Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Ranking of All MCU "Infinity Saga" Films (Part I)

I'm sure that you've come across rankings of Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) films before.  My personal problem with those that I have encountered is that they tend to be pretty uniform, regardless of which website is publishing it.  In other words they seem to be based largely on public consensus and IMDb or Rotten Tomatoes scores as opposed to the writer's own opinion.  And yes, some MCU flicks are universally terrible, while others undeniably good.  But let's just say that this particular ranking is truly from my heart, not an attempt to  make friendly with advertisers or pacify the viewing audience.
 

Also, since this is the Black Arts Review, I will make an attempt to identify and critique the main Black character(s) from each of these films.  Keep in mind that I haven't seem some of these movies in years.  But I do believe I have watched every MCU Infinity Saga flick at least once.  So I'll do my best based on memories of each one, as some of them you couldn't even pay me to watch again anyway.  And with that being said let's start at the very bottom of the barrel, which would be...


#23 - THOR: THE DARK WORLD (2013)

The first Thor movie was one of the most surprisingly-good films the MCU ever put out.  But by Odin's beard, was the second installment whack AF.  In fact it was shockingly-corny considering that the main cast members which made the first part so interesting all returned.  Yes, Thor: The Dark World featured some impressive special effects, as big-budget scifi films tend to do.  But perhaps the makers of the flick were banking too much on visuals as opposed to, say, presenting an interesting and easy-to-follow storyline.

MAIN BLACK CHARACTER: HEIMDALL (IDRIS ELBA)

I don't necessarily remember seeing Heimdall in this movie but know by all means that he had to be in there.  It may have even been, to my limited remembrance, one of the best portrayals of the character in the MCU thus far.  But all of that gets lost behind the overall awfulness of the flick.  And just to note, Idris Elba isn't overly fond of the movie either.

#22 - CAPTAIN MARVEL (2019)

Out of all the movies on this list, Captain Marvel is arguably the most-disappointing due to the sheer potential of the character.  Currently she's supposed to be the most-powerful hero in the MCU; she's intergalactic by nature, and her powers are colorful.  So if nothing else, this movie was supposed to have some ill special effects.  And it did have its moments, albeit painfully few and far between.  Moreover it seems that in this particular case, the critical and public response have agreed that the movie wasn't all that, even though I have come across quite a few articles arguing the contrary.


MAIN BLACK CHARACTERS: NICK FURY (SAMUEL L. JACKSON)


MARIA RAMBEAU (LASHANA LYNCH)

This is perhaps the only entry on this entire list that has two main Black characters.  Nick Fury may have enjoyed more screen time than Maria Rambeau, but by the middle of the flick they were both all over the place.  And whereas they didn't portray gangsters or prostitutes or anything negative, their characters still fulfilled another Hollywood stereotype, that of the Black engineer/scientist/computer genius.

21 - GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. II (2017)

This may be the first controversial ranking of this list, as Guardians of the Galaxy 2 enjoys a positive rating amongst critics and even moreso as far as fans are concerned. But for me personally, watching it was painful.  They totally bastardized Ego, one fo the most-unique characters Marvel ever created it.  And relatedly, it was a total and complete waste of a Kurt Russell feature.

MAIN BLACK CHARACTER: GAMORA (ZOE SALDANA?)

Genetically speaking Zoe Saldana is by and large Latina, with some Black and even Middle Eastern mixed in.  But the Latino and Black are evident just by looking at her.  So the reason I put a question mark next to her name isn't in regards to her Blackness.  Rather she paints her skin dark green to portray Gamora, more or less in keeping with the character's appearance in the comic books.  Also, there doesn't seem to be anything particularly ethnic about Gamora within the MCU, besides how her mom was depicted, as sort of a Rasta woman, in Infinity War (2018).  But imagine if like Saldana had used her natural skin color in the movies?  That would have probably been more interesting than the green.

