Dear Culture

Superstar siblings Janet vs. Michael: Who had the best albums?

Episode 02

Dear Culture, I honestly and wholeheartedly believe Janet Jackson’s albums are better than Michael Jackson’s albums. Come kick it with me, Panama Jackson, and our fellow journalist at theGrio, Matthew Allen as we unpack why I’m right.  Dear Culture is an original podcast from theGrio Black Podcast Network.

Panama Jackson: [00:00:00] I made this statement that I think Janet’s albums that four album run to be specific is better than Mike’s four album run. [00:00:07][7.0]

Matthew Allen: [00:00:09] Okay. [00:00:09][0.0]D

Panama Jackson: [00:00:09] We’re going to get into this. What was your first thought when I said when we reached out to you and say, hey, we want to have this conversation with you? What is your first thought when I make that statement? [00:00:19][9.5]D

Matthew Allen: [00:00:20] My first thought was, “let’s not even do the podcast. Let’s get on the phone now and settle it.”[00:00:24][4.1]D

Panama Jackson: [00:00:25] So you think I’m wrong? Am I wrong? Am I right? Where am I on this? [00:00:27][2.6]D

Matthew Allen: [00:00:29] If I agreed with you, I wouldn’t be on this podcast [laughing] [00:00:31][1.6]DPanama Jackson: [00:00:36] What’s going on. Welcome to Dear Culture, the podcast for, by and about Black people, Black culture, the Blackness in the parlance of one Don King. I heard that on an interview he did once, and he was like, That’s the Blackness. I was like, You know what, Don King? I don’t know exactly how far you’re Blackness goes sometimes, but that one thing that worked fine for me. Welcome. We are going to have a wonderful, very Black, very conflicted, very conversationally, converseated, conversate. I like the word conversate. We will have a conversation about a percolating conversation in the Black community. Now, I don’t know who started it. I like to give myself credit for starting this conversation. But I’m joined but I’m joined today by a homie, Matthew Allen, who is a music writer, a journalist. In fact, you know, I’m going to do you proper service by reading your bio, but I’m a I’m a I’m a I’m a Black it up a little bit, you know, for the culture, Dear Culture. Right. So Matthew Allen is a Brooklyn based TV producer, director and award winning, award winning music journalist. Scuse me. Let me say that again. Award winning music journalist. Better get them flowers, boy, he’s interviewed the likes of Quincy Jones, which is important for this conversation. Quincy Jones, Jill Scott, Smokey Robinson and more for publications such as Ebony Jet, The Root, The Village Voice, Wax Poetics. Okay Player, Revive Music and Soul Head. His video work can be seen on PBS, All Arts, Brooklyn Free Speech and Brick TV. And most

importantly, he is my colleague here at theGrio. What’s going on? Matthew, how are you doing, brother? [00:02:22][106.1]D

Matthew Allen: [00:02:23] I’m doing great, Panama. Thank you very much for having me on. It’s an honor to speak with you on the show. I’m really honored to be here. [00:02:30][6.6]D

Panama Jackson: [00:02:31] And I’m glad to have you here because I’m glad you put all those things in your bio because it gives some credence, some credibility to the fact that you’re a music head and a music writer and somebody who spends his time living inside the music, right? [00:02:43][12.4]

Matthew Allen: [00:02:44] Oh, yeah, absolutely. [00:02:45][0.9]

Panama Jackson: [00:02:47] Yeah. Which is important for this conversation. So let me open up let me break down what we’re going to talk about today that we’re going to do a little bit. We’re going to back into it a little bit. So many years ago, I can’t even remember how long ago was I had this epiphany. I was in the car rolling down the street, not smoking endo, not sipping gin and juice. But I was rolling down the street and I was listening to, I think, the album Janet or probably Rhythm Nation, because I think the song. All right. On Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814 album is like one of my favorite songs ever. So I’m listening to the song. I’m listening to the album like, Yo, this is an amazing album. Then I was like, Yo, Control was an amazing album. Rhythm Nation album. Janet Album, Velvet Rope. I was like, these are all amazing albums and Janet has a plethora of other albums. I was like, You know what? I actually think Janet Jackson’s albums are better than Michael Jackson’s albums. Now, I have to caveat this quick. And I mean this this particular four album run, I’m talking Control, Rhythm Nation, Janet, the Velvet Rope, which I think most people would agree, are her four best albums compared to Michael Jackson’s What I’m Going to Say are his four best albums. I want your opinion on this, which would be Off The Wall, Thriller, Bad and Dangerous as a four album run. [00:04:06][79.2]

Matthew Allen: [00:04:07] Yeah. [00:04:07][0.0]

Panama Jackson: [00:04:07] So let’s start there. Do you think those are Janet’s best albums? [00:04:09][1.9]Matthew Allen: [00:04:10] Without question. Those are Janet’s best albums. I mean, since we’re talking about it, I mean, Janet’s Control is akin to Michael’s Off The Wall. It’s not their first solo albums, but people right think that they are because they’re such

breakthrough records and it kind of obliterates or overshadows all the records that come before it to a certain degree. But yeah, those are Janet’s best four albums, hands down, as far as Michael was concerned. Yeah, I would say that he does have one or two of his Motown albums that I really, really love, particularly the first two Got To Be There and Ben but I can definitely get behind Off The Wall, Thriller, Bad and Dangerous being his best four albums. [00:04:53][42.3]

Panama Jackson: [00:04:54] Okay. So that works. So we’re going to we’re going to compare those albums for this conversation. So, where are you? With Janet. [00:07:49][174.4]

Matthew Allen: [00:07:51] Woo. Janet Jackson. Well, outside of her being– [00:07:53][2.9]

Panama Jackson: [00:07:54] That elicited a woo? [laughter] You had to actually breathe for a second? [00:07:57][3.5]

