The spring of 1990 was a big moment for powerful women. Julia Roberts was melting hearts on the big screen as the titular lead in Pretty Woman, on television Roseanne was showcasing the quotidian reality of blue-collar America, Denise Huxtable was having her post-Cosby Show college experience on A Different World and the Golden Girls were making us laugh every freakin’ weekend.
But for those who were spending more time in nightclubs than in front of the screen, the real heroine of the moment was Janet Jackson, who was dominating clubs, radio and charts with her era-defining LP Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814.
Released in September of 1989, by the spring of 1990, the album had already delivered a trio of singles — “Miss You Much,” Rhythm Nation” and “Escapade” — to the top of Billboard‘s Dance Club Songs chart. (A chart which, in another blast from the past, is today — May 14, 2020 — topped by a remix of Diana Ross’ 1976 “Love Hangover.”)
The fourth and final Dance Club Song No. 1 from Rhythm Nation 1814 would come via “Alright,” which occupied the top spot 30 years ago today, in a pair of Billboard issues dated May 5 and May 12, 1990. Released later on, remixes by Shep Pettibone, Todd Terry and CJ Mackinstosh pushed the track further into clubland.
Written by Jackson and her frequent collaborators Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, “Alright” was an effervescent, new jack swing/R&B hybrid primed to move your body to. Jackson certainly did, strutting through a bustling cityscape in a zoot suit for the song’s music video, which was partially orchestrated by veteran Hollywood choreographer Michael Kidd and stylized to look like a 1930s and 1950s musical. (The clip’s style also forecasted that of Dick Tracy, which arrived in theaters in June of 1990.)
The song sampled soul singer Lyn Collins’ 1972 hit “Think (About It)” meaning that that song’s producer, the one and only James Brown, got a producer credit on “Alright.”
At the time, “Alright” was Janet’s seventh total No. 1 on the Dance Club Songs chart. She now has 20, putting her in fourth place on the all-time list. (Madonna leads with 50). “Alright” also earned Jackson two 1991 Grammy Award nominations for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance and Best R&B Song. The song remains a part of her live show and was performed by Jackson during her 2019 Las Vegas residency, Janet Jackson: Metamorphosis.