#20 - SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME (2019)

You know those type of movies where every time you try to watch it you fall asleep?  Well that has been my Far From Home experience.  The special effects, as expected, are top-notch.  But this is a poor follow-up to Avengers: Endgame (2018).  And that's saying a lot, considering that Endgame wasn't that good either.  But I would presume Marvel hasted its release to capitalize on Endgame.  And in that regard the movie succeeded, as it had a box office take exceeding $1 billion big ones.

MAIN BLACK CHARACTER: MJ (ZENDAYA)

Like Guardians of the Galaxy, the Spider-Man series is another case of the MCU using a non-White female lead.  In this case that would be Zendaya, who takes on the role of Michelle Jones.

In the movie though she is not referred to as such but rather the character's initials, MJ.  And of course when traditional fans of Spider-Man hear "MJ" they think of Mary Jane, Spidey's long-time love interest (in the comic books), who is in fact White.  So the presumption would be that Michelle Jones is a bi-racial re-imagining of Mary Jane.  And as with Zoe Saldana, Zendaya also brings a certain flare to the series even though, once again, her character is not presented as being ethnic in any sort of way.

#19 - IRON MAN 3 (2013)

Iron Man 3, as to be expected, was very impressive visually.  It also featured one of the most-entertaining and even meaningful interpersonal relationships in the MCU, between Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and that little boy (Ty Simpkins).  So it says a lot that it has fallen this far down the list.  What the movie actually suffers from is a convoluted storyline.  In fact it is the most politically-charged MCU film to date.  But unfortunately the execution didn't match the ambition.


MAIN BLACK CHARACTER: DON CHEADLE (RHODEY)

Another interesting part of the film that wasn't mentioned above is the Iron Patriot subplot.  And overall, Don Cheadle's depiction of Rhodey / War Machine, etc. has proven to the most-consistent Black character in the "Infinity Saga".

 

#18 - AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON (2015)

You know a movie is bad when you're actually happy when one of the heroes gets killed. Failures may be far and few between as far as the MCU is concerned.  But this time around they took one of the coolest powers ever, superspeed - one that also happens to translate well on film - and just, I don't know.  One theory is that they tried to introduce too many characters simultaneously.  And truth be told, at the time I wasn't sold on Scarlet Witch either and had kinda wished that both Maximoff twins perished (though since then, well, WandaVision was the bomb).  Also that scene where Captain America shot the fair one with Ultron was semi-insulting on the audience's intelligence, considering how much power the latter is supposed to possess.


MAIN BLACK CHARACTER: HEIMDALL (IDRIS ELBA)

This film was partially set and filmed in South Africa.  And I remember there being a lot of Black extras but no main Black characters.  According to Wikipedia Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Heimdall and Nick Fury all appeared in the film.  I can remember Heimdall from that unforgettably-WTF scene when Thor was hallucinating (which later accidentally proved to be of some significance).  I also kinda sorta remember Nick Fury on the helicarrier or whatever.  But I don't recall Falcon being in the movie at all, though now that I think about it he may have popped up at the very end.  Indeed, it's been quite a few years since I saw Age of Ultron.  And I have absolutely no intention of watching it ever again unless maybe I'm really intoxicated (i.e. to enjoy the special effects, which are spectacular).

#17 - Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

It feels kinda strange putting the The First Avenger so far down on the list, because out of all of the MCU's series thus far, i.e. trilogies or what have you, overall Captain America has, oddly enough, proven to be the best.  But I'd rather face the Red Skull on the desolate plains of Vormir than to watch this movie again.  But who knows?  Maybe now after Winter Solider and Civil War, etc. re-watching would be more edifying, even though they totally wasted dude from the Matrix.  But for now, the only thing I remember being really cool about this movie is when they made Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) appear mad skinny.  Like that scene where he jumped on the grenade is stuck in my mind forever.

MAIN BLACK CHARACTER: GABE JONES (DEREK LUKE)

I don't remember there really being any Black people in The First Avenger.  But I do know that one of the Howling Commados, as portrayed in the MCU, was Black.  And this character, Gabe Jones, did in fact appear on screen.  This has been his only notable appearance thus far in the MCU, and he was portrayed by an actor from New Jersey named Derek Luke.


