[Note: Janet Jackson was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2019.]
It seems ironic that a singer whose music dominated an era of music, who wrote her own songs and fought hard for self-respect as a woman and as an artist, looking for “control” over her career after growing up as a child star in a massively overprotective and controlling family should have their legitimacy as a rock & roll artist harmed by an incident in the Super Bowl in 2004 that shows the double standard women in music have to face more clearly than almost any other incident of the last decade . It is a sad irony as far as Rock & Roll is concerned that a woman whose whole career from 1986 onward was defined by a clear intent to take control of her life and career and to be treated as a woman worthy of respect rather than simply a pretty face should have her career and legitimacy ruined by sexual objectification in a way that is scarcely imaginable for male artists. To give but one example, John Morrison of the Doors engaged in public exposure in his concerts, even being indicted on the charge, and yet his action only cemented his legendary rock & roll status. But showing a nipple by accident on television is apparently a bridge too far for a female artist . I don’t mean to sound like a feminist, but that kind of double standard is simply unacceptable. If behavior is not acceptable (and I’m certainly no fan of immodesty), it is not acceptable for anyone at all.
It is lamentable, but perhaps necessary, to discuss that bit of politics before discussing the actual music career. It is lamentable because Janet Jackson’s music career was an astounding example of immense popularity combined with genuine artistic ambition, high family drama, and an immense and positive legacy. I say this not as the biggest fan of her music, but as someone who thinks that influence, popular success and artistic ambition ought to be recognized regardless of my own personal tastes. Along with Madonna (already inducted in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame), Michael Jackson (already inducted in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame), and Prince (already inducted in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame), Janet Jackson dominated the late 80’s and early 90’s on MTV with inventive music videos, and conquered the music charts with her dance-influenced music that combined deeply personal desires for autonomy and freedom and respect (including the self-restraint of “Let’s Wait Awhile” in matters of intimacy) with catchy beats and crisp production that led to massive chart success. Whether we are talking about establishing a template of a talented and capable woman worthy of respect as a musician for the long haul or an impressive bevy of popular songs that remain iconic for their era, Janet Jackson ought to be a shoo-in for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
The Contribution Of Janet Jackson
Janet Jackson’s contribution is multi-faceted and present a strong case for induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Part of her contribution is her own music, which combined concept-album ambition (Rhythm Nation 1814) with solid pop hooks, dance moves, landmark music videos, popular songs, and a focus on freedom and creative control that inspired a generation of female musicians and that ended up greatly aiding the career of Paula Abdul (whose choreography work for Janet Jackson helped lead to her own stellar dance pop career). And if you want to think about the influence of Janet Jackson on music , looking at the career of singers like Beyonce, Britney Spears, Ciara, Pink, Mya , and many other women who have sought to both exploit and control their sexuality in the midst of dance-influenced pop music with powerful music videos with powerful messages of freedom and autonomy ought to provide more than enough influence on the track of modern music to make her candidacy an extremely strong one. With Madonna already in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Janet Jackson marks another obvious influence from the first decade of the MTV generation whose recent career ought not to diminish the respect for her body of work as a whole.
Why Is Janet Jackson A No-Brainer For The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
Did Janet Jackson have seminal popular success? Check. Six multi-platinum albums (three of which sold more than 5 million copies in the United States), 8 platinum albums, 10 #1 singles on the Hot 100 Chart, along with 14 additional top 10 hits and 28 total top 40 hits in the United States alone, along with international success. She had three straight albums with 5 top 5 hits (one of them having 7 top 5 hits) . Does her music include a great deal of artistic and creative ambition? Check. Control highlighted her desire to escape from her family’s controlling efforts to present her as a child. Rhythm Nation 1814 was a concept album about the search for freedom through music in a dystopian society. Later albums explored her love of passionate sexuality and her desire for that personal sort of freedom that appears so common in our contemporary culture (whether one praises or laments such tendencies). Did she have acknowledged and public influence? Check. Whether one looks at the continuing influence of her music, her dancing, the production values, or the fact that a generation of female singers have an open and acknowledged debt of gratitude to Janet Jackson for having provided a pathway to popular success, artistic ambition, cultural significance, and personal autonomy that remains well-trod today and will probably continue to do so as long as our culture continues along its current path. Then there is the fact that she has had a #1 album for four straight decades, including Unbreakable in 2015. Any of these cases alone would be sufficient, and the fact that all of them are present makes Janet Jackson an obvious choice for the Rock & Roll of Fame, one of the most obvious omissions of them all.
Why Is Janet Jackson Not In The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
It seems unfathomable that someone with Janet Jackson’s lengthy and massively popular and influential career should never have even been nominated for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame when similar artists like Madonna and Donna Summer  have already been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Is the lasting fallout from Nipplegate enough to keep her from consideration for the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame? That would be an immensely hypocritical double standard. Is there a feeling that enough members of the Jackson family are already in the Hall of Fame? There are no candidates after Janet with the influence or popularity to merit consideration. Is Janet Jackson’s immense and popular body of work not enough to merit consideration? If not, there are very few artists who have a comparable body of work who would merit consideration on those grounds (which makes no sense when artists like Laura Nyro are inducted on vastly smaller and less influential resumes). Lest we forget, Janet Jackson was not merely a singer, but also a songwriter, dancer, and actress of considerable ability. Ultimately there aren’t any good reasons for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame to deny Janet Jackson her place, but they have never needed good reasons to drag their feet on worthy inductees while making occasionally head-scratching decisions to reward vastly less deserving bands and artists.
Verdict: Forget Nipplegate. Put Janet Jackson in already, as one might prepare the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame for a future of being filled with artists like Britney and Beyonce and other artists of the 90’s and 00’s and beyond when the time comes. Janet Jackson has a major role in the history of female pop musicians and their desires for autonomy in their personal and professional lives, and that is a role that deserves to be told and understood. Janet Jackson’s music and her musical career is inseparable from personal and cultural politics, and whatever one thinks about that role or those matters, cultural influence is cultural influence regardless of one’s personal views.
 In 2004, Janet Jackson had a wardrobe malfunction at the Super Bowl when her duet partner, Justin Timberlake, ripped off one layer too much on her costume, exposing her nipple on global television. I watched the Super Bowl that year from the campus of the religious educational institution I was attending at the time, and we made our own Super Bowl show, so I missed the incident but heard about it ad nauseum afterwards. It is deeply hypocritical that Janet Jackson’s career, and her chances at Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction, should be ruined by having her breasts shown on television when ripping off the clothing to create the wardrobe malfunction did no harm for Justin Timberlake’s career.