Janet Jackson made history last night as the first black female artist to receive the Icon Award at the Billboard Music Awards ceremony.
In a moving acceptance speech, Jackson called out her appreciation for the #MeToo movement, saying:
“I believe that for all the challenges, for all our challenges, we live at a glorious moment in history. It’s a moment when at long last women have made it clear that we will no longer be controlled, manipulated or abused. I stand with those women and with those men equally outraged by discrimination who support us in heart and mind.
“This is also a moment when our public discourse is loud and harsh,” she added. “My prayer is that, weary of such noise, we turn back to the source of all calmness. That source is God. Everything we lack, God has in abundance – compassion, sensitivity, patience and a boundless love.”
Only three months after giving birth to her son, Eissa Al Mana, at age 50, Janet Jackson and her husband Wissam Al Mana are no more.
While no definitive reason has yet been released for the split, Page Six offers a variety of explanations from unidentified sources. Apparently, Al Mana, who Jackson married five years ago, had been censoring the way she performed in concerts, what she wore, and how she danced – barring all “bumping and brinding” and skin-revealing outfits.
In addition, Page Six’s sources say Al Mana cared very little about the reported elder absue experienced by Janet’s mom, Katherine, from her nephew Trent.
Jackson postponed her Unbreakable World Tour indefinitely after making her pregnancy announcement last year.
Brooklyn-based DJ and producer Obey City has curated a “Smooth Jams” series of his favorite tracks. Today’s installment warms us up with some Canadian finds. Plug in your headphones and crank up that volume, because it’s time to get smooth.
This weekend I was up in Montreal for a gig. The weather there was not smooth at all…more like bone chilling. Is poutine a smooth snack? I’m not really sure. However, I did manage to get some record shopping in and picked up a couple smooth gems for ya’ll.
Be sure to check out Sea Level on its new nights. Begining in April, Sea Level will move to the second Wednesday of the month at the Tender Trap in Brooklyn. However the next one lands on Wednesday March 6th. Free smoothness for all begins at 9 PM. I promise you’ll hear songs like this and many more to start your work week off on a smoother note. Hope to see all you smoothies there.
Crackin’- "Dont You Wish You Could Be There" (1977)
Saw this cover with a rose bursting from an egg and I had to buy it. Classic AOR west coast smooth vibes all over this one.
Boule Noire – "Aimer D’Amour" (1978)
Apparently this record is easily found all over Quebec but I had never heard of Mr. Noire before. Sorta sounds like a french version of this
Shakatak – "Easier Said Than Done" (1981)
First of all look at this band’s name real quick – Shakatak. It’s definitely pronounced the same way as Shaq Attack, the nickname of former NBA star Shaquille O’Neal. Now listen to this jam – sort of Bob James-esque light jazz/funk/fusion. Shaq would love this.
Janet Jackson – "Someone To Call My Lover (Velvet Mix)" (2001)
Always been a fan of this song but this remix – my god. Takes it to new levels. Jermaine Dupri does a pretty solid Devante Swing/Timbaland drum programming impersonation and mixes it with some gorgeous chord changes behind the already lush vocals from Ms. Jackson herself. Velvet indeed!
Craig David – "What’s Your Flava (Markus Enochson Broken Soul Mix)" (2009)
Ok, so I technically picked up the original 12" of this song by Craig David – but this version is far less known and much smoother. Shout outs to DJ Steve for putting me onto this a couple years back.
While still remaining something of an oddity across the US, Britain’s X Factor still serves as a pretty accurate cultural barometer of our pop exports. For example, Simon Cowell has singled out Miley Cyrus’ “The Climb” as the first single for whoever wins the competition (all’s well that ends well, Jedward!) Then, this past week’s show provided a glittering study in contrasts. Lady Gaga delivered yet another delightfully batty set of theatrics. In a fucking bathtub. Dressed in Batman cosplay. Janet Jackson meanwhile turned in a performance that made her look like a frumpy stroller queen lost a long, long way from Park Slope. Sigh.
Jackson’s signatures in this phoned-in performance: Thoughtlessly crimped hair, nondescript denim, a mimed performance of more overlooked, but excellent classics and that new single she’s chucking our way.
Additionally, the show was filmed on a closed set, meaning it was pre-recorded and the talent show’s contestants were not able to watch one of the genre’s greatest in her element. Which was probably for the best. While not a mess, the whole affair was unspirited and would probably make a class of cynics out of the remaining contestants. Most notably, Jackson mimed along to a version of “All For You” as it appeared on her 2001 record of the same name. And what we got was the harrowing confirmation that Jackson had become a facsimile of her former self. A husk of a demigoddess. Really, just a sad, sad shadow of the woman whose towering pop presence once governed the changing of the seasons. But whose presence now simply governs the likelihood that her brother’s doctor will ever work in the US ever again.
The before/after contrast of the idea of the diva (Gaga before, Jackson after) is sobering. No one’s asking you to march around inside of a bathtub while looking like you’re auditioning for a guest arc on True Blood, Janet. Just pretend like you care enough to do the song-and-dance if you’re going to consent to X Factor. Standards are high for contenders, let alone pop stars featured. Jackson’s biggest crime, however: Making Leona Lewis look positively vivacious by comparison. Evidence of Gaga’s easy victory over a noted queen of pop’s past follow below.
