#JanetJacksonAppreciationDay has been trending on Twitter all morning, but I’m seeing a lot of dismissive tweets from the children (and the Chads) who don’t understand just how big Janet Jackson was prior to that Super Bowl Halftime show or what the blacklist did to her next album and the momentum she had sustained since 1986. I just want to take a quick minute before lunch to take it back to 2004 to speak to those who are unfamiliar with Ms. Jackson.
In the early 2000s, Janet Jackson was arguably the biggest pop star on the planet. Between 1986 and 2001, she released 27 singles commercially in the United States (she released a few more would-be hits internationally or for airplay only) and all but three of them hit the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100. Absorb that level of consistency for a moment. For fifteen years straight, if Janet Jackson released a single, it was going to be a top ten hit. Of the three that missed the top 10, only two of them missed the top 20, and of those two, only one failed to chart (“Everytime” from The Velvet Rope in 1998). That is a level of pop excellence that was truly unparalleled by any of her peers.
Janet also released five number one albums in a row from Control through All for You, and she was coming off All For You in a sort of “return” to Pop Janet. The Velvet Rope – acknowledged by some of her fans as her best work – was a bit darker than the preceding janet. While it was still a smash, the tone of The Velvet Rope was moodier and more serious, but All For You had been a return to the feeling of janet. and it was basically janet. Part Two.
The lead single broke airplay records and was the first single in history to be added to every pop, rhythmic, and urban radio form in its first week. It was the longest reigning number one song of 2001, won a Grammy Award for Best Dance Recording, and ended up at #65 on the list of the biggest hits of the 2000s. The album debuted at number one and sold 8 million copies and she supported it with a tour that was famously broadcast from Hawaii on HBO. It was the eighth-highest grossing tour of 2001 even with two major hurdles: The last half of her tour was comprised of international dates, which she canceled in the wake of 9/11 because her team was afraid to fly, and her ticket prices were much lower than those set by Billy Joel, Elton John, Madonna, and U2.
When she performed at the Super Bowl, Janet Jackson was coming off another period of enormous success that she had been riding since 1986 without a misstep, a setback, or a controversy. Damita Jo, her upcoming album set to be released in the months following the Super Bowl, was predicted to do even better than All For You and she pretty much repeated the formula of AFY which was the same formula from janet. There was no reason for Damita Jo not to be the across-the-board smash that was predicted.
As for her relationship with Justin Timberlake, well…
In 1998, Janet brought NSYNC on the road with her as the supporting act for The Velvet Rope Tour, which legitimized them as a group in a way that no other boyband had been recognized. It was clear from interviews that Justin Timberlake had a crush on Janet (and most of us think they secretly had a fling), and she continued to support his career after the tour ended. When MTV approached her in 2001 to be the inaugural ICON for their new yearly series, she suggested NSYNC be a part of the tribute and we got this (amazing, flawless, unsurpassed to this day) cover of “That’s The Way Love Goes.”
In 2002, Justin wrote a song for his debut album that needed a female voice to sing from the woman’s perspective, and Janet Jackson stepped in to duet on “(And She Said) Take Me Now.“
So that’s where they were in both of their careers. The biggest pop star on the planet taking under her wing a little upstart looking to break out from his boyband. Janet Jackson gave Justin Timberlake the opportunity to perform as a solo artist in front of the largest television audience of the year because she had the power to do that and she had been in his corner since 1998. Justin was excited about it, obviously, and MTV set about organizing the performance.
If you’re a Janet stan who can’t handle any negativity about your fave, skip this next part because I’m just gonna be straight up about what I think happened during Nipplegate. You can come back after you see another line break.
At the end of the halftime performance, Justin Timberlake ripped off Janet’s bustier and the red lace bra cup came away with it revealing her breast accessorized by a nipple shield. She looked shocked, he looked shocked, the lights went down, and all hell broke loose.
I fully believe it was planned. Find a bra right now and try to rip it. It ain’t happening. The force it would take to actually rip a bra in one motion would’ve ripped her titty clean off with it.
Secondly, this is Janet Jackson, a woman who has been performing on stage since she was seven years old. She knows what performance wear feels like. Alexander McQueen, who designed the outfit, knows how to make a garment. Neither of them would ever have an “accident” like that. His craftsmanship is too good and she knows, as a performer, what to wear to keep everything in place. If your bra is so flimsy it would casually rip away from your body with one tug, you’re not going to wear it on stage in front of a live audience.
