janet. is to Rhythm Nation like Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get It On is to What’s Going On: after an album loaded with social criticism came an album loaded with sensuality. The scenery in Janet’s career, in 1991, was the end of the contract with the A&M and the major record labels were eager to establish a contract with her. The highest bid, however, was made by Virgin Records (50 million dollars) and Janet had in her hands the most expensive contract in show business.
“Janet, period.” is the affirmation of her femininity, her personality. It is Janet’s affirmation. The omission of her last name name indicated that Jackson was no longer needed. She didn’t need the power of the family name, nor was she under the shadow of her brothers. It’s funny to note that, days later, her brother Michael broke that record by signing a 60 million contract with Sony Music. Janet, period, would reconquer the record a few years later, and would go further dropping Jackson of her stage name – the artist charting on Billboard, starting on the following album, would be, simply, Janet.
In this album, Janet blooms completely. The most we had seen previously was her sensual curves in the video for ‘Love Will Never Do (Without You) ‘. Here, you can see a woman talking openly about love, lust, sex and passion. She wrote the album while filming Poetic Justice, with her mind larded with the poetry of Maya Angelou, and decided to take a path lighter than the themes of Rhythm Nation and the hard reality of the housing projects of the suburbs of Los Angeles, in which her character Lucky lived.
Despite the record label wanting ‘If’ as the first single, Janet insisted it would be ‘ That’s The Way Love Goes’, because she felt that would be the best way to present the spirit of the album to the public. She had composed the song and shown it to Jam & Lewis, who did not approve it. They said Jackson had more potential than that and tha she should rework it. Then came her biggest hit of all time in the United States and, so far, in the world (‘ Together Again ‘ would take this title a few years later). Then came ‘If’, whose video won the award for Best Female Video in the MTV VMAs and had one of the most impressive runs in the charts for Janet, spending a lot of time in the top 10 – but not reaching #1. ‘ Again ‘, her next single and theme from Poetic Justice, was nominated for an Academy Award in the category Best Original Song.
Another great curiosity about the album is on the cover. The iconic photo illustrates the cover of the Rolling Stone magazine of 1993 (Janet topless with a hitherto mysterious man holding her breasts). The picture was taken envisioning the album work by Patrick Demarchelier. However, the label executives thought the picture would shock the public, and that would harm sales. Janet then opted to use a cropped version, only showing her face.