ARTIST OF THE MONTH: JANET JACKSON | DESIGN OF A DECADE: 1986/1996 (1995)
In 1995 at the tender age of 29, Janet Jackson was unstoppable. Taking her rightful seat as the Queen of Pop, Janet decided to continue her reign with her first greatest hits album, "Design of a Decade: 1986/1996." The first half of the album title was the most accurate about the singer. Her royal courts were producers and collaborators Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, who also doubled as her designers. The duo expertly sketched, outlined and weaved Janet’s sound and made her a shining star in the music industry. The latter part of the album title was a little misleading, however. The 14 tracks were Janet’s top 40 hits from her albums "Control" (1986), "Janet Jackson’s "Rhythm Nation 1814" (1989) and "janet." (1993) so technically, the album didn’t quite cover a decade, but what Janet says goes. The album also featured two new singles, “Runaway” and “Twenty Foreplay,” which showed that Janet had no plans to slow down her high-speed train to success.
Described as “state-of-the-art dance-pop productions,” most singles on the greatest hits album were just that. Catchy, chart-topping songs that defined Janet’s career. The lead single and first release from the album was “Runaway,” the pop single initially meant to be a duet with brother Michael Jackson. Similar to “Escapade” and “Whoops Now,” the single invited you to take a trip with Janet as she explored African and Asian-inspired sounds. The perfect lead-in to an album taking you on a journey, “Runaway” made Jackson the first female artist in Billboard’s history to debut in the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100. The second track, “What Have You Done For Me Lately,” took us back to Janet’s 1986 album "Control," where we first got a glimpse of what to expect from the sweet-turned-edgy singer. To reinforce the message, “Nasty” followed as the third track on the album. Here’s where Janet expertly instructed us to call her Miss Jackson; it’s also where we learned our pop star was a grown woman.
Just as it started, the album ended with a new track. The mid-tempo “Twenty Foreplay” served as the second single from the collection and as a reminder that Janet could still be sensitive but sexy with a play on “twenty-four hours” and “foreplay.” She went on to supply the track with visuals inspired by the 1950s and Dorothy Dandridge, which was no mistake since she was America’s first African American sex symbol, and Janet followed in her footsteps. With "Design of a Decade: 1986/1996," Janet Jackson sang her way into the good graces of her fans and critics alike. The album was certified double platinum and sold 10 million copies worldwide. Not that we needed the reminder, but the compilation was a testament to Janet, Jimmy and Terry’s chemistry and fantastic work together. Still Gracing our playlists even today, each song on "Design of a Decade: 1986/1996" is as timeless as Janet herself.