20. Janet Jackson – ‘Rhythm Nation’ (1989)

“We are a nation with no geographic boundaries
Bound together through our beliefs
We are like-minded individuals
Sharing a common vision
To rid the world of colour lines

With music by our side
To break the colour lines
Let’s work together to improve our way of life
Join voices in protest
To social injustice
A generation full of courage, come forth with me”

Written by Janet Jackson/James Harris III/Terry Lewis

Produced by Jimmy Jam/Terry Lewis

Taken from the album Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814

Also released on Design Of A Decade 1986/1996 and The Best

US #2, UK #23, AUS #56

‘Rhythm Nation’ is a protest song with a twist. Instead of asking why, it asks how. How can we, the people, try to make the world a better place? It makes you want to get up and do something, make something of yourself, make a difference. If I were to join any dance/music/peace collective founded by an eighties pop star, I would definitely join the Rhythm Nation. And think of all the awesome choreography I’d get to do!

The beats on this song are probably the most powerful ever to be heard in the history of mankind. I just… wow. From the pledge at the start to the ad-libs over the final choruses, everything about ‘Rhythm Nation’ is huge, important, bashing you over the head with the force of the production. The hook line of “We are a part of a rhythm nation” becomes part of your brain, appearing any time someone says the words “rhythm” or “nation”. Once you’ve given yourself over this group, there’s no escaping.

Anyone with an interest in music videos, dancing, military jackets or nunchucks – you need to see the short film that accompanied ‘Rhythm Nation’. It is incredible, one of the top five music videos ever made. I’ve never seen dancing like that in a video, and no matter how many times I see it, I can never look away. It’s captivating. ‘Rhythm Nation’ is the most empowering, come-on-get-up song in the world. They should play it before sporting matches like the national anthem. Yet the lyrics never say that thinking positively and coming together is all we need to do to achieve our goals – there was work to do in 1989, there’s work to do now. No struggle, no progress.

Music video:

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