Janet Jackson Discusses The Meaning Of “The Velvet Rope,” Pt. I

Hi, I’m Kurt Loder, and this is “The Week In Rock.”

Singer Janet Jackson released another video this week, for a track off her latest album, called “Together Again.” However, just 6 weeks after its release, the album drops out of the “Billboard” top 20 on Monday, down to number 23. The publicity campaign announced this as Jackson’s “most personal” project, but whatever the ambiguous lyrics actually mean is a secret she’s been coy about sharing. John Norris talked to Jackson in Los Angeles recently, and probed for some straight answers. Here’s part one of that interview.

JOHN NORRIS: Behind “The Velvet Rope” is a world that’s not necessarily as happy as you might expect a pop superstar’s to be. Janet Jackson says her most personal album yet was very much the product of a difficult period in her life, one of self-discovery and sorting through past demons. That emotional turmoil made for a six and a half month recording process, more than twice as long as her other albums.

When you say that it was you hardest record to make, do you mean the actual recording, or what you went through personally, leading up to it?

JANET: The actual recording as well as what I went through leading up to it. It actually started about two years ago, in ’95, when it really started getting really heavy and very difficult for me each and every day. Very sad, incredibly sad, and going through a lot mentally. I had to take so many breaks. I was too overwhelmed at times, it was too much for me, and I’d have to leave, go away for a week, take a break, and then come back and continue.

NORRIS: But exactly what kind of pain? Janet’s been less than specific about the issues she’s had to deal with, but indications are that, not surprisingly, they date back to long ago…

Is it talking about going back to childhood? I mean going back a long way?

JANET: It’s all of that. It’s childhood, it’s my teenage years, my adulthood. Lots of things that I have
just carried with myself, around with me. And I had my escapism so that I wouldn’t feel that pain. Ways of dealing… I think we all do that. It could be something just as simple as something that happened to you at school, and you were made fun of, but something that hurt you so deeply that you weren’t able to let go of it.

NORRIS: Janet’s on and off again estrangement from her family continued through this process as well. With one exception, the Jackson clan was unaware of what she was going through.

JANET: My family didn’t know. There was only one person in my family that did know, that I did tell, and that was my mother. More of them know now.

NORRIS: Supposedly, it’s been about two years now since you and Michael have seen each other?

JANET: Yeah, we just keep missing each other. It’s just that simple. It’s really that simple.

NORRIS: But I thought you hadn’t spoken either.

JANET: No, we haven’t. And, it’s… There’s no bad blood
between us, at all, and I think that’s kind of the way it’s made out to be. It’s very hard working, whether I’m here or he’s in Europe, touring, I always see every show that he does, every time he goes out. I normally catch him in Europe. Well, this time I didn’t. One was because I was working on the album, two was because what I was going through personally.

JANET, (from album): There’s nothing more depressing than having everything and feeling sad.

NORRIS: For those who might look at this and say, you know, here’s a person who seems to have everything saying, well, my life’s not so great, and this is what I’ve been going through. Do you have any response to that?

JANET: Are you saying you can only go through things if you don’t have much?

NORRIS: Yeah.

JANET: I mean, honestly, that’s the best way to run away. The more you have is the best way to escape yourself. You have the money to get further away from yourself.

We can all be happy we
didn’t go through that, whatever it was. We’ll have part two of that interview with Janet Jackson later in the show including a few more words about her brother Michael.