And lastly, who wears all that titty jewelry unless they plan for people to see it? A nipple shield isn’t so comfortable that you just say “I think I’ll wear this for the biggest performance of my life.” That is a lot of jewelry around her nipple. She obviously meant for us to see it.
And Justin knew all about it too. As close as they were and as long as they had been friends and collaborators, there’s no way she would let him go up on stage and be surprised by her titty popping out. He knew, she knew, and MTV knew even though they said they didn’t.
The NFL and Viacom said they had no idea that was going to happen, and MTV released this statement:
The tearing of Janet Jackson’s costume was unrehearsed, unplanned, completely unintentional and was inconsistent with assurances we had about the content of the performance. MTV regrets this incident occurred and we apologize to anyone who was offended by it.
But the tearing away of the costume was MTV’s idea, so they weren’t completely in the dark. It was MTV’s staff who suggested ripping Janet’s clothes off, and they first tried to have Justin rip Janet’s kilt. It didn’t go so well in rehearsals, but what do you think is more likely: that Janet & Justin said “ok we’ll skip that” or that they said “the bustier can tear away leaving the bra visible underneath.”
Y’all can draw your own conclusions there, but the fallout was swift and immediate. Justin Timberlake said it was an accident in a written statement. Janet Jackson said the same thing in her written statement – and then was forced to make a video statement as well reiterating that fact. The FCC tried to sue Viacom for hundreds of millions of dollars over a nipple, the NFL said MTV would never produce another halftime show, and Viacom – in retaliation against the lawsuit and no longer being involved in halftime – blacklisted Janet Jackson’s new music. Viacom owns CBS, MTV, Clear Channel, Infinity Broadcasting and a host of radio stations. They refused to play any of Janet Jackson’s music, which was a much bigger issue 14 years ago than it is today when we get most of our music online.
“Just A Little While” was the first single from Damita Jo, but there was no release date set. Unfortunately, the single leaked in January, which sometimes happened back then, so Janet and the label decided to officially release the song the day after the Super Bowl. On February 2nd the song came out, and it was the most-added song to pop radio with airplay increasing over 500%…and then Viacom instituted their ban on Janet’s music. This single that had gone from #113 to #47 in one week, stalled at #45 and became her lowest-charting single since 1983.
A remix for “Just a Little While” by Just Blaze had been planned to push to radio (since the single leaked and had kind of been out for so long anyway), but it was scrapped in favor of a softer image for Janet. “I Want You” was quickly readied to be released as the second single, a mid-tempo, throwback ballad, and it was met with favorable reviews from just about every publication. It was eventually nominated for a Grammy, but the single topped out at #57 on the charts. That’s two flops back to back for Janet Jackson, the most consistent pop star in the country for the past 15 years. The album was released and peaked at number two, her first album not to hit number one since Dream Street topped out at 127 back in 1984. All of this from an album that had been predicted to do even better than the smash she had had just three years before.
And that’s the picture I wanted to paint. I just wanted to remind y’all (or explain to y’all) just how big Janet Jackson was and just how poorly her efforts did right after the Super Bowl when Viacom blacklisted her music. Janet took all of the blame for that situation while Justin joked about it to Access Hollywood and on stage at the Grammys. Janet had been scheduled to lead a tribute to Luther Vandross at those Grammys and was pressured to withdraw gracefully or face being humiliatingly dis-invited, while Justin got to smile on stage, accept awards (for music that trashed Britney Spears), and perform for the adoring audience. Janet was blacklisted from radio and music television while Justin was bragging that he had had the best year of his life musically.
Everything about that reaction to a nipple was overblown, in part because it was an election year and George Bush, running on a platform of American Moral Values, had the Republican establishment and the media community behind him using Janet Jackson as an example of how lax the country had become in upholding decency. But it was also prejudiced, because I want you to consider the optics of Justin Timberlake ripping a bra off a white pop star like Britney Spears. Instead of a 90/10 blame that we saw with Janet and Justin, the two of them would’ve had to face the world 50/50. And then consider a white female pop star having her top ripped off by a Black male singer and try to picture that white girl facing even a tenth of the backlash Janet received.
Janet did not deserve what happened to her, and Justin did not stand by her as a friend, mentee, and alleged lover. Everybody owes Janet Jackson an apology and their greatest respect for still blessing us with new music and unparalleled performances after having her career brought to an abrupt halt over a nipple.
Today I Learned: Jacinda Ardern isn’t married.
