Janet Damita Jo Jackson was born in Gary, Indiana, the youngest of ten children. By the time Jackson was a toddler, her older brothers—Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon and Michael—were performing music at nightclubs and theaters as The Jackson 5. By forging her own unique musical identity, she has been dubbed as the "Queen of Pop."
Janet Jackson began her own musical career with the variety television series The Jacksons in 1976 and went on to appear in other television shows throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, including Good Times and Fame.
Janet Jackson's love of horses resulted in her goal to become a race-horse jockey; she had no desire to become an entertainer. Despite this, her father planned for her to pursue a career in entertainment. She once commented, "No one ever asked me if I wanted to go into show business ... it was expected." As a result, she has been a prominent figure in popular culture for over 25 years.
After signing a recording contract with A&M, she became a pop icon following the release of her third studio album Control in 1986. Her collaborations with record producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis incorporated elements of rhythm and blues, funk, disco, rap, and industrial beats, which led to crossover appeal in popular music.
In addition to receiving recognition for the innovation in her records, choreography, music videos, and prominence on radio airplay and MTV, she was acknowledged as a role model for her socially conscious lyrics.
In 1991, she signed the first of two record-breaking, multi-million dollar contracts with Virgin Records, establishing her as one of the highest paid artists in the industry. Her 1993 debut album Janet, saw her develop a public image as a sex symbol as she began to incorporate sexuality in her work. That same year, she appeared in her first starring film role in Poetic Justice. Since then she has continued to act in feature films.
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By the end of the 1990s, she was named the second most successful recording artist of the decade. She has amassed an extensive catalog of hits, with singles such as "Nasty", "Rhythm Nation", "That's the Way Love Goes", "Together Again" and "All for You" among her most iconic.
Having sold over 100 million records worldwide, she is ranked as one of the best-selling artists in the history of contemporary music. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) lists her as the eleventh best-selling female artist in the United States, with 26 million certified albums.
In 2008, Billboard magazine released its list of the Hot 100 All-Time Top Artists, ranking her at number seven.
In 2010, the magazine announced the "Top 50 R&B / Hip-Hop Artists of the Past 25 Years", ranking her at number five. One of the world's most awarded artists, her longevity, records and achievements reflect her influence in shaping and redefining the scope of popular music. She has been cited as an inspiration among numerous performers.
Throughout her career, Janet Jackson has been known for a series of sonically innovative, socially conscious and sexually provocative records, as well as elaborate stage shows, television and film roles. And, or course there was the 2005 Super Bowl...
Janet Jackson has worked to distance her professional career from that of her older brother Michael and the rest of the Jackson family. Steve Dollar of Newsday wrote that "[s]he projects that home girl-next-door quality that belies her place as the youngest sibling in a family whose inner and outer lives have been as poked at, gossiped about, docudramatized and hard-copied as the Kennedys."
Steve Huey of Allmusic has said that despite being born into a family of entertainers, Janet Jackson has emerged as a "superstar" in her own right, rivaling not only several female recording artists including Madonna and Whitney Houston, but also her brother, while "successfully [shifting] her image from a strong, independent young woman to a sexy, mature adult."
Musicologist Richard J. Ripani identified Jackson as a leader in the development of contemporary R&B, as her 1986 album Control and its successor Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814 created a unique blend of genre and sound effects, that ushered in the use of rap vocals into mainstream R&B.