A&M 3920

Producers: Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis

Track listing: Interlude: Pledge / Rhythm Nation / Interlude: T.V. / State of the Nation / Interlude: Race / The Knowledge / Interlude: Let’s Dance / Miss You Much / Interlude: Come Back / Love Will Never Do (Without You) / Livin’ in a World (They Didn’t Make) / Alright / Interlude: Hey Baby / Escapade / Interlude: No Acid / Black Cat  / Lonely / Come Back to Me / Someday Is Tonight / Interlude: Livin’…in Complete Darkness

janet-jacksons-rhythm-nation-1814

October 28, 1989
4 Weeks

With the success of Control, Janet Jackson was a super­star and Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis became one of the hottest production t­eams in the music business. Yet suc­cess didn’t necessarily make working together easier for Jackson and Jam and Lewis. “When we made the Control album, basically everyone left us alone,” says Jam. “After it was successful, it seemed like everyone had their two cents they wanted to put in about next album.”

Lawyers and managers for parties and A&M Records tried unsuccessfully to hammer out a deal for six months. Then Jackson put a call into Jam. “She said, ‘Do you guys want to do this album?’ And I said, ‘Yeah.’ And I asked her, ‘Do you want us to do this album?’ and she said, ‘Yeah’,” Jam says. “Once we figured that out, we were ready to record that week.”

In the initial stages, Rhythm Nation was not a concept album. “The thing we set out to do was not make Control Part II,” says Jam. “We purposely didn’t do any songs that were like ‘Nasty’ or ‘What Have You Done for Me Lately’ updated.” It was only after Jackson spent some time in the studio lounge watching television that the album began to take on its political bent. “The actual Rhythm Nation idea wasn’t formed until about six or seven songs into the project,” Jam says. “We real­ized there was a theme taking shape. We were watching a lot of CNN and there were a lot of world events that were happening that were screwed up. That was on Janet’s mind while we were making the album.”

Not all the subject matter, however, was heavy. “Miss You Much” was inspired by a card Jam received from his girlfriend. “At the bottom of it she signed it, ‘Miss you much,’ and I just thought that was a cool term.” The rhythm track was actually cut before Jackson arrived at Flyte Tyme Studios in Minneapolis. “She walked into the studio while I was getting ready to lay down a keyboard part,” Jam recalls. “I pointed at the key I was going to play and that was how we started the album.”

Former Time member Jellybean John­son, who had also contributed to Con­trol, was tapped to co-produce the hard-rocking track “Black Cat.” Says Jam, “‘Bean is very much a closet rock ‘n’ roller. That song came from a riff Janet had in her head. We laid down the beat and then ‘Bean came in and put down a guitar part.”

While Control was recorded in a rel­atively quick six weeks, Rhythm Notion took six months. “We didn’t play it for the record company until it was totally done with all the little snippets in between the songs,” says Jam. “It was almost like we treated it as a painting. We didn’t want to let anyone hear it until it was finished.”

When Rhythm Nation hit Number One in its fourth week on the Top Pop Albums chart, “Miss You Much” had already held the top position of the Hot 100 for three weeks. The album went on to spawn six more top five hits, including the Number One singles “Escapade,” “Black Cat,” and “Love Will Never Do (Without You).” The feat earned Jackson and Rhythm Nation a place in the histo­ry book, as the album was the first to generate seven top five hits. “We felt like we had some hits on there,” says Jam. “But we also felt it didn’t have as much [youth] appeal as Control and it wasn’t a given that it would work. It could have gone the other way.”

THE TOP FIVE
Week of October 28, 1989
1. Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814, Janet Jackson
2. Girl You Know It’s True, Milli Vanilli
3. Dr. Feelgood, Motley Crue
4. Steel Wheels, Rolling Stones
5. Forever Your Girl, Paula Abdul