dirty martini

old music for new people

miss jackson if you’re nasty April 17, 2007

ok, let’s get this out of the way first. janet jackson is not the best singer in the industry. but the standard appears to have now been set by artists who employ rampant melisma and the technically brilliant yet incredibly unappealing christina aguilera.

janet‘s breakthrough was in 1986 with the ‘control’ album produced by jimmy jam and terry lewis, previously members of prince‘s group, flyte time. no vocal gymnastics necessary, this album was anchored by janet‘s confident delivery and the precedent set by electro funk/soul such as shannon‘s ‘let the music play’ and cherrelle‘s ‘i didn’t mean to turn you on’.

the album was short – 8 tracks – but it was a crash course in being a young woman in 1986 and beyond. female assertion at a time when destiny’s child were trying to colour inside the lines at elementary school (subject to age verification, cough). janet instructed young girls to take control, cut family ties, kick your boyfriend into touch and make him wait for it.these were ideas that resonated with my pre-teen group, and even more so with the teenage community, who appreciated further reinforcement of the guidance from girls’ magazines like just seventeen and mizz on dealing with sex. in 1986, the media didn’t dare portray 12 year old girls getting pregnant and carrying on happily with their lives in the way coronation street and eastenders would have us believe is possible in recent years. they put out messages about safe sex and waiting until you were older, because society had a spiralling aids epidemic to combat before it even dealt with teenage mums. janet, in her own way, made it cool to say no.

hmm. twenty years ago, no one went online to find that 21 year old janet was in the process of divorcing first husband james debarge, whom she had married at 18. i’ve listened to the ‘control’ album differently since the 2005 claims that they in fact had a baby during their short marriage. back then, you got your info from magazines like smash hits and the one-off interview with parky or terry wogan, and so precious few people even realised she had been married.

of course, its entirely possible that some of the bitterness and icy resolve that made ‘control’ such a great album was a reflection of the fact that janet‘s first two albums, released in 1982 and 1984, flopped. actually they contained some great tracks but failed to inspire, the first merely reflecting the waning disco sound and the second lyrically damper but equally funky as ‘control’, let down by an ill-advised duet with cliff richard. yes, that’s cliff richard.

by the time janet followed up her successs with ‘rhythm nation 1814’ in 1989, social consciousness was the order of the day and this album’s title track remains the only credible plea for unity to date. almost making up for several self-indulgent cheesefests unleashed by her brother.

in the 90s she trod the safer, summery r&b route, to great effect, then lost her way slightly in the 00s by failing to live up to the standards she set for herself. however, in today’s gossip and scandal obsessed culture, surfacing rumours of an 80s baby with then teenage husband james debarge and that wardrobe malfunction have ensured her profile remains high regardless.

and you know you want to look that good when you hit 40. so here is some lesser known janet, enjoy!

top 10 lesser known janet tracksdownload here

making love in the rain
the first collaboration with jazz artist herb alpert released in 1987 , this is a sultry chillout track in a similar vein to ‘funny how time flies’.

diamonds
the second, and better known herb alpert track, following a similar path to the upbeat ‘control’ numbers.

he doesn’t know i’m alive
quintessentially 80s and often overlooked ‘control’ track. ok yes, i used to sing this into a hairbrush.

one more chance
1993 b side to ‘if’ from the ‘janet‘ era. probably left off due to the proliferation of slow jams making the album.

pretty boy
cool electro funk from the 1984 ‘dream street’ album. production-wise, a preview to things to come.

don’t mess up this good thing
janet was too young, and jumped on too late to be a disco pioneer. but this standout track from her self titled debut in 1982 was a taste of what might have been.

where are you now
mid-tempo remix of a melancholy ‘janet‘ track, made sunnier for the ‘janet:remixed’ album by nellee hooper.

70s love groove
janet:remixed’ track originally on the ‘you want this’ single. similar to ‘any time, any place’.

you need me
included on the re-released cassette version of ‘rhythm nation 1814’. a ‘miss you much’ clone (never a bad thing).

accept me
mid-tempo grower released as a b side to ‘every time’ from ‘the velvet rope’.


