Q: So, All for You, a new album, is this also a new Janet?
J: Yes, you could say that. My life has changed a great deal. That’s why there’s a new, freer me. There will be a lot of new ‘mes,’ and I am looking forward to meeting them all. I feel really good, I really do. The album was a lot of fun to make. It was really weird. Jimmy (Jam) and I became very close when we first met. And then certain people enter your life, and you don’t realize that you wind up losing either some of your relationships or just entire relationships. Now that I’m in a different space, we’ve gotten so much closer once again. And I didn’t realize that until this change had happened in my life. I was thinking ‘this is the way it used to be’ and I had missed this, really missed it, and I’m so happy for it. I missed him.
Q: Things continue to change. Sometimes they get better and sometimes they just change. You use the word “free” on this record. “Free” is the word that came to my mind. From the production, from your enthusiasm—you sound happy to be singing.
J: Oh really, you heard it? I think it does seem free lyrically. Musically I’d say, as far as the melodies go, they are too. Musically, I think it’s freeing. It sounds very liberating. Melodically speaking, and vocally, you can hear it too. You hear it in the voice.
Q: It sounds like a lot of fun! Especially the single, how it starts with that rap chant. Did you have fun writing it as well?
J: I did. It was a great experience, it really was. It’s just about what we’ve spoken about. The things going on in my life, not necessarily everything, but the positive things.
Q: One of the things I got from the music I heard was different kinds of love and relationships. I heard young love; sensual, sexy, mature love; flirty love; one night love …
J: You got it for sure! It’s a different thing for me. Growing up, I never dated. I’m doing that now, experiencing that whole life. So, I’m sure you’ll hear a lot of that. I won’t tell which person this or that song is about, but yes it shows and those are the different experiences, some of them.
Q: Tell me about “All For You.” Why is that the single and the title of the album?
J: I thought it would make a good title. Running down the different songs that Jimmy and I had written, Rock and myself. I don’t know, there’s just something catchy about it, something simple about it. I just thought it was real nice. As far as the single, it was just inspired from my experience, going to clubs, having fun with friends, seeing someone who might be attracted to you, that you could tell wants to approach you, but intimidation pretty much gets in the way. It is pretty sad. That’s happened to me all my life. Anyone that I have ever gone out with, I’ve asked out… So hopefully that will change. I just wanted to write about it because I thought it was pretty funny.
Q: Working with Jimmy and Terry on the single, how does the writing experience come to you? How long does it take from point of conception to point of completion?
J: It can come just like “that”! For me, Jimmy might say he has an idea for a track, and we’ll sit there and put it together. Then I’ll go home, do a melody and lyrics over a day or two. Then we’ll come back and start recording. It can just take a day to record, then put on the final touches. It all depends on the song actually. But it really doesn’t take that long at all.
Q: You have so many songs. Is deciding what makes it to the album a luxury or not?
J: It’s a problem, but one would say it’s a nice problem to have. Trying to figure out which ones make the album, everyone’s got his or her picks. You don’t want to leave anything out because you really love this one, but between these two which one do you love the most? You always need B-sides. You feel like “I don’t want to use this for a B-side, because it could be a single.” It’s a tough, but a good problem to have.
Q: Did you know “All For You” was going to be the single?
J: Listening to all the stuff we had done, it felt so right to me as a single. A couple songs stood out, but this is as the first single was the one that really stood out.
Q: Is this music that Janet Jackson would dance to?
J: Whenever my music comes on in a club, I never get up and dance. I get embarrassed. That’s the only reason. But if I were with my friends, I’d probably be acting very silly. But, yeah, if I were home alone, I’d dance.
Q: That’s nice because there are some people that say they can’t stand listening to their own music. I could never figure out why. I’d think they’d be proud of that gift they have.
J: I enjoy listening to the music that we make. But there comes a point when you do get tired of listening to your own music and you’re ready to hear someone else’s. You listen for a week to a song in rehearsals, then through choreography, and then you have to hear it 24/7 when you’re shooting the video. It happens.
Q: How do you decide on the video production? You are obviously in control. You have been for a long time, making your own decisions. Where does this come from?
J: It comes from different places. It might be an idea that has stemmed from obviously oneself and other people, such as directors. You give them the songs, get them to submit concepts. Then whichever concept you like the best, that’s the one you go with. Dave Meyers is directing “All For You.” It’s his concept.
