Updated: Sep 19, 2019
The roots of modern R&B can be traced back to Janet Jackson’s landmark album Rhythm Nation 1814, which turns 30 years old today. Though it’s a quarter century old, Rhythm Nation has barely aged—it sounds as rich and vital as it did when it was first released, and stylistically as contemporary as anything on the Billboard charts. The album scored seven top 5 hits and four No.1's, and been certified for sales of 12 million total units.
Jackson was coming off a huge run with her breakthrough 1986 album Control, which was her first collaboration with Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis. Her first two releases, crafted under the watchful eye of her father, Joe, were mildly popular mostly because they carried the Jackson name, but a frustrated Janet fired her dad going into the creation of the aptly-titled Control.
The videos from Rhythm Nation were all over MTV, and Janet established herself as an instantly dominant pop figure no longer a modestly successful R&B singer, she was a major crossover talent whose commercial profile had begun to rival that of her older brother Michael and Madonna.
"We are a nation with no geographic boundaries, bound together through our beliefs," she explains in the album's spoken intro. "We are like-minded individuals, sharing a common vision, pushing toward a world rid of color lines."
Listen to 'Rhythm Nation 1814' below.