 #16 - AVENGERS: ENDGAME

It also feels weird putting Endgame down here in the bottom half of the list because, after all, it is the most visually-stunning of all MCU films to date.  However, it also happens to perhaps be the best of the lot to fall asleep to, which is a good thing under some circumstances.  But for the most part when viewers sit down to a movie, they intend to actually do so from beginning to end.  And accomplishing that task as far as Endgame is concerned is a true act of endurance, even for a professional athlete.  Also it was like a slap in the face - at least to me - for Marvel to introduce time travel, alternate timelines and what have you into the MCU.  That's because when it comes to science fiction and comic books especially, doing so is that like the opening a can of worms.  And also, that was like the cheesiest way possible to undo The Snap.

MAIN BLACK CHARACTER: DON CHEADLE (RHODEY)

Don Cheadle has developed into an MCU mainstay.  In fact as of the writing of this post, he is slated to star in an upcoming Marvel / Disney+ series called Armor Wars, which I'm ultra-excited about.  He has become sort of like the MCU's backup Iron Man when Tony Stark himself may not be around.  In fact keeping in mind that the MCU recently introduced a Black Captain America, it wouldn't be totally surprising that a Black Iron Man proper is also soon to follow.


#15 - THE INCREDIBLE HULK

I remember The Incredible Hulk being a pretty-good addition to the early days of the MCU.  The special effects weren't always the best, but it was still exponentially better than the first time Marvel put out a Hulk movie.  Also that scene where the Hulk was fighting against the army was one of the most-memorable in MCU history.

But what really messes up the legacy of this film up more than anything is the fact it features Ed Norton as Bruce Banner, who has since been replaced with Mark Ruffalo.  So it no longer feels like canon, even though it is.  And whereas I've grown to appreciate Ruffalo's portrayal of Banner, I can't help but to salivate fantasizing about Ed Norton retaining the character and interacting with Robert Downey Jr., as Ruffalo did, in movies like The Avengers (2012).  That probably would have been too much for us to bear.

MAIN BLACK CHARACTER: PETER MENSAH (GENERAL JOE GRELLER)

There weren't any memorable Black characters in this film.  According to IMDb, the one that gets top billing is General Joe Greller, who was portrayed by Peter Mensah.  Like I know Peter Mensah but again don't remember him being in the film, since I haven't seen this movie in a minute. But such is understandable considering that he's only afforded 14 seconds of screentime.

#14 - BLACK PANTHER (2018)

I know some Black people may view what I'm about to say as sacrilege, but all things considered I actually thought Black Panther was quite whack.  Things that cheesed me off was stuff like the late Chadwick Boseman's flat performance and the killing off Ulyssues Klaue halfway through the film despite he, even according to director Ryan Coogler, being one of the most-entertaining characters therein.  And also, the sh*t was racist.  For instance if someone made a movie 100 years ago with Black dudes half-dressed, holding spears and making ape sounds, the likes of W.E.B. DuBois and Marcus Garvey would have probably been doing backflips.  But one good thing I can say is man, do I love Lupita.


MAIN BLACK CHARACTER: BLACK PANTHER (CHADWICK BOSEMAN)

Looking back, I guess Chadwick's aforementioned less-than-inspiring performance had something to do with the fact that he deadass had cancer.  However no one reportedly knew at the time, as he opted to keep the diagnosis a secret.

13 - THOR: RAGNAROK (2017)

This is another movie that receives what feels like an unfairly-low ranking, as Ragnarok is actually one of the most-rewatchable films in the MCU.  I guess we can say that this marks the official halfway point of this list, i.e. the juncture that separates the bad from the good, with this movie being both good and bad at the same time.  For instance the chemistry between Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), adding Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) to the mix, made for a special moment in MCU history.  Also the special effects, such as the treatment of Surtur, were amazing.  But then again, the may have done Skurge even worst than they did than they did Kurse in the Dark World.  And only the first half of the movie, which focuses on the relationship between Thor and Hulk, is entertaining.  So it's like only half of the flick is good.

