Since her multi-million dollar selling commercial breakthrough (the album that established her identity nearly 30 years ago, Control), Janet Jackson hasn’t stopped being famous. Earlier this summer, Jackson launched a major tour, dubbing it ‘Unbreakable.’ The 36 dates on the North American leg, which is slated to continue throughout the summer of 2016, included a show on September 27 in Nashville, Tenn. taking place at Ascend Amphitheatre.
With Mother Nature threatening, the crowd was overly anxious, waiting in the sprinkles to get the show rolling. When Jackson finally appeared on stage 20 minutes past the scheduled 8 pm start, fans were overjoyed. The cheers and screams were so loud, it sounded as if they were coming from the Titans stadium on the other side of the bridge.
October 2 of this year, she’ll release her 11th studio album. Like her tour, this upcoming album is also entitled Unbreakable, her first new material in seven years. It will be the first album she releases through Rhythm Nation Entertainment, her own label. This project reunites her with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, the songwriting and production duo who shaped many of her early hits. Whether or not they can recapture some of that old creative magic remains to be heard.
Jackson started the show with a recently released song from her upcoming Unbreakable album, ‘Burnitup,’ featuring Missy Elliott displaying a video with Elliott’s participation. She presented a similar act later in the show with the new song ‘No Sleeep,’ featuring J. Cole, which included a hologram performance from the rapper. Jackson then, along with her band, backup singers and backup dancers, started their cardio workout. They went through everything from ‘Miss You Much’ to ‘What Have You Done For Me Lately’ to ‘Escapade.’ In many cases she encouraged fans to sing along.
“OMG, I love her,” said an extremely emotional male fan. Of course she performed ‘Nasty’ and ‘Together Again.’ The fans went wild with reactions from every single song. The energy of Jackson and everyone around her was undeniable. Although fast-paced mostly throughout, Jackson took time out to give special treatment to such ballads as ‘After You Fall,’ ‘When I Think of You’ and ‘Love Will Never Do,’ appealing to the hearts and minds of attendees as they took it all in.
In previous shows, Jackson’s eye-popping choreography gave way to a set of ballads. A sexually charged, borderline R-rated, S&M themed segment in which she plucked a guy from the audience, strapped him down, giving him much more than his money’s worth onstage, was something to see. Nothing remotely close to that happened this go ‘round.
Some would say she’s in a different, more settled place these days. Her concerts tend to cover all aspects of her personality. Set lists boast in excess of 30 songs, with Jackson intermingling classic hits from her entire catalog. After the ballads, she doubled back with crowd pleasers like ‘Together Again’ and ‘Rhythm Nation.’ She even found a way to include ‘Scream,’ a duet with her brother Michael from 20 years ago.
To conclude, Janet talked to the audience, thanking the fans for their love and support for her entire family throughout their whole careers. The strength seen in her professional life, it seems, has not always carried over to her personal life, but whatever the ups and downs in her personal life, Jackson has always stood strong onstage. Janet (or Ms. Jackson) still fills the nation’s largest arenas.