There are many pop and R&B artists who have amplified their sensual desires in their art - the charts are littered with them. Janet Jackson is among them, but there’s something different about her - there’s nothing fake in her fantasies, nothing forced in her exploration of her attractions, her lustful urges. And over the years, she’s been able to convey those things in perfect settings, with the perfect accompaniment, thanks to the sympathetic producers she’s worked with in that time.
The proof lay in the work she’s given us, from 1989’s Rhythm Nation 1814 to 2015’s Unbreakable - each one containing at least a few sexy jams, prime examples of Jackson’s most carnal interests. Here are some of the best:
“Come Back to Me”: Okay, this one is more about lost love than carnality, but it is a fine slow jam, and if that cascading pre-chorus doesn’t have the two of you gazing into one another’s eyes by its second go-round, it might be time to just turn on the lights and watch some reruns.
“That’s the Way Love Goes”: Though the chorus of “If” is nastier than “Nasty,” this is the track from 1993’s janet. that got hips swaying and couples pairing off. “Like a moth to a flame, burned by the fire,” she whispers throughout, “My love is blind - can’t you see my desire?” Well, no, we couldn’t, but we certainly could hear it, and that was plenty.
"Love Scene (Ooh Baby)": “Love Scene” is an update on a very special kind of sexy jam - one in which the singer is very specific about what she or he wants a lover to do, or is fantasizing a lover would do, were that lover there in that moment. Think of Teddy Pendergrass’ “Turn Off the Lights,” or practically any Barry White deep cut, and you’re on the right track. Jackson gives very specific instructions, and the music is pure boudoir background magic.
“Tonight’s the Night”: Yes, this is a cover of Rod Stewart’s ‘70s seduction anthem, and no, she doesn’t change the gender of the person being seduced. That added a bit of controversy in 1997, when the song was released on The Velvet Rope, but today, the prospect of such a scene is tame, indeed. What is not tame is the music - simple keyboard, simple beat, and a chorus of Janets flying in from all directions. It’s enticing, yet calming, and it’s what helps Jackson make this old hit her own.
“No Sleeep”: The ultimate weekend, perhaps: “48 hours of love, It's gonna be a weekend marathon / So you better get ready, my king / Cause I'ma be the queen of insomnia.” Then J. Cole comes in at the end and agrees to everything she wants.