The title track from Jackson’s fourth album, ‘Rhythm Nation’ sets the tone for what follows. This is Jackson’s What’s goin’ on?, a socially conscious concept album for the 1980s, the making of which coincided with the new jack/jill swing sound, which preceded the mainstream and ubiquitious R&B sounds of the 1990s and 2000s.
Jackson’s producers, Jam & Lewis, were key people in its development. Jackson had previously worked with the duo on her third album Control in 1986, and you can hear the influence of their production techniques at that time on Jody Whatley’s ‘Looking for a new love’, a song not produced by Jam & Lewis, but in a similar vein.
The video for ‘Rhythm Nation’ was choreographed by Paula Abdul, at that point very much a choreographer, though a pop career was waiting in the wings.
As for Jackson, Rhythm Nation was the start of a run of highly successful singles and albums. Following a change in record label, she released the number one album Janet in 1993.
Picture is the sleeve to Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814 album
Video commentary: The video is a highly stylised and choreographed piece. It is filmed in black and white and grey sepias.It shows Jackson and her dancers, who are wearing military style outfits, descend by lift into a grim factory. A young black man watches their descent and performance with increasing curiosity.