Janet Jackson Is Receiving Billboard’s Icon Award Sunday; These 25 Songs Are The Biggest Reasons

On Sunday, May 20, Janet Jackson, who turned 52 this past Wednesday, will be honored with the Billboard Icon award at the publication’s annual awards ceremony in Las Vegas.

In other words, Billboard is telling us something most of the world already knew.

Jackson is also scheduled to perform a medley of her hits at the event, which airs on NBC at 8pm EDT.

Janet Jackson

It will be Jackson’s first live TV performance in eons and a highly anticipated one at that.  Given all that’s occurred in her life since this writer last saw her live in October 2015 (e.g., she’s since entered her 50s, she cancelled a tour promoting her last album to have a baby – at 50, she separated from her husband of seven years and she started a new world tour to deliver on a promise to her longstanding fans), we can certainly understand and forgive her for making herself scarce these past few years. 

To commemorate Sunday’s occasion, djrobblog came up with a ranking of Jackson’s 25 most important songs, that is, the ones that were the most important to her career and which we feel contributed the most to her iconic status.

To be clear, this is not a ranking of her “best” songs because, well, a list like that is too subjective, and limiting it to 25 would be a disservice to someone who’s made dozens upon dozens of great hits, mostly in collaboration with her longtime producers James “Jimmy Jam” Harris, III and Terry Lewis.  Plus, there are many “Best of” Janet lists on the Internet (I know this because I searched them before writing this article), and mine would be just one more.

Instead, I thought it would be more fitting to the occasion (and really unique) to pick the 25 songs over her nearly four-decade career that were most instrumental in making her a Billboard Icon.

Now, this list could be viewed as being subjective as well; after all, it is one man’s opinion.  So to back it up, I’ve provided an explanation for each entry, along with video or audio clips where available, to remind readers of her greatness.  

So to all those Janet fans out there, take a scroll through this djroblist to get yourself amped for Sunday’s event…and enjoy!

Here are the most important hits of Janet’s career, ranked in countdown fashion from #25 to #1, with narratives explaining each entry.

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25. Tied: “Someday Is Tonight” and “State Of The World” (both 1989)

“Someday Is Tonight” was actually slated to be the 8th single from Jackson’s fourth album Rhythm Nation 1814, with some pop radio stations even promoting it as such in early 1991. But the first Gulf War in 1991 sparked radio interest in the socially conscious song “State Of The World,” which prompted A&M to issue that one as a non-commercially available, radio-only single.

That radio-only status made “World” ineligible to chart, preventing it from becoming the 8th top-five hit from ‘RN1814.’ But more importantly, it relegated “Someday Is Tonight” to eternal album-cut status as the momentum behind ‘RN14’ finally waned. Just as “State Of The World” was significant to Janet’s career because of its socially conscious themes, “Someday Is Tonight,” a polar opposite song from the same album, was significant because it marked Janet’s transition into womanhood with lyrics about finally giving into her sexual desires.

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