By Quinton J. Hobson
Six years after the summer 2009 death of Michael Jackson sent the world into a frenzy, reclusive baby sister Janet Jackson is about ready to make a long-overdue musical comeback.
Her announcement comes after more than five years of downplaying rumors, reminding pressing fans that “I promised you’d hear it from my lips.”
Last Saturday, her 49th birthday, Jackson took to Twitter to publicly address her future in the music industry. The singer announced via video, in which only her soft, distinguished speaking voice can be heard – creatively displayed on a colorful mixing board – that both a new album and a new world tour are in the works, tagging it ambiguously #ConversationsInACafe.
For those in need of a reminder, Janet is the youngest member of the famous 10-sibling-wide Jackson family, best remembered for founding the career of the iconic Michael.
The saga of Janet’s career reads like that of a free-spirited rebellious teenager seeking independence.
Unlike her famous quintet of brothers The Jackson Five, alongside whom she sometimes performed when the group evolved into The Jacksons, Janet’s career in entertainment actually began as a young actress and dancer appearing on shows such as Good Times, Diff’rent Strokes and Fame after being forced by father Joe Jackson to abandon her dreams of becoming an equestrian, drummer or entertainment lawyer.
Joe eventually pushed Janet to pursue a music career like her brothers.
Released to underwhelming success under her father’s strict management, her first two albums failed to make much of an impact on the charts. It was only after the singer finally terminated her business relationship with her father that she released her third album – appropriately titled Control- in 1986, and the rest is history.
Control spawned a string of megahits, among them the feminist anthem What Have You Done for Me Lately – aimed at ex-husband James DeBarge – a pattern that would repeat itself with the majority of her albums.
In addition to emerging as a direct competitor to big brother Michael, from whom she was determined to distinguish herself as an artist – comparisons were inevitable – Jackson’s prominence also challenged the likes of pop queens Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Celine Dion and Madonna simultaneously.
Although critics were quick to note that Jackson didn’t necessarily have the platinum pipes of Houston, Carey and Dion, she one-upped them all as a performer with her dancing prowess, honed to perfection by her then-choreographer, Paula Abdul of American Idol fame.
To-date, Jackson is the only member of her extensive musical family whose career comes remotely close to rivalling that of the King of Pop himself, while several modern-day female singers cite her as an influence, Rihanna and Jennifer Lopez among them.
Still very green, details pertaining to the singer’s upcoming eleventh studio album remain sparse.
An official name has yet to be confirmed, although it is widely speculated to be something along the lines of Conversations in a Café. Jackson has not released a full-length studio album since 2008’s Discipline, which preceded Michael’s untimely death by little more than a year.
One would think the passing of such a famous family member would have been more than an ideal opportunity for any artist to release an album immediately and capitalize on its bountiful press but Janet decided to rise above that, having chosen to take the high road, get married, limit public appearances and tour discretely in the meantime.