Revisiting Janet Jackson’s ‘The Velvet Rope’ Released 21 Years Ago

Looking Back at Janet Jackson’s ‘The Velvet Rope’

Revisiting Janet Jackson’s ‘The Velvet Rope’ Released 21 Years Ago

After asserting herself and her sexuality on ‘janet.’ four years earlier, Janet Jackson returned to the studio to craft the sprawling and diverse sounds of “The Velvet Rope”. Representing the velvet rope that separates the “VIPs” from those who “are not,” the album title symbolizes the “need to feel special” that all people have, according to Ms. Jackson. “It is this need,” she says, “that can bring out the best in us, yet the worst in us,” and “created the Velvet Rope.” With this album, Janet Jackson let the world behind her own personal velvet rope. With its songs, she addressed a variety of very personal issues and experiences in what can be seen as a very therapeutic album for Janet. She uses the theme of letting go in conjunction with the Sankofa symbol, which literally means “reach back and get it.” However, a deeper interpretation of the phrase more or less means to “learn from your past to move forward.” In many ways, the album was a new beginning for her, just as the Sankofa’s symbol of the bird and the egg represent. On The Velvet Rope, when Janet lets go of something or recalls her past, it is contemplative and meaningful but not necessarily sad. “The Velvet Rope” is an album full of mostly songs that hit the mark. Even those that fall into mediocrity (“Every Time”, “I Feel Lonely”, “Anything”, “Special”) do so because the ones surrounding them are just so good. In that, there is no fault. Each track, though, is given top-notch production work and Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis somehow create the most enticing and richest beats for Miss Jackson. They don’t feel complete without her voice. The album is dedicated to the themes of vulnerability, intimacy, and letting go whether emotional or physical. In the physical aspect, she excels (“Go Deep”, “Rope Burn”, “My Need”, “Tonight’s the Night”), which isn’t surprising given ’93’s janet. Emotionally, there are some high points (“Together Again”, “What About”, “I Get Lonely”, “Empty”), but songs like “Velvet Rope”, “Special” and “You” get bogged down by the generic message of just be yourself. By far, with this album, Janet Jackson let the world behind her own personal velvet rope.

Tracklist:

1 “Interlude – Twisted Elegance”
2 “Velvet Rope”
3 “You”
4 “Got ‘Til It’s Gone”
5 “Interlude – Speaker Phone”
6 “My Need”
7 “Interlude – Fasten Your Seatbelts”
8 “Go Deep”
9 “Free Xone”
10 “Interlude – Memory
11 “Together Again”
12 “Interlude – Online”
13 “Empty”
14 “Interlude – Full”
15 “What About”
16 “Every Time”
17 “Tonight’s The Night”
18 “I Get Lonely”
19 “Rope Burn”
20 “Anything”
21 “Interlude – Sad”
22 “Special” (silence)
23 “Can’t Be Stopped”

Produced by: Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Janet Jackson, René Elizondo, Jr.
Recorded during: January – July 1997 at Flyte Tyme Studios (Edina, Minnesota), Hit Factory Studios (New York, New York City), Record Plant Studios (Los Angeles, California)
Released: October 7th, 1997
Label: Virgin

Singles:
“Got ’til It’s Gone” Released: September 22, 1997
“Together Again” Released: December 2, 1997
“I Get Lonely” Released: February 26, 1998
“Go Deep” Released: June 15, 1998
“You” Released: September 3, 1998
“Every Time” Released: November 17, 1998

Strongest tracks:
“Together Again”, “What About”, “I Get Lonely”, “Empty”

Watch the 1997 music video for “Together Again” by Janet Jackson

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Listen to “The Velvet Rope” on Spotify

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