Miss Janet will come down on you "like a first-day period" if you call it a comeback; the legend hasn't left the building yet! And on Feb. 25, Janet Jackson's tenth studio album will come to stores via a new label and with her boyfriend as producer. Of course, she still has love for her gays, 'her children,' and Miss Jackson spoke with NewNowNext on her new sound and her lifelong Discipline for her work.
So if you had to pick, which Discipline track will the gays love the most?
For sure “Rock With U”; honestly the song was created for the gay community. I kept stressing to Jermaine, 'I got to do something for the kids.' I had talked about it on the last album - and there was a song that I had, and it wasn’t quite completed. And I talked about it to the papers, gay magazines, and it didn’t wind up on the album with the cut-off date. I felt really badly about that.
So he just handed me a CD and said, ‘Here are 10 tracks for the kids; tell me which one you like the best.’ I fell in love with “Rock With U.”
"Rock With U" definitely sounds like it belongs in a gay clubs right now. And I love ‘the kids’; that’s so cute.
Yeah, 'the children.'
How do you feel about GLAAD presenting you with their Vanguard award at this point in your career?
It makes me smile; it makes me excited. I feel very happy about it; I didn’t expect it at all. When they told me, I just thought it was real sweet - real sweet.
Janet Jackson's "Feedback" music video.
Did you ever at any point decide, ‘I want to be a positive presence for gay people in the media’?
I never said, ‘Oh, I’ve got a gay following or I want a gay following - I need this.’ It was just something I created. Whatever I feel in my heart I talk about, I sing about, and I guess they really saw my love with the Velvet Rope album. When I did stuff like “Free Xone” and “Tonight’s the Night” ... and I caught a lot of hell for that.
Well, “Together Again” [a tribute to her friends who died of AIDS] was so personal for you, right? It wasn’t just social commentary.
Very personal for me. I lost a lot of friends and people that I worked with to this disease. I caught drama for that too: Before I wrote the song, I told some of the people at the label the concept for the song, and they didn’t think it was a good idea ... ‘I don’t think you should do that.’ I said, ‘Why shouldn’t I?’ ... Because whatever, whatever. I thought, ‘You know, this is really stupid.’ It was in my heart.
Your label was worried about the association? Just for financial reasons?
It happened anyway. You know religious groups have been upset with me for certain songs on the album, but it’s not going to stop me from writing what I feel inside.
Would you say you act differently when it's just you and your gays?
I have to be honest and tell you I have a lot more fun with my gay friends. I do. All we do is laugh, and I just watch them ... they watch other people, and they always have comments ... and we just have a great time.
Do you just like to hang out? Or are they the best to go out with?
Great to go out with! One of my best friends is gay; he also works with me, and we’ve been best friends for – what? – 11 years. I saw him yesterday, we’re going to see each other today; we spend a lot of time together. It’s even beyond that.
I always know if I need somebody to talk to, or he needs somebody to talk to, 5 o’clock in the morning, my pager will go off, 'Bitch, are you awake?' And I’m like, ‘Yes.’ He goes, ‘I need to talk. Call me.’ So we’re on the phone. You know, that’s friendship; that’s what it’s about, regardless.
The “Discipline” track [with lyrics such as 'Tie me to something / Take off all my clothes / Daddy, I want you to take your time] is great, but I actually thought you’d be the one with the whip in your hand. You had the submissive role this time.
I’m always the one with the whip in my hand, though! With other albums, other songs, I’m always the one with the whip in my hand, so it’s nice to switch it up.
My friend asked me the other day - I’m having an interview - and he’s there with me, and he takes the recorder and he says, ‘Are you a T or a B?’ -laughs- ... and I said, ‘Both.’ So now with “Discipline,” it’s that other role: Instead of being on top or the one in control, it’s the one who wants to be controlled.
And listening to the “Greatest X” track, I had to think of Renee. Was this song about a specific person?
Yeah, I think we all have- ... but I’m not going to tell you who! They’ll all think they’re my greatest ex, right? –laughs-
I think everybody has that - a 'greatest ex' - out of all your exes, your favorite. But that doesn’t mean you’re still in love with that person, or you wish to be with that person.
With the whole album, I almost felt like there was a harshness or ... a desperation – or just this more harmful side of relationships and eroticism. Was that something you wanted to show?
No, not really - I felt differently about it. I don’t think there’s any harshness; I think it’s just wanting that love and that comfort, wanting to be cuddled, to have that person.
It’s just different aspects of love.
It’s still classic me, but – I always say – with a modern twist to it. You get all the things from “Again,” “Let’s Wait a While,” all the up-tempo dance stuff ... and even though “Rock With U” is different, it still is in the lane of “Together Again” or “Throb.” It’s still classic me but with a different twist to it - a modern twist.
I read you chose the album title in part because of the discipline you had as a child in getting yourself up in the morning to go to work, setting your own alarm, going on set. It seemed like you were less micromanaged than child stars today. Would you say that changed the person you are now?
I definitely do, but I don’t know if it was something that was learned; I’ve been around it since I was two. My brothers were successful when I was just a baby ... barely able to talk and walk, really. I don’t know if it was something that was learned just from watching or if it was something that was … genetics, really.
And with the kids today, I really can’t say, ‘cause I don’t know if it was something that their parents are pushing them to do that they really don’t want to get involved in, and then eventually it’s a kind of like ... giving in. So then you get this freedom to be an adult, and you get a little bit wild. I don’t know.
Would you say that’s what happened with former child stars like Britney Spears?
I really can’t say, and I don’t want to be judgmental. You read things, you see things, people talk, but I’ve never sat down with her - none of us have. I don’t know what’s going inside of her. What we read might not be the truth or all of the truth; we don’t really know what’s behind it all.
I know with my family, it was really important for my parents to keep us grounded. Even with tons of screaming fans, we were selling all these records, and fans were always at our front gate, but they made sure we stayed grounded.
And a great deal of that was giving us a ton of chores to do - and I mean chores. It sounds crazy, 'OK, don’t think you’re all that.' My parents have like three acres, every Saturday we had to get up at like 7 a.m. and rake every leaf. No matter if we just came off the stage. Things like that ... or having to clean to the kitchen from top to bottom. And we’d get through that by singing, like doing three-part harmony.
So, always mother letting us know, 'This is God’s work ... through you. Don’t forget that. And was quickly as all this material stuff, all this success even - this is because of God - and as quickly as he’s given you this, he’ll take it away from you.'
It was those things that kept our family grounded and kept us out of trouble and things like that.
I don’t know. I think a lot of times, by them being bread-winners, they allow them to do whatever they want to do.
So you’ve dealt with many bisexual rumors in your time. Were there any that really just made you laugh?
They’ve said that for so long; it’s so cute. I don’t know if the rumors have gotten around in the world, or girls being attracted to me, but when I always pulled somebody up out of the audience for a certain part of the show – the sensual part of the show – I’ll see girls with signs, ‘Pick me!’
I was in Italy, one girl came up to me and said, ‘Why don’t you ever pick a girl to go up?’ And I said, ‘I never really thought about it.’ She said, ‘You know, I do come to a couple of shows. Would you pick me to go up?’ And I thought it was cute.
So did you ever end up doing it?
No! I never thought about it. It has to be someone that catches my eye, a certain thing about them, and not that girls don’t have that - but I just haven’t seen a girl that has that for me. Maybe if it happens ... Who knows? Maybe it’ll happen in the next tour.