MAIN BLACK CHARACTER: TESSA THOMPSON (VALKYRIE)

Tessa Thompson did her thing and established herself as the first recurring Black (yet also mixed) female character in the MCU, even if the one she portrayed is a bit outlandish.  In fact if I remember correctly Thor pretty much made her the queen of T√łnsberg (aka New Asgard) at the conclusion of Endgame, thus setting her up to perhaps one day headline an MCU film of her own. And the dynamic between she and Chris Hemsworth was so notable that they went on to co-headline Men in Black International in 2019.  But unfortunately, that particular outing proved to be one of the worst big-budget sci-fi comedies of all time.  However as expected, she will be showing up in the forthcoming Thor: Love and Thunder, which is good news.

#12 - IRON MAN (2008)

Iron Man (2008) is supposed to be higher on the list than this, if for no other reason than out of respect, because it's the one that actually started it all. Robert Downey Jr.'s portrayal of Tony Stark served as the prototype for what proved to be the MCU's main formula for success, which is to actually make the movie interesting even when no superheroes are on the screen (a concept that the DCEU still has yet to grasp).  But this one got knocked down, even lower than Ant Man (2015), once again due to canonical issues, i.e. the actor playing Rhodey, one of the main characters, having been replaced.  Also it features one of the most-forgettable villains in the MCU.

MAIN BLACK ACTOR: TERRENCE HOWARD (RHODEY)

And that aforementioned actor would be Terrence Howard, one of the best overall performers to ever grace the MCU.  It's almost like he was too pretty to play Rhodey anyway.  To my remembrance, he never actually suited up as War Machine.  But there was that memorable scene when he, a Blackman, was contemplating putting on a gold Iron Man suit, which was pretty cool.  And in terms of him being one of the best actors of the MCU this isn't something I'm just making up, as he was reportedly paid more than even the actual star of the show.  In fact according to Howard he actually got Downey Jr. the job, only to be stabbed in the back when it came time for Robert to likewise stand up for him.

CONCLUSION

It took me a whole lot longer to write this article than I had anticipated.  So there's no telling when I'll get around to completing Part II.  But I will endeavor to do so in the near future.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

"Got 'til It's Gone" by Janet Jackson (1997)

In keeping with our current shoutout to Janet Jackson, the next track I will delve into is Got 'til It's Gone (1997) featuring Q-Tip.  And the funny thing is that despite this being one of my JJ favorites, now that I think about it I don't really know any of its actual words.  I guess that's when you know a song really sounds good, when you don't even understand the words yet can still enjoy it.  But that being noted, let's jump straight into the meaning of the lyrics.

The cover art to Janet Jackson's Gone 'til It's Gone (1997).

THE LYRICS

For starters, what I didn't know is that this song actually features two additional vocalists - the aforementioned Q-Tip as well as one Joni Mitchell, a Canadian singer whose peak of fame was during the 1970s.  In fact it is she who Q-Tip is referring when he says "Joni Mitchell never lies", which is like the only easily-discernible line in the entire song.  Moreover, the track itself is largely based on a sample of a tune Joni Mitchell dropped in 1970 entitled Big Yellow Taxi.  And just to note, Janet Jackson also gave a shoutout to "a big yellow taxi" on her 1997 track, The Pleasure Principle.  In fact she's actually a fan of Mitchell's, which we will get into later.

Big Yellow Taxi is actually a protest song against the destruction of the environment.  And it is where the phrase "don't it always seem to go, that you don know what you've got 'til it's gone" is derived from, i.e. the same line that makes up the refrain/chorus of Janet Jackson's song.  But of course, Janet & co. aren't talking about the environment.  Rather she uses it in a romantic context, speaking to the idea of not appreciating someone you love until you lose them.

Meanwhile Q-Tip's verse features the rapper going on about his troubled relationship with his shorty.  Based on his account, she possesses a type of behavior and attitude which is detrimental to their romance.  And as seen in the interlude, he is basically chastising her for behaving in such a manner.  Moreover, given the overall theme of the song, Tip himself would be implying that homegirl is not going to appreciate his love until he ends up cutting her off.