Matthew Allen: [00:07:58] Listen, outside of her being my biggest and most enduring celebrity crush of all time, Janet Jackson is probably done more with less than any artist I’ve ever seen, just vocal wise. You know, we’re we’re not going to– we’re not going to be here saying that Jackson’s the greatest singer of all time because she isn’t. But Janet Jackson’s voice is very underrated. And the fact that she became the biggest star in the world for for a good period long with her brother and. [00:08:38][39.8]

Panama Jackson: [00:08:38] Right. [00:08:38][0.0]

Matthew Allen: [00:08:39] You know, it’s just like people talk about Beyonce now. But, you know, Janet Jackson, she’s the real template of of so much. I mean, we talk we’re talking about these albums like Velvet Rope. If it weren’t for the Velvet Rope, there’d be no Anti by Rihanna. There’d be no Rated R by Rihanna. There’d be no Lemonade, there’d be no Lemonade, there’d be no self-titled Beyonce album without the Velvet Rope. Just that one record. That paved the way for so much. I just. I’m just. I’m so in love with Janet. Not just because she’s a crush even now, but because just her music, all of her albums have to do with independence. You know, Control is about her professional independence, you know, Rhythm Nation. It’s about her social independence and the way that she wanted to talk about social issues. Janet is about her sexual independence and then Velvet Rope is about her independence from her inner demons. So, you know, she’s very, very important in that regard to American music history. [00:09:37][57.9]

Panama Jackson: [00:09:38] Yeah, it’s funny you say she’s like the enduring crush. I remember my father used to ask for Christmas to have Janet Jackson under the Christmas tree. There’s Janet, Mariah and Whitney Houston, whichever one we could pull off every year. That was his one Christmas with very black father in the eighties [00:09:53][15.0]

Matthew Allen: [00:09:54] Very much. But I will say this, you said Janet, Mariah and Whitney, Mariah and Whitney are obviously better singers vocally, than Janet. [00:10:03][9.2]

Panama Jackson: [00:10:03] Oh absolutely [00:10:03][0.0]

Matthew Allen: [00:10:03] But I’ll take those four Janet albums ahead of any of the four best Mariah or Whitney albums. [00:10:09][5.6]

Panama Jackson: [00:10:10] Well, because they’re better albums in general. Like, listen, the the crux of this conversation implies that Janet Jackson’s albums are like, great. Right? [00:10:17][7.5]

Matthew Allen: [00:10:18] Yeah [00:10:18][0.0]

Panama Jackson: [00:10:18] I don’t know that–woo- this is gonna be a take. I don’t know that Whitney has a great album. Honestly, like, I don’t know. She has a whole album that I would be like, Yo, that I have to have that Whitney album. You know how put those means on social media where they’re like, one of these got like one of these got to go and their catalog has to go? It’s always harder when Whitney is on there, because I don’t want to lose Whitney’s voice…but do I need any Whitney album in my life? I’m not sure that I do. So. [00:10:47][28.8]

Matthew Allen: [00:10:48] Yeah, I think I think Whitney’s songs, you know, are important. I think that I mean you give Good Love was playing when my son was being born. So I always have that sentimental sort of thing. And Mariah Carey, you know, she’s got some great albums. But in terms of Whitney yeah, I mean, she– [00:11:08][19.8]

Panama Jackson: [00:11:08] She has songs [00:11:08][0.0]

Matthew Allen: [00:11:08] Greatest hits package. Yes she has songs [00:11:09][1.1]

Panama Jackson: [00:11:11] Whitney, Whiteney, Whitney Greatest Hits album? [00:11:13][1.3]

Matthew Allen: [00:11:14] Mm hmm. [00:11:14][0.2]

Panama Jackson: [00:11:14] Pure classics like Straight Bangers, Straight Heat from start to end. Absolutely. [00:11:17][3.5]

Matthew Allen: [00:11:19] Yeah. [00:11:19][0.0]

Panama Jackson: [00:11:19] I can’t think of a specific album where I’m like, I need that one album. Like, if, again, like, people do. We used to. Now it’s those means that people say, you lose one of these in their catalog. We used to do the if you could only take like five albums with you and you were stuck on a deserted island, you know what I mean? [00:11:32][13.4]

Matthew Allen: [00:11:33] Yeah, yeah [00:11:33][0.3]

Panama Jackson: [00:11:33] There’s never going to be a Whitney I’m going to put in there. [00:11:35][1.8]

Matthew Allen: [00:11:35] No, I think her second album is probably the closest because it’s joints on that one didn’t end right. So much so emotional. Then you almost have it like there’s lots of joints on that one [00:11:45][10.0]

Panama Jackson: [00:11:46] Yeah. To be clear, this is no shots at Whitney. [00:11:49][2.7]

Panama Jackson: [00:11:50] I would. I would be willing to die on the greatest voice, which is hard because you got the Aretha and stuff like that. I’d be willing to have those arguments. Have you ever seen Janet or Mike in concert? [00:12:04][13.6]

Matthew Allen: [00:12:06] No. The closest I came was watching their HBO concerts, the Bucharest concert, of course, with Michael, which was live. And then, of course, the both the the Velvet Rope and the All For You concerts. I saw with Janet on TV, that’s the closest I ever came to either of them. [00:12:24][17.9]

Panama Jackson: [00:12:25] Okay. I have seen both. I saw Michael Jackson the Bad Tour. I was, I guess like eight or nine years old in Germany. My parents are huge fans. They used to take us to concerts all the time. I think my first concert was maybe Cyndi Lauper, but I’ve seen [00:12:40][15.4]

Matthew Allen: [00:12:40] Oh wow [00:12:40][0.0]Panama Jackson: [00:12:41] I think Al Jarreau, I’ve seen I don’t know. My parents love going to shows. Yeah, I have seen Janet as well. I saw The Rhythm Nation 1814 tour. So I was also very young.

