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For The Record: The Transformational Public Heartache Of Janet Jackson's 'All For You' At 20

Janet Jackson

Photo: L. Cohen/WireImage

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For The Record: The Transformational Public Heartache Of Janet Jackson's 'All For You' At 20

Janet Jackson's GRAMMY-winning seventh album, 'All For You,' released two decades ago this year, was a healing session that solidified her as an unshakeable icon

GRAMMYs/May 3, 2021 - 02:37 am

After years of turmoil, Janet Jackson entered the Y2K era as a free woman. The artwork of her 2001 album, All For You, says it all: Lounging on a bed, a white blanket covering her nude curves, she flashes her famous, million-watt smile. It's a stark contrast to the cover of her 1997 album, The Velvet Rope, in which her face is lowered and nearly covered by ginger curls.

The introspective The Velvet Rope digs into Jackson's depression caused by an emotional breakdown. Long regarded as her magnum opus, the album embraces the LBGTQ+ community, addresses domestic violence and serves as a raw therapy session where Jackson lets the curtain of the "Strong Black Woman" trope fall.

In her 2017 essay, "The Mule of the World: The Strong Black Woman and the Woes of Being 'Independent,'" Cailyn Petrona Stewartee discusses how Black women have historically been forced to mask their true selves behind armor.

"The Black woman is represented to be either too mad or too strong, her presence is constructed as one that is always hyper-visible leaving no room for acknowledgment of her organic human complexity and nuance," Stewart writes. "And if survival is attained, pieces of the Black woman's sanity and humanity have been lost along the journey."

Of course, Jackson had taken breaks in between albums before. But the four-year-long journey that led to All For You, her seventh album, found her picking up those shattered pieces and relearning herself again. What was behind that beaming smile on the cover? Her glow-up after finalizing her divorce from René Elizondo Jr.

Elizondo Jr. was a backup dancer for Jackson's older sister, LaToya. He later became Janet's creative partner—he directed some of her music videos, including "That's the Way Love Goes" and "Together Again"—and one of the main songwriters on The Velvet Rope.

Theirs was a nine-year secret marriage—Jackson even lied about it during a 1997 "Oprah" interview—that was only revealed following the divorce announcement. Things soon turned messy, as Elizondo Jr., who initiated the breakup in 2000, later sued Jackson for $10 million over property rights.

Once the ink dried on the divorce papers, Jackson lifted her head up high and doubled down on her newfound singledom on All For You.

"I'm no longer married. I hope it doesn't sound bad to say that was the inspiration. But because I'm in a different space, it's like I'm being introduced to a whole new world that I've never experienced before," she explained in an album promo video. "I feel really good, and the album was a lot of fun to make. My life has changed a great deal, and that's why there's a new, freer me."

Compared to Velvet Rope, All For You trades dark vulnerability for a delicate intimacy as she takes back her power as a woman and uses happiness as her revenge. Jackson goes the opposite route of pop's post-Y2K futurism that artists like Britney Spears, *NSYNC, Madonna and Jennifer Lopez were exploring at the time. Instead, she and her longtime producers, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, traveled back to the '70s and '80s to revive funk, disco, dance and rock.

That joyride is near-tangible on All For You's title track, which is pure sunshine captured in a song. Sampling Italian-American ensemble Change's 1980 single, "The Glow of Love," the song's vibrant production and signature Janet winks—"Got a nice package alright/Guess I'm gonna have to ride it tonight"—were a winning combination: Her fifth No. 1 hit, "All For You" won a GRAMMY for Best Dance Recording at the 44th GRAMMY Awards, held in 2002.

Jackson's free spirit continued with "Come On Get Up," an extension of her early-'80s dance-pop eras. Rockwilder, best known for his work with Method Man and Redman in the '90s, co-produced the song, along with four other tracks, marking the first time Jackson sought out new collaborators since 1986's Control. "Someone To Call My Lover," which also received a GRAMMY nomination for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, and "Doesn't Really Matter" also exude happiness. The former samples America's 1972 song, "Ventura Highway," as Jackson sweetly dreams about her next beau; the latter, a single off the 2000 soundtrack to the Nutty Professor II: The Klumps, in which Jackson also starred, is a sparkling ode to unconditional love.

Read: The Bodyguard Soundtrack: 25 Years After Whitney Houston's Masterpiece

But this wouldn't be a Janet Jackson album without a hefty dose of sex. While "When We Oooo" continues the feminine sensuality from 1993's janet., it's the one-two punch of "Love Scene (Ooh Baby)" and "Would You Mind" that really augments the erotica. "Would You Mind" finds the singer yearning to "Kiss you, suck you, taste you, ride you" as the rain comes down and she literally moans into the listener's ear. (Jackson later reignited the freaky adventure on 2004's Damita Jo via "Warmth" and "Moist," two songs even more explicit than their predecessors, in which Jackson further details the pleasures of giving and receiving oral sex.)

