Janet Jackson, who will be receiving the Icon Award at the 2018 Billboard Music Awards on Sunday (May 20), has made a lasting impact on both fans and fellow musicians alike with her music. To celebrate her accomplishments ahead of the ceremony, Billboard spoke with Ciara, Ne-Yo and Khalid to find out what Janet Jackson means to each of them and why they agree that she is a true musical icon.
“Janet, to me, is one of the most valuable artists of all time,” Ciara tells Billboard. “Everything she does is perfection. It says a lot to me. It says you gotta care, you gotta give 100 percent every time… She is queen of creating those iconic moments that we still talk about today.”
The singer shares that her first memory of Jackson was her 1986 album Control, explaining that it was impactful at that time to see a young woman take control. “It was a very special moment to me as an artist,” Ciara adds, “and at the time period, as a young girl watching her. She has been a huge influence in my life.”
Ne-Yo also reveals his first memory of Jackson, recalling having a “major crush” on her after seeing her “The Pleasure Principle” music video. “That kind of started my Janet Jackson infatuation,” he says. “I remember the video for ‘That’s the Way Love Goes’ and just her being in the studio with her crew and everybody just sitting around listening to the record… and just wanting to be there. That was who Janet was for me.”
“Janet felt like the homegirl,” he continues. “Janet felt like a friend. That was one of the things that made me like her as much as I did… I love that about Janet Jackson — her realness.”
Khalid also weighs in on why he thinks that Janet Jackson is an icon, stating that she speaks to young African-Americans such as himself, as well as female African-American artists. “She literally is the one of the blueprints,” he says. “She is one of the greatest to ever do it. She’s an amazing performer and she’s someone who inspired my mom, and my mom inspires me.”
His first memory of the pop star, Khalid reveals, is hearing her 1989 album Rhythm Nation for the first time while sitting in his mother’s old Mitsubishi at the age of three. “When I was planning my tour, I actually told my team, I was like we need to use Janet Jackson and Rhythm Nation as literally the base,” he adds. “It’s crazy just how impactful her movement was.”
Make sure to tune in to the 2018 Billboard Music Awards this Sunday, May 20, at 8 p.m. ET live on NBC to see Janet Jackson receive the Icon Award.