Q: How do you go about picking a Dave Meyers, with whom I don’t think you’ve worked before?
J: No, I haven’t. I did look at different video reels, but I was already familiar with Dave’s work. He’s done a lot of stuff on MTV. I was just watching videos and saw this name pop up. I didn’t know if he was young or old. You just say, ‘This kid is good.’ You see his videos and see them getting better and better and he’s only 28! They are so young now. Joseph Cotton, who did “Doesn’t Really Matter,” just turned 27, something like that. But yeah, you find them by just watching their work.
Q: What are your challenges for doing something like this? The hours are rigorous. What do you find most challenging?
J: Trying to stay awake and keeping that energy up. That’s the first thing that wants to go, especially when you have to dance. Our choreographers are always getting on me about keeping my energy up because that’s the first thing that wants to go when you’re exhausted. The camera draws energy. So when you see something that’s choreographed such as on a video or something, there’s so much energy that you have to put into it to get what you eventually see on screen.
Q: You don’t shy away with your ideas…
J: No, but to me, you’re a team. You’re all here, there’s a common goal. You’re a team and you try to accomplish it together. Someone comes up with something that’s worth trying, you might as well try it. Whether it’s me or someone else that comes up with it, if it works, it works. If it doesn’t, you move on.
Q: There were 1500 people lined up for the dancing auditions. What were you looking for? What did you find? How was it different from the last time?
J: There are definitely some new kids out there. I’ve only kept three that I’ve worked with in the past. But the rest were all new. I keep people that equal them in a sense with dance ability and how good they would look dancing together and knowing their body language. If they would look good dancing opposite another dancer, be it male or female. Those are things I consider. It’s so, so hard because some of the kids I looked at are so new and I was like, ‘I want to use this person, but they’re a little too tall.’ We joke, ‘if we could just chop off their feet, it would be perfect!’ Then I thought that we could use these two girls, but once again they were too tall. It’s really tough. It’s as if you have to match. You have to look like a unified group.
Q: You have been working out really hard. I saw your single cover.
J: Oh, you saw that?
Q: And I see you today. You look wonderful. You look like you are working very hard.
J: I guess there’s a first time for everything. Yes, I have been working out. Not that it’s usually a major thing. But for me, it’s major. I was always such a tomboy. The clothes do keep coming off slowly, but surely, don’t they? Next, it’s butt-naked! Just joking.
Q: Is changing, moving forward musically, and evolving physically, part of your desire? Do you need each album to have a different feel? And does everything move forward together?
J: Yes, and I think it just shows most through the music, through my appearance. This is truly not such a conscious decision. It just happens that way. You just get inspired from one thing to the next. You want to do other things. It all works together for me. Of course I want to grow with each project that I do. But you never know what space you’re in. When I say that, I mean you may think you’ve taken a few steps ahead, but you really haven’t taken any. So I do what I do and try to do it to the best of my ability. And hopefully you see or hear that difference once you step away and come back to it. And you feel that change, a positive change more so than anything.
Q: Do you ever feel the pressures of having to re-invent yourself—musically, physically, etc.?
J: You know what? It’s not that I set out to try to reinvent myself, really. It’s just where I am at that moment in my life. Sometimes boredom comes into play. I like to try different things, do different things. But it’s never this conscious effort to try to invent myself. It’s just the space I’m in my life at that moment. That’s what you see with each album.
Q: Many people are afraid of change, so they stay with a good thing. But sometimes for too long, and their careers fall by the way side.
J: Well, it’s because everyone else moves on. It’s like, ‘OK, this formula works, let’s just stay right here.’ Which make me think about Control. The record company wanted me to do a ‘Control 2’ because it worked so well. I didn’t want to that. I said, “it’s been done. I’m in a different space now and this is what I want to sing about, write about, talk about.” That was Rhythm Nation. Hopefully that will never change, and I don’t think it will ever change because some people do get stuck in that. And there’s fear too. ‘Will it ever be as good as…?’ With certain things, I do that. Like with performances. I do want them to be the best they can. I obviously want the next live performance to be better than the previous. But as far as albums and writing, I try to do the best I can and hopefully it will be better than the last. But more so than anything, I hope the audience will get something out of it. I hope it will bring something to their lives—joy, maybe make them think. I hope they will get something out of what they’ve been listening to.
Q: Was there any inspiration that came into the project this time?
