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People of the world unite: Janet Jackson’s ‘Rhythm Nation 1814’ turns 30


A&M/VirginIt’s hard to believe we’ve been a part of the Rhythm Nation for three decades.

Janet Jackson‘s landmark release Rhythm Nation 1814 was released on September 19, 1989, and it’s still the only album in history to have spun off seven top-five singles — including four number-one hits: “Miss You Much,” “Escapade,” “Black Cat” and “Love Will Never Do (Without You).”

It was the best-selling album of 1990, and has gone on to sell an estimated 12 million copies worldwide.

Janet and the album received nine Grammy nominations, including one for Producer of the Year, making her the first woman nominated in that category. The tour in support of the album was the most successful debut  tour in history.

The album’s success is even more impressive, considering that it was a concept album, a rarity in the world of pop and R&B. Speaking about the album’s inspiration, co-producer Jimmy Jam tells Billboard, “It was a crazy time. The Reagan years were ending. There were school shootings. There were all these unbelievable things starting to happen.”

Janet, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis took what they saw on CNN every day and created an album about social justice — a theme specifically spelled out in songs including the title track, “State of the World” and “The Knowledge.” The “1814” referred to the year the national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” was written.

According to Billboard, an ABC News special called Black in White America inspired the use of black and white in the album’s artwork and videos.

At the time, Janet said, “I’m not naive — I know an album or a song can’t change the world. I just want my music and my dance to catch the audience’s attention” [and motivate people to] “make some sort of difference.”

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