Janet Jackson and What Rock and Roll Is and Isn’t

Time to tell the haters that they truly don’t know shit from shinola. #janetjackson #RRHOF

On this episode of “What You’re Not Listening To”, I am going to use the amazing music of a recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2019 inductee to illustrate a few points about the pervasive sexism and racism that exists in music criticism circles regarding a recent choice by the voting body.

Janet Jackson, 1986, for an Ebony magazine photo spread. Photo by Harry Langdon.

“Is Janet Jackson a Rock and Roll artist?” seems to be the common theme of them all, debating her “rockness” in a career that has primarily been based in R&B, New Jack Swing, Dance and ballads. Of course, what these critics, almost always men and almost always white and almost always straight and almost always flaunting their poisoned privileged pens seem to never address are their own shortcomings.

Yes, the Rock Hall always misses the boat on some inductees, the MC5 being a glaring omission annually. However, by casting Jackson in a less than favorable light, what they are really saying is that Rock and Roll was never about Black people, it never was a dance-oriented medium and women should be relegated to being groupies or back-up singers.

Janet Jackson at the VH1 Fashion Awards, photographer unknown, 1998.

Of course, this level of criticism is usually never leveled at other white artists who barely register as “Rockers” at all, like Simon and Garfunkel, whom, in comparison to many of her songs, are truly tepid at best and boring at worst.

What the Rock Hall got right, and has with some consistency with women, is diversity. Yes, less than 10 percent of inductees in all categories are women. But of those women, more than 50 percent are Black. I will grant you that she would not have been my first choice when so many lesser-known Black women aren’t in the hall yet, but truth be told, I am glad the youngest Jackson sibling is getting her due.

Part of the photo shoot for Jackson’s debut album in 1982. She was just 16. Photo by Harry Langdon.

Because if you are pissing off a bunch of sad, white, sexist, ignorant and racist music critics by just being inducted, you know you are on to something special. Congratulations Ms. Jackson, and yes, I’m nasty.

First Part

  • Black Cat, 1989, Rhythm Nation 1814
  • If, 1992, Janet.
  • Scream, 1995, HIStory: Past, Present and Future (Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson)
  • Don’t Stand Another Chance, 1984, Dream Street
  • Diamonds, 1987, Keep Your Eye On Me (Herb Alpert, Janet Jackson and Lisa Keith)
  • Runaway, 1995, Design of a Decade: 86-95

Second Part

  • Control, 1986, Control
  • The Velvet Rope, 1997, The Velvet Rope
  • Go Deep, 1997, The Velvet Rope
  • Young Love, 1982, Janet Jackson
  • Escapade, 1989, Rhythm Nation 1814


  • What Have You Done For Me Lately, 1986, Control
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Love to you all.

Ben “Bear” Brown Jr., owner

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