On the flipside of pleasure is pain, and Jackson's $10 million lawsuit is still top of mind. "Trust A Try" finds the singer raging about feeling betrayed atop a headbanging fusion of opera, rap and hard rock. On the Five Stairsteps-interpolating "Truth," she makes note of her sold-out tours and radio hits while feeling a bit bitter: "How much is enough to pay for this mistake?" she sings. She calls on Carly Simon for "Son of a Gun (I Betcha Think This Song Is About You)," which interpolates Simon's 1972 classic, "You're So Vain." Jackson has every right to be angry, and she fearlessly taunts her ex-husband on the refrain: "Thought you'd get the money, too/Greedy motherf*s try to have their cake and eat it, too."

"There are times when it feels like it just happened yesterday, and there's a bit of a sting. But I have to move on. I have to keep going. I can't let it stress me out, stop me from reaching my goals. I'm just glad that I'm in the state of mind that I'm in," Jackson told VIBE of the divorce in 2001. On the album's closer, "Better Days," she makes it a priority to live for herself without restraints: "Leavin' old s* behind/And move on with my life/The blindfold's off my eyes/And now all I see for me is better days."

Jackson stuck to that promise to "leavin' old s* behind" following All For You. The double-platinum album continued her No. 1 hot streak, debuting atop the Billboard 200 in May 2001, and earned a GRAMMY nomination for Best Pop Vocal Album. That same year, at age 35, MTV crowned her their first MTV Icon. The moment broke more ageist stereotypes, as seen with Tina Turner's 1984 Private Dancer comeback in her mid-'40s followed by Beyoncé, who most recently scored the most GRAMMY wins as a female artist at age 39.

Since All For You, Jackson has released four albums, survived a misogynistic Super Bowl catastrophe, became a mom in 2017, scored more acting roles, and received the Billboard Icon Award and the MTV EMA Global Icon Award, both in 2018. The singer could've let the divorce circus derail her, but All For You proved she couldn't be confined by a man nor her music. Along with celebrating the beauty of Black women's multifaceted nature, the album showed they could maneuver through pop and R&B with ease.

It's a feat that has continued with Black millennial artists like Rihanna, whose Rated R and Loud mimics Jackson's Velvet Rope and All For You transition, Ciara, Dawn Richard, Solange, Doja Cat, Tinashe and Kelela. Since All For You, women have shattered genre boundaries, dominated the charts and revealed their most vulnerable selves. We have Janet Jackson to thank for first inviting us into her world.

Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814: For The Record

Rotimi On Performing At ESSENCE Fest, Growing Up African-American & More

Rotimi

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Rotimi On Performing At ESSENCE Fest, Growing Up African-American & More

The Nigerian-American singer and actor sat down with the Recording Academy to talk about what inspired his latest album, 'Walk With Me'

GRAMMYs/Jul 8, 2019 - 10:04 pm

In 2015, Rotimi stepped into the New Orleans Superdome for the first time to experience the magic of ESSENCE Fest. Four years later, in 2019, the "Love Riddim" singer returned to the celebration as a performer, something he said was spoken into existence.

"Last year me and my manager had a conversation and I said, 'Listen, I'm going to be on the [ESSENCE] mainstage this year. 365 days later, we did it," Rotimi told the Recording Academy at the 25th annual ESSENCE Fest.

Rotimi, also an actor on Starz' "Power," has evolved since his last album, 2017's Jeep Music, Vol.1. The singer said he really hit home with its follow-up, the recently released Walk With Me, a project he worked hard for, putting in hours in the studio after filming on set.

"Walk With Me is the first time I actually felt like I was giving myself as an artist, and personally I feel like with everything else I have going on I wanted to show people that this is really what I do," he said. "I wanted people to understand who Rotimi is, who Rotimi was before, who I want to be and just understand my growth and the journey and my passion for what I do."

Part of why the album felt like such a representation of him is because it embodies beats of his African roots, something he said was very present growing up Nigerian-American. 

"I grew up with a lot of Fela Kuti and I grew up with Bob Marley," he said of his musical roots. "But I also grew up with Carl Thomas and Genuine and Usher, so there was a genuine mixture of who I am and what I've grown up to listen to. The actual Walk With Me project was a mixture of influences of Akon and Craig David."

