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Song of the Day: Janet Jackson, “If”

One of Janet Jackson’s best. It has a very different vibe from the spunky, pop-y, chubby-cheeked fun of her earlier album Control (1986)—which featured songs such as “What Have You Done For Me Lately” and the title song, “Control” (great ‘performance’ video). Although she sings about being “all grown up” in “Control,” she’s still just a cute teenager on that album.

By her fifth studio album, 1993’s janet., from which the song “If” comes, she really is all grown-up, a mature and very sexy adult—as she makes clear with the cover. And that mature, sexual woman is all over the album’s two big hits, “If” and “That’s the Way Love Goes”—both of whose success got a considerable boost from having great music videos, which displayed to full advantage her new adult and hip, rather than kid and cute, persona.

It’s impossible for me to separate the song “If” from its music video. Probably like most people, I first encountered the song on MTV—which was possibly at the height of its powers in that period—and the video is so striking that there’s no getting away from it. Maybe I wouldn’t like the song so much if it weren’t for the video; we’ll never know.

It was directed by Dominic Sena, who got his start doing videos for Jackson, but has since gone on to feature films, including Gone in Sixty Seconds (fun) and Swordfish (embarrassing). The setting for “If” is a cyberpunk fantasy, like something out of a William Gibson novel, Idoru for instance—a futuristic, postmodern nightclub, in which people lounge around indulging in voyeurism through a web of surveillance, sporting clothes and haircuts that are a melange of Asian and punk.  It’s very stylish, and Janet’s dancing has seldom been better.

The video for the other hit off janet., “That’s the Way Love Goes,” was directed by René Elizondo, Jr and features then-unknown Jennifer Lopez dancing and doing backing vocals:

Filed under: Song of the Day, , ,

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zerode by nick chapman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

Oh - and hello to Jason Isaacs.

The 400 Blows

zerode

is an over-caffeinated and under-employed grad school dropout, aspiring leftwing intellectual and cultural studies academic, cinéaste, and former poet. Raised in San Francisco on classic film, radical politics, burritos and soul music, then set loose upon the world. He spends his time in coffee shops with his laptop and headphones, caffeinating and trying to construct a post-whatever life.

 

What's in a name... The handle "zerode" is a contraction of Zéro de Conduite, the title of Jean Vigo's 1933 movie masterpiece about schoolboy rebellion.

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