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

Welcome back to part two of John Norris’ interview with singer Janet Jackson, who’s now talking about some of the songs on her new album, and what they may mean… maybe.

JOHN NORRIS: I know that you’ve said that some songs in particular were harder than others to get through: you’d be doing vocals and it was like you had to stop and come back to it. Any songs in particular?

JANET JACKSON: “You” was one, because it was so… I’ve been hearing on MTV that that song is about my brother Michael.

NORRIS: Not from me. I was about to get to that.

JANET: No, “You” [974k QuickTime] is about me. Which I always say I should have named it “Me” not “You.” That’s what “The Velvet Rope” is about: not blaming someone else.

NORRIS: Does it surprise you that people have taken it and said, well she’s talking about “look in the mirror my friend” and…

JANET: Well, see, that’s it. I mean, is
he the only man with a mirror?

NORRIS: Janet’s velvet rope metaphor takes a slightly different twist on the bondage-y track “Rope Burn.”

JANET: You know I’ve been hearing a lot of S&M-y — all kinds of stuff.

NORRIS: This is where we are going to dispel all of these. “You” isn’t about Michael, “Rope Burn” is not about bondage.

JANET: Well, I mean, there are certain things that I must say I do enjoy, but I’m not into this “oh beat me,” pain… It’s so funny… And you have the one song that talks about it and that’s all I’ve been hearing. That, and about “Tonight’s The Night” about singing to a girl. A lot of people have been asking am I gay. So, what is she? She likes girls or what? And the thing is, what does it matter?

NORRIS: It doesn’t bother you if there are some Janet Jackson fans out there who don’t want to hear about gay people?

JANET: No. I mean, if that’s the way that it is, then, either you don’t have to listen to the song
or they just want to say forget it to me altogether, then that’s their decision. Not everyone is going to like me and not everyone does and I understand that. And I can deal with that… now.

NORRIS: Another gutsy move is “Together Again” [825k QuickTime], a refreshingly joyous track inspired by friends Janet has lost to AIDS. It’s her latest single and features an African-flavored video.

Now see, here [in the "Together Again" video], I had visions of the mirrored ball, and you with the Donna Summer look. And the whole…

JANET: Oh really? That’d be really cool. That would’ve been a cool angle to go in. You know what was very inspiring for me, was “Runaway.” Not my song but the one that Louie Vega did, the Nuyorican Soul. I think that was the album. (sings) “Runaway”… I listened to that all the time earlier this year [with "Runaway" video clip,
627k QuickTime] ’cause it reminded me of being ten years old in Studio 54 in New York. That was the first club that I went to in New York. And that song gave me this kind of New York feel of disco and I wanted to do something that made me feel like that inside.

NORRIS: It’s not often that you can find a song that can make you want to dance and put a lump in your throat, but this is one that does.

JANET: Well, I decided that I wanted to do a song about my friends. I wanted to do something that was uplifting.

NORRIS: When you talk about, okay, I’ve been going through a period in my life where I’ve been dealing with some things that maybe I’ve been carrying around for a long time, obviously, the next thing people want to say is, well, like what? Is that tough for you? Because obviously people are going to ask. Do you not want to say?

JANET: As personal as this album is, there are certain things that I feel you need to keep to yourself for yourself. I
think there’s a cut off point, at least there is for me, and it’s like, okay, no more, this is it. And I’m saying enough in order for people to understand.

NORRIS: And maybe relate to in their own minds…

JANET: Exactly, and that’s one of the reasons I do what I do. And if I could just help one person’s life, that’s more worth it to me than anything. Of course, I want to sell albums, to tell you that I didn’t, I’d be lying through my butt-hole to tell you that. But, ultimately, if it was between that or selling a great amount of records, it would be that.

Oh, the heartbreak. Meanwhile, Janet’s brother, Michael Jackson, elbows his way back onto the scene on Monday, in the new issue of “Life” magazine. The issue features photos galore of the singer with his baby son Prince, the same child for whom Jackson was begging privacy from the world press not long ago — and now here he is posing the infant in a studio spotlight, holding a microphone. According to the accompanying
story, one of his pet names for the baby is “Applehead.”

That’s it for this edition of “The Week In Rock,” do join us next week for Jane’s Addiction live in San Francisco, the exotic pop of Cornershop, and some Puffy stuff, too. We’ll see you then.