The Gulf Today - Panorama - - Contents - By Glenn Gam­boa

Janet Jack­son is killing it on her ‘State of the World’ tour

Though she may be wor­ried about the state of the world, the state of Janet Jack­son is just fine, thanks. The “Un­break­able” new mother, cur­rently on her “State of the World” tour, has a new at­ti­tude to­ward her life and her mu­sic, ac­cord­ing to those in the su­per­star’s in­ner cir­cle, and it is on dis­play in her new show.

“She is [in] an amaz­ing space right now and killing it ev­ery night,” says her mu­si­cal director Daniel Jones, call­ing from a tour stop in Grand Rapids, Michi­gan. “I’ve been with her al­most 10 years and I’ve never seen her this open.”

Jones says that after Jack­son had to post­pone her “Un­break­able” tour due to her preg­nancy with son Eissa, now 10 months old, there was no doubt that she would re­turn to the road as soon as she could. How­ever, when it came time for Jack­son to dis­cuss her re­turn with Jones and creative director Gil Dul­du­lao, it was clear that she wanted to do some­thing dif­fer­ent.

“In the time we were away, so many things had hap­pened in the world and had hap­pened to her per­son­ally,” says Dul­du­lao. “We wanted it to pick up on the issues that are hap­pen­ing right now and put it into the art.”

In the past year, Jack­son, 51,

gave birth to Eissa, sep­a­rated from her hus­band of five years — bil­lion­aire Qatari busi­ness­man Wis­sam Al Mana — and filed for divorce. In re­cent weeks, the em­bar­rass­ment of her “wardrobe mal­func­tion” dur­ing the 2004 Su­per Bowl half­time show has re­turned to the head­lines after the NFL de­cided to name Justin Tim­ber­lake the half­time show head­liner for next year ’s Su­per Bowl.

Tim­ber­lake ac­ci­den­tally ripped off part of Jack­son’s bra dur­ing their per­for­mance of Rock Your Body, briefly ex­pos­ing Jack­son’s breast on the broad­cast, re­sult­ing in hun­dreds of thou­sands of com­plaints and a $550,000 (Dhs2 mil­lion) fine from the Fed­eral Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Com­mis­sion that was even­tu­ally voided. Be­cause of the in­ci­dent, net­works now have a five-sec­ond de­lay built into all live broad­casts.

The NFL’S choice of Tim­ber­lake touched off a so­cial me­dia cam­paign of #Jus­tice­for­janet seek­ing to get her an apol­ogy and an in­vi­ta­tion to be part of Tim­ber­lake’s show. Though the Jack­son camp de­clined to com­ment on Tim­ber­lake and #Jus­tice­for­janet, which sprung up after the tour be­gan, it has never been her style to worry much about her­self. “I didn’t break down about it,” Jack­son told Oprah Win­frey in 2006. “I re­alised I was much stronger than I thought I was.”

To­day, Jack­son uses that strength as a ral­ly­ing cry for those less for­tu­nate than her through­out the “State of the World” tour — named for the song from her 1989 al­bum Rhythm Na­tion 1814 where she tells stories of des­per­ate teen moms and bul­lied kids, as well as broader issues. The show, which draws on Jack­son’s long-stand­ing in­ter­est in so­cial issues, opens with a montage of re­cent events — in­clud­ing im­ages of white su­prem­a­cist ral­lies, the Syr­ian civil war and starv­ing chil­dren in Africa — and her song The Knowl­edge, where she de­clares that education is the pri­mary way to “rid the chil­dren of prej­u­dice and ig­no­rance.”

“She was ahead of her time,” Dul­du­lao says. “With Rhythm Na­tion decades ago, she con­fronted a lot of so­cial issues ... . We are still con­fronted with the same issues. But for her, it’s all about love.”

Jones says that it was im­por­tant to Jack­son to of­fer some op­ti­mism, which is why she put her up­lift­ing New Agenda, which fea­tures Roo­sevelt’s Chuck D, in the fi­nal act of the show. “She’s very aware of what’s go­ing on in the world,” he says. “She was al­ready here in 1986. She is still rel­e­vant now in the cur­rent cli­mate of the world, but she wants to have an im­pact on it. She wants to pro­vide some hope. She be­lieves love and unity is the an­swer.”

With that as the tour’s pur­pose, Dul­du­lao wanted to re-ex­am­ine Jack­son’s cat­a­logue to see how some of her older songs fit with her new ones. He played all of her songs for her and looked to see her re­ac­tion. “Janet doesn’t play her own mu­sic,” he says, laugh­ing. “But I still play it.”

He saw Jack­son smile when Is­land Life from her Damita Jo al­bum came on. That made it into the show. “You get used to songs be­ing in a set list or in a cer­tain section of the set list,” Dul­du­lao says. “Me and Daniel would say, ‘How about this song?’ or ‘How about this flow?’ We would just try dif­fer­ent things be­cause Janet said, ‘If there was a time to try it, now is the time.’”

After the birth of her first child, Eissa, on Jan.3, Jack­son re­sumed her tour.

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