Livin’ on the edge: Janet Jackson’s love of rock in one electrifying hour

Shannon Miller
·9 min read

On March 29, 2019, Janet Jackson was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame by fellow performer Janelle Monáe. The honor felt overdue for a number of reasons, including the fact that her brothers Jackie, Jermaine, Tito, Marlon, Randy, and Michael had long ago been inducted. (Michael was actually a two-time honoree, once as boy band legend and again as a soloist.) More importantly, Janet had earned her spot among the legends way back in 1989 when she released “Black Cat,” the quintessential Janet Jackson jam that would cement her place in pop and rock history. A hard rock departure from her lilting dance and R&B repertoire, “Black Cat” peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, making her the first solo artist to earn two No. 1 hits in the ’90s. The song was also the first hard rock single to enter the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, where it peaked at No. 10. With one song, Janet Jackson and the rock genre were inextricably linked.

But even as lauded as the Grammy-nominated “Black Cat” is, it is far from Janet Jackson’s only taste of rock. Her relationship with the genre runs deep, stemming from her 1982 debut and carrying some of her greatest treasures throughout her sprawling discography. Hits like “If” and “Rhythm Nation” not only packed a powerful punch, but signaled significant shifts in her approach to music and her public image. When the icon wants to drive home a special message, she frequently turns to rock as a form of high-octane delivery. This Power Hour celebrates Janet Jackson’s love of electrifying riffs, percussion, and a raspy wail. Some are chart toppers, others are deep cuts, but they all shred in their own way thanks to a woman who remains in control.