So despite the lyrics being somewhat tough to make out at points, the message of the track is quite simple.  And such would be that fukin up a good relationship and then regretting it afterwards is sort of a normal part of the human experience.

THE TEAM

Q-Tip and Janet Jackson @ Tip's birthday in 2010.

I'm happy to have had the opportunity to work on this song, as it allows me to give a shoutout to Q-Tip and by extension A Tribe Called Quest and by another extension the late Phife Dawg (1970-2016), which I never particularly intended to do on this blog.  Around the same time this track came out Q-Tip had what was I believe was his most-successful solo offering, Vivrant Thing (1999), a song which by the way irritates the hell outta me.  But either way, since then I haven't really heard anything from him except when the Tribe were talking about dropping a new project in the wake of Phife's death.  But as can be seen by the pic above, he and Janet have apparently remained cool throughout the years.  However this is the only track they have ever actually dropped together.

Joni Michell and Janet Jackson in 2020.

And the same can pretty much be said concerning Miss Jackson's relationship with Joni Mitchell.  In fact Janet was known as being a fan of Joni's even before this song ever came out.  And in the process of securing the rights to use Mitchell's sample on this track, Joni likewise asked Janet to be featured on a tribute album that was being put together in her (Mitchell's) honor.  Janet went on to comply by actually covering a Joni Mitchell track outright, one of her personal favorites, which would be 1988's Beat of Black Wings.  However said cover was never officially released.

Gone 'til It's Gone was produced by Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, who as pointed out in the last article were instrumental in launching Janet into music superstardom.  It's like the best music Janet has made, she did so alongside this musical pair.  And it must be said that this song in particular does in fact feature some impressive production.  For instance it is very difficult for none-rap tunes to effectively incorporate scratching effects, but this one does so beautifully.

Richard Branson, head of Virgin Records, getting quite close to
Janet Jackson, who would remain under the label for almost two decades.

This particular offering was released through Virgin Records whose co-founder, the eccentric Richard Branson, put a whole lotta of energy (and money) into signing Jackson in 1990.

THE SHOWING

To be honest I always thought this was one of those tracks that just a select few people, such as myself, like.  Instead upon actually researching I see that it was a major international success, charting in well over 20 nations, including amazingly enough Taiwan.  Its most notable showing was on the UK R&B Chart, where it reached the number one position.  It also scored a number one in Canada, on RPM's Dance/Urban list.  However it did not appear on the Billboard Hot 100 itself due to the fact that, according to Wikipedia, the track was not released as a "commercial single", whatever that means.  But still it is acknowledged as being the first single dropped from Janet Jackson's sixth album, The Velvet Rope.

Cover art to Janet Jackson's The Velvet Rope (1997).

VISUALS

It's pretty obvious the cover art to this song (as seen at the beginning of the article) is sending some sort of message, though what exactly I can't tell.  What does seem obvious though is that the overall pose Janet Jackson is making is some type of allusion to the Negro minstrel shows of old.  At its foundation this form of entertainment was not racist in its origin, but as the genre evolved (as rendered by White people) it became largely so.  The music video also, which was directed by Mark Romanek, does at points deal with the topic of old-school racism.  And in all I think it's safe to say that the clip is an Afrocentric affair, as there was sort of this Black pride vibe in African-American music at the time (i.e. Lauryn Hill, D'Angelo, India Arie).

And as for the glowing red background on the cover art, I would say as far as the music industry in particular is concerned such is usually a reference to (hell)fire.  But I don't really want to go too far off the deep end, especially since the lyrics themselves read like a straight-up love/breakup song, and there doesn't really seem to be any subliminal messages in the video.

As for the video itself, again it's sort of a product of its era, when this kinda nostalgic Black pride was trending.  That seems to happen in African-American entertainment from time to time.  There is also arguably some sort of female-sexual liberation thing kinda going on here.  Also there's a picture of Joni Mitchell at the beginning of clip, and I can imagine people at home who don't actually know who she is being like 'who the hell is that', considering that this is once again a very-Black video.

