Just over 10 years ago Janet Jackson released her eighth studio album Damita Jo. Released on March 30, 2004, the album came out just under two months after the hugely talked about today Super Bowl halftime performance where the wardrobe malfunction happened.
The half time show performance is the most talked about as well as the most controversial in the history of all the performances that have taken place before and after.
Since then, it has effected Janet’s career hugely.
Damita Jo opened up with sales of 381,000 in its first week in the US debuting at #2. This was Janet’s first album to not debut of peak at #1 since 1984.
Official album cover
Total sales for the album were 3.2 million worldwide. Though this is a lot of records sold worldwide, for Janet it was a big drop in comparison to her previous records that were selling up to 20 million across the globe. Janet’s previous album All For You sold over 7 million worldwide with 3.1 of those sales being in the US alone which is just under what Damita Jo sold worldwide.
If Janet, Cher, Madonna or Kylie were to sell that many albums today with any of their latest records, this would be considered a huge success.
So why is this album overall such underrated and unfortunately not appreciated like it should be? Well after that Super Bowl performance Janet was blacklisted to be played on radio stations and wasn’t allowed to promote her album on many TV shows in the US, her biggest market. The music videos too were blacklisted to be played on MTV. The record itself has nothing to do with the Super Bowl so why were MTV on such a Janet ban? The Super Bowl game as well as it’s half time show is shown worldwide live yet in Europe especially the UK, the album had a lot of promo and zero blacklisting. Yes the Super Bowl takes place in the States but that shouldn’t effect an album released nearly two months after. And just to clarify if you still haven’t realised, the ‘wardrobe malfunction’ wasn’t set up on purpose like they tried to claim it was.
Janet and Justin seconds after the malfunction
In January 2014, former FCC chairman Michael Powell stated the controversy, fines, and reaction to the incident were overblown, and also said Jackson did not deserve the harsh treatment and blacklisting she had received in the media. Powell also considered it “unfair” that Timberlake did not receive the same effect and backlash that Jackson had endured.
Unfortunately, this apology 10 years later is far too late and the damage has done.
The album did receive critical acclaim from some music journalists and received two Grammy award nominations. One for ‘Best Contemporary R&B Album and has been declared a ‘classic’ by The Telegraph when listing their ‘120 Essential Pop Albums’.
Several critics observed the theme of Damita Jo to subsequently influence artists using similar concepts of alternate identities within album campaigns, regarding Jackson as the trendsetter in which singers “declare themselves in possession of multiple personalities.” The album’s production, cover, and music videos have also influenced various artists.
- Britney’s ‘Britney Jean’ album title was influenced from Damita Jo. Spears stated alternate persona Britney Jean lives inside her, in a similar means to Jackson expressing “Damita Jo is one of the characters that lives inside of me,”. Britney too is topless on the album cover
- Spears was photographed listening to Damita Jo in April 2008 and included its title track in a playlist for iTunes, saying “I love to dance to this song. It has such a good beat to it.”
- Britney played “All Nite (Don’t Stop)” for the audience prior to each show on The Circus Starring Britney Spears Tour, including it among her favorite songs for X Factor publication X Magazine in 2010.
- Katy Perry referencing Janet’s Super Bowl incident in the music video for “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)“, Perry’s alternate persona “Kathy Beth Terry” was likened to Jackson’s “Damita Jo.”
- Several critics observed Beyoncé‘s persona “Sasha Fierce” and I Am…Sasha Fierce album to be influenced by Damita Jo. The Sydney Morning Herald stated “When Janet Jackson released the album Damita Jo after the Super Bowl nipple furore, she told us that “Damita Jo is one of the characters that lives inside of me”. And now Beyonce wants us to know that this album … reflects how: “I have someone else that takes over when it’s time for me to work and when I’m on stage, this alter ego that I’ve created kind of protects me and who I really am.”
- MTV News considered Mariah Carey‘s The Emancipation of Mimi to be titled with inspiration from Damita Jo, using a similar concept of a hidden identity. Times of India also regarded Carey’s Mimi to follow in the trend initiated by Jackson.
- The rear artwork of Jennifer Lopez‘s Rebirth drew comparisons to Jackson’s Damita Jo album cover, depicting Lopez topless in a similar pose amidst a white backdrop.
- Critics cited “Just a Little While” to influence Crystal Kay‘s “Busy Doing Nothing” and Jennifer Lopez‘s “Cherry Pie.”
- The Washington Times likened Whitney Houston‘s “Like I Never Left“, a duet with Akon, to being inspired by Jackson’s “My Baby,” which featured Kanye West.
- AllMusic compared the erotic tone of Jill Scott‘s “Crown Royal” to the album’s suggestive content.
Ahead of it’s time
The album was produced by a range of producers. Janet on this record decided to explore and work with some new producers since her previous records were known to be almost always produced by her close music friends Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.
10 years ago Janet worked with hip hop superstar Kanye West. Kanye was a new name in the charts at the time and had only just started making it the big time but produced two songs on the album that were My Baby which he features on and her R&B slow jam which became a single, I Want You. Today Kanye producing a record would be pretty common since he has gone on to produce many many more tracks for musicians but Janet was one of the first big stars he had on his CV.
The album’s vocal production received prominent recognition. Jackson’s layered “breathy harmonies”, built upon “little countermelodies” and overdubbed “nonverbal asides,” were considered an inventive technique; providing a “plush romance.”
Not only Janet’s harmonies and tone but also the album tracks are considered ahead of it’s time with pop stars trying to have their own take of some of the songs. Logo‘s TheBacklot considered Britney Spears’ “How I Roll”, appearing on Femme Fatale in 2011, to draw influence from the Damita Jo track “Strawberry Bounce.”
|American Music Awards||Favorite R&B Female Artist||Won|
|Behind the Bench Awards||Touching a Life Award||Won|
|BET Awards||Best Female Singer of the Year||Nominated|
|Blender Magazine||50 Greatest Albums of 2004 (#50)||Won|
|BMI London Awards||Best Pop Song — “All Nite (Don’t Stop)”||Won|
|BPI Sales Awards||Silver Award||Won|
|Comcast Xfinity||Music’s Weirdest Alter Egos — “Damita Jo”, #10||Won|
|Complex||50 Songs To Make Out To — “My Baby”, #19 (2013)||Won|
|Grammy Awards||Best Contemporary R&B Album||Nominated|
|Grammy Awards||Best Female R&B Vocal Performance — “I Want You”||Nominated|
|Human Rights Campaign||Humanitarian Award||Won|
|20th Annual International Dance Music Awards||Best Dance Video||Nominated|
|MTV Japan Video Music Awards||Inspiration Award||Won|
|MVPA Awards||Best Choreography — “All Nite (Don’t Stop)”||Nominated|
|MVPA Awards||Director of the Year — Francis Lawrence, “All Nite (Don’t Stop)”||Won|
|MVPA Awards||Best Direction of a Female Artist — Francis Lawrence, “All Nite (Don’t Stop)”||Nominated|
|MOBO Awards||Icon Award||Won|
|NAACP Image Awards||Outstanding Female Artist||Won|
|OHBMH Awards||Icon Award||Won|
|Radio Music Awards||Legend Award||Won|
|Soul Train Music Awards||Lifetime Achievement Award||Won|
|Teen Choice Awards||Best Female||Nominated|
|The Telegraph||120 Essential Pop Albums; 2008||Won|
|Source Awards||R&B Artist of the Year||Won|
|VH1||30 Hottest Naked Album Covers of All Time, #30 (2013)||Won|
|Complex||Sean Garrett’s 25 Most Essential Songs|