And the enduring memory I have from that is some random dude. So I’m in Germany, I’m a military brat, I’m in Germany. So, you know, Janet shows up, all the black people, everybody, every military person. We all show up to those shows and I don’t know how I got separated from my family, but I just remember this one dude like dapping me up as like an eight or nine year old kid because Janet, like, takes off her shirt and she has like on a bustier he just oh, he was looking for somebody. Just look down on me and dap me up, i had I was I just I visibly I can vividly remember this memory because I was so I was so confused, like, wow, like, I don’t know this man, but he was like, wow, I need to dap somebody up right now. Somebody he’s going gets all of this. All of this dap that I got. [00:13:35][54.5]

Matthew Allen: [00:13:37] [laughter] That must have been during Black Cat because she used to do that during Black Cat. [00:13:40][2.7]

Panama Jackson: [00:13:40] Yes, it was, as a matter of fact. See, that’s that’s why you my guy. Okay. All right. I made this statement that I think Janet’s albums that for album run to be specific is better than Mike’s for album run. [00:13:53][13.2]

Matthew Allen: [00:13:54] Okay. [00:13:54][0.0]

Panama Jackson: [00:13:55] We’re going to get into this. What was your first thought when I said when when when we reached out to you and say, hey, we want to have this conversation with you? What is your first thought? When I make that statement. [00:14:05][9.5]

Matthew Allen: [00:14:06] My first thought was, let’s not even do the podcast. Let’s get on the phone now and settle it. [00:14:10][4.1]

Panama Jackson: [00:14:11] So you think I’m wrong? Am I wrong? Am I right? Where am I at on this? [00:14:13][2.6]

Matthew Allen: [00:14:15] If I agreed with you, I wouldn’t be on this podcast [laughter] [00:14:17][1.7]Panama Jackson: [00:14:18] Okay. Most people it’s it’s funny, I found when I wrote that article. So I have this thing where apparently I do a lot of hot takes, except I don’t know that there are hot takes. I just think I’m stating facts right. I’m just sharing as far as I’m concerned, I’m just sharing with the community. I was like you know what? I had this thought. You know, that’s a fact. Let me go ahead and share this conversation, because that’s what we’re writers. We’re sharing culture and sharing discussions, and we’re the kind of people that generate discussion. So I just threw it out there. I didn’t

really think that I was saying anything controversial woo I couldn’t have been more wrong about that thought. I don’t think I’m wrong about my statement. I got murdered. People thought I was trippin. Now. Now, to be fair, though, a lot more people said they agreed with me than I expected. Once I saw the you know, the first string of comments was, boy, somebody need to take your keyboard, your black card, all that stuff. But there were a lot of people. It was like, you know, I actually agree with the statement. And I was like, okay, cool. So I’m not alone in this. You know, at first I was like, of course this is a fact. And then it was like, Oh, to my wrong. And then it was like, okay, maybe this is okay. Maybe I’m not trippin. Why do you think I’m wrong? [00:15:24][65.8]

Matthew Allen: [00:15:26] Okay. Here’s why I think you’re wrong, because, number one, just the three Quincy albums are included in this in this four album arc from Michael Off The Wall, Thriller and Bad three of the biggest selling albums of all time. And let’s just throw sales out of the window. [00:15:44][18.1]

Panama Jackson: [00:15:44] Yes we have to. Because this is not a sales conversation. [00:15:46][2.0]

Matthew Allen: [00:15:47] No, it’s not. Because Michael will win that just off the strength of Thriller only [00:15:50][3.0]

Panama Jackson: [00:15:51] Absolutely he would. [00:15:51][0.5]

Matthew Allen: [00:15:52] I wrote an article for theGrio and not too long ago when they tried to talk about, oh, is Drake on Michael Jackson’s level now since certified Loverboy is here? Did you know Thriller has outsold Drake’s entire catalog in just the United States? [00:16:05][13.3]

Panama Jackson: [00:16:06] Wow. I did not know that [00:16:06][0.6]Matthew Allen: [00:16:07] That one album has outsold all of his albums, including his album with Future. So, okay, so yeah, we’ll leave numbers out of it. But in terms of just the quality of the music, I mean, Off The Wall, I mean, that’s a start there. That’s just a perfect record from start to finish 1 to 10. It’s perfect. You know, you can say the same thing about Thriller. I mean, Thriller one to nine seven singles, seven top ten, only nine songs. And the two songs that weren’t singles, Baby Mine and the Lady in My Life. A lot of fans will say those are the two best songs on the album. So, you know, so you have that I mean, Thriller, I mean, you have so many enduring, ubiquitous songs. Beat it, Billie Jean. They have this

thing on Twitter. What’s the best three song run on an album? And people are naming like, like hip hop albums of the last two or three years. I write Beat It, Billie Jean, Human Nature, and everybody’s like, You know what? We’re done. That’s that’s the answer. [00:17:08][61.2]

Panama Jackson: [00:17:09] I want. I probably won’t even dispute that. I wouldn’t even dispute that [00:17:11][1.5]

Matthew Allen: [00:17:13] So then you have Bad which is my personal favorite Michael Jackson album. [00:17:16][3.4]

Panama Jackson: [00:17:16] Hmm, really? [00:17:16][0.0]

Matthew Allen: [00:17:17] You know, yeah, I think and I wrote an article about this, too. The Bad album is Michael Jackson as a solo artist in his creative peak in terms of where everything was at the same level, in terms of his singing, his performance, his production, his songwriting. It was his music videos. The Bad videos are his best videos. So many–. [00:17:37][20.2]

[00:17:37] Okay Yes, [00:17:37][0.0]

Matthew Allen: [00:17:38] Then you have dangerous I mean, you know, you’ve got Michael bringing the best out of Teddy Riley. You know what I’m saying? Just really pushing Teddy to go take new jack swing to a new level. [00:17:49][11.2]