She had a baby with her boyfriend and just kept it pushing. How about that.
My childhood political memories are defined by Republicans spending two years extremely concerned about Bill Clinton’s blowjob after spending the previous ten years extremely concerned about every other woman he slept with. Hillary, who they’d hated going back to the 70s when she didn’t want to take her husband’s last name, couldn’t run for President because her husband getting a blowjob from an intern was somehow her fault. He cheated, so something must be wrong with her. Newt Gingrich was in the process of having an affair with an intern while his wife was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, but his party didn’t care about that.
My first adult political memories of being really active and paying attention to the news are defined by Republicans trying to convince everyone that Barack Obama was a Muslim from Kenya. That didn’t stick, he was elected President, and then they became incensed that his wife showed her arms in her official photo. They said Michelle emasculated him because she talked about his annoying habits on late night television. They said she was arrogant because she had an education and gave her opinion. They said Michelle was a man because she was tall and Black. They went on to throw their full support behind a man who pays off porn stars, brags about assaulting women, and is married to someone who posed nude for years.
So here’s how I grew up in the United States:
Liberal women have to be beyond reproach. Liberal men can get away with impropriety, especially if there’s a woman nearby to take the blame, but liberal women have to be spotless. Republicans can ignore the dumpster on their front yard, but if there’s litter on your porch, they will call the police. If you are not June Cleaver born again, Republicans will rip you to shreds. And because the United States is obviously the center of the universe, I assumed Conservative parties across the globe were just as viciously hypocritical.
Jacinda Ardern has become an iconic leader for modern times because she’s a woman, she’s young, she’s shepherded her people through the coronavirus pandemic better than any other leader, and she helped her party win the biggest proportion of parliament seats in the history of New Zealand. And she’s not married!
When Jacinda Ardern was elected in 2017, I just assumed she had a husband, because I could not picture a 37 year old unmarried woman being elected President of the United States. The GOP would have called her a lesbian or a slut, and they would’ve manufactured enough “evidence” to make it stick in the minds of most Republicans and a large enough chunk of Christian Democrats to make her unviable.
Then she had a baby.
So of course she must be married, because that’s how you get a baby! Through marriage! Single women don’t have sex because that would be immoral. When she became the second head of state to give birth in office (after Pakistan’s Benazir Bhutto in the 90s), I assumed she had a husband. When she got reelected last year, I just knew she had a husband because, reminder in case you forgot, I grew up in the United States where it would be inconceivable for her not to.
But she’s not. Jacinda wasn’t even engaged at the time. She had a baby with her boyfriend and just kept it pushing. How about that.
American Friends, please picture a young, unmarried, liberal woman running for reelection with a baby out of wedlock on her hip. Take what they wrote about Hillary, add some Michelle, multiply it by AOC, run it through the Fox News Hyperbole Generator and we have a media storm of unprecedented scale!
Props to New Zealand for being a country of grown ups. I don’t really know much about y’all aside from a terrible season of Real Housewives and now my own sickening jealousy that y’all can go to the mall, but sounds like y’all are really doing something right over there.
Also: Jacinda grew up Mormon but now identifies as agnostic. Imagine the Christian Right in this country if the President didn’t quote Bible verses at least once a month!!!!!!!!!!!
Today I Learned: Rocket scientists don’t know what menstruation is.
No man at NASA has ever met a woman.
Over on Twitter I stumbled onto this white lady comedian (I think she’s a comedian — she might just be funny for free) because her scary Halloween story about an airplane is making the rounds (it’s only 2 minutes, and you have nothing better to do anyway).
So I was scrolling down her feed and she had retweeted a lady singing a song about Sally Ride. I was unsure if the details were true, so I had to look them up for myself before telling anyone, but it all checked out.
Here we go.
Sally Ride was an astronaut and physicist who joined NASA in 1978. In 1983, NASA sent Sally Ride into space at the age of 32 (still the youngest astronaut to go to space). She did two space trips and then left NASA in 1987.
The USSR had previously sent two women into space, but I guess NASA hadn’t thought to ask them “hey…what are women?” before sending Sally Ride up in a shuttle because they wanted to give that lady ONE HUNDRED TAMPONS FOR ONE WEEK IN SPACE. These are some of the smartest people in the country. Actual rocket scientists. 100 tampons for one woman for one week.
I have many questions.
1) On average, how many tampons do male scientists think women go through on their period?
2) How big do they think a vagina is?
3) Do they think the inside of a woman is just an empty vessel full of blood that has to be soaked up?
