Album Release Party for Janet Jackson's 'The Velvet Rope'

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Turning 20 this week, The Velvet Rope’s influence still reverberates across the pop and R&B landscapes.

Richly experimental and deeply personal, it was a bold commercial move, released just as Jackson cemented her status as the biggest music star on the planet by signing a record-breaking $80m deal with Virgin. So why has it endured? First and foremost, the musical scope, assisted by regular producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, is vast and evergreen. Lead single Got ’Til It’s Gone, which samples Joni Mitchell, references J Dilla and the then-nascent neo-soul genre that now fuels the likes of SZA; US No 1 Together Again (about friends lost to Aids) is Spotify-ready feather-light dance-pop; the future-soul of Empty – which predicts the loneliness of dating apps – offers distorted trip-hop; while What About encases lyrics about domestic violence in waves of crunching guitars.

Janet Jackson’s The Velvet Rope: A Masterpiece Turns 20  was originally published on