It has to be this year, I can almost feel it!
Attention, Rock Hall Of Fame: Janet Jackson's Time Has Come
Actually, Janet Jackson's induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is long overdue. Fellow '80s pop pioneer Madonna was inducted in 2008. Brother Michael was inducted in 2001. Prince was inducted in 2004.
Meanwhile, a host of less deserving artists have managed to find there way in. I won't name names, but here's the list. Obviously, there is a great deal of taste and subjectivity involved here, but in terms of cultural impact, it is hard to make the case that many of these acts are more significant than Janet.
Billboard certainly understood that when it honored Janet Jackson as just the seventh recipient of Billboard Music Awards’ Icon Award last week. Held at MGM Garden Grand Arena in Las Vegas and broadcast on NBC, Janet performed a rousing medley of hits — including “Nasty,” “If” and “Throb" — before delivering a powerful acceptance speech against abuse and the increasingly belligerent nature of our public discourse.
Why has Janet yet to make it into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? Some continue to deploy the stale argument that she's not a rock artist, ignoring the fact that the Rock Hall has long since given up on the often racially-coded exclusion by "genre." "Rock," at least in theory, now includes all strands of popular music, including R&B, jazz, folk, country, and hip hop. In recent years, we have seen inducted such non-rock artists as Tupac, The Beastie Boys, Hall and Oates, and Donna Summer.
Others have cited the fact that she is more a "pop creation" than a songwriter. Yet while Janet certainly benefitted from the talents of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, so did Michael from Quincy Jones, so did Prince from the Revolution, so did the Beatles from George Martin, and on and on. For those who have actually followed her career, Janet has played an integral role in all facets of her dynamic artistry: not only as a songwriter, but also as a producer, director, dancer, choreographer, and performer.
Another tired rationale is that the infamous backlash to "Nipplegate" is responsible for Janet's exclusion. Put aside for now the blatant sexism associated with that backlash. Put aside also what the incident revealed about America's ridiculous, puritanical hypocrisy. But are we really saying the Rock Hall has an issue with artists who have faced some kind of controversy in their career? Here's the list again. Many of these acts have faced controversy of far more consequence than Nipplegate. The other irony, or course, is that at one point this was one of rock's primary reasons for being: to provoke, to surprise, to push boundaries.
So let's look at Janet's case: She ranked No. 7 on Billboard’s 2013 list of Top Artists in Hot 100 History. She has 27 Top Ten hits. She has three of the most influential albums of an era (Control, Rhythm Nation 1814, and janet.), as well as some of its most iconic music videos. She has sold an estimated 160 million records. And she has influenced hundreds of major artists over multiple generations, including Britney Spears, Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, and Janelle Monáe.
During the 2018 Super Bowl as the hashtag #JanetJacksonAppreciationDay organically went viral on social media, Questlove made his own case for the pop icon. "I’m using my platform for #JanetJacksonAppreciation day for a slightly different reason," he wrote
Hopefully Questlove's influence as a voting member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame finally rights this wrong. As last week's performance at the Billboard Music Awards reminded, Janet Jackson is an icon in every sense of the word. It is time she is recognized as such in Cleveland.