Janet Jackson takes control on new era

Nearly 30 years after the release of a career-defining album, Janet Jackson once again finds herself in control—this time, of a comeback strategy that should send her pop contemporaries scrambling to take notes.

Jackson’s eleventh studio album, “Unbreakable,” is among the fall’s most anticipated releases, and her accompanying world tour includes not one, but two sold-out Atlanta dates: next week’s Chastain Park performance and a Philips Arena return in March.

Jackson’s success is perhaps surprising for someone who hasn’t released a studio album in seven years, publicly endured a sexist post-Super Bowl ban, and whose last two albums were considered disappointing artistic departures.

From secret marriages to “Nipplegate,” one can ponder the possible meanings when the icon sings, ‘I lived through my mistakes/it’s just a part of growing’ on the album’s title track, or accept it as an indication that we’re experiencing a greater growth than ever before from Jackson.

Breaking points

Her first two albums failed to establish the youngest Jackson as a superstar. It wasn’t until firing her father and beginning work with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis that the world got to know Ms. Jackson. “Control” was a creative and commercial breakthrough not only for Jackson’s artistry but also for her partnership with Jam and Lewis.

In 1989, Janet continued evolving with “Rhythm Nation 1814.” The socially conscious album established Janet as a superstar and spawned a record-setting seven top-five Billboard Hot 100 singles. Also emerging was a sexier Janet. The 1990 video for the album’s final single, “Love Will Never Do (Without You)” showcased the singer’s sensuality.

Three years later, Jackson asserted herself as a sex symbol, releasing her self-titled album, “Janet,” and promoting it via a sexually charged “Rolling Stone” cover photo.

Professional and sexual peaks aside, a valley swiftly followed “Janet.” Privately, Jackson suffered both emotionally and physically, but mined those experiences to deliver her darkest but most raw record yet, 1997’s “The Velvet Rope.” The album showcased Janet as a voice for sexual politics and was regarded as her strongest artistic statement to date.

A brighter Janet playfully returned in 2001 with “All For You.”

Then, in 2004, poised to capitalize on a Super Bowl performance, Jackson suffered criticism for the infamous breast-baring “wardrobe malfunction.” The controversy and ensuing backlash overshadowed her eighth record, “Damita Jo,” and the album found very little success.Jackson’s next two albums, including the abysmal “20 Y.O.,” suffered from record label shifts, sinking sales and less reliance on her relationship with Jam and Lewis.

Unbreakable’ and beyond

After false starts and rumors, Jackson delivered the “Unbreakable” album and tour news to fans on her birthday. In an age of Internet leaks, it’s surprising very little else is known about the project.

Always careful in what she reveals, and reminding fans that they’ll always hear it from her lips, Janet has staged a brilliantly marketed comeback.

With the “Unbreakable” era descending upon us, Janet looks to be at her wisest yet.


Janet Jackson

Unbreakable World Tour

Sept. 26, 2015

Chastain Park Amphitheater

Sold out; seats available on third-party reseller sites

March 3, 2016

Philips Arena

Sold out; seats available on third-party reseller sites

Atlanta fans without tickets might try the Memorial Day Weekend 2016 show in Birmingham. Tickets go on sale this week.