CONCLUSION

By the time the late 90s rolled around, Michael Jackson was no longer a trending musician per se.  Yes, Invincible (2001) may have featured some nice tracks, in addition to being a Billboard 200 chart topper.  And throughout the last three decades of his life, Michael was undoubtedly the most popular musician in the world.  But it's like he wasn't really cool anymore, not like Janet Jackson proved to be with songs like this.  Or let's say that just like her big bro helped her get a foot in the door, later on she returned the favor by helping to keep the family name hot.

UPDATE (30 JANUARY 2021)

Mark Romanek, the director of the well-received
music video to this song, decided to give it what
he deemed as an authentic (South) African look and feel.

I recently did some additional research on this song and just wanted to point out a few facts and ideas that I totally overlooked the first time around.  At the top of list is the fact that the music video does indeed deal with racism, in an indirect way, as in being set in Apartheid-era South Africa.  By the time Got 'til It's Gone came out the overtly-racist apartheid system itself had already been outlawed for a few years.  However it was the idea of Mark Romanek to give the clip an old-school African motif.  And in all it did prove to be a wise artistic decision, as the visual was dubbed Best Short Form Music Video at the 40th Grammy Awards (1998).

Also concerning Janet's hairstyle, it may not have been meant to callback to the days of Negro minstrels but rather, at least as one website has interpreted the look, some form of African spirituality.  That's on the music video itself.  But as far as the cover art it seems pretty obvious, at least to me, that Jackson is alluding to early-20th century African-American entertainment; though perhaps I'm misreading it, and she may be referring to that of South Africa instead.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

"When I Think of You" by Janet Jackson (1986)

The cover to Janet Jackson's When I Think of You (1986)
from the album she dropped that same year, Control.

 PERSONAL INSPIRATION

Recently I was doing research on the Jackson 5.  And while in the midst of such I had came to a startling realization.  Yes, the constant presence of his (big) brothers early in his career logically helped Michael Jackson become grounded in the music industry.  But none of his siblings, outside of Janet, actually contributed to his immense fame in adulthood.  Now I know Jermaine may have had a hit or two, and cheesus used to play the damn out of Rebbie Jackson's Centipede (1984).  But only Janet proved herself successful enough entertainment-wise on a level worthy of being a sibling of Michael Jackson.

Michael (1958) was about seven and-a-half years older than Janet (1966).

So then after coming to that conclusion I was like okay, let me write an article about Janet Jackson.  Then it came down to ascertaining which of her songs, When I Think of You or that track she did with Q-Tip, was actually my favorite.  Ultimately, even though I would say the latter has more of a timeless quality, I went with the former because it's older and affords more of a reason to delve more into Janet's history.

 ACCOLADES

And historically When I Think of You is in fact a significant song as it was the first time Miss Jackson, who went on to become one of the most-successful female singers ever, topped the Billboard Hot 100.  (She's achieved 10 number ones on the Hot 100 as of 2001).  It has also garnered gold certification in the US and has made it onto 10 music charts around the world.

Now going back to doing Michael justice, when this song made it to number 1 it also made Janet and Michael the only two siblings in history to both individually top the Hot 100.  And even now, over 30 years later, that's an achievement that's still yet to be matched.

When I Think of You, despite being an undeniable hit, didn't sell like crazy.  But it is the song which put Janet Jackson on the road to superstardom in a way that legitimized the Jacksons as a genuine musical family.  In fact even as I'm writing this article Michael Jackson's daughter (?) Paris just dropped her first song.  And that's what you call a true musical legacy - like Bob Marley for instance - that when anyone in your immediate family decides to come out with a track, the industry has to at least give them the benefit of the doubt.

Janet Jackson is in fact the youngest member of
the Jackson family.  But as you can see, even from
early on she already knew what time it was.






