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#ThrowbackThursday: “Rhythm Nation” by Janet Jackson

"Rhythm Nation" was the second single released from the 1989 Janet Jackson album Rhythm Nation 1814.
  – "Rhythm Nation" was the second single released from the 1989 Janet Jackson album Rhythm Nation 1814.

by Sean Smith

Janet Jackson is set to release her latest album Unbreakable this Friday. The newest offering is Janet’s eleventh studio album and first to be released on her own independent label Rhythm Nation. It is her first studio album to be released since Discipline in 2008.

Janet has released two singles off her new record thus far. The first, “No Sleep,” was released in June and features rapper J. Cole. Her second single is the album’s title track, and is described by Janet as being a love letter to her fans. Another promising song on Unbreakable hasn’t been released as a single, but has been offered as a digital download on iTunes for those who pre-ordered the record. The track is titled “Burnitup!” and features a guest verse from rapper Missy Elliott. It’s a fusion of dance and hip hop, which is a combination that Miss Jackson has found success with in the past. Most notably with the subject of this week’s #tbt “Rhythm Nation.”

In 1989, Janet Jackson released her fourth studio album Rhythm Nation 1814. Following the commercial success of Janet’s album Control in 1986, her label wanted her to make her next album basically a sequel. The thinking was to not mess with a winning formula. However, Miss Jackson wanted to do something different on her next offering. While she was in the studio recording, she was watching a lot of news and was becoming troubled with some of the bad things she saw. In particularly, an incident in Stockton, CA where a man shot up a schoolyard killing 5 innocent children and injuring 29 others. Janet wanted to talk about some of these social issues that were bothering her in her music. Which she would ultimately do on her 1989 album.

The first part of the title Rhythm Nation 1814 reportedly came about through a conversation Jackson had with her producers about what she was seeing on the news. She was talking about how she wished they could have their own nation, one with a positive message. The second portion of the title, 1814, is a reference to the year that the U.S. National Anthem (“The Star-Spangled Banner”) was written by Francis Scott Key.

The song “Rhythm Nation” itself was the second single to be released from the album. It was, like her new song “Burnitup!,” a fusion of dance and hip hop genres. The song’s content is very much socially conscious as lyrics address some large issues like bigotry, fascism, and racial equality. Commercially speaking, “Rhythm Nation” was a huge success. The track topped both the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and Hot Dance Club Play charts, as well as reaching as high as the second spot on the Billboard Hot 100. To this day, “Rhythm Nation” is considered to be one of the standout tracks in Janet Jackson’s extensive discography.

So with Janet Jackson releasing her new album Unbreakable this week, today we take a moment to remember her 1989 hit “Rhythm Nation.” Enjoy.

Janet Jackson

“Rhythm Nation” 

From: Rhythm Nation 1814 

A&M Records

Related Media:
Janet Jackson Featuring J Cole
“No Sleep” 
From: Unbreakable
Rhythm Nation Records
Janet Jackson 
“Unbreakable” 
From: Unbreakable
Rhythm Nation Records
Janet Jackson Featuring Missy Eliot
“BURNITUP!” 
From: Unbreakable
Rhythm Nation Records