July 7, 2022

In The Quantity Ones, I’m reviewing each single #1 single within the historical past of the Billboard Sizzling 100, beginning with the chart’s starting, in 1958, and dealing my means up into the current.

Proper round 1997, an entire lot of American record-label folks and journalists had been very into the concept electronica would turn out to be the following grunge — an entire new wave that was about to comb in and go away the music panorama in a very totally different form. Electronica — a dumber-than-fuck made-up catchall time period for home and techno and trip-hop and different genres of music typically made by pale British guys with sequencers — was imagined to be the brand new factor that may recharge folks’s sense of exploration after alt-rock had performed itself out. There was magnificence within the promise of rave tradition and the thought of a complete new world the place the motion wasn’t within the musicians onstage. Within the summary splendid, this may be faceless music, music that allowed you to show your consideration to the chums and strangers round you, to maneuver the main target from godlike performer to heaving plenty. It didn’t fairly work out that means.

The large electronica hypes of the late ’90s didn’t typically get a lot play on the charts within the ’90s. The Prodigy’s much-touted album The Fats Of The Land did debut at #1 within the US, however their breakout single “Firestarter” peaked at #30. (This previous weekend, I heard “Firestarter” between bands at a hardcore present, and it nonetheless goes.) The Chemical Brothers made an out-and-out masterpiece with Dig Your Personal Gap, however their solely single that made the Sizzling 100, the epic Noel Gallagher collab “Setting Solar,” couldn’t get previous #80. Daft Punk ultimately bought big, however their 1997 hit “Round The World” stopped at #61 over right here. Aphex Twin and Tough and Orbital and the Crystal Technique and Underworld and Goldie and all the opposite stars of the rave-centric MTV video present Amp had been mainly non-factors on the American charts.

Early in 1998, although, straight-up home music returned to #1 on the Billboard Sizzling 100; it simply took a kind that no one anticipated. Home music had at all times been American music — particularly Black American music — and the style had a short run of chart dominance within the early ’90s earlier than folks began considering of it as British counterculture music. When electronica was imagined to be launching its huge takeover, an American celebrity who was going by a tricky private time turned in the direction of the home music that she heard in golf equipment, and he or she made a glimmering banger that paid tribute to pals that she’d misplaced. That banger turned the primary home observe to high the Sizzling 100 since, what, Mariah Carey’s “Feelings“? With “Collectively Once more,” Janet Jackson made a model of home music that absolutely understood the emotional energy of the style, and he or she added one other peak to an already-legendary profession.

Janet Jackson was going by it when she made The Velvet Rope, the 1997 album that is likely to be her masterpiece. It wasn’t that she wasn’t engaging in something. 1993’s Janet., her earlier album, had gone sextuple platinum and launched six singles into the highest 10, together with two that went all the best way to #1. Janet’s 1995 best-of assortment Design Of A Decade had offered one other 4 million copies, and the modern and propulsive “Runaway,” its one new single, had gone to #3. (It’s an 8.) Janet had additionally renegotiated her cope with Virgin, incomes herself $80 million and turning into, as soon as once more, the highest-paid musician in historical past.

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However Janet Jackson was depressed. She’d come from a massively profitable, massively dysfunctional show-business household, and her dad and mom seemingly did a quantity on her and on all of her siblings. Janet had points with consuming problems and self-harm. She felt just like the world was treating her as if she was one thing aside from human, and given the best way the world checked out celebrities within the ’90s, she was totally right about that. Earlier than making The Velvet Rope, Janet tried totally different strategies to make herself really feel higher — remedy, a religious guru, espresso enemas. Whereas she was making the album, Janet typically wouldn’t present up on the studio with longtime collaborators Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis for days at a time. She’d at all times been a consummate skilled. This was new.

