Even before Janet Jackson hit the stage for her Saturday (July 28) night performance at Panorama (which, because of the weather-related Friday cancelation, made her the first 2018 headliner to actually perform), it was clear this wasn’t going to be your typical music festival headlining set. As audio snippets of newscasters talking about white supremacists and domestic terrorism rushed out of the speakers, the names of unarmed black men killed by police appeared on the screens flanking the stage.
When she did emerge, it wasn't to deliver one of her Billboard Hot 100 No. 1s or an instantly recognizable, beloved hit -- it was to sing “The Skin Game (Part 1),” a nearly 30-year-old b-side. In an Instagram video posted a few weeks ago, Jackson explained why she was changing the opener of her State of the World Tour to a song she acknowledges only “diehards” know -- it’s a song about racism, and it’s sadly still relevant today. It’s also a reminder that at this point in her career, Jackson isn’t worried about playing it safe with her message or her setlist -- she’s a bona fide legend who’s been through more than her fair share of rough times, and in 2018, she’s going to sing and say what she damn well pleases.