There will never, ever be another Janet Jackson.
Mega stardom of her kind is increasingly hard to reach, especially if you are a black woman. There is Beyoncé, but even she can no longer claim to have the sort of radio dominance Janet once commanded—though that’s more so a testament to the diminished influence of “urban” music than Yoncé’s catalog. She’s also more an amalgamation of several pop stars of yore—Diana Ross, Tina Turner, Michael and Janet Jackson, respectively—than a singular artist. There is also Rihanna, but she’s long noted that she desires to be more of a “Black Madonna.”
Both dance (one way more energetically than the other), but neither offer the sort of choreography that made Janet Jackson the iconic pop star she is today.
I’m sure some people would now like to interject Ciara, who I’ve jokingly said in the past could’ve been some country-fried-steak version of Damita Jo. I wish Ciara the best in all her future endeavors, but she lacks vision, cohesion, and for all intents and purposes, blew whatever chance she had at becoming a behemoth in music. At this stage of her career, she’s more like a Kardashian who can dance.
Nonetheless, there is hope of an artist who can at least encompass some of Janet’s best qualities for a new generation.
If there’s anyone who might be able to muster what Janet Jackson meant to me growing up, it is the 22-year-old singer Tinashe. Whenever I say this to someone, I’m often met with one or two response: “Who?” or “That ‘2 On’ girl?” These are fair reactions, but not necessarily credible ones.
If there’s anyone who might be able to muster what Janet Jackson meant to me growing up, it is the 22-year-old singer Tinashe.
For starters, Tinashe has made her love of Janet Jackson very clear. In an interview with The Cut, Tinashe was asked about “How Many Times,” a track that features Future and is a sample of the Janet classic “Funny How Time Flies When You’re Having Fun.” Tinashe explained, “I listened to her all the time growing up, and she was definitely one of the people I idolized from a dance perspective, to performance, to music videos, to the music, just all around.”
If you listen to her very well done debut album, Aquarius, the previous mixtapes she released prior (which she wrote and produced on her own), you can tell The Velvet Rope is likely Tinashe’s favorite Janet album. She confirmed that last summer with theGrio, noting, “I would tell my future kids that if they wanted to know what artist represented R&B, it would be Janet. The Velvet Rope-era Janet was my favorite.”
I’ve seen complaints that perhaps Janet influences Tinashe a wee bit too much in terms of both style and vocal arrangement. Younger acts tend to draw heavily from those who inspire them, but for a woman who has been the dominant force of her own creative direction, one imagines those are more kinks needed to be worked out in her own development. If you listen to Tinashe’s excellent new EP, Amethyst, one thing should be certain: She has a distinct point of view.
In her review of Amethyst, Julianne Escobedo Shepherd wrote, “There's an ease and intellect, a fortitude and freedom.” This is much of Janet’s catalog in a nutshell, and if Tinashe spends much of her career trying to create her own The Velvet Rope, R&B lovers should all be so lucky.
The “All Hands on Deck” video is Tinashe’s best thus far, and honestly, one of the few music videos I’ve bothered to watch more than once. Tinashe actually tries to give audiences a show—see her most recent performance of the song on Conan.
It remains to be seen as to whether Tinashe will ever be able to amass even a fraction of the success and influence Janet Jackson once yielded, but if going by her already impressive catalog, music videos, and performances, she at least gets the tenets of Janet’s success better than most who have come after Damita Jo and before her. That makes her a breath of fresh air. That said, if she does blow up, please keep Nick Jonas away from her tits. That’s one Janet redux none of us need.