THE TEAM

In fact Janet Jackson herself was far from what you would call a musical prodigy.  That's a somewhat-euphemistic way of saying that her first two albums before Control (1986) - with her debut project coming out when she was 16 years old - both "bombed".  Meanwhile if you or I were lucky enough to get signed to a record label and dropped even one corny album, our music careers would pretty much be over.  But again, this is not only a Jackson we're talking about but also one who didn't give in easily.  So as mentioned above, A&M Records still gave her the benefit of the doubt with Control.

Janet Jackson in the studio with Jimmy Jam (left)
and Terry Lewis (right) circa 1993. The pair produced
9
of her aforementioned 10 Hot 100 number 1s.

And this time around she not only 'got out from under her father' but also employed the services of producers Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis.  And even though you rarely hear about them these days, back in the dawgs they were amongst the musicians who defined the sound of R&B.  And interestingly out of the numerous hits they help create - working alongside the likes of Boyz II Men, Mariah Carey and the late George Michael - the artist they are most known for partnering with is indeed Janet Jackson.  And in addition to producing When I Think of You they also wrote the song, with Janet also being a co-writer.

Moreover outside of this track, they produced other hits from Control which went on to define Miss Janet's music career such as Nasty and the equally-unforgettable What Have You Done for Me Lately.  And by the time all was said and done, the album proved successful enough the earn the pair a Producer of the Year Grammy Award.

 

Meanwhile the music video was directed by an industry vet named Julien TempleAccording to IMDb it features Paula Abdul (although I couldn't spot her anywhere offhand).  It is also said to contain two of Janet's nephews (via her brother Tito), Taryll and TJ Jackson.  The pair later went on to become two-thirds of 3T, the group who dropped what I remember to be a slightly-frightening music video alongside uncle Micheal (which would be 1995's Why).  You may also notice that Janet is a bit on the thick side in the clip.  I remember back in the days there were rumors of her having weight loss surgery, but according to the singer herself those were lies.  Yet either way, it's pretty obvious comparing her then to now that she's had facial surgery.  And in noticing how pretty she was back then, well, let's just say it's bit challenging to understand how she rationalized that decision even though at the end of the day we know that she (and others) followed the lead of MJ.

THE SONG

And now comes to the real nitty-gritty, actually analyzing what the song means.  To be totally honest even though this is one of my favorites, I don't know any of the words to the actual verses.  However I would presume it's about, you know, love.  And whereas the wording isn't anything even remotely complex, the two verses do take slightly-different approaches to the matter at hand.

In the first, the singer is telling her sweetheart that whenever she's stressed out, thinking of him calms her down.  And the second verse is somewhat similar, whereas she likens dude to an anti-depressant.  But she also alludes to the notion of her love for him continually growing as time progresses.  Indeed when she thinks of him her thoughts doesn't drift to the things she don't like, you know, like a normal lover would do.  Rather whenever he comes to mind, 'all she thinks about is their love'.  So it really does sound like Janet is portraying the role of someone who is in the early stages of a romance, before you start also noticing things about that special someone which turn you off.  But I'm not trying to spoil the mood or anything.  After all, Janet was a tender 20 years old when this track came out.  So it's like, I just wonder if she'd be privy to drop a song like this today.

CONCLUSION

To me the 1980s and the mega-success of soloists such as Janet Jackson and Madonna marked a shift in the music industry.  Janet was someone who got her foot in the door due to, as aforementioned, the success of Michael Jackson in particular.  In other words she was not born with natural singing talent, as was Michael.  In fact she has an average singing voice, albeit one that has been thoroughly trained and on this track one can even say computerized.  Or stated otherwise, Janet's talent didn't make her a star; her drive did.  And since the 80s it has become more common for vocalists, who really don't possess anymore singing talent than the next man, to blow up.  Or let's put it like this - nowadays a pop musician's drive is perhaps even more important than his or her talent.

And this isn't a diss or anything, not as far as Janet is concerned.  Whereas she and Michael may not have been as buddy-buddy as some of us would like to think, again it was her efforts which truly legitimized the Jacksons, as a whole, as a musical family.  And she was one of the premiere artists who defined late 20th century music.  So I may just follow-up this article by researching Got Til It's Gone, i.e. the track she dropped with Q-Tip in 1997.