Panama Jackson: [00:17:52] [whispering] I disagree with that statement. [00:17:52][0.1]

[00:17:52] Yeah, of course you do [00:17:53][0.3]

[00:17:53] Keep going. I disagree with that statement, actually. [00:17:55][1.7]Matthew Allen: [00:17:56] Okay. So. But and so you have him really pushing Teddy Riley and getting him to explore new territories and having him and teaching him more about the importance of melody and and then just making homages to his heroes like James Brown, you know, under the guise of this incredible new industrial production style. And then you have Michael coming into his own as producer with songs like Black or White songs like Who Is It? So it’s just, you know, it’s it’s greatness. And one of the best album covers of all time as well, in terms of of dangerous, you can’t really go wrong

with any of those four albums. They’re all certified classics. [00:18:37][41.0]

Panama Jackson: [00:18:38] They are. And and so let me tell you my argument for this, because it doesn’t it’s. You kind of hinted at it earlier when you were talking about when I asked you, where are you with Janet and why you like Janet. So that four album run. Control. Rhythm Nation. Janet. The Velvet Rope. Mike, I think, put together the best collection of singles ever on Off The Wall Thriller especially Bad has some of the great has some of the greatest I like Mike is Mike is Mike right. Like I’m not disputing the quality. I’m not disputing the success. I’m not disputing the musicality or the amazing art. Like, everything is all amazing. I’m 100%. Janet’s albums are actual thematic albums that have a point from start to end. They land and because there’s one producer I mean, they’ll make, you know, Mike Quincy and Teddy Riley because you get Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, who for my money, are probably the greatest musical producers. Like, I love Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis so much, they’re little responsible for my life growing up musically. Saturday. Love? Man. I could literally do I could probably do a 15 part docu series on that one song alone about why I think it’s so amazing. But I won’t do that. I won’t bore anybody with that. But Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis and Janet Jackson coming together to put those albums together. They had a goal, right? It was like, you know what, Janet? What story are you trying to tell? They sat down. They put it together. Janet helped write. They did the music and four straight albums. I think that they put together a thematic idea that ran through each one of those that the through line started in song. One made it all the way to the end. And you could feel it. You could see it. You could. You felt it. That is the crux of my argument, like. I’m not arguing that Mike’s albums are are less than. I’m just saying Janet made actual thematic albums with a point. Stuck the landing clap when she landed and got a perfect ten on each one of those in terms of executing a vision, a style, a sound. Because that’s what each one of those albums has all that. It has a vision. It has a style. Musicality– they’re musically flawless. The ballads match the uptempo songs like It Takes You Through They–the one critique I would have is that they feel really long. Like some of the album. Like. Like Janet feels like a really long album. When I, when I went back and listened to it as I made this album, just kind of keeps going. [00:21:20][161.8]

Matthew Allen: [00:21:20] But really it’s 27 tracks. [00:21:22][1.2]

Panama Jackson: [00:21:22] Yeah. And it just it’s like half of those are like interludes. It’s like this more interludes, but [00:21:25][3.4]

Matthew Allen: [00:21:26] More than half. [00:21:26][0.0]

Panama Jackson: [00:21:26] Feel. Yeah, it just. [00:21:27][0.7]

Matthew Allen: [00:21:27] There’s only 12 songs on an album with 27 interludes. There’s two interludes after the last song. That’s how long that song now. [00:21:34][6.5]

Panama Jackson: [00:21:34] It feels long because people were making long albums back then. Some people were making really long. That’s when you were getting like the the 75 minute albums and stuff like that. [00:21:42][8.4]

Matthew Allen: [00:21:43] But that has to do it. Michael, though, because Michael was one of the first artists to really utilize the 80 minute limit on compact discs when Dangerous came out, because people were still thinking vinyl and cassette before that. But once you could put 80 realized per 80 minutes on a CD and still have a be one album instead of being like a double. Like Sign of the Times could have been a single album and the CD, you know, what I’m sayin? So I think that that had a little bit something to do with that. [00:22:11][28.5]

Panama Jackson: [00:22:13] Okay. That’s true. because I’m thinking about. How long? So Control was a short album. [00:22:20][6.4]

Matthew Allen: [00:22:21] Yeah. [00:22:21][0.0]

Panama Jackson: [00:22:22] Rhythm Nation is a little bit over an hour. [00:22:24][2.0]

Matthew Allen: [00:22:25] Yeah, about 64 minutes. [00:22:26][1.2]

Panama Jackson: [00:22:27] Yeah. Janet comes out after Dangerous. [00:22:30][2.9]

Matthew Allen: [00:22:32] Yeah, about two years after Dangerous. [00:22:32][0.9]

Panama Jackson: [00:22:33] Yeah. Okay, so that. So that’s that’s. But let’s get back to my ah. My argument is effectively that Janet thematically made albums, might put together a bunch of songs, put it on an album. And because he’s Michael Jackson at this point, he’s so big like these albums are going to do it and the songs are good, right? It’s not like he’s just put in like he’s like. I feel like the conversations are different when you walk into the studio. So Janet walks in with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis and like Janet, what story are you trying to tell? What kind of what are we looking to do with this album? Mike walks in and says, Quincy, Rod, I want to be the biggest. I want to make the biggest songs ever. And they’re like, All right. Let’s figure out how to make the biggest songs up. We’re going to make stadium songs. And Janet was doing some of that. But there’s also a lot of personal stuff. Like, her songs are very personal. Like Janet, I mean, Mike make some very personal songs don’t get me wrong, but that’s that’s my argument. That’s why I think her albums are better because they’re actual thematic concept albums. And you nailed it when you said each one of those albums is very personal. They’re about what? What was the word you said? You said they’re [00:23:42][69.0]

Matthew Allen: [00:23:43] Independence. All four of her albums are about indepenence. [00:23:44][1.5]

