flies (When You’re Having Fun)” and Rhythm Nation’s “Someday Is Tonight.” But she reached her orgasmic peak with the fifth single from janet., a lusty ode to exhibitionism. Quivering with desire, her supple delivery keeps her pillowy coo at just above a whisper as if not to attract any peepers.
Bringing a funky, edgy eroticism to the heavy-metal crunch of “Black Cat,” the second janet. single revels in the joy—and the power—of sex. Against a beat that slaps you upside your booty like one of Christian Grey’s paddles, Miss Jackson takes a whole different type of control—did that “I’d make you call out my name” part of the chorus have something to do with Destiny Child’s “Say My Name”?—as she breaks down all the things that would go down if she was your girl. But she’s not, so she can’t, then she won’t. Bonus points for spawning her best janet. video.
1. “That’s the Way Love Goes”
Just as Rhythm Nation nodded to Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On, janet. took its carnal cues from MG’s Let’t Get It On and especially 1976’s I Want You. The latter’s title track inspired the jazzy sensuality of this Grammy winner for best R&B song. After the industrial beats of Control and Rhythm Nation, janet.’s soft-textured first single—and, with eight weeks at the summit, Jackson’s longest-running No. 1 on the Hot 100—sets the mood for the singer to truly explore the pleasure principle, taking you there again and again.