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The 35 Best Janet Jackson Songs

We’re looking at Janet Jackson’s fabulous discography to celebrate her birthday. Most of these songs are pop classics and define ’80s/’90s pop and dance radio.

30. “Diamonds” (1987)

After their success with Janet Jackson, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis worked their synth-funk pop magic with other artists of the 1980s, including the Human League, George Michael, and even Pia Zadora. This hit, “Diamonds”, was for A&M label founder and legendary trumpeter Herb Alpert for his 1987 album Keep Your Eye on Me. This funky dance-funk jam feels like an outtake from Control and is all but forgotten now, despite being a top-five pop hit, but it’s worth a listen for its sinewy, cool bounce.

29. “Doesn’t Really Matter” (2000)

Janet Jackson pulled double duty for the 2000 comedy Nutty Professor II: The Klumps. She co-starred opposite Eddie Murphy as the film’s leading lady and recorded the film’s theme song. Jam & Lewis create a synthetic, neon-colored sound for their client, a sonic embodiment of Shibuya, Toyko. Jackson’s girlish vocals are covered in pop fondant, and the resultant is a sweet-as-candy dance ditty.

28. “Let’s Wait Awhile” (1986)

After 1993’s janet. album, Jackson’s sexuality was an essential part of her persona and her music. So, this sweet ballad promoting abstinence might sound odd when stacked against her carnal pop symphonies; but that’s the joy of listening to Jackson’s lengthy discography: it’s to witness her growth. Jackson’s sugary voice sounds young and apprehensive, adding to the poignance and uncertainty of the song’s message of burgeoning adulthood and sexuality.

27. “You Want This” (1994)

One of the most enduring themes found in Janet Jackson’s work is her inability to brook no nonsense or foolishness. This hit single from janet., is a funky, rolling New Jack Swing tune that grooves on a sample from Diana Ross and the Supremes’ “Love Child”. Look for the version with rap queen MC Lyte’s vocal cameo.

26. “The Best Things in Life Are Free” (1992)

For the soundtrack to the 1992 comedy Mo’ Money, Jam & Lewis assembled a platter of some of the best and hottest urban-pop acts of the early 1990s. This song pairs two great superstars: Jackson and soul legend Luther Vandross. Though the tight, thick house-pop production is more Jackson’s lane than Vandross’s, the icon proves he can apply his genius to any genre. The original version of the album has the megastar duo joined by other greats, Bell Biv DeVoe and Ralph Tresvant.

25. “Black Cat” (1990)

A dance song laced with glam rock. One of the most remarkable and surprising hits off Rhythm Nation, Janet Jackson wrote this without Jam & Lewis and instead produced this with Jellybean Johnson, a significant figure of the Minneapolis Sound. Musician David Barry offers the searing, blazing electric guitar that sets this song apart from her other songs. She sings the song in a soft snarl and does a credible job cast as a rock chick. She was rewarded for her ballsy dip into guitar rock with a Grammy nomination for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance.

24. “Come Back to Me” (1990)

Though Janet Jackson’s strength is dance music, she excels as a balladeer. With Jam & Lewis, Jackson has written and produced a rich, pillowy romantic ballad that touches on classic, elegant lite soul and A/C pop. In this beautiful, lush ballad from Rhythm Nation, Jackson personifies longing and regret.

23. “Make Me” (2009)

For her 2009 greatest hits album, Janet Jackson gifted her fans with another seamless, brilliant dance song. Working with Rodney Jerkins, Jackson again serves a tune tailor-made for the clubs. This neo-disco banger bounces on a tight electro-beat. It’s a tremendous late-career work that shows Jackson’s evergreen gifts.

22. “Burnitup!” (2015)

Teaming up with rap genius Missy Elliot, Jackson released one of the greatest songs ever from her comeback release, Unbreakable. The song is a hot, electrofunk dance workout. With many sounds, including alarms, vocal samples, shiny dance beats, and stabbing synths, “Burnitup!” is one of the singer’s most exciting and thrilling tunes. Ever.

21. “I Get Lonely” (1998)

One of the best things about Janet Jackson’s voice, primarily when produced by Jam & Lewis, is its malleability. Though Jackson’s voice is tight and modest, she can do some quality emoting in what is probably her most soulful performance. In this soulful slow jam, the trio stacks her vocals in multiple layers, creating euphoric, almost gospel-like harmonies that remind some listeners of En Vogue or SWV.