Janet Jackson’s 10 #1 Singles: Revisited, Reviewed & Ranked
10. “Black Cat” Year: 1990 Stay At #1: 1 week
The hardest-rocking song any Jackson ever released, “Black Cat” is the best anti-gang, pro-stripper, heavy metal shredder of all time, as well as the ultimate underrated jewel in Janet’s crown. Did we mention that it’s also her first — and only — solo songwriting credit? Obviously, Janet is a deep diva. Usually, though, that depth is manifested via whispercooing or giggletalking. Not here.
As panthers shriek and guitars wail, Janet Motherefffing Jackson snarls and writhes like the second coming of Wendy O. Williams. No wonder the children loved it! (“Mommy, I want to be living on the edge!” “Not until you’re eight, dear.”)
Still a scorcher, “Black Cat” has plenty of lives left: as a testament to Janet’s creativity, as the anthem for self-destructive glamourpusses, and as the hold music when you call Cat Fancy magazine. (“Better re-subscribe or you’re gonna DIEEEEE!”) — JONATHAN RIGGS
9. “Together Again” Year: 1998 Stay At #1: 2 weeks
If you feel joy while dancing or bopping (yeah, I bop) to Ms. Jackson’s #1 from her Velvet Rope album, have no shame and feel no guilt. While it was originally conceived as a ballad, “Together Again” was rearranged as a dance ditty and exploded in popularity despite its somber back story. (Janet’s inspiration for writing the song was a friend who died from AIDS). You should see it as uplifting and empowering — no matter which tempo gets you all tingly — because we could all stand to live in a world where in “every smile I see, I know you are there, smiling back at me” is a motto for life. How can you not be happy?
Often confused with “Again” from her janet. album (about reconnecting with an old flame), “Together Again” was the singer’s eighth number-one single and solidified her much-deserved standing as a friend of the LGBT community and a gay icon. Superstar standing, of course, was already solid. — MIKE WOOD
8. “Again” Year: 1993 Stay At #1: 2 weeks
“Again” was just so good that it had to manifest itself on two projects: The Poetic Justice soundtrack and Janet Jackson’s fifth studio album, aptly titled janet. “Again” is one of those love songs that just cuts to the core of you. You fell in love, you had to break up, you go your separate ways, and then your lover returns for a reason other than you. *HEART STOP* What do you do? What do you even say? Are you still in love with that person now that the “out of sight out of mind” rule has been broken? Janet somehow manages to seamlessly weave these emotions into the song.
If you’re familiar with the Poetic Justice film, then you’ll relate it to the moment where Justice (Janet) and Lucky (Tupac) return together after that monumental road trip. If you are more of the “Again” video ilk, then two words: Gary Dourdan.
Either way, “Again” oozes with love and emotion, from the curious beginnings of the song all the way to the end where Janet is letting her feelings loose. Just don’t play this song around your high school ex or you might find yourself reliving your prom night. — KATHY IANDOLI
7. “Doesn’t Really Matter” Year: 2000 Stay At #1: 3 weeks
I’m a big fan of great pop songs falling off the soundtracks of completely forgettable movies. It’s a fantastic test of pop music endurance: Can this song endure longer than the film that made it happen? In the ’90s and early aughts, this happened a lot, like when Coolio’s “Gangster’s Paradise” from (the now embarrassing and racially tone deaf) Dangerous Minds dominated summer radio in 1995, and Aaliyah’s “Are You That Somebody” from the Eddie Murphy version of Dr. Dolittle became a smash in 1997.
So when I remember that Janet Jackson recorded “Doesn’t Really Matter” for The Nutty Professor 2: The Klumps, yet another late-period Eddie Murphy forgotbuster that Jackson actually co-starred in, I can’t help but smile. That’s because when you separate the song from the relatively terrible film it was ostensibly featured in, and the cringingly Y2K-era Joseph Kahn sci-fi mishmash of a video, it still remains one of Janet’s most effortlessly playful and beautiful pieces of work. Whether it’s the delicious candy shop effervescence of R&B hitmaker gods Jam and Lewis’ beat, or the way the melody speeds up/slows down/changes shape with a quick flutter of Janet’s porcelain voice, it’s obvious they don’t make ’em like “Doesn’t Really Matter” anymore. This isn’t the severe Janet of “Nasty,” “Rhythm Nation,” or “Son Of A Gun” or the silky smooth R&B of “That’s The Way Love Goes”; this is bubbly, sweet pop music that could have, with a little Quincy Jones-tweaking, worked brilliantly as a hit for the Jackson 5. — PATRICK BOWMAN