J: What inspired all of this? Well it’s like what we said before. My life has changed. I’m no longer married. I don’t want that to sound badly, but that was the inspiration. I’m in a different space. I’ve been introduced to a whole new world that I’ve never experienced before. I feel kind of late. I actually feel dated because this is something I’ve never experienced before. I feel like a kid again really. All of you guys have been through this, I’m assuming. But all of this is truly new to me, and I think that’s what you’re actually hearing. That’s the different ‘space.’
Q: Let’s talk about some of the other cuts that are going to be on the album. How about “Trust A Try”?
J: “Trust A Try” is about being in a relationship where there’s no trust. Because of past relationships, you’re bringing all that baggage into a beautiful and new relationship. But those issues that you bring along don’t give this new relationship a chance. You’re dealing with that old crap and bringing it here. It’s about trusting and knowing it’s not going to happen here, freeing yourself up to love, which can be a scary thing.
Q: “When We Ooo” ?
J: What is it that you have?
Q: From a male’s point of view, I hear some interesting things I’d like to be part of. It’s very inviting.
J: I’m taking that as a compliment, thank you. “When We Ooo” is about someone who is very special, very special, and very dear to my heart. What is there in the relationship—the spirituality, it is not just about the lovemaking. It goes beyond that, it’s deeper than that, a lot deeper than that and the experience we have together.
Q: “Someone To Call My Lover”?
J: That’s that other side that eventually will happen. Jimmy said, “I want to play you something.” He played this loop, and said, “Jan, you don’t know what this is?” I said, “No.” He said, “America, Ventura Highway.” I felt badly. Somewhere along the way, I missed that one I guess. Or Perhaps I was just a little too young. But he thought that would be great to loop that into the song.
Q: It’s a ‘drive down the road with the top down, summer time’ kind of song.
J: It makes you feel good, doesn’t it? I absolutely loved it. That’s how it started. Lyrically speaking, it’s what it says—‘someone to call your lover.’ My friends teach me, they teach me. I feel so stupid constantly mentioning this “space” I’m in. They teach me, tell me I should do things differently. And how I love so deeply. I’m trying not to make the same mistakes I’ve made in the past. It’s hard, but I’m trying. It’ll take time. It’s really about that next person that you want to be with and to call yours and for you to be theirs.
Q: “Come On Get Up”?
J: I love that song! That song makes me want to dance instantly. It’s “house,” has a little “house” feel. I just envision being in a club, asking someone to dance. Everything goes back to sex. See? I feel so badly! I’m thinking about the lyrics. It’s about dancing, being in a club, feeling free, having a good time. OK? Thank you.
Q: “Doesn’t Really Matter” was a smash hit from a movie soundtrack (for Nutty Professor 2: The Klumps) and will appear on your new album. Did you think it would be a big hit?
J: “Doesn’t Really Matter?” I really liked that song a lot. I thought it was fun, but you never know what people will think. Since I wrote it for Nutty, I’m especially happy everyone liked it as much as they did. But I didn’t think it would be the hit that it was. I thought it would be a good summer song, but that people wouldn’t truly enjoy it the way they did.
Q: You worked with Rockwilder, and a couple of new producers as well. What were you looking for and why Rockwilder?
J: I did work with some new producers. Rockwilder and I talked so much on the phone. He’s the sweetest guy. I had never met him, but I felt some kind of connection with him. We pretty much talked every day, watching videos. I’m a fan of Red and Method, and I had heard this track that was so funky! I just had to find out who wrote it, and it turns out Rock did! He said ‘I have some stuff I wrote with Janet in mind.’ So we tried it. And that was how it started. He’s such a wonderful guy, has such a good heart. He came down to Minneapolis where we met for the first time and we just hit it off. Jimmy, myself, Rock. We just got into the studio and started creating this stuff and it was a really great experience. For instance, Rock in the past has done more hip-hop. “Come on Get Up”— that was his track. Jimmy put some finishing touches on it, and I put the melody and the lyrics on it. It’s such a departure. You didn’t hear “Would You Mind.” It’s slow. We call them ‘the baby making songs.’
Q: Are there “baby making” songs on the album? I used to call them ballads, but you call them “baby making” songs.
J: They are, and there is a difference. You have your ballads, which are really sweet. Then you have your ‘baby making songs,’ which go beyond the sweetness. They get a little dirty in a good way. I think it’s definitely a ‘baby making song’ that you put on repeat, to make babies all night. They’re definitely on this album.
