Every day, we hear something new about Ciara’s failed relationship with rapper Future and how she’s practicing abstinence with her new NFL boyfriend, Russell Wilson. Her new album and tour are usually mentioned in these conversations.
Beyoncé was rolling around in the sand with her hubby, Jay Z, in the “Drunk in Love” video, introducing the masses to “surfboard” as a sexual term.
Nicki Minaj cried again and again during interviews to promote her latest album, mourning the end of her 12-year relationship with her sidekick Safaree Samuels.
They’re all examples of the lengths female singers have to go just to sell records and stay relevant in an industry that seems to have one question top of mind: What have you done to titillate me lately?
Cue Janet Jackson.
Poor Janet is finding herself struggling to keep up with these new times. After several years out of the spotlight, she’s launched a comeback, but despite what the folks over at her label BMG claim, the reception of her new song, “No Sleep,” has been lukewarm at best—garnering only 60,000 downloads to date. It’s not a good look for an artist of Jackson’s caliber.
But that’s because Jackson is doing it the right way. Yeah, her hush-hush marriage to Qatari billionaire Wissam Al Mana is on the tip of everyone’s tongues, but Jackson has been fairly mum about her personal life and staying out of the limelight. Now that she’s back, it’s clear that she’s here for her music and her music only.
But oh no, that’s not the way to stay relevant these days. Here’s a look at some of the thirsty behavior in which Jackson may need to indulge if she wants to be in control again.
1. Focus on catchy hooks instead of quality music.
Jackson is a talented songwriter with a knack for combining earworm melodies with well-worded lyrics. For those too young to remember, her hit song “Again” was nominated for Best Original Song at both the Academy Awards and the Golden Globe Awards in 1994.
Ain’t nobody got time for all that. Jackson needs to ditch her thesaurus and take a tip from Rihanna’s team of writers by replacing real words with repetitive chanting. The added Auto-Tune is implied, of course.
Example to follow: David Guetta’s “Hey Mama” featuring Nicki Minaj, Bebe Rexha and Afrojack. The song peaked at No. 8 on the Hot 100 with a chorus that boasts, “Beating my drum like dum di-di-day. I like the dirty rhythm you play.”
2. Collaborate with a top rapper.
If a silly hook is not enough, Jackson could attract young music fans by working with their favorite rappers. Hip-hop is a dominant strain in pop culture today, so tapping into the genre’s mass appeal makes perfect sense.
However, Jackson should not try to re-create the genius of “Got ’Til It’s Gone” featuring Q-Tip or her collaboration with Busta Rhymes, “What’s It Gonna Be?” Instead, Jackson should call on Kendrick Lamar to deliver the most simplistic verse of his career. After all, he should be open to working with her after sampling “Anytime, Any Place” for his hit “Poetic Justice.”
Example to follow: Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood” featuring Lamar. Nobody really knows the purpose of this collaboration, but their combined star power took the song to the top of the Hot 100.
3. Take off some clothes.
For many years, Jackson’s brothers teased her about having a body shape similar to that of a donkey. They even gave her the nickname Dunk, and that is probably why she rarely shows off her shape in her costumes.
It is time for Jackson to lose that shyness and abandon her self-respect. After all, sex sells and she has the type of body many people pay money to get via plastic surgery.
Jackson could follow Beyoncé’s lead and pop that body for a real goon. Moreover, if people accuse her of flaunting her body to gain attention, she could always claim to be a feminist and call out her oppressors for demeaning women.
Example to follow: Beyoncé’s “Partition,” which peaked at No. 23 on the Hot 100. Watch how Yoncé empowers women by swinging on a stripper pole.
4. Cause some controversy.
It would be difficult for Jackson to create a scandal on the magnitude of her Super Bowl halftime performance in 2004. Seriously, according to Rolling Stone, her breast literally led to the creation of YouTube.
Still, many people today care more about controversy than they do about good music. Drugs, a girl-on-girl kiss, “leaked” nudes or a feud with a Kardashian are all ways to make artists just interesting enough for Wendy Williams to mention them in her hot-topics roundup.
One suggestion is for Jackson to combine several of those in a music video. That way, the surge in streams caused by the media frenzy will take her songs right to the top of the charts.
Example to follow: Rihanna’s “Bitch Better Have My Money.” This song was slipping down the charts, but after its accompanying video was released, it rebounded to No. 15 on the Hot 100.
5. Engage in shameless self-promotion.
Following the cool reception of The Pink Print album, Nicki Minaj’s career appeared to be in jeopardy. With the exception of “Anaconda,” none of the released singles took off on radio, and her fan base seemed more enthralled by Iggy Azalea.
Minaj, however, was far too clever to be outdone. Rather than bow out gracefully, she went on a media tour about her breakup with her longtime boyfriend, Safaree Samuels, and started a public love affair with rapper Meek Mill.
Soon Minaj’s Instagram became littered with suggestive pictures of her with Mill, and she started sporting a ring on her engagement finger. The problem was solved. Minaj was once again making headlines, and radio DJs put her music back into rotation between stories about her love life.
Just imagine if Jackson applied the same formula by divorcing her husband and finding a rapper on the rise to be her new boy toy. I suggest Drake.
Example to follow: Mill’s “All Eyes on You” featuring Minaj and Chris Brown. Currently at No. 29 on the Hot 100 and rising, this song builds on Mill’s Instagram escapades with Minaj.
Trent Jones is an editorial fellow at The Root. He also produces a daily video commentary called #Trents2Cents. Follow him on Twitter.