Panama Jackson: [00:23:44] They’re all independence in a different way. And she did that. Whereas I don’t think Mike had any specific theme that ran through all of the albums. Some of the songs are just huge songs that are just great. [00:23:56][12.0]

Matthew Allen: [00:23:59] All right. So here’s here’s my, here’s my my rebuttal to that. When you think about some of the best artists of all time and you think, you know, you go back to those records and you realize it runs the gamut of different sort of thematic themes. You know, you think about like, I’ll give you a perfect example. Bob Marley and the Wailers Catch a Fire. You know, you have songs like Slave Driver and Concrete Jungle, which are very, very incendiary political songs. But then you also have songs like Baby Baby, We’ve Got a Date and Stir It Up, you know? But it doesn’t mess with the continuity and of the whole record. It’s still a masterpiece. I think that Michael does the same thing in his own way, and he’s following the forefathers of that kind of esthetic and that kind of album, making, you know, conceptual albums, you know, was still it was it was embraced in the seventies, but it didn’t really take a hold for black music until, you know, the eighties, late nineties and things of that nature so [00:25:02][63.5]

Panama Jackson: [00:25:03] But doesn’t that give more points to Janet then, because Janet was able to do something. [00:25:08][5.0]

Matthew Allen: [00:25:09] Mm hmm. [00:25:09][0.1]

Panama Jackson: [00:25:09] And really. Well, that not only and let’s be real like Janet was, she wasn’t selling as big as Mike because who was. But Janet is. I mean, Janet selling 20, 30 million copies of her albums. Right. But Janet is a huge artist there on that Madonna. Like it’s the Janet Madonna. They’re they’re that big as artists. If if nobody’s really doing concept albums that way. And I think you could argue that Mike was perhaps Mike kind of started to go the concept album. There’s actually a story. Here’s a fun story. I know you’re your music head. I remember listening to the Babyface episode of Questlove Supreme, and and Babyface was talking about how Mike called in L.A., Reid and Babyface, and he told them that he really liked Janet’s Rhythm Nation album he liked it because he was — [00:26:02][52.2]

Matthew Allen: [00:26:02] Because of knowledege. [00:26:03][0.5]

Panama Jackson: [00:26:04] Yes, it had it had like a social theme. Like it had that and babyface, like, you know, we didn’t do that, right. Like that was. [00:26:10][5.9]

Matthew Allen: [00:26:10] Like. Yeah, but I just like it. [00:26:11][1.4]

Panama Jackson: [00:26:12] Yeah, but, you know, it was like. I wonder if they had a little competition. Janet and Mike did like, you know, it’s family. Of course, there’s always sibling rilvary and they’re two of the biggest stars and artists on the planet in general. But I wonder if. Janet making these very personal albums. That was something that Mike like Mike never really got to do it the same way, you know what I’m saying? Like Mike, he tried like on History. I think he started going a little more personal and stuff. [00:26:36][24.6]

Matthew Allen: [00:26:39] But actually I think he’s he started going personal. Before that, I mean, Michael. Michael was going personal even before Off The Wall you go back to like Destiny and all those albums with the Jacksons in the Epic Records, that’s when he started getting really personal. And then when you see the songs on Thriller, that’s when it really started to get personal in terms of his life. [00:27:01][22.2]

Panama Jackson: [00:27:01] So I’m comparing these I’m comparing these albums like the albums at most. When you when you ask people about Mike albums, they’re always going to say, Off The Wall, Thriller, Bad [00:27:11][9.5]

Matthew Allen: [00:27:12] Bad and Dangerous. [00:27:12][0.4]

Panama Jackson: [00:27:12] They’ll name like the later ones. Right. But I think we can when you listen to Janet’s records, you can tie so much into you feel like you get to know her through those albums. In the videos, even her videos were a lot more intimate, like Mike. Mike was a huge star. Mike made more movies out of his videos. Right? Like, I feel like Mike was like, [00:27:33][21.0]

Matthew Allen: [00:27:34] He didn’t even call them videos. He called them short films. [00:27:36][2.0]

Panama Jackson: [00:27:37] Right. These joints debuted on network TV, you know, like Mike was a supernova. I think Janet was giving so much of herself on these. So I think that’s that’s the crux of my argument. I realize it’s it’s somewhat limited in its scope, but that’s kind of the crux of it, because it’s like when I when I want to hear a big collection of singles, I can just put all Mike’s albums and I can listen to all of them and go through. And everyone’s going to be a banger. When I listen through Janet’s albums, I feel like I go on a musical journey with her and the songs bleed into the next ones and they kind of tell me a story on the way through. And I guess it depends on what you’re looking for when you listen to an album like If I’m Listening For. Like. I’m gonna give you an interesting more recent example. [00:28:24][47.0]

Matthew Allen: [00:28:25] Okay. [00:28:25][0.0]

Panama Jackson: [00:28:25] Ti’s King album. So as recent as 2006 can be, right? When? When I listen to that album, you know what song I always skip? What You Know [00:28:36][10.7]

Matthew Allen: [00:28:37] Yeah. Like, his biggest record [00:28:38][0.8]Panama Jackson: [00:28:38] Never listen to that song. That song was so big. Is easily the song of 2006. I can hear it in my sleep without ever turning the song on right. It was it almost got too big. It got so big that when I get to it on the album, I’m like, not I just need to go to the other songs that kind of make this album like Flow or for me, whatever. I almost never listen to Mike’s albums. Full disclosure, it’s not a Blackfession. That’s not a confession. It’s just a statement of fact. I listen to Janet’s albums frequently because of the journey they take me on and because I think that. When I’m listening, I still gain little pieces of them from the album. I think maybe I can. I can hear Mike’s albums in my sleep, too. Maybe

that’s part of it. Like, I don’t need to put the album in. I can just listen to it. But when Janet’s albums, I really enjoy what I’m hearing. Like, it really feeds my soul in a way, you know what I’m saying? [00:29:26][48.1]