In The Velvet Rope, you’ll be able to hear somebody engaged on herself, pushing and exploring and attempting to make sense of the world. Janet had already taken her model and her persona in several instructions, leaning laborious into funky and sexual R&B on Janet. On The Velvet Rope, Janet sang about struggling together with her self-image, and he or she additionally leaned into totally different types of sexual expression. Some songs get closely into S&M, and there’s additionally a canopy of Rod Stewart’s “Tonight’s The Evening” about an encounter with a lady. The album was each deeply private and sonically experimental, nevertheless it nonetheless labored as a Janet Jackson album. It nonetheless seemed like pop music.

The primary single from The Velvet Rope was imagined to be the dizzily lovely “Acquired ‘Til It’s Gone.” That one was constructed from a pattern of Joni Mitchell’s “Huge Yellow Taxi,” and it had an excellently murky J Dilla-inspired beat and a easily offhand Q-Tip verse. (“Huge Yellow Taxi” peaked at #67 in 1970. Once I noticed Joni Mitchell open for Bob Dylan a 12 months later, she did a little bit of Q-Tip’s verse on the finish of “Huge Yellow Taxi,” and it was lovely.) I believe “Acquired ‘Til It’s Gone” is an ideal tune, however when the folks at Virgin pushed the observe at radio, pop stations didn’t actually go for it, so “Acquired ‘Til It’s Gone” by no means got here out as a single within the US. Which means it by no means charted on the Sizzling 100. (On Billboard‘s Radio Songs chart, “Acquired ‘Til It’s Gone” peaked at #36.) Fortuitously, Janet Jackson had one other excellent tune able to go.

Janet Jackson co-wrote “Collectively Once more” with Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, and her then-husband René Elizondo, Jr., and he or she co-produced the tune with Jam and Lewis. By all accounts, the essential thought for “Collectively Once more” got here immediately from Janet. She had the idea, the title, and the opening line: “There are occasions once I look above and past/ There are occasions once I really feel your love round me, child.” Janet had misplaced not less than one good pal to AIDS, and he or she was eager about loss usually.

Janet additionally beloved home music. She’d fallen in love with “Runaway,” a tune that home legends Little Louie Vega and Kenny “Dope” Gonzalez recorded with their Nuyorican Soul venture in 1997. (It had nothing to do together with her personal single “Runaway.”) That tune reminded Janet of the disco that she’d heard when she was a little bit child at Studio 54. The truth that Janet Jackson had been a little bit child at Studio 54 may’ve had one thing to do with the melancholy that she skilled, however she heard uplift in that music, and he or she introduced that uplift to “Collectively Once more.”

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“Collectively Once more” got here out after an extended string of #1 hits coping with loss of life, nevertheless it doesn’t sound or really feel something like these songs. “Collectively Once more” shouldn’t be a melodramatic work of mourning. As a substitute, it’s a tune of optimism and celebration. Janet sings of loss of life as a type of liberation from earthly stresses: “No worries will you ever see now, child/ I’m so joyful for my child.” In every single place she goes, each smile she sees, she will see this individual’s smile shining again at her. It’s a tune about being excited to see this individual once more on the opposite facet, and from the place I’m sitting, that’s an entire hell of much more shifting than one other mopey ballad. In that sentiment, you’ll be able to hear a lineage at work — gospel to soul to disco to deal with. You may hear the craving for transcendence that’s behind a lot nice music.

“Collectively Once more” additionally simply slaps laborious. The unique thought for “Collectively Once more” was that it will begin out gradual after which launch right into a joyous quick beat after an extended wait, a bit like Donna Summer season’s “Final Dance.” (“Final Dance,” from 1978, peaked at #3. It’s a 9.) Within the remaining model, although, “Collectively Once more” will get by its intro shortly, and it dives into dancefloor euphoria after lower than 40 seconds of harps and misty keyboards. And when that beat hits, it actually hits.

Looking back, it’s wild that Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, and Janet Jackson, three producers who didn’t have any background in home music, had been in a position to nail that lush thump that so many different producers have didn’t evoke. “Collectively Once more” has a nasty bassline, and it’s filled with clavinet burps and flute-whistles — all of the attractive little decorative touches that encompass that booming central beat. Janet sings that tune with a tiny ache in her voice, however you’ll be able to nonetheless hear her smiling. Her voice communicates nice pleasure even whereas describing deep loss. I’m certain thousands and thousands heard and loved “Collectively Once more” with out even realizing that it’s a tune about loss of life. That’s the sort of miracle that pop music, at its finest, can pull off. It will probably flip a funeral into a celebration. I’m not a spiritual individual, however I can get behind that sort of transmogrification.

