The 25 Most Iconic Janet Jackson Videos
Janet Jackson is a music video icon. Alongside her brother, Michael Jackson and Madonna, she dominated the music video medium in the '80s and on into the '90s, becoming one of the world's biggest stars in the process.
From innocent and sweet, to sexy and sensual, from playful and fun to politically charged and passionate, Janet's videos encompass a wide range of emotions and statements. She's undoubtedly one of the most influential artists of our time, directly inspiring a slew of pop starlets in her wake. Her video for "Pleasure Principle" alone stands as a dance influence for those who followed her stardom, including Brittany Spears, Ciara, Mya, and countless others.
But it isn't just the dancing that makes Janet's video catalog so important, or the high-end productions, innovative concepts, and eye for directing talent. It's the statements she consistently made with her visual art.
Her work on 1989's Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814 transformed her from a breakout pop star to a woman with a message. It's sociopolitical charged content undoubtedly inspired Beyoncé's visual film, Lemonade, and remains one of the most important pop records released in the past 50 years.
And her statement on Velvet Rope, her most personal album to date, continues to be a subtle influence for women asserting and owning their sexuality, vulnerability and power.
Janet's videos have played no small part in her status as one of the greatest performers of all-time. Her appeal was there on the screen, for the world to see, as she flirted and played, danced and scowled, seduced and inspired. The intricate choreography, the messaging, the futuristic inclinations, and the trend-setting tone of her visual work can't be overstated.
Here are 25 quintessential videos from her impactful career.
"Pleasure Principle" (1986)Control
Is Janet's "Pleasure Principle" from her 1986 breakout album, Control, her best video ever? It's certainly debatable. It undoubtedly set a template for dance-centric videos that followed it for years to come. The Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis hit is one of her best songs, and the video was all about Janet—giving her a chance to shine and showcase the depth of her talent and charisma via choreography by Barry Lather. There aren't any elaborate costume changes, no props (aside from a chair), and no special effects. It's just Janet rocking black jeans and t-shirt, showing you exactly why she's a star. It's impossible to look away while watching this video.
"When I Think of You" (1986)Control
Another gem from Control, the video for "When I Think of You" was all sunshine and smiles. Coupled with Janet's fabulous hair, the long-take style video, directed by Julien Temple is fun-Janet at her best. The video was nominated for an MTV Video Music Award for Best Choreography.
Control was all about Janet asserting herself as a grown woman, stepping out of her brother's shadow, and redefining herself after her 1982 self-titled debut, and it's 1984 follow-up, Dream Street, failed to gain commercial success. By the time she released her second single, "Nasty," from her breakout 1986 album, Control, it was obvious she'd accomplished her goal with the declaration heard around the world—"My first name ain't baby, it's Janet – Miss Jackson if you're nasty." Paula Abdul, who also makes a cameo, choreographed the video, earning her an MTV Video Music Award for "Best Choreography."
"Rhythm Nation" (1989)Rhythm Nation 1814
One of the most influential videos of all time, Janet Jackson's 1989 video, "Rhythm Nation" redefined just how culturally influential and relevant a political pop song could be. Right at the end of the Reagan era, the country found itself struggling with an AIDS and crack epidemic that disproportionately affected the black community. Janet wanted to take a stand, and craft a socially conscious album that spoke to the times with 1989's Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814. Janet would continue to use her voice similarly throughout her career. The video for "Rhythm Nation," directed by Dominic Sena, was the final inclusion in Jackson's long-form film, Rhythm Nation 1814 and racked up several awards with its post-apocalyptic setting and militaristic, Black Panther-esque costuming. Janet's passionate vocal and dance performance rang clear– "It's time to give a damn/Let's work together come on, yeah."
The lead single from her album of the same name, "Control" was all about Janet making a declarative statement. With producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis (formerly of The Time) by her side, she did just that, creating the beginning of a dominant, landscape-changing run for pop and R&B music. The video is a short film, running at over nine minutes long, complete with an upset Janet itching to get out of her parents' dominating home before heading off to assert her "control" on stage in front of screaming fans. Jerome Benton of Purple Rain fame makes a cameo in the video, along with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, showing off their Morris Day-like dance moves on stage.
"Alright" (1990)Rhythm Nation 1814
If Control was an essential album in the maturation of Janet from cute teen to adult, Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814 was pivotal in establishing her as one of the biggest pop stars on the planet. This was the album that led to dominance in the '90s and showcased the depth of her talent. She could do everything—dance, sing, get political without being corny, dabble in hip-hop and R&B and sing pure pop too. "Alright" featuring Heavy D, the fourth single from the album, helped Janet break Madonna's record, becoming the fourth consecutive single from the album to reach number one on the Dance Clubs chart. The video plays like a 1930s musical (complete with zoot suits), paying homage to the iconic Cab Calloway.
"Miss You Much" (1989)Rhythm Nation 1814
"Miss You Much" was the lead single from Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814, a fun pop song that became the second-best selling single of 1989 and the biggest radio airplay song of the year. Similar to "Pleasure Principle," the choreography is the focal point of the simple, black and white video.
"Escapade" (1989)Rhythm Nation 1814
"Escapade" was the third of the historic seven top-five singles released from Janet's groundbreaking Rhythm Nation 1814 album. The video, directed by Peter Smillie, mimics the upbeat vibe of the song, with Janet and her dance crew smiling and dancing at what looks like a carnival of some sort.
One of Janet's sexiest videos ever, "If" came during another reinvention period for Janet, as she brazenly embraced her sexuality and independence. She'd just signed a new $40 million contract with Virgin and set about asserting that she was in control of her career, writing and co-producing all the tracks on her album, janet. "If" takes place in an Asian nightclub, and has to be one of the earliest visuals where touchscreen technology was introduced.
