Since Beyoncé shimmied her shiny legs up and down the stage at Glastonbury there has been a worrying rustle throughout broadsheet land and the chatter of music elitists alike: is pop now ‘legitimate’? Is it okay to snack on the silly fluff in between your guitar/keyboard-crunching meals? It’s this terrifyingly misguided, empty-headed belief that resigns all pop music to the ‘artificial’ and any bearded boy mewling with a guitar to somehow be deemed authentic. What many ignore or simply cannot understand is that pop is pathos, it’s struggle, it’s release, it’s anger, it can do all the things that the boys with guitars do but, to paraphrase Ginger Rogers, it does it backwards and in heels.
Sure we can all listen to Bob Dylan sing about inner turmoil and emotional confusion but could he do it with a laser blasting out from his undercarriage? Good pop music is something that is so electrifying and life-enhancing with the icing and cherries of performance on top it could power a small city in one quicksilver moment. Pop music is the friend that’s there to wipe the mascara from under your eyes after a sour night out, it’s the slap in the face that strengthens you to carry on. This whole deranged gamut was put into action with Janet Jackson‘s long overdue one night stand. Contrary to popular song, she doesn’t hang about at all and explodes into a sweat-drenching enormo medley featuring The Pleasure Principle, Control and What Have You Done For Me Lately?, before loading up the hit gun and stuttering out more gems into the stunned audience .
As the breeze-block beats of Miss You Much register like swift blows to the stomach, it morphs into the most ferocious anthem to needy girls everywhere, with the line “I’m not the kind of girl that likes to be alone” being bellowed by dozens of middle-aged women in a truly terrifying manner, before it too is cast aside for the whistling keyboards of Nasty. It’s all so headspinningly quick that it barely gives the audience time to catch a breath or recover from the shock of actually seeing real-life Janet Jackson spinning around in her sparkly belt in front of you. The venue size only adds to this surreal experience, the intimacy of the Grand Canal Theatre makes it feel like you’re attending the Sultan of Brunei’s house party, minus the life-size ice sculptures and karaoke-singing tigers.
By the time she exits the stage for a breather we all need one too, but not before we’re treated to a selection of Janet’s greatest television and film performances, which range from Willis from Diff’rent Strokes’ girlfriend to her hulking out and breaking the place up in Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married Too?, with a bit of Tupac being a rudeboy in the teen angst-ridden Poetic Justice thrown in for good measure. It’s hard to figure out the point of all this but it truly is an unintentionally hilarious ride through some of the worst haircuts and dialogue ever committed to film, which gets even more bizarre as immediately after she is seen rendering a house to shattered glass with a golf club (whilst wearing a fetching raincoat) the real Janet appears to sing her onscreen self a ballad. Before the realm of sanity is truly abandoned we’re treated to a heart-squelching double whammy of Lets Wait A While and the spine tingling Again before she disappears once more to be replaced by a catalogue of Janets Throughout the Years. Frustratingly, these unprecedented breaks and unwanted drum solos encroach on the show. Maybe if the montages were removed we’d be treated to more than just one line of classics such as When I Think of You.
All the faff is forgiven when she breaks out the ferocious Rhythm Nation, snapping sinews with the meticulously precise moves that made jaws drop 20 years ago. It’s the perfect coupling of melody and moves that she is the queen of. Finishing the night in full fiesta spirit, Together Again encompasses that inexplicable, uplifting joy that makes pop music vital, as limbs are thrown skywards and private childhood photos of Janet and Michael flash up on the screen behind and only the hardest of hearts could fail to soar and give in to the moment. That, my friends in the real world, is what pop music is all about.
Originally published on state.ie