Dream Street, by Janet Jackson
Janet Jackson’s second album was an attempt to gain success for her as a solo artist, but like her debut it was not a very successful album commercially. That said, it is an easy enough album to enjoy if you like 80’s pop and dance music as I do. While Janet Jackson’s third album would catapult her into the public consciousness as a woman who wanted to take control of her own fate as an artist (more on that shortly), it is well worth pondering on where Janet Jackson was when she made that album. She was an artist who had made two albums that flew beneath the radar but she already becoming a pro and knowing what it is that she wanted (and what she did not) from her experience in the record industry. If this album doesn’t have any lasting hits that people tend to remember, how does this album deserve to be seen and remembered today?
Dream Street is all of nine songs at less than forty minutes of length, and so it presents an album that is definitely not full of bloat, and fully four of the songs on the album were released as singles. “Don’t Stand Another Chance” is a pleasant song to listen to that showcases Janet’s confidence in herself and became a top ten R&B hit in 1984. “Two To The Power Of Love” is not necessarily memorable, but as a duet with noted English singer Cliff Richard it is an enjoyable love song. “Pretty Boy” is not too dissimilar to the sorts of sexually charged funky songs about attractive people that Janet Jackson would make throughout her career, and it too has pleasant production and singing, going on for six and a half minutes. “Dream Street” represents a contrast between fear and anxiety, set to an appropriately anxious disco beat, and it was another single from this album. “Communication” expresses Janet’s hope for her message to be spread by technology to allow herself to be heard and to bring people together to increase intimacy, relevant concerns then and now. “Fast Girls,” the third single of the album, expresses Janet’s belief that sexuality and sweetness could be combined in a way that avoids slut shaming. “Hold Back The Tears” is a highlight of the album, about her desire for emotional control. “All My Love To You” offers a discussion of love devotion. Album closer “If It Takes All Night” is another song about love and romance that really works as well.
In looking at Janet Jackson’s musical career, I think this is an album that really gets unfairly forgotten. Even if one looks at Control as the beginning of Janet Jackson’s peak period, this album is clearly an important precursor in setting up themes of love, respect, and communication that would be vitally important in Janet’s career as a whole. To have this album written out of the narrative of Janet’s career simply because the album didn’t sell does a disservice to the way that this album showed Janet’s marked growth as a worthy artist and her growing familiarity as an R&B artist that would give her a solid base to allow for her crossover smash working with Jerry Jam and Terry Lewis and taking control of a career that was clearly on the rise. Janet was not yet known to the general public from this album, but she was already showing that she had something to say, as long as others were willing to listen.