Janet Jackson’s classic LP, Rhythm Nation 1814, was released 25 years ago today.
Where its predecessor, Control, put Miss Jackson (if you’re nasty) on the map as a pop superstar, Rhythm Nation 1814 signaled a serious talent was on the scene—one that was bursting with soul, conscience, and old-school boogie. This was an album that recalled the social and racial themes advocated in some of the defining works of Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, and Stevie Wonder. This was music with a message.
Jackson didn’t tour on the heels of Control, so when she mounted the Rhythm Nation tour, it was a mighty big deal. I have been to hundreds of concerts in my life, and I have never been to one that had the energy and sense of anticipation as the one I attended on July 14, 1990 at the Florida Suncoast Dome in St. Petersburg, Florida. Some of the pre-show excitement had to do simply with Jackson’s name and lineage: this was the Jackson 5’s little sister—this was Michael’s sister. Janet’s family tree became a moot point, though, once she took the stage. The lady was a force unto herself, and the show she staged was phenomenal—just like the album from which it was inspired.