Which musician had the best acting performance in a film?
So I am not going to lie … this Music Challenge question has alternative motives for me. I have essentially been trying to find a way to talk about what I consider to be one of the most underrated and unfairly treated musicians in recent history. I am talking about the majestic Janet Jackson (Ms. Jackson if you’re nasty) Of course Janet isn’t classic rock and not a River artist but I know River listeners like me have a wide appreciation for all music genre’s.
So before I get into Janet’s acting ability let’s take a second to talk about her groundbreaking music career (before Bey there was Jan!) When Janet Jackson released her fourth studio album 30 years ago, the music world did not know what hit them. With Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814—or, simply, Rhythm Nation, Janet once again worked with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis (and once again broke away from the suffocating “Control” of her family.) Jackson’s Rhythm Nation album, became the first — and only — album with seven top five Hot 100 hits and just the third of four to register seven top 10’s, following brother Michael’s Thriller and Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A.; Drake’s Scorpion joined the club in 2018. That’s pretty impressive company but Janet doesn’t get mentioned as much as the other lads. Of course the “unfairly” part was how Janet was treated after that Superbowl fiasco. Talk about an overreaction and of course no one gave Justin Timberlake any flak (despite the fact that he wrote the lyrics that said “Bet I’ll have you naked by the end of this song” UGH).
So let’s move on to the actual Music Challenge question. Janet started out acting. Fans of the show Good Times will remember she played Penny on that show and she was also Willis’ girlfriend in Different Strokes. She really is the full package and could have chosen either career. In 1993 she appeared in the John Singleton movie Poetic Justice. I loved this movie and thought Janet’s performance was brilliant. Tupac Shakur also gives a pretty stellar performance (I have a theory that rapping is kind of performance art which is why rappers make such an easy transition to acting but I’ll save that one for another day). Below is the trailer …
And just in case you had forgotten some of the amazing tracks from 30 years ago … here is one. It was hard to choose a favorite song .. so I went with a favorite video … the choreography in this on is epic and it has cameo’s by non other than Cab Calloway, Cyd Charisse, Heavy D and the Nicholas Brothers … pretty legendary!