As with Control, recording for Rhythm Nation 1814 took place at Lewis and Jam's Flyte Tyme Studios in Minneapolis, Minnesota where they worked in seclusion with Jackson to complete the album. Noted for its use of sampling and utilizing heavily swung synthesized percussion throughout its production, the record encompasses a variety of musical styles, such as new jack swing, hard rock, pop, dance and industrial music. Songs range from mechanized dance rhythms to soft balladry, giving it appeal across multiple radio formats. It is the only album in the history of the US Billboard Hot 100 singles chart to have seven commercial singles peak within the top five positions. It is also the first album to produce number one hits on the chart in three separate calendar years, beginning with "Miss You Much" in 1989, "Escapade" and "Black Cat" in 1990, and culminating with "Love Will Never Do (Without You)" in 1991.
Visuals in music videos and live performances further elevated Jackson's superstardom. The 30-minute Rhythm Nation 1814 film, a film depicting two aspiring musicians whose lives are disrupted by substance abuse, aired on MTV to promote the album. Jackson's Rhythm Nation World Tour 1990 became the most successful debut concert tour by a recording artist at the time. She was regarded as a fashion icon, with various attire the album's promotional tour and music videos being emulated by youth. Jackson received nine Grammy Award nominations, becoming the first woman to be nominated for Producer of the Year and winning Best Long Form Music Video for Rhythm Nation 1814. Jackson received the MTV Video Vanguard Award and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her significant contributions to popular culture. Her handwritten lyrics to the album's title track "Rhythm Nation" as well as her militaristic uniform for its music video have been preserved by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2021, the Library of Congress announced it selected the album for preservation in the National Recording Registry as part of the class of 2020, deeming it "culturally, historically, or artistically significant."
While discussing the origin of the title "Rhythm Nation", Jackson stated she first uttered the phrase during a conversation with her producers. "I thought it would be great if we could create our own nation" adding that it would be "one that would have a positive message and that everyone would be free to join." She based the idea on the prevalence of various youth groups and organizations that are formed as a means of creating a common identity. The usage of the number "1814" represents the year the national anthem "The Star-Spangled Banner" was written. Rolling Stone emphasized the core concept is further explored in the album's opening pledge (the first track of the recording), which states: "We are a nation with no geographic boundaries, bound together through our beliefs. We are like-minded individuals, sharing a common vision, pushing toward a world rid of color-lines." Several critics noted that "R" (Rhythm) and "N" (Nation) are the eighteenth and fourteenth letters of the alphabet, though Jackson said this was coincidental.
Parallel Lines: Media Representations of Dance (1993) observed that in Rhythm Nation 1814, Jackson represents a "modern good fairy" attempting to guide troubled youth to a more positive way of life. Each of the three segments serve a different purpose, beginning with affinity and companionship in "Miss You Much", followed by anger and frustration in her rooftop solo and ending with "Rhythm Nation", in which Jackson and her dancers "have become a uniformed, formidable army, whose controlled energetic moves and shouts project a disciplined resolution to inspire others through dance and music." Their group dynamic visually depicts a gender neutral equality, with Jackson "performing asexually and anonymously in front of, but as one of the members of the group." It is also noted that the success of the film is not only the final product, but in the commercial and social implications of its development. In selecting an unknown street dancer, Anthony Thomas, to develop her choreography, "Janet Jackson secures a threefold achievement: she satisfies the dictates of the commercial pop music industry by creating a dance image which is significantly different from her earlier work; she demonstrates that, despite fame, she is still in touch with contemporary youth pop culture and its fashions; and finally, she [utilizes], not the dance traditions of Hollywood musical ... but the work of a young black man whose training is outside the institutions of Western theatre and clearly an Afro-American cultural expression of the late 1980s." The film received positive reception. Jefferson Graham in USA Today commented that "she dances up a storm in the moody black-and-white video's three songs ... and plays the role of a mystical figure to young kids." Jon Pareles remarked that "[it] juxtaposes her dance routines with grim urban imagery and a plot line about drugs versus dreams." It was later released on VHS and LaserDisc as the Rhythm Nation 1814 Compilation, and reissued the following year with each of the album's promotional music videos. Jackson received two MTV Music Video Award nominations for "Best Dance Video" and "Best Choreography" for "Rhythm Nation", winning the latter.
Writing for The New York Times, Jon Pareles viewed Rhythm Nation 1814 as having been "thoroughly calculated" for massive commercial success, noting that, as with Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon (1973) and Guns N' Roses' Appetite for Destruction (1987), consumers might find that "[b]uying the album can mean endorsing an attitude ... the album becomes a cause without a rebellion." Pareles commended its musicality and vocals, stating "[t]he tone of the music is airless, sealing out imprecision and reveling in crisp, machine-generated rhythms; Ms. Jackson's piping voice, layered upon itself in punchy unisons or lavish harmonies, never cracks or falters." Robert Christgau wrote in his review for The Village Voice, "Her voice is as unequal to her vaguely admonitory politics as it was to her declaration of sexual availability, but the music is the message."
Internationally, the album reached number one in Australia, where it was certified double platinum by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA), and South Africa. In Canada, it entered the top five and was certified platinum. The album peaked at number four in the United Kingdom, receiving a platinum certification. It also entered the top ten of Japan and New Zealand, where it was certified double platinum and gold. It reached the top twenty-five of Sweden, as well as the top thirty in the Netherlands and Germany. It also received gold certifications in Switzerland and Hong Kong. It has sold an estimated 12 million copies worldwide. The Rhythm Nation 1814 video compilation and its reissue were each certified double platinum in United States.
For the first time in seven years, Janet Jackson has released a new album called Unbreakable. At the beginning of her career, she faced the challenge of stepping out of the shadow of her older brothers, which she did with the help of Minnesota songwriters and producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. They worked together creating her signature rhythmic pop sound on many of Janet's most famous albums, including Control and Rhythm Nation 1814, and teamed up again for Unbreakable. Greg thinks Jackson's last record, 2008's Discipline, was probably her worst ever but she rebounded with a solid mid-career album. He appreciated that Janet stopped wasting her time with weak and overtly sexual material, and instead made music that is more true to her authentic self. Greg especially enjoyed the track "BURNITUP!," featuring one of his all-time favorite artists, Missy Elliott. He gives the record a Buy It. Jim agrees and highlights the strengths of Jam and Lewis' electronic, modernized sound. He thinks Janet is as confident and talented as ever. It's a double Buy It for Unbreakable. 2b1af7f3a8