Janet Jackson
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Biography
Few celebrity siblings can emerge from the shadows of their already famous relations to become superstars in their own right and with their own distinct personalities. That's exactly what Janet Jackson did in becoming one of the biggest female pop and R&B stars of the '80s and '90s. Since her breakthrough in 1986 with the album Control, Jackson's career as a hitmaker has been a model of consistency, rivaling Madonna and Whitney Houston in terms of pop-chart success over the long haul. A big part of the reason was that Jackson kept her level of quality control very high; her singles were always expertly crafted, with indelible pop hooks and state-of-the-art production that kept up with contemporary trends in urban R&B. Once established, her broad-based appeal never really dipped all that much; she was able to avoid significant career missteps, musical and otherwise, and successfully shifted her image from a strong, independent young woman to a sexy, mature adult. With a string of multi-platinum albums under her belt, she showed no signs of slowing down in the new millennium.

Janet Damita Jo Jackson was born May 16, 1966, in Gary, IN. She was the youngest of nine children in the Jackson family, and her older brothers had already begun performing together as the Jackson 5 by the time she was born. Bitten by the performing bug at a young age, she first appeared on-stage with the Jackson 5 at age seven, and began a sitcom acting career at the age of ten in 1977, when producer Norman Lear selected her to join the cast of Good Times. She remained there until 1979, and subsequently appeared on Diff'rent Strokes (1981-1982) and A New Kind of Family. In 1982, pushed by her father into trying a singing career, Jackson released her self-titled first album on A&M; a couple of singles scraped the lower reaches of the charts, but on the whole, it made very little noise. She was cast in the musical series Fame in 1983; the following year, she issued her second album, Dream Street, which sold even more poorly than its predecessor. Upon turning 18, Jackson rebelled against her parents' close supervision, eloping with a member of another musical family, singer James DeBarge. However, the relationship quickly hit the rocks and Jackson wound up moving back into her parents' home and having the marriage annulled.

Jackson took some time to rethink her musical career and her father hired her a new manager, John McClain, who isolated his young charge to train her as a dancer (and make her lose weight). McClain hooked Jackson up with producers/writers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, whom she'd seen perform as members of the Minneapolis funk outfit the Time. Jackson collaborated with Jam and Lewis on most of the tracks for her next album, Control, which presented her as a confident, tough-minded young woman (with a soft side and a sense of humor) taking charge of her life for the first time. In support of Jackson's new persona, Jam and Lewis crafted a set of polished, computerized backing tracks with slamming beats that owed more to hard, hip-hop-tinged funk and urban R&B than Janet's older brother Michael's music. Control became an out-of-the-box hit, and eventually spun off six singles, the first five of which -- "What Have You Done for Me Lately," the catch phrase-inspiring "Nasty," the number one "When I Think of You," the title track, and the ballad "Let's Wait Awhile" -- hit the Top Five on the pop charts. Jackson was hailed as a role model for young women and Control eventually sold over five million copies, establishing Jackson as not just a star, but her own woman. It also made Jam and Lewis a monstrously in-demand production team.

For the hotly anticipated follow-up, John McClain wanted to push Jackson toward more overtly sexual territory, to which she objected strenuously. Instead, she began collaborating with Jam and Lewis on more socially conscious material, which formed the backbone of 1989's Rhythm Nation 1814 (the "1814" purportedly
 
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