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purple music

so, for my first post i’m tackling the big one. prince.

well, prince himself is rather small but his catalogue of work is…a monstrosity. with another artist, a prolific output could amount to countless filler, mediocre demos and alternate (ie. crap) versions of their better known work. but with prince, not so much.

some of prince‘s b-sides, leftover album tracks and unreleased gems are as popular amongst fans as his hits. and just when you think there can’t be any more, he unleashes yet more lost jams – seriously, from 1976 to 1990 this man must have only have been let out of the studio to perform.

I’m going through a serious prince moment right now. 2007 has seen a return to his patented minneapolis funk style amongst the r&b community in particular. p diddy and fergie’s press play reject ‘all night long’, ashanti‘s ‘my number babe’ and unklejam‘s ‘love ya’ to name just three.

one of the disconcerting things about growing up listening to prince was that at an early age, you suspected that you were already taller than him. his songs had cute, girly titles like ‘pink cashmere’, ‘peach and ‘kiss’ that failed to alert your parents to the rudeness that lied beneath. and like most little girls he loved purple and was unashamedly crazy. he loved to dress up and act like a diva – we identified.

during the ‘symbol’ era, many thought he had taken self-obsession a step too far – he thought he was unique, and therefore untouchable. the critics disagreed but guess who ended up being right?

one of great things about prince is that he was happy to share the limelight. to give up some of his best songwriting to other artists such as chaka khan (i feel for you), the bangles (manic monday), and sinead o’connor (nothing compares 2 u), was an inspired move that ensured his longevity. back in the day, when you literally bought the album and hoped for new b sides, his output was consistent rather than overwhelming and you never had the opportunity to get tired of him (beyonce, take note). whilst his latest protege or composition, liberally sprinkled with his signature style, wowed the public, he was backstage plotting his next move.

he remains to this day the daddy of the protege business, using his purple magic to launch the albeit short-lived careers of taja sevelle, vanity 6, jill jones and sheila e amongst others, and the various bands he performed with over the duration of his career – the time, the family, the revolution and the new power generation.

this is my current hard to find prince top 10 – it changes daily. i have more prince on my mp3 player than any other artist – about 150 tracks. ok, so these days you can download anything but these are non-album tracks, at least.

you can find more rare prince here, some tracks he wrote for other artists and some varying attempts to replicate his style.

top 10 hard-to-find prince mp3s… download here

17 days
originally written for vanity 6 sequel project appollonia, prince eventually released this as the b side to ‘when doves cry’ in 1984. amazing bassline, almost as good as the a side.

wonderful ass
classic prince circa purple rain. no idea why it didn’t make the cut – maybe warner bros. couldn’t handle the concept of a song with ‘ass’ in the title? well, it was 1983.

sex
again, prince tells it like it is and this gem doesn’t make the cut for the ‘batdance‘ soundtrack released in 1989. just before color me badd moved the boundaries of acceptability…

tell me how u wanna b done
remix of ‘the continental’ from the ‘symbol’ album. but much better.

cindy c
1987’s controversial ‘black album’ was pulled due to concern over the overt eroticism of the lyrics…uh…had they been listening to the other lyrics up until this point? prince apparently had a huge crush on cindy crawford, despite her towering over him by a good nine inches.

erotic city
ok, so prince is obsessed with sex. but this b side to ‘let’s go crazy’ is a fan favourite and still tears up the dancefloor.

love or $
hard to find track featured in the film ‘under the cherry moon’ that failed to make the cut for the accompanying soundtrack, ‘parade’. only ever officially released as the b side to ‘kiss’.

last heart
an album track from the 1985 ‘dream factory’ project that got shelved when prince was forced to streamline the content to create 1987’s ‘sign of the times’ album.

18 and over
1991 diamonds and pearls-era reject that picks up where ‘gett off’ and ‘cream’ left off…

underneath the cream
a track from 2004’s ‘chocolate invasion’ album which was only available via the npg music club.

expect more prince in future posts…