On May 18, 1993, pop icon Janet Jackson released her fifth studio album janet. and made her first debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart. That year, she was certified five-times platinum by the RIAA and sold more than 14 million copies worldwide. This Sunday (May 20), 25 years ago later, Jackson will receive the Icon Award at the 2018 Billboard Music Awards for her contributions in music.
After a seven-year hiatus following the release of 2008’s Discipline, Jackson made history in 2015 by earning her seventh No. 1 album with Unbreakable (2015) and became the third female musical artist to achieve the most No. 1 albums throughout her career, among the likes of Barbara Streisand and Madonna.
Legendary music producer and long-time collaborator Jimmy Jam, who along with Terry Lewis helped cultivate Jackson’s sound since her breakthrough album Control (1986), says his friend “shows no signs of slowing down” and is deserving of the prestigious accolade.
“I think it’s wonderful she’s being honored. I think it’s well-deserved,” Jam says over the phone. “I would say overdue, but she has so much life left to live that she would be around to receive more awards. If anything, she’s in a unique part of her career where she doesn’t need to do anything but has a lot to say. We’re all the beneficiaries of that, so I feel very proud of her, very happy. It’s just an amazing time for her and the Billboard Awards is going to be another acknowledgment of her greatness over the years.”
Looking back at the legacy of the collaborative dynamic of the trio and the 25th anniversary of janet. – which Jam has called “the love album” – he marvels on Jackson’s musical influence on pop culture and society. Addressing relevant subjects of social injustice and racism on Rhythm Nation 1814 (1989), sexual intimacy and love on janet. (1993), sexuality, domestic violence, and depression on The Velvet Rope (1997), or passion, desire, and betrayal on All for You (2001) – Jackson’s music has caused a ripple effect.
“If you go back over the years, it’s been over 30 years since the Control album, since her influence on not only young black women but really what we see today in the #MeToo movement. All of those types of things, she addressed on her albums,” Jam says. “Unfortunately, some of the things like the school shootings are things we talked about in Rhythm Nation 1814, we talked about racism in “New Agenda” on the janet. album and women empowerment. Those types of themes that 25 to 30 years later we’re now seeing are still necessary to talk about.”
Jackson, who has sold more than 100 million records worldwide and has gathered accolades over her storied 30-plus year career including an Oscar nomination, remains one of music’s best-selling artists. Jam credits her longevity to her innovation as an artist and dedication to creating music that stands the test of time.
“She was way ahead of the game and her words are as relevant now as ever,” Jam says. “You can’t look at any female artists that out there from Beyoncé to Rihanna to you name it who isn’t influenced by what Janet did and are continuing, obviously, the legacy that she put down. But the interesting thing, like I said, Janet is still out here doing it.”
The 2018 Billboard Music Awards airs Sunday, May 20 at 8 p.m. ET/ 5 p.m. PT on NBC.