8 Iconic Janet Jackson Music Videos

Explore Janet Jackson’s groundbreaking music videos and their lasting impact on pop culture, from “Rhythm Nation” to “Got ‘Til It’s Gone.”

By bonneville on February 14, 2024
Janet Jackson behind a podium with two trophies in front of her wearing all black with her hair poofed up
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – NOVEMBER 05: Janet Jackson speaks onstage during the 37th Annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at Microsoft Theater on November 05, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame)

Introduction: Janet Jackson’s legacy and impact on pop culture

Known for her distinctive dance style and sultry ballads, Miss Janet Jackson is a force to be reckoned with in the pop world. As the tenth and youngest child of the infamous Jackson family, she started out in the industry as an actor in variety shows in the ’70s. She quickly started recording her own music, breaking into the mainstream with her third release, “Control,” in 1986. 

Jackson is one of the world’s best-selling artists, but her music video production stands out among her numerous accolades over the decades. She received the MTV Video Vanguard Award in 1990 for her impressive catalog, highlighting her important contributions to the art form. Music videos started to gain more popularity in the ’80s, and viewers expected her videos to push boundaries, challenge norms, and spark meaningful conversations. 

Here, we look at 8 of her most iconic music videos and give you a little more background and context to give them more life. From the iconic choreography of “Rhythm Nation” to the unique storytelling explored in “That’s the Way Love Goes,” Jackson’s videos have left a mark on generations of viewers. Her innovative use of visuals, dance, and storytelling set new standards for the industry, solidifying her status as an iconic visionary. 

Remember to enter to win tickets to see her when she comes to Utah with Nelly in June!  

Rhythm Nation, 1989

Jackson’s most iconic music video by far, “Rhythm Nation,” is the song that inspired the name of her record label, established in 2015. It was also voted the tenth best music video of the 1980s by Billboard. Its message of unity, social consciousness, and empowerment resonated deeply during social and political turbulence. By addressing critical social issues such as racial inequality, poverty, and injustice, she made the song more than just a music video; it was a cultural touchstone. The military-inspired attire and synchronized dance moves set the stage for a new era of socially conscious music videos. 

Nasty, 1986

Released in 1986 as a single from part of her iconic album “Control,” “Nasty” showcases Jackson’s signature at its finest. From bold choreography (with work from then-unknown Paula Abdul) and assertive lyrics, Jackson challenged traditional gender roles and societal expectations. At the time, Jackson declared independence from her family and directed her self-expression, making the video a beacon of empowerment for generations of women. 

Got ‘Til It’s Gone, 1997

This music video by Janet Jackson represents a pivotal moment in pop culture. Released in 1997 as part of her album “The Velvet Rope,” the video showcases a fusion of R&B, hip-hop, and folk music, with contributions from Joni Mitchell and Q-Tip. The music video featured vibrant colors and poetic imagery, capturing a nostalgic spirit of the days of soul. With its innovative visuals and sonic experimentation, “Got ’til It’s Gone” continues to inspire artists and remains a testament to Janet Jackson’s artistic evolution and enduring influence on pop culture. Slant Magazine named the video among the 100 Greatest Music Videos of all time at number 18. 

When I Think of You, 1986

Another one from “Control,” this Janet Jackson music video captures a more youthful romance and joy compared to her other singles from the same album. The video by Julien Temple showcases Jackson’s charm and energy. The group choreography and Broadway-like visuals resonated with audiences, which earned her first Billboard Hot 100 chart-topper. The hit not only catapulted Jackson to fame, it became a cultural phenomenon that influenced the era’s fashion trends and dance moves. 

All For You, 2001

The single from the album of the same name, released in 2001, exploded the pop culture scene at the time. Jackson made radio history, with the lead single added to every station within its first week, and earned her the highest first-week sales by a female artist in history at the time. The single had an infectious energy and an upbeat dance style, earning her a Grammy for Best Dance Recording. 

Pleasure Principle, 1987

Directed by Dominic Sena (who also directed “Let’s Wait Awhile” and “Rhythm Nation” for Jackson, among others), this video portrayed Jackson as a solo dancer, showcasing her flawless dance moves in a warehouse setting. This iconic video not only solidified Jackson’s status as a dynamic performer but also influenced a generation with its message of self-reliance and liberation.

That’s The Way Love Goes, 1993

Directed by René Elizondo Jr. and Jackson herself, this video epitomized sensuality and laid-back coolness. It broke the fourth wall between the audience and the characters in the video, who acted both like they were authentically friends with Janet Jackson while at the same time acknowledging their status as actors in a music video. The video features sultry vocals and a steady beat, presented to an audience with cool back up dancers that included then up-and-coming superstar Jennifer Lopez. It earned critical acclaim for its innovative production and cinematic qualities, supporting the release of her album “Janet.” 

Alright, 1990

“Alright” made a significant impact on pop culture for its celebration of friendship and community. The video showcases Jackson’s signature dance moves against a culturally vibrant backdrop, portraying joy, resilience, and solidarity. Its catchy rhythm and positive message inspired listeners to embrace life’s challenges with optimism and determination. Jackson achieved commercial and critical acclaim for the visuals and commentary, standing as a testament to her artistic vision and ability to use music as a tool of empowerment and unity. 

Conclusion: Janet Jackson’s music videos play a big role in the pop world

Janet Jackson’s entire video, music, and live performance catalog are far more extensive than this article conveys. Her work has explored socially conscious messages to sensual ballads that have resonated with audiences over generations. Her influence has even made a mark on fashion, dance, and social issues she advocated for, such as ending the AIDS crisis, social equality, and female empowerment. Her videos are an archive of her artistic visions, and they remain as relevant and influential as ever as they inspire future generations of artists and fans alike. 

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