"Love Will Never Do Without You" (1989)Rhythm Nation 1814
This is the video where Janet completely morphed from an adorable pop singer, into a bonafide sex symbol. Silky and subtle, and featuring memorable cameos from a young Anthony Sabato Jr. and Djimon Hounsou, Janet's pure sexiness in this video is iconic.
"Come Back To Me" (1989)Rhythm Nation 1814
This was more than just a sweet video (directed by Dominic Sena), it's where Janet met her future husband, René Elizondo, Jr. Though they later divorced, the video exhibited the soft side of Janet that America fell in love with.
"What Have You Done For Me Lately"Control
One of the signature songs from 1986's Control, "What Have You Done For Me Lately" was the sassy break-up anthem of the '80s The visual was directed by Brian Jones and Piers Ashworth and choreographed by Paula Abdul. Abdul also appears in the video, questioning Janet about what her bum boyfriend has done for her lately before a scowling Janet gets into a dance-off with the leather jacket-wearing guy and his friends in a diner. There's Janet's big hair, people doing the snake, and blazers with humungous shoulder pads— all things that made the '80s so glorious.
"That's The Way Love Goes" (1993)janet.
Janet was effortlessly cool and always ahead of the trend. One of the videos that illustrates that the most is "That's The Way Love Goes" from her 1993 release, janet. Just watch the beginning—who wouldn't want to kick it with Janet and her dancers?
"Anytime, Anyplace" (1993)janet.
"Anytime, Anyplace" is one of the most sensual songs ever recorded. Janet's soft vocals were perfect as she urged her lover to do what they both wanted, "anytime, anyplace." The video was just as hot as you'd expect it to be too, though Janet's romp with her sexy neighbor acted as safe sex campaign. A raunchier, alternate version of the video was shot, for R. Kelly's remix but we'll leave you with the original.
"Scream" featuring Michael Jackson (1995)HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I
The historic "Scream" video was a long time coming for diehard Janet and Michael Jackson fans. This was before social media was a thing when the way that stars communicated with people was mostly through their art, hence the raging, futuristic imagery for "Scream." The visual finds the famous Jackson siblings angrily aiming squarely at the meddlesome media. The song shows up on Michael's HIStory- Past Present & Future Book I album, as he pleas–"With such delusions don't it make you want to scream?" The video, directed by Mark Romanek, is the most expensive video of all-time, costing a whopping $7 million.
"Got Til It's Gone" featuring Q-Tip (1997)Velvet Rope
This isn't necessarily the first video that comes to mind when you think about classic Janet Jackson visuals, but its subtle influence is definitely there. The video, directed by Mark Romanek, is a celebration of blackness from one of the biggest pop stars in the world, a cue Beyoncé undoubtedly has taken from one of her idols.
"I Get Lonely" (1998)Velvet Rope
Another jewel from what's probably her most personal album to date, 1997's Velvet Rope, "I Get Lonely" is Janet flexing her pure R&B muscles once again, and departing from the pop vibe that'd previously stamped her career. It was also another record-breaker for her, as it became Jackson's eighteenth consecutive Top 10 hit on the Billboard Hot 100, setting a record as the only female artist to achieve that feat. The video, directed by Paul Hunter and Tina Landon, features Janet setting a tone for intricate, sexy choreography once more.
"Together Again" (1997)Velvet Rope
Invoking an uptempo dance beat, "Together Again," from Janet's stellar, The Velvet Rope, is one of her coolest videos, as she dances around an African paradise, joyfully posing with panthers and elephants.
"Go Deep" (1997)Velvet Rope
"Go Deep" is a quiet jam from Velvet Rope, and the video features a young Ty Hodges having a house party when his parents spit for the weekend. It's a fun, party video that matches the song's breezy, dance vibe.
"What's It Gonna Be" featuring Busta Rhymes (1999)E.L.E. (Extinction Level Event): The Final World Front
Janet Jackson and Busta Rhymes had already established themselves as artists with some of the dopest videos around, so when they linked on 1999's "What's It Gonna Be," expectations for the video were super high—and it didn't disappoint. Directed by Busta and an uber-hot Hype Williams, the futuristic video became one of most instantly memorable in both of their massive discographies, and hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the process, becoming one of the biggest songs of the year.
"Doesn't Really Matter" 2000The Nutty Professor II: The Klumps
A single from The Nutty Professor II: The Klumps soundtrack, the single and video are equally cute, showing Janet can pull off virtually any pop style.
"Son of a Gun" featuring Missy Elliott & Carly Simon (2001)All for You
Built around Carly Simon's "You're So Vain," "Son of a Gun (I Betcha Think This Song Is About You)" shows a feisty Janet talking about a guy exploiting her. Directed by Francis Lawrence, Janet gets to business stalking a man in a hotel, and with the help of a few zombies (and Missy), she makes his life a living hell.
"No Sleeep" featuring J. Cole (2015)Unbreakable
Janet's 2015 single, "No Sleeep" featuring J. Cole is her returning to sexy form, evoking the spirit of previous hits like "I Get Lonely" and "Anytime, Anyplace," as she saunters around a dimly lit room, proving she still has her sexy firmly intact.
"Let's Wait Awhile" (1986)Control
Virginal Janet wanted Taimack to wait awhile, even though was fresh off stealing Sho' Nuff's glow in The Last Dragon.
"Dammn Baby" (2016)Unbreakable
Directed by Dave Meyers, Janet's "Dammn Baby" video was dance-heavy, matching the light tone of the song, which was released in May 2016, and the perfect ode to summer.