Matthew Allen: [00:29:27] Yeah, but but to that point, the fact that you can visualize Michael’s music in your mind without having to hear it. [00:29:34][7.4]

Panama Jackson: [00:29:35] I mean, I can do that with Janet too. [00:29:35][0.6]

Matthew Allen: [00:29:36] That speaks volumes. [00:29:36][0.0]

Panama Jackson: [00:29:36] But I actually I do that with Janet, too. But I’m probably a bigger Janet fan. Like, I’m a really big fan of Janet Jackson’s music. Like, I’m really like, I’ve I’ve written several articles about my appreciation fandom for her albums just because one, I don’t. For albums that were that big, I still don’t feel like they get enough flowers. If that’s if that’s even really a thing. [00:29:57][20.6]

Matthew Allen: [00:29:58] No, I agree with you. I think that like Velvet Rope in particularly, that’s an album that definitely needs to be mentioned a lot more just because of the influence that I mentioned from before on. So many female artists [00:30:10][12.0]

Panama Jackson: [00:30:10] You need to write that article because I don’t I don’t think I’ve ever read an article that that tied all those albums that you mentioned to The Velvet Rope that way that I think was linear. That made sense because when you said it, I was like, Yeah, immediately I was like, Yeah, absolutely. I completely get that. I don’t think I read an article like that. You need to get on that, bro. [00:30:27][16.5]

Matthew Allen: [00:30:28] I’m on it. I’ve definitely you’ve said that. But getting back to the whole point about Michael and I argue that you can get a glimpse into Michael in terms of his personality in him as particularly when you listen to Thriller, what makes Thriller so compelling is thematically it becomes a lot more weary lyrically in terms of Michael’s compositions. You see the claustrophobia in there, you see the paranoia and particularly in Wanna Be Starting Something, Beat It, and Billie Jean, you know, Billie beat it. People think it’s just like an anti-violence song. It’s really more of a talk of the the inter-morality that you have with yourself in terms of like the angel and the devil on your shoulder. You have the masculine side of yourself telling you you don’t want to be a boy, you want to be a man. And the other side of you saying, then just beat it. You know what I’m saying? So it’s an inter it’s a it’s an inner battle more than it is just a blanket, you know, don’t fight your fellow man kind of thing. It’s gonna be more of an inner battle between your masculinity and, you know, your self-preservation. In terms of Billie Jean. And wanna be starting something that really speaks of the fishbowl that Michael was starting to live under. Billie Jean is based on a real story of, you know, it’s a Maury Povich type stuff where that woman, Quincy, said a woman was claiming that Michael was the father of one of her twins. [laughter] You know what I’m saying? He told a Rolling Stone reporter that he had a picture by his bed and he goes, Oh, that’s Billie Jean. But, you know, she she she sent a gun to my house to do like a suicide pact. So now I have the picture so I can tell the cops anytime I see her by my house. You know, I’m saying? [00:32:09][100.3]

Panama Jackson: [00:32:09] That’s crazy. [00:32:09][0.1]

Matthew Allen: [00:32:10] It’s crazy wanna be startin something. You think about just a rumor mongering that was starting to happen. I took my baby to a doctor with a fever, but nothing he found. But by the time it hit the street, they said she had a breakdown. You know what I’m saying? Oh, I just went to the doctor, and all of a sudden, TMZ is like such and such is going crazy. They’re taking medicine. They’ve got to be in that. And that’s the world that he’s living in. So that’s him internalizing, personalizing this music that he’s doing, that he’s writing, you know. And so that’s how you can really get a glimpse into his music. You go to Dangerous and particularly, you know, you think a song like Heal the World, that was his ideal in terms of like the music can be the thing that heals people, you know, politicians and all that other stuff that’s not going to do anything because they’re worrying about their own agenda. We have to be the change that we’re waiting for. And he believed that within himself and then. [00:33:01][51.0]

Panama Jackson: [00:33:01] Oh, wait, wait. You so you think. I don’t put words in your mouth. [00:33:06][5.0]

Matthew Allen: [00:33:07] Okay. [00:33:07][0.0]

Panama Jackson: [00:33:07] You think thematically, like I don’t disagree with what you’re saying about the individual songs. [00:33:12][4.4]

Matthew Allen: [00:33:12] Right. [00:33:12][0.0]

Panama Jackson: [00:33:14] Do you disagree with me saying that thematically? Janis Albums are more sound than Mike’s because you’re speaking to the themes of these songs, like putting them all together in these spaces. And I’m not, I’m not I don’t disagree with that that you can. I feel like you have to do a little more work to tie the songs together in on those albums. On Dangerous, on on Bad, on Thriller. Like You Can Do It. I feel like you can do it. I don’t think you even have to try on Janet’s albums. [00:33:40][25.4]

Matthew Allen: [00:33:41] Yeah. I think that with with Michael, I think that there’s a sonic thematic quality that ties into what he’s going through, too, because you also have to remember, Jam and Louis are composing 99% of that music. Quincy Jones is composing…he composed technically one song of those three albums. And, you know, and lots of those songs, particularly on Bad Michael is writing those songs and composing those songs himself. I mean, sure, he has help here and there. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. [00:34:17][35.6]

Panama Jackson: [00:34:18] [laughter] [00:34:18][0.0]

Matthew Allen: [00:34:20] But, but, but for the most part, he’s writing those songs himself in terms of the conception of the music, of the arrangements and everything like that. So he’s internalizing. [00:34:30][9.8]

