Janet Jackson’s State of the World show Nostalgic, Revealing, Inspiring

by Sommer Thornton

Janet Jackson emerged from what many thought was a fairytale marriage to reveal she had been going through some things. Her fans embraced her and nurtured her return to the States – and that love is shown by them packing arenas to witness her State of the World tour.

Janet Jackson gave an electrifying show at Chicago’s Allstate Arena on Oct. 26. State of the World, named after a cut on her 1989 Rhythm Nation album had Rosemont lit for miles as fans poured in from all over. I talked to one gentleman who’d flown his family in from Atlanta. Also in the audience – probably Janet’s biggest fan, her dad Joe Jackson and her brother Randy.

The State of the World show started with a poignant montage of videos and sound bytes of controversial statements made about Janet Jackson as well as praises. These images were juxtaposed with a direct call for an end to racial injustice with statements plastered against a black background like “We Want Justice” and an uttering of slain teenager Michael Brown. Another statement said “there is no human being superior to another on this earth.” And yet another demanded acknowledgment of the term “white supremacy” in relation to domestic terrorism.

It’s clear why the show’s theme was a throwback to her more militant Rhythm Nation album. Before hitting the stage, Janet had already made a bold statement about her view of the current state of the world and ignited the crowd.  Jackson then sauntered on stage solo dressed in a long flowy black jacket belting out “The Knowledge” and “State of the World”.

After that it was time to get the party started, and Janet threw off that black Olivia Pope’ style jacket to reveal a sexy tight suit underneath. Her snapback game is next to none. Jackson and her young dancers in angelic white juked it out to “Nasty,” “Control,” “Miss You Much” and “Pleasure Principal”.

Janet doesn’t dance as hard as she used to since having her young baby Issa, but her background dancers more than compensate. The dancers spanned a wide range of ages, ethnic backgrounds and body types. It was great to witness Janet passing the torch by stepping back into the group for the more energetic choreography as her dancers went all in. Janet performed “Escapade” and “All for You” with two teen dancers taking the lead. Then back with the ladies, Jackson did a sexy chair dance to “When I Think of You”. Thickalicious dancer Allison stole the show with her breakdown during “Throb”.

Janet performed dozens of hits she’s had over the last three decades. As the show hit the halfway mark, Janet morphed from a sexy Dom to a softer fresh-faced 90’s baby. She gave the crowd some of her R&B cuts like “Again”, “Come Back to Me,” and “The Body That Loves You”, as she sat alone wearing baggy denim and a chic bun. Her dancers returned to the stage in similar 90’s garb as Jackson performed her more recent hit, “No Sleep” featuring J. Cole.

One of my favorite moments from the show was the dancers doing a hip-hop soul train line to “Throb” where each displayed their individual talent.  As the brassy EDM beat thumped I was transported back to some forgotten nights at club 735 in New Orleans.

My other fav moment was the interlude featuring the ballad “Idle” by Spooky Black. In the roughly three-minute black and white clip, Janet is smiling, reflecting, sobbing, grimacing – exhausting many emotions before smearing her makeup. The last image is a composed Janet smiling slightly. 

Peep the clip!

The video seems to show the spiritual journey Janet has undergone since marrying a billionaire, moving to the Middle East and living a Muslim lifestyle, to later alleging emotional abuse from her husband, filing for divorce and fighting for sole custody of her baby. Janet need not say a word.

At her tour stop in Ontario, CA though, Janet broke down while performing “What About.” The songs follows the “Idle” clip. As Janet struggled through the emotional lyrics “my heart was pounding, but the time had come, to stop letting my whispering heart control me, and tellin my screamin mind what to do,” her dancers did an interpretation of an abusive adulterous relationship. At the end, in tears Janet simply told her fans, “this is me.”

Janet’s performance of “If” and “Rhythm Nation” towards the end of her Chicago show was probably the most entertaining of the night because it brought up so much nostalgia. The monster hits represent two distinct stages in Jackson’s career. Janet used Rhythm Nation, to make a social and political statement against racial and economic tensions in the 80’s. Velvet Rope, released in 1997 with “If” as one of its biggest records, was a sexual exploration put to sultry beats. Janet moans on one track on the album and was rumored to have masturbated for an interlude.

Jackson closed out the show again flipping a symbolic middle finger to injustice performing “Livin’ in a World” and “Black Eagle” while moving images showed behind her. Then she put her sexy back on for “Damn Baby,” and “I Get Lonely.”

The State of the World show is an exciting, nostalgic and very entertaining visual anthology. Janet thrills her stans with a lively band and energetic dancers. For those wondering if the 51-year-old still has the juice – she hasn’t missed a beat and shows no signs of stopping.

Check out the full show from Ontario, CA by way of Youtube User @Tramvu12. 

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About Sommer Thornton

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