Look. I realize that Michael Jackson’s Thriller album is like the fourth best seller in the world behind The Bible, Qu’ran, and rice. I also realize that Michael Jackson is the gold standard for entertainment. Nearly every person who has decided to become not just a singer, but an entertainer, has in some way traced an outline of Michael Jackson as the consummate performer and entertainer.
Michael’s dance steps are ubiquitous: people will Moonwalk forever, grab their crotches while doing a sideways knee-high kick, and hit that standing jump while pushing their hat to the side while throwing an arm out hitting Heisman’s on all the hoes. Michael Jackson is Michael Jackson and will always be the greatest to ever have done it.
With that being said, Janet Jackson’s albums are better than Michael Jackson’s albums, and by a pretty long shot. As a point of note: I’m mostly talking about albums folks will consider their best which typically includes for Michael: Off The Wall, Thriller, Bad, and Dangerous; and for Janet: Rhythm Nation 1814, Janet, Velvet Rope, and /or Control. I did a scientific poll on Facebook and those were the prevailing best albums. So I’m sticking with those.
I hear you looking at me sideways. You might even think I’m smoking some of that boat or maybe a hit a nice rock this morning just after my morning constitutional. You’d be wrong. I’ve never used drugs. Okay, maybe not never, but mostly not most of the time have I ever, and more importantly, I definitely didn’t when coming to this very true and livin’ realization. Zion I, bitches.
Let’s pull over because that ass is too fat for a minute, and revisit how I came to and accepted this discovery. Also, let me say this upfront: nothing about this is a disparagement of Michael Jackson. In talent shows, I performed Michael songs and just like you do, I own Thriller, have Michael Jackson posters, say mama say mama sa mama coosa at red lights, and still think of big-nosed Michael when I pick flowers outside. I love MJ and cried when he passed away. I’m not taking shots. Saying Janet’s albums are better is an opinion that’s like saying pizza is better than Popeye’s chicken: they’re both great and pain is love.
Back to the lecture at hand. I was rolling down the street in my ’13 one day and perusing my Spotify for the next new thing to listen to. I realized at that point that I’m old and hate new things so I did what I always do, try to think of something from my youth to appease my ear canals. Now, I almost never want to listen to Michael’s albums, much in the same way that I always skip “What You Know” off of TI’s King album. That song, multiplied by infinity to equal Thriller's impact, was so big and so omnipresent that I’d just rather not hear it again while recognizing its greatness. I almost NEVER feel a need to listen to anything off of Thriller unless I’m playing a video game featuring Michael Jackson.
That is not the case with Janet Jackson, and specifically the Rhythm Nation 1814, Janet, and The Velvet Rope triumvirate. Those three albums are damn near flawless. In fact, if not for the fact that the first two feel like the longest albums known to man, I’d say they are explicitly perfect. Right UNDER those three, but not that far behind, to me, is Control, which features one of my top three favorite songs, “When I Think Of You”. This song makes me happy. It makes me say shit like, “I like good things” and mean it.
Anyway, so I started listening to Rhythm Nation, and was like, you know, as an album, this shit is great. Then I upped Janet. Then, The Velvet Rope. And I though to myself, as albums, these flow well, there’s a theme and ultimately, as an entire body of work, it’s an album. Then because why not make comparisons, I listened to Michael's albums and it turns out that Janet's are just…more listenable and, well, better.
Now, there’s a caveat: Michael Jackson was making albums full of singles on a quest to clearly body the game. Shit, Thriller was supposed to be exactly what it was, the biggest album of all time. But it wasn’t a concept album, or a theme album. The entire purpose of Thriller was largesse. Quincy Jones, Rod Temperton, and MJ set out to create the greatest collection of singles ever created. Bobby Brown’s Don’t Be Cruel followed the same format to a scaled back version of the Thriller success. Just make the biggest records possible and do it like you’re doing it for TV. Well, Off The Wall is similar, and while not selling as much as Thriller ALSO sold a gazillion copies. Same with Bad and Dangerous, which each spawned HUGE chart hits. All great albums in their own right, but mostly single driven works.
Janet on the other hand clearly sat down with her producers, mostly Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, and decided to craft themes that could also create some similarly huge sounding records. Which she did tremendously, except they weren’t all just pop singles, there are mood records and transition records and down-tempo. She created full albums. And most importantly, they actually SOUND better than Michael’s. There’s more feeling and mood to them.
To be clear, I realize Michael had different tempo songs on each of his albums, especially on post-Bad albums that are less poppy and more “artsy”, but even those albums aren’t as good as Janet’s first four. While Janet can’t touch Michael in terms of popularity and sales, amazing considering how huge of an artists she was in her own right, the quality of her albums, if you give them objective listens, is better than Michael’s. On any given day I’d rather listen to The Velvet Rope instead of Thriller. Off The Wall is my favorite MJ album, but I think that Janet is better, and I’ve often been at odds whether I think Rhythm Nation or Janet is better. I’ve had actual blowout arguments with myself about this usually resulting in us not speaking to each other. Twinsies.
I’m not trying to start a riot, and I still wonder if G’z get to go to heaven, because I don’t wanna die, but truth is truth. Michael Jackson is the greatest, but his sister made better music.
And even though they both made their best music nearly two decades before any of us knew his name…