Panama Jackson: [00:34:31] Mike is more of a musician. I completely agree. Like I would never the Mike is definitely when you said Janet has done more with less, I laughed. I think that’s like I hate that statement when I think I hate that I agree with it. Like, I understand Mike–I mean, look, my Mike was again, Mike is Mike right? He’s he gets to be one name Mike, you know, for a reason, right? Like he was the kind of person that could put all these things together. And he he got he brought people in to get that out of him so he could get the version of that that he wanted. I think I remember reading or hearing some stories about how many takes of like lines Mike would do until he got that joint, like perfect, because he needed it to be a specifically perfect thing, like he needed to be that way, not the producers. Like he needed it to be. Yes, yeah. [00:35:15][44.3]

Matthew Allen: [00:35:16] Yeah, absolutely. But he actually would record the song from beginning to end. Most people would say, Oh, let’s go back to the bridge and record. [00:35:25][8.9]

Panama Jackson: [00:35:27] Let’s punch this in and do that stuff– [00:35:27][0.0]

Matthew Allen: [00:35:27] You have to do the song from the start and go all the way to the end. You talked about Babyface and L.A. Reid, that song that they did with him for Dangerous and didn’t come out on Dangerous Slave of the Rhythm. And they said, Yeah, we did that 14 times. And he sang it from beginning to end. [00:35:41][13.8]

Panama Jackson: [00:35:41] All right. All right. So. You just I. You just disagree with me? [00:35:50][9.0]

[00:35:50] Yeah [00:35:50][0.0]

[00:35:50] I. I get why you disagree with me. And you get. And you get why most people probably do. I think more people would probably see this from your end than would see it from me. Because I think my, my, my, my argument is fairly simple. I think she made albums like in the way that I view albums like a theme that like a conceptually strong together, like the way Marvin Gaye was making the hear my ideas and the what’s going on and you know, putting together, you know, you mentioned Bob Marley. There’s an album I’m thinking of specifically that I think. I feel like it wove together a lot of themes together in one very cohesive fashion. [00:36:27][36.9]

Matthew Allen: [00:36:28] It was probably Survivor or Confrontation or one of those like late seventies, early eighties records. [00:36:35][6.6]

Panama Jackson: [00:36:35] I think so. I think you’re right in like the way that I listen to, like, Fela Kuti albums. Right. It might be two songs, might be 37 minutes apiece. But, you know, like there’s there’s a common theme for what he’s doing when he’s making those albums. I’m not the biggest Beatles fan, but the Beatles did a lot of conceptual weaving together. So when I think of them in an album sense, that’s why I think our albums were better. I would never argue about what those albums were able to do, what they represent, like like Mike puts put together. I just think you put together a bunch of singles that happen to be better than everybody else’s. Everybody else’s music for, like, eons. You know, I’m saying, like, Billie Jean is always going to be one of the better songs that no matter what your catalog looks like. Right? Like Billie Jean, you can put some inside catalog up and play Billie Jean. Somebody is going to like Billie Jean. I’ll tell you, I’ll take Billie Jean for the rest of my life versus all 15 albums that you have. Right? So, yeah, I know. Thank you for that. Go ahead. [00:37:29][53.9]

Matthew Allen: [00:37:29] Yeah, but I guess I agree that Janet put it out there that these albums conceptually follow a certain theme. Michael wasn’t so front forward facing with that, but I think that’s what makes it so much more satisfying when after listening, you realize, okay, he was trying to tell a story from the sonic textures of how in terms of the cohesion of one song going into the next song going into next on, particularly when it comes to the Quincy albums. I mean, you think about Off The Wall, you know, just, you know, just the way that it just rides, especially from side A. [00:38:14][44.3]

Panama Jackson: [00:38:14] It does. [00:38:14][0.2]

Matthew Allen: [00:38:15] You know, it just. [00:38:15][0.7]

Panama Jackson: [00:38:16] It is a vibe. [00:38:16][0.3]

Matthew Allen: [00:38:17] It’s yeah, it is. So I think that Michael was speaking a mus–, a more musical language in terms of trying to talk about a thematic part of himself, you know, because he’s all about movement, he’s all about rhythm. He was dancing in the studio while he was recording all this stuff. So he’s trying to tell a story musically, more so than he’s trying to tell a story and a theme lyrically. And yeah. So, yes, the mix of the themes of each song will vary from one to the next. But I think that because if you really get to understand how these albums were crafted in terms of the sequencing, in terms of the tapestry and the layering of each song and how they interweave into one another, you’ll understand that Michael is telling, telling you what the theme is, but you just have to open yourself up musically and instrumentally to understand what it is that they’re trying to do. [00:39:13][56.3]

Panama Jackson: [00:39:14] Okay, look, we’re not going to come to consensus on this. That wasn’t the goal. I just wanted to hear your thoughts on this. I felt like it was a good, fun conversation. And I’m curious what somebody who I whose opinion I respect musically had to say about that. We threw it out there. So thank you. We’re going to take a real quick break and come back with some Blackfessions, a Blackamendation. We’re going to come back with the blackness here on Dear Culture. [break] Alright, We’re back here on Dear Culture, and I’m still here with Matthew Allen. We just had a conversation about Janet’s albums versus Mike’s albums. Well, their four album run, no consensus was arrived at. Didn’t expect it. Never going to happen. Most people think I’m crazy, but that’s fine. That’s what black–that’s what blackness and black culture’s like, we are not monolithic. That’s one of our favorite statements in the community. Right. And so we’re going to do this fun thing here on Dear Culture. Well, not when I bring people on. I like to talk about. Parts of their blackness. So we’re going to start with this thing called Blackfessions. A Blackfession is a confession about yo blackness and something, something that most people would probably be surprised to know as a black person. I just said we’re not monolithic, and now we’re about to prove it. So what is your Blackfession? [00:40:27][72.5]

Matthew Allen: [00:40:28] My Blackfession in Panama is that I believe that there are two, quote unquote black movies that I think are overhyped and overrated. And those movies are the Five Heartbeats and Harlem Nights. I don’t think that they’re Bad movies. I actually think that they’re good movies. I just don’t think they’re as good as the public makes them out to be. [00:40:49][20.4]

