Janet Jackson Is Compared To Michael Jackson For 'Unbreakable' Album & That Honors Both Of Them
It's the moment we've all been waiting for: Janet Jackson's album Unbreakable was released for all of our immense enjoyment. The album marks a triumphant return for the pop star, who has already started on her world tour. Unbreakable has been heralded by nearly all reviewers as a success, a glorious comeback for an iconic artist. It's Jackson's first album since her brother Michael Jackson's death in 2009, and his presence has been noted in most of the press surrounding the album. In fact, hs influence is undeniable. Jackson's singing voice has always been similar to that of her brother; both brought a breathiness to their vocals that could be seductive and vulnerable, and often both, and this is clearer than ever on Unbreakable.
On "Dream Maker/Euphoria," she hits high notes like an adolescent Michael Jackson. The little giggles, the breathily spoken words, and a couple "ooh"s — all Michael influences that were understandably less present on albums like Control, back when Janet was trying to distance herself from her brother's success. There are also multiple moments that pay tribute to Motown and most obviously the Jackson 5, the Jackson family's band that made Michael a star when Janet was a child, such as the harmonies in the opening title track and the rock influence of the exuberant "Gon' B Alright."
These tonal homages are not accidental, considering the ways in which Janet explicitly refers to her brother within the album, and has brought him up in the press and on tour. The song "Broken Hearts Heal" is a tribute to her brother as she knew him when he was young. She sings of the two siblings harmonizing as they did chores together and of the pain she feels in his absence before ending on the promise that they'll meet in the next life.
Her tour has been an emotional experience, and she's been performing the hit song "Scream" that she recorded with her brother. Unbreakable's release statement confirmed that the album would "mark the first time Janet Jackson has opened up about her brother Michael and with reflections concerning her youth.”
It would be very difficult to argue that Janet Jackson owes her success to her brother; she's an accomplished actress, style icon, and award-winning artist, and Control is one of the most iconic R&B albums of all time. Comparing the songs on this new album to those of her brother does not diminish Janet's achievement. Instead, it emphasizes the way in which she is able to channel multiple influences into her music, creating an album that somehow feels modern, like Janet Jackson, and like Michael Jackson. The songs feel contemporary as well as like throwbacks, though it's difficult to determine which are in homage to Janet and Michael's older work and which simply utilize the now ubiquitous pop structures that the Jacksons in many ways invented. Unbroken also feels very mature, with Jackson using the lyrics to reflect on her past. She's grown up and achieved some distance, a luxury her brother perhaps did not live long enough to enjoy.
Michael Jackson has a complicated legacy, one that is still unfolding over five years after his death — something that Janet seems to understand in harkening back to the innocent young brother she grew up with. Yes, there are moments in Unbreakable that feel like we've been blessed with new Michael Jackson, but this album is better than that. Janet Jackson is able to honor the innocence that was in many ways stolen from Michael and the other child stars of their family, honoring her brother's life without sugarcoating the past. While it does function as a tribute, it's a triumphant return for Janet, not Michael.