Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814 emerged the best-selling album of 1990 and made history as the first and only album to generate seven top-five Billboard hits; "Miss You Much", "Rhythm Nation", "Escapade", "Alright", "Come Back to Me", "Black Cat", and "Love Will Never Do (Without You)" all peaked within the top five on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. It is the only album to score number one hits on the Hot 100 in three separate calendar years—"Miss You Much" in 1989, "Escapade" and "Black Cat" in 1990, and "Love Will Never Do (Without You)" in 1991. The commercial success of Jackson's album became part of an important turning point for black women in the recording industry. Cheris Kramarae and Dale Spender wrote in their book, Routledge International Encyclopedia of Women: Global Women's Issues and Knowledge (2000), that prior to the 1980s, black artists were often segregated, being limited to disco, soul, and rhythm and blues charts and radio airplay. As such, "one important struggle for black women has been in their 'crossover' from dance music to white-dominated pop and rock." While the dominance of female superstars on the mainstream charts had been led by Madonna, "y the late 1980s, black women too, were achieving greater financial success in the pop mainstream. Artists such as Janet Jackson, Tina Turner and Whitney Houston reached superstar status." Author Stan Hawkins comments the success of the album "helped secure Jackson a position on par with Madonna" as she headlined her first world concert tour in 1990.
Jackson's image of America is one of hope. It may remind some of Sly Stone prior to There's a Riot Going On and other African-American artists of the 1970s in its tacit assumption that the world imagined by Dr. King is still possible, that the American Dream is a dream for all people.Timothy E. Scheurer, Born in the USA: The Myth of America in Popular Music from Colonial Times to the Present, 2007
Anthony DeCurtis, author of Present Tense: Rock & Roll and Culture (1992) wrote that through her lyrics and image, "its clear Jackson wants to present herself as a professional, as the creative intellect behind a product that has as one of its aims the betterment of black people and the creation of role models for black women." In Reflecting Black: African-American Cultural Criticism (1993), author Michael Eric Dyson argues that the album's utilization of rap music, as not only a form of self-expression, but as a means of protesting voids in society created by social injustice was a "crucial" effort, adding that "Janet Jackson says it herself ... she wanted to get to the people who weren't socially conscious, who wanted to party and dance." Rickey Vincent author of Funk: The Music, The People, and The Rhythm of The One (1996) comments: "Her 1989 Rhythm Nation album was the boldest and most successful pop attempt to combine social commentary, celebration, and state-of-the-art dance funk since her brother Michael's efforts to be Bad."
There was speculation that her brother Michael's personal record label, MJJ Music (a joint-venture between himself and Sony Music Entertainment) would have signed her as its premier artist; he reportedly intended to name the label Nation Records as a tribute to her, but the copyright had already existed. She instead went on to negotiate a $32 million dollar contract with Virgin Records in 1991—at the time, the largest recording contract in history. Sal Cinquemani of Slant Magazine commented that her success "found Janet eclipsing her big brother for the first time—as she would continue to do for more than a decade." In July 2008, Entertainment Weekly magazine placed Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814 at number 54 in their list of Top 100 Best Albums of the past 25 years. In 2003, the album was also ranked number 275 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. In a revised list compiled in 2012, it dropped two spots to number 277. It is included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.
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