Friday 11/11/22 8pm ET: Feature LP: Janet Jackson – Velvet Rope (1997)

The Velvet Rope is the sixth studio album by American singer Janet Jackson. The album was released on October 7, 1997, through Virgin Records. Prior to its release, she renegotiated her contract with Virgin for US$80 million, the largest recording contract in history at that time.

Upon experiencing an emotional breakdown, Jackson began facing a long-term case of depression. She in turn developed her new record as a concept album, using introspection as its theme. Its title is a metaphor for emotional boundaries, as well as an allusion to an individual’s need to feel special. Its lyrics address subject matter such as depression, self-worth, social networking, and domestic violence. It also encompasses themes of sexuality, including BDSM, sexual orientation and same-sex relationships. Due to its sexually explicit content, the album reinforced Jackson’s public image as a sex symbol and as one of the most erotic vocalists of the 1990s. Its incorporation of social issues regarding sexual orientation and combating homophobia also established her reputation as a gay icon and received the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Music.

The record was co-written and co-produced by Jackson, her then-husband René Elizondo Jr., Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, with additional contributions by various songwriters. Songs on the album also include British violinist Vanessa-Mae, Canadian singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell and American rapper Q-Tip as featured artists. Its composition fuses various genres, including pop, R&B, trip hop, folk, jazz, rock and electronic music. Considered to be Jackson’s most mature recording, it is regarded as a template for pop artists transitioning to a darker or rebellious sound and as a precursor to the development of alternative R&B.

The Velvet Rope became Jackson’s fourth consecutive album to top the Billboard 200. It also reached the top of charts in Denmark and the top five in major markets such as Australia, Canada, France, and Germany. The album was certified triple platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and has sold an estimated eight million copies worldwide. Of the six singles released from the project, “Got ’til It’s Gone” won the 1998 Grammy Award for Best Music Video, “Together Again” became an international number-one hit, and “I Get Lonely” became Jackson’s 18th consecutive top-ten single on the US Billboard Hot 100, making her the only female artist in history to achieve that feat. The Velvet Rope Tour, in support of the album, drew critical acclaim for its theatricality, as well as controversy for its depictions of domestic violence and bondage.

  1. “Interlude – Twisted Elegance” 0:41
  2. “Velvet Rope” (featuring Vanessa-Mae) 4:55
  3. “You” 4:42
  4. “Got ’til It’s Gone” (featuring Q-Tip and Joni Mitchell) 4:01
  5. “Interlude – Speaker Phone” 0:54
  6. “My Need” 3:44
  7. “Interlude – Fasten Your Seatbelts” 0:19
  8. “Go Deep” 4:42
  9. “Free Xone” 4:57
  10. “Interlude – Memory” 0:04
  11. “Together Again” 5:01
  12. “Interlude – Online” 0:19
  13. “Empty” 4:32
  14. “Interlude – Full” 0:12
  15. “What About” 4:24
  16. “Every Time” 4:17
  17. Tonight’s the Night” 5:07
  18. “I Get Lonely” 5:17
  19. “Rope Burn” 4:15
  20. “Anything” 4:54
  21. “Interlude – Sad” 0:10
  22. “Special” 7:55

David Barry – guitar
Lee Blaske – string arrangements
Jan Chong – violin
Carolyn Daws – violin
Hanley Daws – violin
Glen Donnellen – viola
Lynne Erickson – trumpet
Charles Gray – viola
Alyssa Hanson – vocals
Rayvaline Harrell – choir director
Shawnette Heard – vocals
Camilla Heller – cello
Joshua Koestenbaum – cello
Kelly Konno – vocals
Tina Landon – vocals
Brenda Mickens – violin
Joni Mitchell – performer
Debbie Morrison – vocals
Dale Newton – cello
Willie R. Norwood – choir director
Alice Preves – viola
Prof. T. – vocals
Q-Tip – rap, performer
Myrna Rain – viola
Nicholas Raths – guitar
Gary Raynor – bass
Alexander Richbourg – vocals, drum programming, rhythm arrangements
Miko Salone – vocals
Mike Scott – guitar
Leslie Shank – violin
Daryl Skobba – cello
Liz Sobieski – violin
Mike Sobieski – violin
Daria Tedeschi – violin
United Children’s Choir – choir, chorus
Vanessa-Mae – violin, performer
James “Big Jim” Wright – organ, keyboards, vocals, rhythm arrangements