The Velvet Rope

The Velvet Rope

Infobox Album
Name = The Velvet Rope
Type = studio
Artist = Janet Jackson

Released = October 6 1997 (Europe)
October 7 1997 (U.S.)
Recorded = 1996–1997
Genre = R&B, pop, soul, funk, electronica
Length = 75:23 (main edition)
78:50 (edition with bonus track)
Label = Virgin
Producer = Janet Jackson, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis
Reviews = *Allmusic Rating|2.5|5 [ link]
*"Entertainment Weekly" (A) [,6115,289747_4.html link]
*Robert Christgau (A-) [ link]
*"Rolling Stone" Rating|3.5|5 [ link]
*"Slant Magazine" Rating|4.5|5 [ link]
*"The Boston Globe" (1997) (positive)
*"The Los Angeles Times" (1997) (positive)
Last album = "Design of a Decade 1986/1996"
This album = "The Velvet Rope"
Next album = "All for You"
Misc = Extra album cover 2
Upper caption = Alternate cover
Type = studio

Lower caption = Australian tour edition cover
Name = The Velvet Rope
Type = studio
Single 1 = Got 'Til It's Gone
Single 1 date = September 22 1997
Single 2 = Together Again
Single 2 date = November 25 1997
Single 3 = I Get Lonely
Single 3 date = February 24 1998
Single 4 = Go Deep
Single 4 date = July 21 1998
Single 5 = You
Single 5 date = September 28 1998
Single 6 = Every Time
Single 6 date = November 17 1998

"The Velvet Rope" is the sixth studio album by American singer-songwriter Janet Jackson, released on October 6, 1997 by Virgin Records. The album was the fourth to be produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis; Jackson and her then-husband René Elizondo, Jr. served as executive producers. Jackson co-produced the rhythmic arrangements with Jam and Lewis and all four producers shared co-writing credits. In 1996, Jackson renewed her recording contract with Virgin Records for unprecedented $80 million dollars, establishing her as the then-highest paid recording artist in contemporary music.

During the two years prior to the release of "The Velvet Rope", Jackson struggled with a long-term case of depression and frequently took time off during the recording of the album or abruptly left the studio during recording sessions. "The Velvet Rope" became a concept album based on Jackson's embrace and disillusionment with her status as a celebrity. Though Jackson introduced sexuality into her music with her previous album "janet.", "The Velvet Rope" takes the concept a step further, with lyrics that are sexually explicit. Sadomasochism became the underlining theme of the album and its title track, "Velvet Rope".

"The Velvet Rope" debuted at number one on the "Billboard" 200, becoming Jackson's fourth consecutive album to top the chart. Despite the being one of Jackson's most critically acclaimed albums, sales of "The Velvet Rope" did not match the commercial breakthrough of its predecessor, "janet." (1993). The Recording Industry Association of America has certified "The Velvet Rope" 3x platinum in 1998 and the album has sold over three million copies in the US alone.


In January, 1996, Jackson renewed her recording contract with Virgin Records for an then-unparalleled $80 million dollars.Citation | title=Janet Jackson Hits Big; $80 Million Record Deal | newspaper=Newsday | pages=A02 | year=1996 | date=1996-01-13] The four-album record deal marked the second time Jackson had broken the industry's record for an unmatched recording contract; the first in 1991 when she signed her original contract with the label for an estimated $32-50 million. Jackson's renewed deal with Virgin surpassed the recording industry's unprecedented $60 million dollar recording contracts earned by her brother, Michael Jackson, and Madonna. [Citation | title=Briefly... | newspaper=USA Today | year=1996 | date=1996-01-14] Citation |last1=Bickelhaupt |first1=Susan |last2= Dezell | first2=Maureen | title=Room with a private view | newspaper=The Boston Globe | pages=26 | year=1996 | date=1996-01-13]

During the two year period between the end of the janet. Tour in 1995 and the release of Jackson's sixth studio album "The Velvet Rope" in 1997, the entertainer had been battling a long-term case of depression.cite video | people = Carol Lin, Charles Gibson | title = Oprah Winfrey In New York | medium = television production | publisher = ABC Good Morning America | location = | year = 1997] Jackson revealed in an interview with Oprah Winfrey " [t] here were times when I cried all day". The concept behind "The Velvet Rope" was in introspective look into Jackson's bout with depression. Michael Saunders of "The Boston Globe" described the album as a "critical self-examination and an audio journal of a woman's road to self-discovery".Citation |last= Saunders |first= Michael | title=The 3 Divas Janet Jackson turns her focus inward | newspaper=The Boston Globe | pages=D13 | year=1996 | date=1996-10-03] Though Jackson expressed she always used her personal life as a source of inspiration for her music, she professed "The Velvet Rope" was her most accomplished album to date. Amidst the album's socially and morally conscientious songs, such as "Together Again", which is an homage to those Jackson has lost to AIDS, "What About", a song about domestic abuse and "Free Xone", which speaks out against homophobia, the album represents Jackson's two year period of soul searching.

The concept behind the album's title "The Velvet Rope" is both a literal depiction of the velvet ropes commonly used to separate crowds of fans, spectators, and media personnel from celebrities, and according to Jackson, the metaphorical velvet rope within every human being which keeps their true feelings separated from those around them. [Citation |last1=Gill |first1=Andy | title=Pop on Record: Janet The Velvet Rope| newspaper=The Independent | pages=17 | year=1997 | date=1997-10-10]


"Together Again" is an homage to loved ones Jackson has lost to AIDS as well as AIDS victims and their families worldwide. Jackson was reportedly inspired to write the song from her own personal experience, as well as a piece of fan-mail she received from a young boy in England who had lost his father.cite book | last = Halstead | first = Craig | coauthors = Chris Cadman | title = Jacksons Number Ones | publisher = Authors On Line | date = 2003 | pages = 119, 120 | url = | isbn = 0755200985] According to Jimmy Jam, "it had a deep meaning for her because it was about a friend she lost to AIDS, but as with all her songs, she tries to make them apply in a general sense to anybody. The idea was to make it a joyous song musically".cite book | last = Bronson| first = Fred | title = The Billboard Book of Number One Hits | publisher = Billboard Books | date = 2003 | pages = 862 | url = | isbn = 0823076776] The arrangement of the song was constructed in 30 minutes by Jam, Lewis and Jackson while in the recording studio. Once the melody was in place, Jackson finished writing the lyrics to the song. Jam and Lewis produced two version of the song; the original dance version and the "Deep Remix" which was a slow ballad. The dance version was inspired by Donna Summer's "Last Dance".

Release and promotion


"Got 'til It's Gone" was released as an international single and received radio airplay in the United States, but was not released as a commercial single within the country. The single peaked at number 36 on the "Billboard" Hot 100 Airplay and at number 3 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay. [cite web | title = Got 'til It's Gone - Hot 100 Airplay | publisher = "Billboard" | date = 1997 | url = | accessdate = 2008-07-20] [cite web | title = Got 'til It's Gone - Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay | publisher = "Billboard" | date = 1997 | url = | accessdate = 2008-07-20] "Together Again" peaked at number one of the "Billboard" Hot 100 singles chart and at number eight on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks.cite web | title = The Velvet Rope > Charts & Awards > Billboard Singles | publisher = Allmusic | date = 2006 | url =| accessdate = 2008-07-20] The single entered the Hot 100 on December 20, 1997, peaking at number one on January 31, 1998 and topped the chat for two weeks.cite book | last = Halstead | first = Craig | coauthors = Chris Cadman | title = Jacksons Number Ones | publisher = Authors On Line | date = 2003 | pages = 119, 120 | url = | isbn = 0755200985] "Together Again" spent a record 46 weeks on the Hot 100 singles chart. On January 9, 1998, "Together Again" received gold certification from the Recording Industry Association of America. [cite web | title = Together Again | publisher = Recording Industry Association of America | date = 1998-01-09 | url =| accessdate = 2008-07-02]

"Go Deep", like "Got 'til It's Gone" was released as an international single but was not commercially available in the United States. The song received radio airplay and peaked at number 28 on the Hot 100 Airplay and number 11 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay. [cite web | title = Go Deep - Hot 100 Airplay | publisher = "Billboard" | date = 1997 | url = | accessdate = 2008-07-20] [cite web | title = Go Deep - Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay | publisher = "Billboard" | date = 1997 | url = | accessdate = 2008-07-20] "I Get Lonely" peaked at number three on the Hot 100 singles chart and at number one on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks. On June 30, 1998, the single was certified gold by the RIAA. [cite web | title = I Get Lonely | publisher = Recording Industry Association of America | date = 1998-01-09 | url =| accessdate = 2008-07-02]

The Velvet Rope Tour

Nicholas Barber of "The Independent" described Jackson's concert at the Scottish Exhibition & Conference Centre in Glasgow June 3, 1998 as "enormous theatrical extravaganza".Citation |last=Barber | first=Nicholas | title=Rock music: Janet Jackson gets lost in her own limelight | newspaper=The Independent | pages=6 | year=1998 | date=1998-06-07] As with all of her live performances, Jackson was accompanied by a dance troupe, elaborate costumes, pyrotechnics and mobile video screens.

Jackson chose "Together Again" for the finale of her tour's concert line up because of the energy it generated with the audience. Jam stated, " [o] pening night... when she hit the very first notes, the whole crowd started singing and practically drowned her out... Everyone can relate to someone in their life passing away or feeling like they want to be together again with somebody."



"The Boston Globe"'s Michael Saunders described "The Velvet Rope" as a "low-key, surprisingly good return to form for Miss Janet, a disc that will stand up to her previous gems". [Citation |last= Saunders |first= Michael | title=1997's TOP 10 CDs / Rock/Pop Boston Globe critics have been making their lists, and checking them twice... | newspaper=The Boston Globe | pages=N8 | year=1997 | date=1997-12-14] The "Los Angeles Times" pop music critic, Robert Hilburn, stated " [t] he theme here is the ways social and psychological forces separate us and make us all feel as if we are on the wrong side of the velvet rope in some area of our life. But don't feel guilty if you lose track of the plot and just fall under the spell of all the pop and hip-hop delights that Jackson and co-producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis have given us". [Citation |last=Hilburn |first=Robert| title=Pop Music: Rock / Country / R&B / Rap / Latin / Jazz; $50 Guide; They Write The Songs; Home Edition | newspaper=Los Angeles Times | pages=70 | year=1997 | date=1997-10-26] J.D. Considine of "Entertainment Weekly" complimented Jackson's resolve to sing about sex as if "its a fact of life" and asserted "it's a mistake to judge this album on the basis of its lyric sheet".cite web | last=Considine | first=J.D. | title = The Velvet Rope Music Review | publisher = "Entertainment Weekly" | date = 1997-10-10 | url =,,289747,00.html | accessdate = 2008-07-20] He praised Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis for the quality of their production, which "clearly articulates the emotional core of Jackson's songs". Considine awarded the album an A rating, with the closing statement "In the end, the most daring thing about "The Velvet Rope" isn't its sex talk but its honesty. Tempting as it may be to compare the album to similarly sultry stuff like Madonna's "Erotica", it's much closer in spirit to the unabashed emotionalism of Joni Mitchell's "Blue". That's because the most revealing moments here have to do with loneliness and vulnerability, not sexual preference".

"Rolling Stone" described "The Velvet Rope" as "part of a continuum, building from the self-empowering manifesto Control, the skin-deep social consciousness of Rhythm Nation and the hypersexual make-over of Janet".cite web | title = The Velvet Rope: Janet Jackson: Review: Rolling Stone | publisher = "Rolling Stone" | date = 1997-10-30 | url = | accessdate = 2008-07-20] The magazine declared the anti-homophobic "Free Xone" as the album's best song, as it "shifts moods and tempos on a dime, segueing from a Prince-like jam to a masterful sample from Archie Bell and the Drells' "Tighten Up." Jackson's interlude "Sad" was criticized for its "poor-little-rich-girl" mentality, but the merits of "The Velvet Rope" were said to "ultimately [be] stronger than Jackson's sense of self-importance".

Craig S. Semon of the"Telegram & Gazette-Worcester" remarked, "Jackson shows once again that she can compete against any of the lightweight, mega-selling pop divas and hang them out to dry".Citation |last=Semon |first=Craig S. | title=Janet Jackson pulls no punches on "The Velvet Rope' | newspaper=Telegram & Gazette-Worcester | pages=8 | year=1997 | date=1997-11-30] He regarded the album's depictions of cyber-sex, lesbian love affairs, and outcry against domestic abuse and homophobia a work of "unbridled passion". According to Semon, the title-track "Velvet Rope" "gives the listener an invitation to [Jackson's] innermost passions". Jackson's struggle with disillusionment on the single "You" is said to be "reminiscent of Diana Ross before unleashing an angry Michael Jackson-like growl and refrain", while the Prince-like "Go Deep" is described as a "funky bump and grind about dressing sexily, dancing sexily and seducing someone to bring home for sex" and the examination of sexual orientation on "Free Xone" is said to "not [be] preachy or political - just passionate and to the point". Semon assessed the album's greatest accomplishment was "What About," with Jackson " [r] oaring over a snarling rock beat and rivaling her brother Michael's angriest vocal belts, [and] shows her strength as she rips into an unflinching attack against her abusive lover and unleashing all the hell he has put her through on this R-rated roarfest".

Neil McCormick of "The Daily Telegraph" condemned Jackson's attempt at expressing the pains of depression, as he stated "Janet mistakes platitudes for wisdom, [as] the suffering artist informs us there is nothing more depressing than "having everything and still feeling sad". She should try getting out more. A couple of weeks on a crack-addled Bradford housing estate trying to support eight children on state benefits would doubtless send her scurrying back to the cordon sanitaire of Beverly Hills, where she can take out her woes on an expensive analyst".Citation |last=McCormick |first=Neil | title=The Arts: Give her enough rope... Reviews Rock CDs | newspaper=The Daily Telegraph | pages=11 | year=1997 | date=1997-10-18] However, McCormick complimented the album's "solid song construction and arrangements" and described "The Velvet Rope" as "varied and appealing exercise in R&B pop".

Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic, criticized the album for Jackson's attempt to "essentially [rework] the hushed atmosphere of janet., [while] neglecting to put a new sonic spin on the material".cite web | title = The Velvet Rope > Review | work = Billboard charts | publisher = Allmusic | date = 2006 | url = | accessdate = 2008-07-20] In regards to the albums sexually explicit content, Erlewine remarked, "for an album that wants to push the limits, it sounds surprisingly tame". "Slant" magazine's Eric Henderson acknowledged that" The Velvet Rope" is the most "adult" album of Jackson's career, but asserted "it's also the most naïve".cite web | last= Henderson | first=Eric | title = Slant Magazine Music Review: Janet Jackson: The Velvet Rope| publisher = "Slant" | date = 2006 | url = | accessdate = 2008-07-20] Henderson remarks the album's sexually explicit material does not convince the listener that Jackson is capable of such escapades and that the albums political content did not surpass the concepts found on her 1989 album "Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814". However, in spite of these criticisms, Henderson commented " [b] ut behind the sex is something even more compelling, because it gradually dawns on you that Janet's use of sexuality is an evasive tactic... Soul sister to Madonna's "Erotica" (which, in turn, was "her" most daring performance), "The Velvet Rope" is a richly dark masterwork that illustrates that, amid the whips and chains, there is nothing sexier than emotional nakedness".


"The Velvet Rope" debuted at number one on the "Billboard" 200, and at number two on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, selling 202,000 copies in its first week.cite web | title = The Velvet Rope | work = Billboard charts | publisher = Allmusic | date = 2006 | url = | accessdate = 2008-07-20] [Citation |last=Sinclair|first=Tom | title=Music/Hear And Now: Hear And Now This Week On The Music Beat | newspaper=Entertainment Weekly | pages=84 | year=1997 | date=1997-11-07] Despite the album's strong debut and critical acclaim, it was Jackson's weakest commercial effort since 1984's "Dream Street". The album sold two million copies within opening 47 weeks of its chart-life, while Jackson's previous album "janet." had exceed sales of ten million copies worldwide. [Citation |last=Murray |first=Sonia| title=Jackson album's funk not slowing stage show | newspaper=The Atlanta Journal and Constitution | pages=F07 | year=1998 | date=1998-09-16] The album was first certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America on November 11, 1997 denoting 500,000 units shipped within the United States.cite web | title = The Velvet Rope | publisher = Recording Industry Association of America | date = 1997 | url =| accessdate = 2008-07-20] The same day, the album's certification was raised to platinum, denoting 1,000,000 units shipped. The following year on March 26, 1998, the album was certified 2x platinum and later 3x platinum on January 15, 1999. "The Velvet Rope" has sold over three million copies in the United States according to Nielsen SoundScan.cite web |last=Caulfield | first=Keith | title = Ask Billboard | publisher = "Billboard" | date = 2006-11-02 | url = | accessdate = 2008-07-02]

Track listing

#"Interlude: Twisted Elegance" (Janet Jackson, James Harris III, Terry Lewis, René Elizondo, Jr.) – 0:41
#"Velvet Rope" (featuring Vanessa-Mae) (Jackson, Harris, Lewis, Elizondo, Malcolm McLaren, Trevor Horn, Mike Oldfield) – 4:55
#*Contains a sample of West Street Mob's "Mosquito (Aka Hobo Scratch)" (Malcolm McLaren, Trevor Horn) and Mike Oldfield's "Tubular Bells" (Mike Oldfield).
#"You" (Jackson, Harris, Lewis, Elizondo, Harold Brown, Sylvester Allen, Morris Dickerson, Howard Scott, Leroy Jordan, Lee Oskar, Charles Miller) – 4:42
#*Contains a sample of War's "The Cisco Kid" (Harold Brown, Sylvester Allen, Morris Dickerson, Howard Scott, Leroy Jordan, Lee Oskar, Charles Miller).
#"Got 'Til It's Gone" (featuring Q-Tip and Joni Mitchell) (Jackson, Harris, Lewis, Elizondo, Joni Mitchell, Kamaal Ibn Fareed) – 4:01
#*Contains a sample of Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi" (Joni Mitchell).
#"Interlude: Speaker Phone" (Jackson, Harris, Lewis, Elizondo) – 0:54
#"My Need" (Jackson, Harris, Lewis, Elizondo, Marilyn McLeod, Pam Sawyer, Nickolas Ashford, Valerie Simpson) – 3:44
#*Contains a sample of Diana Ross' "Love Hangover" (Marilyn McLeod, Pam Sawyer) and Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell's "You're All I Need to Get By" (Nickolas Ashford, Valerie Simpson).
#"Interlude: Fasten Your Seatbelts" (Jackson, Harris, Lewis, Elizondo) – 0:19
#"Go Deep" (Jackson, Harris, Lewis, Elizondo) – 4:42
#*Contains a sample of One Way's "Cutie Pie" (Terence Dudley, Gregory Green, Al Hudson, Glenda Hudson, Jonathan Meadows, George Morgan, Dave Roberson).
#"Free Xone" (Jackson, Harris, Lewis, Elizondo, James Brown, Billy Buttier, Archie Bell, Michael Hepburn) – 4:57
#*Contains a sample of Lyn Collins' "Think (About It)" (James Brown), Archie Bell & the Drells' "Tighten Up" (Billy Buttier, Archie Bell), and Pleasure's "Joyous" (Michael Hepburn).
#"Interlude: Memory" (Jackson, Harris, Lewis, Elizondo) – 0:04
#"Together Again" (Jackson, Harris, Lewis, Elizondo) – 5:01
#"Interlude: Online" (Jackson, Harris, Lewis, Elizondo) – 0:19
#"Empty" (Jackson, Harris, Lewis, Elizondo) – 4:32
#"Interlude: Full" (Jackson, Harris, Lewis, Elizondo) – 0:12
#"What About" (Jackson, Harris, Lewis, Elizondo) – 4:24
#"Every Time" (Jackson, Harris, Lewis, Elizondo) – 4:17
#"Tonight's the Night" (Rod Stewart) – 5:07
#"I Get Lonely" (Jackson, Harris, Lewis, Elizondo) – 5:17
#"Rope Burn" (Jackson, Harris, Lewis, Elizondo) – 4:15
#"Anything" (Jackson, Harris, Lewis, Elizondo) – 4:54
#*Contains a sample of Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes' "Wake Up Everybody" (John Whitehead, Gene McFadden, Victor Carstarphen).
#"Interlude: Sad" (Jackson, Harris, Lewis, Elizondo) – 0:10
#"Special"/"Can't Be Stopped" (Jackson, Harris, Lewis, Elizondo) – 7:55 ("Special" is written as 3:30 on album cover)

Japanese edition


  • "Special" (Jackson, Harris, Lewis, Elizondo) – 3:22
    #"God's Stepchild"/"Can't Be Stopped" (Jackson, Harris, Lewis, Elizondo) – 7:53

    Australian tour/special edition bonus disc

    #"Got 'Til It's Gone" (Armand Van Helden Bonus Beats) – 5:05
    #"Together Again" (Tony Humphries 12" Edit Mix) – 10:00
    #"I Get Lonely" (Janet vs. Jason - The Club Remix) – 8:45 [8:10 is imprinted but the Version takes 8:40 and is actually The Remix Sessions Pt. 2]
    #"Go Deep" (Vocal Deep Disco Dub) – 8:15
    #"Every Time" (Jam & Lewis Disco Remix) – 4:10



    American Music Award
    *Favorite Soul/R&B Female Artist

    Grammy Award
    *Best Music Video, Short Form ("Got Til It's Gone")

    Billboard Music Award
    *Top R&B Female Artist of the Year

    Soul Train Music Award
    *Lena Horne Award for Outstanding Career Achievement

    Blockbuster Entertainment Award
    *Favorite R&B Female Artist

    GLAAD Media Award
    *Outstanding Album ("The Velvet Rope")

    MTV Europe Music Award
    *Best Female Artist

    VH-1 Fashion Award
    *Most Stylish Music Video ("Got Til It's Gone")

    BMI Pop Awards
    *Most Played Song: I Get Lonely
    *Most Played Song: Together Again

    Danish Music Awards
    *International Album of the Year: The Velvet Rope
    *International Single of the Year: Got 'Til It's Gone
    *International Female Solo Artist of the Year

    World Music Awards
    *Legend Award for Outstanding Contribution to Pop & R&B Music


    External links

    * [ The Velvet Rope] at Google Music

    succession box
    before = "" by LeAnn Rimes
    title = U.S. "Billboard" 200 number-one album
    years = October 25 1997
    after = "You Light up My Life: Inspirational Songs" by LeAnn Rimes

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