Despite being well aware of her brother’s drug use, Janet still remained in the dark about how extensively he dabbled in substances like Propofol. Says the pop star to ABC News, “That was, that was a shocker to me and it just — that’s serious. That’s heavy. That’s heavy. None of us knew to that extent.” An autopsy revealed that the king’s corpse had large quantities of the sedative, along with a cocktail of other prescription drugs. She adds that she tried to reach out to her brother over the years. “Those are the things that you do when you love someone. You can’t just let them continue on that way. And we did a few times. We weren’t very successful.”
Earlier this week, Janet released her Number Ones collection, which is already auspiciously perched within iTunes’ Top 20. Although with such good news comes badder news: That the performer must open Sunday’s American Music Awards, no doubt with some sort of MJ-related tribute, not unlike her VMA appearance a couple months back. This is only bad news as the American Music Awards remains one of the most out-of-touch events to conduct any actual music-related business, let alone tributes. However, a similar, worthwhile homage that would also ship units of her newly-issued best-of could come in the form of her performing “Make Me.” As demonstrated below.
Well, we saw it coming. On one hand, maybe this is how the pop ecosystem works. That is, in order to facilitate the trapezoid of life that governs showbiz, all lesser pop stars must cannibalize on what non-chemical biomatter remains of any deceased pop legend. So that in some shape or form, most traces of the pop star can dissolve into the earth. And then, future pop stars can mint their legacies on flat covers of his hits. In that respect, Janet Jackson and Madonna meeting over greasy banh mi or whatever to talk about how to turn one man’s death into career momentum for themselves is a sensible turn of events. But on the other hand, it’s disappointing that two surviving pop forces, who both delivered poignant Michael Jackson tributes only recently, are piecing together a collaboration designed to launch them squarely into America’s heart.
“Madonna was so impressed with Janet’s tribute to Michael that they started talking about how great it would be to honor him by doing something together,” confides an insider, probably Lourdes, after being bribed with a Kinder Egg. “With that one performance, Janet proved she’s back on top of her game. And who better to join forces with than Madonna? There was definitely something very interesting being planned between them.”
The last time two iconic divas chucked together a heap of pop-compost, the result was wormy at best. But maybe Madonna and Janet aren’t planning on recording a pop song together. Maybe they’re planning a ritual sacrifice to MJ (it’s totally in Madonna’s nature, as we’ve learned.) Although either effort would be better than any kind of literary tribute.
So how exactly would all their grief, in any kind of collaborative effort, prove persuasive? If it involved less gloss and machination and more candor. Ideally, a YouTube clip leaked at odd hours of the night starring two of them singing into the iSight of a friend’s MacBook Pro would do the trick. Like perhaps?
Last night, a whole lot of stuff happened at a variety show whose name is pronounced, “The Vee Em Eys.” For the uninitiated, “The Vee Em Eys” is where people accept metallic statues of astronauts for the hard work of other less-famous and less-pretty people who are able to take their songs and make it evocatively crackle along to between three-and-a-half to four minutes of video footage. This footage may include a storyline, choreography, or a liberal usage of string bikinis. And like any high-budgeted awards telecast on a network desperately reaching for any residual shreds of credibility among viewers aged 12-24, there were winners and losers last night. And then there were those who just made us shrug. And none of this has to do with who won what last night, because everyone knows that the real prize is word-of-mouth.
Performer: Pink. Defining moment:Live performance of “Sober.” Complete with a trapeze artist and impressive moments of actual singing in spite of strenuous aerial acrobatics. Verdict: Winner.
Performer: The viewing audience. Defining moment: Sitting through two hours of a showbiz circle-jerk dotted by desperate cries for attention. When you’re sorting through the shrapnel of Twitter hashtags and day-old Facebook statuses, you can see that the producers of this year’s VMAs really pulled a fast one over anyone who elected to watch this telecast over other inherently more superior things — like the finale of this vampire soap opera where a woman ended up confessing her love to a stag. Viewers were baited them with stunts, scripted or otherwise, designed to make the most out of their terrible oversharing habits and all consequent memes. Verdict: Non-winner.
It’s rare that the physics of pop ever work out as they should. Here we are, lamenting the slow, grisly death of our childhood icons, and Janet Jackson, meanwhile has been toiling away in near-obscurity with a handful of gems like this, this, and this — and even scaring up the odd #1 album. So it’s great how in the wildfire that followed her brother’s death she managed to avoid getting burned and kept a clear head. She continued work on her next album and held out basically for only ostensibly high-profile press opportunities. Like the upcoming Harper’s Bazaar cover she’s landed. It’s not like we expected Janet to shave her hair off, don all black, and grieve for the rest of her life.
While the meat of the profile will likely focus more on a syrupy reflection on a famous sister who lost her famouser brother and what that means for a world currently embroiled in wars over religion, health care, and skinny jeans, some part of it will inevitably zero in on Jackson’s musical career. The overwrought profile could even point out that she has a voice that is not destroyed by years of drug abuse, isn’t so easily baited by far-reaching celebutard rappers, and can still even pull off a few cogent dance moves. This is clearly more than what current legacy acts are capable of and provided she can avoid PR snafus like a round of 20 questions with Tyra Banks, the general public may emerge from all passing musical fads with at least one diva in tact. And if not, well, we’ll still have vintage Janet Jackson to cherish.