Mumu Fresh On What She Learned From Working With The Roots, Rhyming & More

Taylor Swift Plots 2020 World Tour With U.S. Dates For Lover Fest East & West

Taylor Swift

Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/VMN19/Getty Images

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Taylor Swift Plots 2020 World Tour With U.S. Dates For Lover Fest East & West

Following dates in Europe and South America, Swift will land in the U.S. for Lover Fest East and West, where the pop star will open Los Angeles' brand new stadium

GRAMMYs/Sep 18, 2019 - 02:38 am

Taylor Swift  will be spreading the love in support of her hit album Lover.in 2020, but it may or may not be in a city near you. The GRAMMY winner announced plans for her summer 2020 tour in support of her seventh studio album, including two shows each in Foxborough, Mass. and Los Angeles for Lover Fest East and West respectively as the only four U.S. dates announced so far.

The tour kicks off in Belgium on June 20 and hits festivals in seven European countries before heading to Sao Paulo, Brazil on July 18 then heading to U.S. Swift will then present Lover Fest West with back-to-back Los Angeles July 25 and 26 at the newly named SoFi Stadium. The concerts will serve as the grand opening of the much-anticipated NFL venue. The tour will wrap a double header at Gillette Stadiuim in Foxborough July 31 and Aug 1

"The Lover album is open fields, sunsets, + SUMMER. I want to perform it in a way that feels authentic," she tweeted. "I want to go to some places I haven’t been and play festivals. Where we didn’t have festivals, we made some. Introducing, Lover Fest East + West!" 

Lover was released Aug. 23 and debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. Her sold-out tour for her previous album, 2017's Reputation, was the highest grossing U.S. tour ever, breaking her own record.

Tickets for the new dates go on sale to the general public via Ticketmaster on Oct. 17. 

ReImagined At Home: Watch Ant Clemons Croon The Cosmic Blues In Performance Of Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine"

Ant Clemons

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ReImagined At Home: Watch Ant Clemons Croon The Cosmic Blues In Performance Of Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine"

Singer/songwriter Ant Clemons puts his own spin on Bill Withers' immortal "Ain't No Sunshine" in an exclusive performance for ReImagined At Home.

GRAMMYs/Jun 15, 2021 - 08:13 pm

Why has Bill Withers' immortal hit, "Ain't No Sunshine," endured for decades? And, furthermore, why does it seem set to reverberate throughout the ages?

Could it be because it's blues-based? Because it's relatable to anyone with a pulse? Because virtually anyone with an ounce of zeal can believably yowl the song at karaoke?

Maybe it's for all of those reasons and one more: "Ain't No Sunshine" is flexible

In the latest episode of ReImagined At Home, check out how singer/songwriter Ant Clemons pulls at the song's edges like taffy. With a dose of vocoder and slapback, Clemons recasts the lonesome-lover blues as the lament of a shipwrecked android.

Giving this oft-covered soul classic a whirl, Clemons reminds music lovers exactly why Withers' signature song has staying power far beyond his passing in 2020. It will probably be a standard in 4040, too.

Check out Ant Clemons' cosmic, soulful performance of "Ain't No Sunshine" above and click here to enjoy more episodes of ReImagined At Home.

ReImagined At Home: Keedron Bryant Powerfully Interprets John Legend's Love Song "Ordinary People"

 

Poll: From "Dreams" To "The Chain," Which Fleetwood Mac Song Is Your Favorite?

Fleetwood Mac in 1975

Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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Poll: From "Dreams" To "The Chain," Which Fleetwood Mac Song Is Your Favorite?

"Dreams" experienced a charming viral moment on TikTok after a man posted a video skateboarding to the classic track, and now it's back on the charts, 43 years later

GRAMMYs/Oct 16, 2020 - 04:00 am

In honor of Fleetwood Mac's ethereal '70s rock classic "Dreams," which recently returned to the Billboard Hot 100 thanks to a viral TikTok skateboard video from Nathan Apodaca, we want to know which of the legendary group's songs is your favorite!

Beyond their ubiquitous 1977 No. 1 hit "Dreams," there are so many other gems from the iconic GRAMMY-winning album Rumours, as well as across their entire catalog. There's the oft-covered sentimental ballad "Landslide" from their 1975 self-titled album, the jubilant, sparkling Tango in the Night cut "Everywhere" and Stevie Nicks' triumphant anthem for the people "Gypsy," from 1982's Mirage, among many others.

Vote below in our latest GRAMMY.com poll to let us know which you love most.

Related: Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams" Back On Charts Thanks To Viral Skateboard Video On TikTok

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Poll: What's Your Favorite Van Halen Song?