“Collectively Once more” doesn’t announce itself as a grand experiment, the best way some pop songs do. The tune’s model of home is so related to R&B that it doesn’t learn as a lot of a departure for Janet, and Janet had already been conveying happiness on data for years. However “Collectively Once more” simply kills me. I can’t be sad when it’s taking part in. It sounds giddy and unmoored, and it does issues to my mind chemistry. It won’t be probably the most vital Janet Jackson tune, nevertheless it is likely to be the most effective. It’s undoubtedly my favourite of her chart-toppers, and that’s saying one thing.

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For the “Collectively Once more” video, Janet went to Africa. The French photographer Seb Janiak filmed the clip in Tanzania, on the Serengeti, and it presents a type of pre-Wakanda African utopia. Janet appears cool as hell, with a giant nostril ring and with vivid crimson hair capturing in each course. The clip is stuffed with animals — elephants, monkeys, panthers, a falcon or one thing. Janet appears out on the desert with solar shining by clouds, and when she dances, she looks as if she’s lighter than air. Her smile is large. Janiak shoots the entire thing like a Nike business, and the clip affords no actual indication that “Collectively Once more” is a tune about loss. Possibly he didn’t even know.

There was one other “Collectively Once more” video, too. Jimmy Jam’s “Deeper” remix mainly constructed a complete tune out of the gradual “Collectively Once more” intro. Janet recorded new vocals, and the observe performs as luxurious downtempo neo-soul. René Elizondo, Jr. directed that video, and it’s simply Janet alone in an house, wanting like she’s attempting to seduce a ghost. A butterfly flits round her, and I suppose the butterfly is meant to signify the soul of the one who she misplaced, although I wouldn’t have picked up on that alone.

That remix was considered one of many. It’s not too stunning, on condition that it’s a membership observe, however an entire lot of producers did an entire lot of various issues with “Collectively Once more.” All these remixes most likely helped drive gross sales of the only. Within the US, “Collectively Once more” went gold. Around the globe, it offered a number of million copies. Janet adopted “Collectively Once more” with the R&B jam “I Get Lonely.” It’s a solo observe on the album, however the single model was a team-up with former Quantity Ones artists Blackstreet. Blackstreet chief Teddy Riley co-produced the remix with Timbaland, a man who will ultimately seem on this column. Thanks largely to that remix, “I Get Lonely” peaked at #3. (It’s a 7.)

The Velvet Rope went triple platinum. Janet’s tour behind the album made a bunch of cash, and her stay 1998 live performance particular did big scores on HBO. Twelve years after Management, Janet Jackson was nowhere close to accomplished making hits. She’ll seem on this column once more. Finally, digital dance music would conquer the Billboard charts. When that occurred, although, no one was calling it electronica anymore. We’ll ultimately see a number of that stuff on this column.

GRADE: 10/10

BONUS BEATS: Of all of the totally different “Collectively Once more” remixes, my favourite is DJ Premier’s “100 In A 50” combine. Premier, one of many all-time nice rap producers, gave “Collectively Once more” a full-on neck-snap beat, and it one way or the other labored completely with the tune. Right here’s that remix:

Janet carried out that Premier remix on the American Music Awards in 1998. Right here’s her efficiency:

(DJ Premier was one half of Gang Starr, whose highest-charting single, the 1994 basic “Mass Attraction,” peaked at #67. Except I’m forgetting one thing, the highest-charting Premier manufacturing is Christina Aguilera’s 2006 observe “Ain’t No Different Man,” which peaked at #6. It’s a 7.)

THE 10S: Busta Rhymes’ hypnotically bugged-out “Harmful” peaked at #9 behind “Collectively Once more.” That is severe: It might make you delirious. It’s a ten.