Should Have Been Bigger: Janet Jackson’s “Rock With U”
In this franchise, we look back on singles that deserved a little more love and attention.
Janet Jackson’s entire Discipline era should have been bigger. After focussing on her trademark sexually-charged R&B on Damita Jo and 20 Y.O., the enduring diva switched it up on her 10th album by mixing in a little pop and dance music. While the enormously-catchy “Feedback” became a well-deserved top 20 hit, the followup was even better. “Rock With U,” co-written by Ne-Yo and produced by long-time collaborator Jermaine Dupri, found Janet dabbling in crisp, disco-tinged electronica.
“Strobe lights make everything sexier,” the 53-year-old coos over laser-like synths. “Shadows dancing on the wall, I wanna rock with you.” That leads us to a heavily auto-tuned chorus that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Daft Punk record. “Rock With U” was an instant fan favorite and promptly released as Disciple’s second single complete with a sophisticated, brilliantly-executed one-take video that found Janet serving sexy choreography in a dark room filled with dancers. Even a dubious, asymmetrical wig couldn’t ruin the chic aesthetic.
Unfortunately, “Rock With U” arrived a little too early to benefit for the great electro-pop explosion of 2008. (Lady Gaga would unleash “Just Dance” two months later, Kesha was still posting demos on Myspace and Britney Spears was putting the finishing touches on Circus). As such, the bop struggled at radio and eventually stalled at an insulting number 21 on the Bubbling Under chart. Be that as it may, “Rock With U” remains Janet’s last truly great single and deserves to be respected as such. Revisit the cruelly slept-on gem below.