Panama Jackson: [00:40:49] So right now, I’ve never wanted to hang up on somebody so Bad in my life. So The Five Heartbeats is one of my favorite movies of all time of ever. I probably watched that movie for a couple of years almost every day. We had the VHS tape in my house, and I watched it over and over again. I. Now I’m on the Michael Jackson side of this conversation with this one. That is an insane take to me because the Five Heartbeats is so good. Harlem nights. Like I’ve heard people say that I don’t even understand how people don’t love Harlem Nights, the way that like, I feel like Harlem Nights doesn’t get enough overrating. Like I feel like people need to talk about Harlem Nights even more. When did you come to these realizations were like like briefly, why? Why do you feel this way? Exactly. [00:41:32][42.5]

Matthew Allen: [00:41:33] I just think that having conversations with people over the years about the movie and yes, Harlem Nights is a very quotable movie, not quite as quotable like the Nutty Professor or Coming to America, but but still quotable to a certain degree. But I just feel like. It just it didn’t really live up to its greatest potential in terms of utilizing Eddie Murphy, Red Fox and Richard Pryor together on screen. You know, I really think that like Eddie himself said, that the best part of that movie is the part that nobody got to see, which was when he said cut. And then all these guys started cracking on each other and telling jokes and things of that nature. [00:42:16][43.1]

Panama Jackson: [00:42:16] I believe that [00:42:16][0.0]

Matthew Allen: [00:42:16] That’s all I needed to hear. You know, when the writer and the director says that, oh, you know, this [00:42:20][4.1]

Panama Jackson: [00:42:21] Which is amazing because it’s such a good movie to me, like a genuinely I genuinely enjoy those movies just for what they are. But. Okay, thank you, Bill. Blackfession. You got a real quick Five Heartbeats thing because that’s my favorite movie. So. [00:42:35][14.2]

Matthew Allen: [00:42:36] Five Heartbeats is five heartbeats is great. It’s good. You know, it’s it’s the last of the three Robert and Keenan collaborations. Right. But I don’t know. I just it just didn’t hit me the way that it hit everybody else. Just from a visceral, emotional standpoint. It was almost like I was just seeing everything through, like, Oh, okay, I see what he was trying to do there or okay, I see what he was trying to do there. I see the thing. He tries to make the best part of them. I will say this I it has one of my favorite parts in any movie or black movie of all time is when they get booed on stage in the beginning and then do goes, oh, and then they all come together and Robert kicks the piano player off that part. That’s beautiful moviemaking right there. But just in terms of the whole story, it just it just it didn’t it didn’t quite hit me the way that people say that it hit them. So I just think that it’s just it’s just a little bit overhyped to me. [00:43:37][61.5]

Panama Jackson: [00:43:38] Okay. All right. Well, you’re wrong, but let’s move on so quickly. Give me give me a Blackamendation. A Blackamendation for those who don’t know is a recommendation about something by for and about black people that you think other people should check out. So briefly, give me your Blackamendation. [00:43:53][15.5]

Matthew Allen: [00:43:55] So my Blackamendation would be a book by Lamar Gerald Bruce. He wrote a book called How to Go Mad Without Losing Your Mind Madness and Black Radical Creativity. It’s a really great book, full of a lot of scholarship that, you know, really goes over, you know, rage and mental illness and and what not. And how that leads to so many black geniuses being able to be creative to a certain degree and and individual black people in particular, but just dealing with creativity from the standpoint of utilizing certain parts of rage and mental illness and mental makeup, I think that it’s really great. I think you should pick it up. You’ll have to have a thesaurus and a dictionary next to you. If you don’t if you if you didn’t graduate with a master’s degree like I did. But I mean, like I don’t I don’t have a master’s degree, so I have to do it too, but it’s a it’s a really great book. You know, I’m working on a project that deals with something like this, very similar. So I really recommend that. [00:45:01][66.7]

Panama Jackson: [00:45:03] All right. Well, I appreciate you coming spending some time with us to have this wonderful discussion about Mike and Janet, your musical influences, your favorites, all that stuff, sharing a ridiculous Blackfession that you’re just wrong about. But, you know, I appreciate that. Tell the people where they can find you. [00:45:19][16.1]

Matthew Allen: [00:45:21] Certainly. So for all my hate mail and death threats over the Five Heartbeats and Harlem Nights, you can send them to Twitter at Headphoneaddict. That’s all one word, headphoneaddict. Also on Instagram, headphoneaddict. You can also go to my website to dfeynemedia. That’s D-F-E-Y-N-E media dot WordPress dot com where you read some of my blog posts past and present and also you’ll see my own podcast, Get Off the Fence, the premiere music and album debate podcast. I sit down with the guests each episode for season one. We argue about albums like Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation versus Control, quincy Jones’s The Dude versus Back on the Block, Common’s Be versus Like Water for Chocolate and so many, many more. So you can find them on YouTube, on Apple Podcasts, and on Spotify. That’s Get Off the Fence. And you can also find my work, like Panama’s work, at theGrio that’s t-h-e-G-r-i-o and download the app. [00:46:22][61.5]

Panama Jackson: [00:46:24] All right. Well, I appreciate you, brother, and I want to thank you for being here for this conversation. It was a good time. And thank you for listening to Dear Culture. If you like what you heard, please give us a five star review and subscribe to the show wherever you listen to your podcast. Share with everyone you know, like for real for real share this with everybody you know, we all black here so let’s have let’s have this conversation. Please e-mail all questions, suggestions and compliments to The Dear Culture Podcast is hosted by me Panama Jackson here on theGrio Podcast Network and produced by Crystal Grant and edited by Cameron Blackwell. Thanks to you all for listening. Till next time. [00:46:24][0.0]