Skip to main content

Janet Jackson's 'If' Turns 20 This Year

13 is such an impressionable age.

My first year as a teenager didn't involve any experiments with drugs or booze. I wasn't traumatized by a family scandal. I didn't hang with "the wrong crowd." I just watched a lot of TV.

Turning 13 also heralded a big change in my life: I had been given my first CD player. Suddenly, my musical horizons broadened. Gone were the days of listening to cassette tapes of my mother's Michael Bolton, Kenny G, and Carly Simon albums. I was finally able to transition myself out of jamming to adult contemporary hits and start listening to some of the more popular tunes my peers were blaring on their headphones.

In the summer of 1993, Janet Jackson released her highly anticipated new album -- and her highly sexualized new image. Janet, her fifth disc, churned out several iconic hits that helped musically define the 90s. "That's The Way Love Goes" became the eptiome of bedroom slow-jams. "You Want This" was an empowering, rump-shaking anthem, one of the first of its kind. And "Again" was the ballad that earned Miss Jackson a Golden Globe and Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song (Poetic Justice anyone?).

But then there was "If."

The music video was a piece of pop culture that left its imprint on my impressionable 13-year-old mind. It was perhaps the first time I saw abs on a female singer. Who knew women could flaunt them just as much as the guys? Six-pack stomachs didn't just belong to Marky Mark and any given hunk on Melrose Place anymore. Janet oozed sex, and most of it came out in this provocative visual treatment.

"If I was your girl, ooh the things I'd do to you..." Grammatically incorrect lyrics aside, the song was packed with suggestive and hypothetical situations that was made manifest when our pop diva thrust her hips into the face of a shaved-headed dancer in the video. I remember my inexperienced 13-year-old self asking, "Is this even allowed on VH1?"

Next was the choreography. The tightness of each move, especially during the intensive bridge that sampled Diana Ross and the Supremes' 1969 hit "Someday We'll Be Together," was something that every child of the 90s tried to mimic in his or her living room. Back in the day, one critic from Slant Magazine had written that the song "seems to exist for the sole purpose of providing the impetus behind one of the great dance-break routines in music video history"...which happens to take place at the 3:07 mark in the video below:

They just don't dance in music videos like they used to, amiright?

The video, directed by Dominic Sena, holds up surprisingly well compared to the rest of the stuff that had come out at the time. Futuristic Asian nightclubs? Voyeuristic back rooms? Someone was ahead of his or her time.

Happy anniversary, Janet.



Popular posts from this blog

The Class of '98 Turns 40

We are the Class of '98. We're a little too old to be Millennials, yet too young to be GenXers. As of now, half of our lives has lived in one century while the other half lives and moves forward in another. For us, Cabbage Patch Dolls were the 80s, Tamagotchi was the 90s, and Napster was the dawn of the 00s. We grew up with cassette tapes and Saturday morning cartoons. We came of age with CGI dinosaurs and the rise of the Frappucino. And we approach middle age with memes, reboots, and viral videos all designed to distract us from middle age. We were too young to fully understand the words "Challenger explosion." We were too young to appreciate the fall of the Berlin Wall. But by the time places like Waco, Oklahoma City, and Littleton pinged on everyone's radar, we started to grasp how scary the world could be. Our adolescence was defined by jagged little pills, prescriptions from Dr. Dre, and the fact that some of us were naughty by nature. We learned t

13 Things You Probably Didn't Know About 'The Golden Girls'

When one nostalgically binges on all seven seasons of The Golden Girls like me (I swear I have a life), you pick up on a few things. Certain patterns appear as you continuously witness the consumption of countless cheesecakes inside a fictitious Miami kitchen and hear one St. Olaf story too many. Here's what I noticed after playing my DVDs of this 80s classic over the past several months ( and if you're already familiar with the following factoids, excuse me for underestimating your fanaticism )... 1. Actor Harold Gould, who played Rose's long-term boyfriend Miles Webber from Season 5 to Season 7 (and throughout most of the short-lived spinoff,  The Golden Palace ), also appears in the first season as Arnie Peterson, Rose's first serious beau after her husband's death. 2. The same can be said for Sid Melton, who played Sophia's deceased husband Sal (in flashbacks and dream sequences). He also appears in a Season 6 episode as a jester in a medieval-

Just Because: 9 Music Videos That Take Place in Laundromats

It's one of the biggest music video tropes that's rarely explored in pop culture. The public laundromat has become a go-to location for artists when making a music video for a single they wish to sell to the masses. But WHAT IS IT about a space where ragtag groups of strangers gather to fluff and fold their delicates? Is it the obvious metaphor of dirty versus clean? The scintillating possibility of people stripping off their clothes for a wash? I was feeling a little nostalgic (as usual) and took a look at some of the vids that have fallen under the spell of spin cycles over the past 30 years... "EVERY HEARTBEAT" / AMY GRANT (1991) Back in the early 90s, the Christian pop tart followed up her massively successful "Baby Baby" with "Every Heartbeat," a personal childhood favorite of yours truly  (the Body & Soul Mix, of course). In one of the two vignettes featured in the video, a laundry-toting hottie attempts to flirt with a young