Janet Jackson firing it up in Vegas
Just in time for the 30th anniversary of her album Rhythm Nation 1814, Janet Jackson is finally taking her place among modern-day Las Vegas headliners with the debut of her Metamorphosis residency at Park MGM. Finally, that is, because if you asked any fan of Britney, Mariah, J. Lo or Gwen who they’d like to see have a residency next, Miss Janet is likely the answer that would come to mind. Besides family ties with Vegas that reach back decades, Jackson’s late-’80s sound influenced untold artists, and the choreography in her videos and live performances raised the bar for every dance/R&B singer that arrived in her wake.
She also has a longer performing relationship with Vegas than her peers, appearing at MGM Grand (at its former location where Bally’s stands now) at age 7. After building an acting portfolio with roles on Good Times and Diff’rent Strokes, she launched her recording career in 1982 under her father Joe’s supervision. It wasn’t until 1986 when she broke free from her family and released Control, with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis as producers, that she became a superstar and got on the path that led to Metamorphosis.
Control begat five Top 10 singles including “What Have You Done for Me Lately,” “Nasty” and her first No. 1 single, “When I Think of You.” The pop/R&B crossover sound concocted with Jam and Lewis paved the way for new jack swing, and video choreography by future singing star Paula Abdul set the stage for MTV to move away from mostly rock and towards its Yo! MTV Raps and Total Request Live eras.
Her follow-up album, Rhythm Nation 1814, secured her place in the pop music pantheon. Seven Top Five singles and three No. 1s, including “Miss You Much,” “Black Cat” and “Love Will Never Do (Without You)” emerged from a song set that found Jackson comfortable with her emancipation and more concerned about what was going on in the world around her. The black-and-white video for the title cut, with its precision dance moves and military-style couture, became the most iconic, enduring image of Jackson’s formative pop-chart years.
The video was the point where Jackson’s star may have eclipsed brother Michael’s. Although he was an entertainment institution by then, Janet was more of an influencer on late-’80s/early ’90s fashion and concert production. Her Rhythm Nation World Tour 1990 was hugely successful, with a sustained energy level that all future pretenders to her throne would strive to meet, if not surpass. Beyoncé may have taken moves and motion to the next level, but Janet laid down the blueprint.
Expectations are high as she enters an increasingly populated Vegas resident headliner universe. While her set list will draw on her entire catalog, special consideration will be given to the songs from Rhythm Nation 1814. Whether that comes in the form of a track-by-track performance or as a set-design homage to the look of the “Rhythm Nation” video will be revealed on opening night, but it can be presumed that she would create nothing less than a groundbreaking extravaganza for Las Vegas.
Park Theater at Park MGM, 8 p.m. May 17-18, 21-22 & 25-26, starting at $79 plus tax and fee. 844.600.7275