Sunday 11/14/21 4pm ET: Feature LP: Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814 (1989)

Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814 is the fourth studio album by American singer-songwriter Janet Jackson, released on September 19, 1989, by A&M Records. Although label executives wanted material similar to her previous album, Control (1986), Jackson insisted on creating a concept album addressing social issues. Collaborating with songwriters and record producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, she drew inspiration from various tragedies reported through news media, exploring racism, poverty, and substance abuse, in addition to themes of romance. Although its primary concept of a sociopolitical utopia was met with mixed reactions, its composition received critical acclaim. Jackson came to be considered a role model for youth because of her socially conscious lyrics.

As with Control, recording for Rhythm Nation 1814 took place at Lewis and Jam’s Flyte Tyme Studios in Minneapolis, Minnesota where they worked in seclusion with Jackson to complete the album. Noted for its use of sample loop and utilizing swing note and synthesized percussion throughout its production, the record encompasses a variety of musical styles, such as new jack swing, hard rock, pop, dance and industrial music. Songs range from mechanized dance rhythms to soft balladry, giving it appeal across multiple radio formats. It is the only album in the history of the US Billboard Hot 100 singles chart to have seven commercial singles peak within the top five positions. It is also the first album to produce number one hits on the chart in three separate calendar years, beginning with “Miss You Much” in 1989, “Escapade” and “Black Cat” in 1990, and culminating with “Love Will Never Do (Without You)” in 1991.

Rhythm Nation 1814 became Jackson’s second consecutive album to top the Billboard 200 and was certified 6x Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). It became the best-selling album of 1990 in the United States and has sold an estimated 12 million copies worldwide. Due to its innovative production and lyrical exploration, critics have come to regard it as the pinnacle of Jackson’s artistic achievement. Music scholars note the record garnered her a level of cross-cultural appeal unmatched by industry peers. Considered a “landmark” album, it has also been cited as an influence in the works of numerous music artists, setting stylistic trends in the years following its release.

Visuals in music videos and live performances further elevated Jackson’s superstardom. The 30-minute Rhythm Nation 1814 film, a film depicting two aspiring musicians whose lives are disrupted by substance abuse, aired on MTV to promote the album. Jackson’s Rhythm Nation World Tour 1990 became the most successful debut concert tour by a recording artist at the time. She was regarded as a fashion icon, with various attire the album’s promotional tour and music videos being emulated by youth. Jackson received nine Grammy Award nominations, becoming the first woman to be nominated for Producer of the Year and winning Best Long Form Music Video for Rhythm Nation 1814. Jackson received the MTV Video Vanguard Award and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her significant contributions to popular culture. Her handwritten lyrics to the album’s title track “Rhythm Nation” as well as her militaristic uniform for its music video have been preserved by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2021, the Library of Congress announced it selected the album for preservation in the National Recording Registry as part of the class of 2020, deeming it “culturally, historically, or artistically significant.”

  1. “Interlude: Pledge” 0:47
  2. “Rhythm Nation” 5:31
  3. “Interlude: T.V.” 0:22
  4. “State of the World” 4:48
  5. “Interlude: Race” 0:05
  6. “The Knowledge” 3:54
  7. “Interlude: Let’s Dance” 0:03
  8. “Miss You Much” 4:12
  9. “Interlude: Come Back” 0:21
  10. “Love Will Never Do (Without You)” 5:50
  11. “Livin’ in a World (They Didn’t Make)” 4:41
  12. “Alright” 6:26
  13. “Interlude: Hey Baby” 0:10
  14. “Escapade” 4:44
  15. “Interlude: No Acid” 0:05
  16. “Black Cat” 4:50
  17. “Lonely” 4:59
  18. “Come Back to Me” 5:33
  19. “Someday Is Tonight” 6:00
  20. “Interlude: Livin’ In Complete Darkness” 1:07

Herb Alpert – trumpet, horn, brass
Julie Ayer – violin
Stephen Barnett – conductor
Steve Barnett – conductor
David Barry – electric and 12-string guitar
Lee Blaske – arranger
Chris Brown – bass
Carolyn Daws – violin
Hanley Daws – violin
David Eiland – programming
Rene Elizondo – background vocals
Johnny Gill – percussion, special effects, finger snaps
James Greer – background vocals
Peter Howard – cello
Janet Jackson – arranger, keyboards, vocals, background vocals, producer
Jimmy Jam – percussion, piano, drums, keyboards, programming, producer
Jellybean Johnson – guitar, drums, vocals, background vocals, producer
Jesse Johnson – guitar
Lisa Keith – background vocals
Kathy Kienzle – harp
Joshua Koestenbaum – cello
Jamila Lafleur – background vocals
Terry Lewis – bass, percussion, arranger, background vocals, producer
Tshaye Marks – background vocals
John McClain – background vocals, executive producer
Tamika McDaniel – vocals
Tarnika McDaniel – background vocals
John McLain – guitar, background vocals
Shante Owens – background vocals
Amy Powell – vocals
Randy Ran – background vocals
Nicholas Raths – guitar, classical guitar
Sonya Robinson – background vocals
Clarice Rupert – background vocals
Warlesha Ryan – background vocals
Tamas Strasser – viola
John Tartaglia – viola
Reshard Taylor – background vocals
Romuald Tecco – concert master
Anthony Thomas – background vocals
Hyacinthe Tlucek – concert master
Steve Wilson – background vocals