4) Whose idea was it to tie all the tampons together by the strings like a length of sausages?
5) What happened to the tampons?
So. Today I learned that no man at NASA has ever met a woman.
Here’s a song about the tampons.
Dennis Quaid and the Never-Aging Fantasy Woman
It feels like a snapshot of 24 has become The Woman we see in media all the time now. When we talk about beautiful women over 35, so often the commentary is around how young she looks, not simply what a beautiful woman she is, because men want to marry 20somethings.
When Dennis Quaid was 24, he married PJ Soles. She was 28 at the time.
When Dennis Quaid was 37, he married Meg Ryan. She was 30 at the time.
When Dennis Quaid was 50, he married Kimberly Buffington. She was 33 at the time.
Dennis Quaid, now 65, is about to get married again, and this time his fiance is 26 years old. She wasn’t even born yet the first two times he got married.
Dennis Quaid is engaged to Laura Savoie.
The actor proposed to his girlfriend while they were in Hawaii to promote his forthcoming movie Midway, which also stars Woody Harrelson and Patrick Wilson.
“It happened on the very northernmost point of Oahu, at Turtle Bay. It was kind of spontaneous. It was very much a surprise,” he told Extra on Monday, just hours after proposing.
“I had the ring in my pocket …. It has been kind of a month-and-a-half plan … I wanted it to be private,” said Quaid. The actor also shared that the proposal took place at sunset.
Quaid added that the proposal caught Savoie off guard. “She was actually taking a selfie of us, and I put the ring in front and said, ‘Will you marry me?’ — and then she fell down,” he revealed.
The actor, 65, began dating the University of Texas PhD student, 26, in June.
They look super happy together and life is too short to lose sleep over consenting grown adults’ relationships, so that’s not what this is. *EYE* am just on the Internet way too much, so when I saw that Dennis Quaid was marrying someone a third of his age, I thought back to this old Jezebel article about an informal OK Cupid survey that tracked the age preferences of its users.
In this first visual of the data points, the woman’s age is in black, and in red you see the age of men who look most attractive to her. The dashes are a parity line — when she’s the same age as men who look attractive to her, the red number will be on the line. When the man is younger, it’s below the line, and when the man is older, it’s above the line.
For the most part, women are attracted to men who around the same age as they are until 40ish when they start to favor younger men. Still, the age gap never widens to more than ten years.
Now look at the data points for men:
I don’t really need to expound upon that — the numbers are right there — but lots of people throw out “explanations” about why that is.
It’s evolutionary because men like women at their most fertile so they can pass on their genes.
It’s patriarchal because men like to control women and younger women are easier to “mold” and “reign” over.
It’s sexual because men are just gross.
Use whatever explanation you like, but whatever the reason, the effect is causing women to de-age right before our eyes. In my lifetime, 50 has transitioned from Grandmotherly Figure to Stripper, because women simply stopped aging.
Kim Cattrall in the first Sex & The City Movie was the same age as Rue McClanahan in the first season of the Golden Girls.
Jennifer Lopez could star in a Golden Girls reboot today.
In the 80s, the Golden Girls was pitched as a show about older women. Nobody considers Jennifer Lopez an older woman. And it’s not just about taking care of yourself or taking advantage of modern advances in the beauty industry, because even the package and presentation is different.
Anita Baker was a stunning 36-year-old woman. This was mid-thirties to me when I was growing up — Very Grown. No teenaged girl wanted to be Anita Baker.
This was Beyonce at 35. Teenaged girls want to be Beyonce.
Of course, Beyonce is the best to have ever done it so maybe it’s not a fair comparison, but this is Cheryl Cole at 36.
This was Nicole Scherzinger at 36.
It feels like a snapshot of 24 has become The Woman we see in media all the time now. When we talk about beautiful women over 35, so often the commentary is around how young she looks, not simply what a beautiful woman she is. Men want to marry 20somethings, so Tom Cruise is still kissing 20somethings in his movies at 57. Leonardo DiCaprio’s ideal girlfriend has never seen a VHS tape. Dennis Quaid is gushing about his engagement to someone who wasn’t even born yet when he became old enough to run for President. And as an extended result of that:
Ain’t it funny indeed.
Simone Biles and the Twisties.
Adventures in rehab.
99% of COVID deaths in the US are unvaccinated.
Take this Jim Crow era literacy test for Black people.
99% of COVID deaths in the US are unvaccinated.
A long weekend.
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