Today marks the 16th anniversary of the release of Janet's most critically-praised album--the introspective, dark "The Velvet Rope". Widely considered her masterpiece, topics covered on the album ranged from sexual bondage, domestic violence, bisexuality and homophobia to the examination of self-worth, depression and the celebration of loved ones who've passed away. Janet stated that she was exploring the need she feels we all have to feel special--that we belong--and likening it to the velvet ropes that seperate the "VIPs" at a club from everyone else.
The album came after a renegotiation of her Virgin Records contract (after a bidding war that included everyone from Walt Disney Co. to Polygram Records)--resulting in an historic $80 million deal, making her, for the second time in five years, the highest-paid recording artist in history. "The Velvet Rope" is listed on several All-Time Greatest Albums lists, including Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. The album was banned in Singapore for its lyrical content depicting homosexuality--the first of Janet's albums to be banned there. It debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200, charted in the top 5 of many other countries, was Janet's fourth consecutive #1 album in the US, and went on to triple-platinum status in the US, with total worldwide sales of over 10 million copies.
"If Janet Jackson made much ado of janet being the Let's Get It On to Rhythm Nation's What's Going On, then 1997's The Velvet Rope is clearly her I Want You, respectively Jackson's and Gaye's best and least-heralded albums...The Velvet Rope is a richly dark masterwork that illustrates that, amid the whips and chains, there is nothing sexier than emotional nakedness."--SLANT magazine--****1/2
Rolling Stone magazine--***1/2
"'The Velvet Rope' picks up where 'janet.' left off, in both its themes and its textures; this new collection of songs and "interludes" addresses the social, emotional and sexual politics of relationships, peppering the wistful, spirited pop melodies and sinuous R&B rhythms that are fundamental elements of the Jackson-Jam-Lewis sound with compelling jazz, folk and techno nuances."--Los Angeles Times
"In the end, the most daring thing about The Velvet Rope isn't its sex talk but its honesty. Tempting as it may be to compare the album to similarly sultry stuff like Madonna's Erotica, it's much closer in spirit to the unabashed emotionalism of Joni Mitchell's Blue. That's because the most revealing moments here have to do with loneliness and vulnerability, not sexual preference."--Entertainment Weekly
"...her most daring, elaborate and accomplished album"--New York Times
"Jackson shows once again that she can compete against any of the lightweight, mega-selling pop divas and hang them out to dry".--Craig S. Semon of Telegram & Gazette