After a lengthy break on the bench, ‘TGJ Replay’ is back!
Designed much like our ‘Retro Rewind’ and ‘From the Vault’ segments, ‘Replay’ is That Grape Juice‘s newest retrospective segment - a written quest, if you will, to re-spin the gems and jams of yesterday.
Unlike its ‘Rewind’ and ‘Vault’ predecessors, ‘Replay’ looks to dust off and showcase entire albums (and eras) from a library of pop and Urban pop music hits. As this weekend marks the 10th anniversary of her epic Super Bowl showing, today’s ‘Replay’ revisits ‘Damita Jo‘ – the ensuing era of pop icon Janet Jackson.
The debacle that followed Janet Jackson’s now infamous 2004 Superbowl showing (co-starring Justin Timberlake) was indeed, as Miss Jackson herself would say, nasty. With weeks upon weeks of fines, court hearings, apologies, and finger-pointing galore to follow, Timberlake emerged from the ashes virtually unscathed while Janet, on the other hand, could not boast the same.
Undeterred by the swarm of bad press from the event that forever changed live television, the then-5 time Grammy winner continued work on the follow-up to her blockbuster 2001 album ‘All For You’. As if dealing with the negative publicity around her name didn’t already seem like enough of an insurmountable task, following up ‘All For You’ with it’s mega-selling title track and subsequent tour would prove no easy task.
To ensure she put her best foot forward, Jackson not only called on longtime collaborators Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, but also enlisted an all-star team of producers that included Dallas Austin, Scott Storch, Rich Harrison, Just Blaze, Kanye West, and more. Helping to craft what would be Jan’s “new sound”, the album would also allow the pop icon to tap into her alter ego “Damita Jo” (for which the album was christened).
“Just A Little While”
‘I Want You’
Kicking the album off with the funky ‘Just A Little While’, the song’s success – despite the large U.S. blacklist of her music – proved the star power of the ailing diva. Yes, it became Janet’s first song since 1982 to miss the top 40 on Billboard Hot 100 – a sore, yet direct reflection of many U.S. station’s refusal to play her music, but the tune still fought its way to the top of dance, pop airplay, and international charts.
Appointing the John Legend/Kanye West-crafted number ‘I Want You’ as the album’s second single, the tune – drenched in a retro-Motown feel – would not only show-off Jackson’s vocals, but also make her sexuality less of a focal point. Unfortunately, with her blacklisting from many-a-major radio format still in play, ‘I Want You’ (with critical acclaim in tow) would suffer a similar fate as its predecessor.
By the time the album neared its spring release date it, unlike her six albums that preceded it, would ultimately have to sell on Janet’s name alone. With no hit singles, little radio airplay of singles, minimal video spins, and overall industry-blacklisting, the album was released on March 30th 2004.
Selling 381,000 in its first week, ‘Damita Jo’ landed the singer her second highest first week sales to date. A feat all the more commendable given the presence of an industry-wide blacklisting and the absence of hit singles leading up to its release. Interestingly, the numbers were considered a disappointment because of the massive success of its predecessor ‘All For You’.
Conversely, the overtly-sexual album was met with thunderous critical acclaim. Featuring some of Janet’s most damning, yet adventurous lyrics to date, the album was soaked in heavy dance tracks that arguably would help pave the way for what music lovers now know as EDM. Evidence of this was found in the album’s next single ‘All Nite’.
‘All Nite (Don’t Stop)’
‘All Nite (Don’t Stop)’ (live)
Again, with the blacklist put in place by some of the entertainment industry’s biggest players (as a result of their respective finings from the SuperBowl Half-time Show), ‘All Nite’s fate would prove worse than its two preceding singles. Yet, like them, the tune and its accompanying high octane video would be greeted with a wealth of critical acclaim. Fans and critics alike were mesmerized by the songstress, then 38, and her energetic dancing that thrilled just as it had a decade prior.
With seemingly no plans of slowing down despite the onslaught of industry attacks against her, Janet tapped into the then-rising trend of Caribbean/dance hall-tinged sounds and enlisted Elephant Man for the song’s official remix (as seen as the 2004 BET Awards).
‘All Nite (Don’t Stop) Remix’ (Live at BET Awards)
While lauded for their brazenness, the abundance of sexual tunes on ‘Damita Jo’ did not exactly help the case for Janet as, some argued, she seemed to revel in her new hyper-sexualized image. Songs like ‘Moist’, ‘Sexhibition’, and ‘Warmth’ left listeners hot, bothered, and often times, jaw-dropped.
But, it definitely didn’t stop them from continuing to support the project via grassroots campaigns of their own. Helping hoist the album to its present day count of over 3 million sold, the platinum-project would also see some industry acclaim via a 2005 Grammy nomination for ‘I Want You’.
Ten years later we still express regret and disappointment for the mistreatment of this gem of an album. Still bobbing our heads to the likes of ‘Strawberry Bounce’, we can’t help but wonder how well this album would’ve performed had the blacklist not been so extensive.
Furthermore, how much better the two albums that followed it would’ve perform had the residue from the Superbowl incident not carried on through most of the noughties. Either way, we celebrate and salute Janet’s most lyrically brazen set yet and await news on her newest project. Until then, you tell us: