Janet Jackson Draws on a Long History of Social Activism for “State of the World” Tour
She’s been confronting social issues since the 80s.
At times in 2017, the world has seemed to be caught in a state of perpetual disaster. But to musician Janet Jackson the “State of the World” has never been better — at least when it comes to bringing powerful music to her fans across the country.
Jackson is “in an amazing space” as she goes through her nationwide “State of the World” tour, according to her musical director, Daniel Jones, who spoke with Newsday.
Well, perhaps it’s because the world is finally starting to take notice of issues that Jackson has been singing and speaking out about since the 1980s: LGBTQ rights, domestic violence, and racial and sexual discrimination.
The singer, newly a mother, has spent her 35-year career advocating for marginalized and vulnerable populations — and her soft-spoken activism continues to occupy an important space in 2017.
Now, Global Citizens can take action to win tickets to see Jackson in concert on the remaining legs of her tour.
Jackson’s “State of the World” tour has not been lacking for moments of personal vulnerability, making her most recent shows all the more powerful.
Wednesday night, at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, Jackson broke down after a performance of the 1997 song, “What About,” from the album “Velvet Rope.”
The performance itself featured an interpretive dance choreographing sexual abuse in a domestic relationship. Afterwards, Jackson put her head in her hands and kneeled in front of the crowd.
“This right here, is me,” she said.
In a time when women around the world are bringing their voices together to say “me, too,” to protest rampant sexual assault, Jackson’s decision to revive the song was a political move in and of itself.
Before this year’s tour, Jackson hadn’t performed the song in 18 years, according to Billboard.
At the Barclays show, Jackson also performed her song, “The Knowledge,” accompanied by a montage showing images of police brutality, white nationalism, and racial discrimination.
“Cryin' for a better day / Until you educate for a better way,” she sings in the song.
Along with its “emotionally charged video montages,” Jackson’s setlist, features “old hits repackaged for modern times,” according to SF Gate’s Aidin Vaziri.
To some, like Buzzfeed’s Senior Culture Writer, Bim Adewunmi, it was Jackson’s old hits that paved the way for new protest albums like singer and co-founder of CHIME FOR CHANGE Beyoncé’s “Lemonade.”
“Long before the world looked and felt as overtly dangerous as it does today, Janet Jackson never shied away from political opinion,” Adewunmi wrote. “In merging her personal with the political, Jackson’s ‘The Velvet Rope’ feels, in this current moment, just as pertinent as it did when it was released. The album is a political act, wrapped in the soft glove of pop music, and sitting snugly in the pews of the broad church that makes up black feminist thought.”
Janet Jackson’s career must be the most undersold, untold and underrated story in pop history.— Stephen Brown (@YepStephenBrown) November 16, 2017
Along with her activism on the part of communities of color, Jackson’s support for the LGBTQ community also belongs in the canon of her social activism achievements.
Last Friday, Jackson was honored with OUT Magazine's 2017 Music Icon Award.
In songs like “Free Xone,” Jackson sounded out a galvanizing message of solidarity. In “Together Again” she honors those who died from HIV/AIDS.
“Free to be who you really are / One rule / No rules / One love,” she sings in “Free Xone.”
In a 2001 essay in Essence Magazine, she asked, “Wouldn’t it be great if we accepted sexual diversity, in ourselves and others, without condemning it?”
Allowing others to live their best life, without fear of persecution, is a sentiment that resonates in many of her songs, and in her approach to handling the spotlight that’s always been shone onto her.
On her “State of the World” tour, she is stepping back into the spotlight and telling own her story in a new way, and the results are magnificent.