“The Velvet Rope”: a retrospective review of Janet Jackson’s 1997 album.
by Mark Keen
Janet returned in 1997 with her sixth album, the opus which is “The Velvet Rope”. This was another hit filled collection with five singles released in various territories and perhaps Janet’s biggest and most memorable hit with “Together Again”. The album covered a number of themes and dealt with some of Janet’s more personal demons, such as depression and anxiety. It would go on to sell over ten million copies around the world.
The first single ‘got “Til It’s Gone” featured guest vocals from Joni Mitchell and rapper Q-Tip and a classic video depicting a pre-apartheid South Africa. The single which included aspects of “Big Yellow Taxi” was certainly a change of style, and whilst some describe it as a ‘masterpiece’ other reviewers felt that Janet did not have much to do and there were few remixes. Nevertheless it was a worldwide hit, although not commercially released in the US. Des’ree felt her debut hit “Feel So High” was interpolated into “Got ’til It’s Gone” and eventually gained a song-writing credit and a few quid. I can’t hear the similarities myself!
Janet would then release the magical “Together Again” which is one of the best selling singles ever topping sales of six million and hitting the number one spot in the US. I remember the single hanging around for months in the UK with Top Of The Pops still showing Janet’s performance from Christmas 1997 the following March (or was it February?), spending ten weeks in the top ten. Janet had written the song as a tribute to a friend she lost to AIDS. Check out the ‘deeper remix’ video as well for a slower version of the track.
The third single off the album would be “I Get So Lonely” and the remix included a performance by Blackstreet. The single would hit number 3 in the US and number 5 in the UK as well as hitting the charts across the world. The song had an R&B vibe rather than the more usual dance-pop of the previous single. We all share these feelings of loneliness and abandonment at times.
“Go Deep” received a more mixed response, and was not commercially released in the US. Nevertheless it would hit number 13 in the UK and the video is simple, but good fun. Similarly the final single “Every Time” would not be a huge commercial success missing the top 40 altogether in the UK, but it was the fifth single. I picked it up for 49p in the bargain bin in Andy’s Records in East Yorkshire. It is accompanied by a stunning video.
There are many fabulous tracks on the album to check out, including an unlikely, but beguiling cover of Rod Stewart’s “Tonight’s The Night” as well as appearance from Vanessa-Mae and even an appearance of the Exorcist theme (Tubular Bells by Mike Oldfield). The album was arguably Janet’s most personal record to date. I was lucky enough to catch Janet on tour in Sheffield, UK, supported by Another Level. It was an amazing tour. This really was Janet at her peak!
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