Q: You’ve been honored by MTV with their new series mtvIcon. Stars come and go, but icons remain forever. That’s quite a compliment. How does that make you feel at a young age, so accomplished, to be considered an icon?
Q: “Icon” must make you feel particularly wonderful.
J: I am truly honored. When I heard that MTV wanted to honor me with the show mtvICON, I was speechless. I really was. It is an awesome thing. I feel young. There’s still so much more that I want to do, need to do, for myself in this business. And I was just so surprised. But what a wonderful surprise.
Q: There are a lot of other artists on this show who will be singing your songs. That’s quite a compliment in itself. Are you fans of these artists? Do you anticipate any interesting moments?
J: Absolutely! From Outkast to ‘NSync to Pink—I love Pink! There are so many. And I was so excited! I thought I get to sit back and watch all of this, how fun it’ll be. Then they said we’d like for you to perform, and I said ‘damn, almost.’ ‘Almost could relax.’ Now there’s a little something I need to think about.
Q: Regarding artists of this day… I respect your ability to be the best at what you do, to be a role model that you are, an icon. I consider you the most successful female recording artist of this day. There are the Britneys, the Christina Aguileras, the Destiny’s Childs coming along. How do you assist them? Give them advice. What do you say to those who have become successful so quickly?
J: To ‘stop and enjoy it’ is what I’d say to them. Don’t just keep going full steam ahead. I feel that’s what kids are doing today. They’re constantly on the go—one thing after the next, one album after the next, one show after the next. They need to sit back and enjoy what they’ve accomplished. It’s nothing to sneeze at. It’s not easy what we do. And that’s the advice one of my brothers gave me—Mike actually. He saw me doing the same thing with my life that he did with his career a few years back—constantly going and going. Not that he stopped, but that made me really think about things: how important life is, what you want to do, where you want to go, where do you see yourself in so many years. Just sit back and enjoy it. So many of them have accomplished so much in such a short amount of time. They need time to enjoy it, they really do. And stay grounded. Keep their feet on the ground.
Q: You had every opportunity not to…
J: Well, you learn from watching your brothers and sisters grow up in the industry. But mainly my parents wouldn’t have it—an ego getting out of place—and they made sure we stayed grounded. My friends also always let me know if I was getting out of place. And those are the people I always want to keep around me. Those to me are the real friends. Not the ones who always ‘yes.’ Not the ones who always say everything I do is great or awesome. I’m not saying everything I do is great, but you know what I’m talking about. To say ‘that’s ugly, that stinks’ and it came from you, that’s ok. I am not perfect. Those are the people I want around. That’s real. That’s how I’ve done it thus far.
Q: Have you thought about touring?
J: I will start touring in the summer. I start rehearsals around May, something like that, I believe. I’m really looking forward to it. As always, it’s always grueling, always tough. But I can’t wait.
Q: Touring, back on the road again. How do you gear up this time?
J: It’s going to be different. It’s going to have different dancers. It won’t be the same band I’ve had for the past 2 tours. The show is going to be completely different. It will be fun though. I can feel that. I’m having a great time already creating the show.
Q: Is this a world tour?
J: I hope I will get to go to Latin America. I’ve been dying to go there. Hopefully I can get to Africa once again. I was first there with the last tour. We had the best time. We were just talking about it. It will be a world tour. It’ll be fun for us…a lot of fun.
Q: What can you say about Janet Jackson today that you couldn’t say about Janet Jackson after Velvet Rope was done?
J: We used this once before, but it’s the truth. I feel free. I really do and it’s a good thing. I think it’s where I should be right now, where I want to be.
Q: Do you think that this work is your finest work to date, or one more piece in the tapestry of your career?
J: I would honestly say I enjoyed making this album. I love the album. It’s another piece of the tapestry for me. And I feel as if there’s still more to come.
Q: I hope so. What CDs do you keep on your turntable?
J: Let’s see… Jill Scott, Outkast, St. Germain, Thievery Corporation. Who else? What I’ve been listening to the most—and this is an old CD, but I have to pop it in—Buena Vista Social Club. It relaxes me.
Q: What was the first album you bought?
J: Oh yes! The first album was 101 Dalmatians—the book with all the pictures. It followed the book and used to read Dalmatian Plantation. And then the Archies’ “Sugar, Sugar.” I remember those songs! The Archies, right?