20. “Feedback” (2007)
For her 2008 album, Discipline, Janet Jackson chose “Feedback” as its first single. Recalling her industrial-dance music of Rhythm Nation, there’s an incredible, slick metallic sheen to the song, an infectious, ingratiating hook and melody, and a winding, grinding beat. It’s clattering, loud, and discordant but quite brilliant.
19. “Scream” (1995)
Fans waited for what seemed like forever to hear Michael and Janet Jackson’s duet finally. Though the two have worked in the past together – she was one of the pretty young things on “P.Y.T.” on his Thriller album, he sang backup on her 1984 single “Don’t Stand Another Chance”, and the two appeared with a cast of a thousand Jacksons on the sentimental “2300 Jackson Street” – the titans of pop never recorded a duet together. Working with Jam & Lewis, this tune results from a lot of work from various camps. It’s primarily a Michael Jackson song with Janet’s pretty croon buried under the buzzy production, but it’s a fantastic song with a crisp, shiny dance-rock sound.
18. “Made for Now” (2018)
After 2015’s Unbreakable, Janet Jackson fans have been waiting with bated breath for new music, and though there hasn’t been a full-length album yet, Jackson whetted our appetites with this fantastic single, “Made for Now”. Combing the sweet sounds of Afropop, Latin-pop, disco, and reggae-pop, “Made for Now” is Jackson’s nod to world music and her global appeal. She pairs up with reggaeton superstar Daddy Yankee who exudes effortless charm and charisma that matches her own.
17. “All for You” (2001)
Though many critics would cite Michael Jackson or Madonna as important influences on Janet Jackson’s sound and music, as proven by this massive hit, Jackson owes just as much to Donna Summer or Gloria Gaynor. “All for You” glides gracefully on the iconic piano from the disco classic “Glow of Love” by Change and features allusions to Jackson’s dance work of the 1980s. This single is a near-perfect pastiche of 1970s disco, 1980s synthpop, and 2000s dance-pop. The record was a big hit, topping the pop charts for seven weeks, and earned Jackson a Grammy for Best Dance Recording.
16. “Again” (1993)
Janet Jackson earned an Oscar and Golden Globe nomination for her piano ballad “Again” for her film debut, John Singleton’s 1993 romantic drama, Poetic Justice. The song is a seeming rebuke to the critics who compare Jackson’s vocals unfavorably to Whitney Houston or Mariah Carey. In “Again”, Jackson uses her smaller, airy vocals to imbue the song with the kind of tear-stained fragility and hurt that sold the track. She proved to be a great performer, entertainer, first-class songwriter, and an accomplished pop balladeer. Jam & Lewis set Jackson’s sterling vocals in a stirring orchestra.
15. “The Pleasure Principle” (1987)
Written with Monte Moir, “The Pleasure Principle” is a frantic, energetic dance tune that features Jackson hitting an incredibly high note at the song’s peak. There are fantastic pounding keyboards, skipping drum machines, and engaging background vocals—a prime example of 1980s urban-synthpop.
14. “Love Will Never Do (Without You)” (1990)
The production is a swinging midtempo dance tune with slamming drums and dramatic synths. Originally conceived as a duet (reportedly with Prince), Jackson decided to sing both parts herself, starting off the song in an androgynous lower octave before sliding up into her more familiar high trill. Released as the final single from Rhythm Nation in the USA, it’s a grand way to close the chapter on that project with this catchy, genial pop tune.
13. “Control” (1986)
Janet Jackson is all about control. More than any song in her discography, the title track of her breakthrough album is the best encapsulation of her career. The song’s lyrics act as catharsis for the young singer who found herself under the thumb of her Svengali-like father, Joe Jackson, and in the shadow of Michael, who was conquering the pop world with Thriller. Famously sheltered, Jackson wrestled with these demons, slayed them, and decided to set that victory to music with this propulsive dance song. Being the youngest of a large and tight-knit clan like the Jacksons, Janet Jackson faced the daunting task of asserting her identity, which made “Control” all the more significant.
12. “Alright” (1990)
One of the breeziest and most effervescent of her hits, “Alright”, swings over a sample of Lyn Collins’ “Think (About It)” (more famously sampled on the Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock’s classic “It Takes Two”) as well as the groove off B.T. Express’ “Do You Like It” during the song’s vamp near the end.
11. “Escapade” (1990)
The synthesizers are loud and blaring, announcing Janet Jackson’s feel-good party tune “Escapade”. Reportedly inspired by the Motown classic “Nowhere to Run” by Martha & the Vandellas, “Escapade” is a bubbly, sparkling pop tune that extolls the joys and virtue of frivolity and fun. It’s a song that is full of energy and bliss.