Now that superhero-movie translations of quantum physics have popularized the concept of the multiverse, perhaps we can envision an alternate dimension—or a more-just parallel universe—in which Janet Jackson performed one of the pioneering residencies on the Las Vegas Strip.
In this improved reality, we’re unfamiliar with the term “wardrobe malfunction,” because people didn’t freak out about a split second of partial female nudity during the Super Bowl halftime show in 2004. (It’s hard to believe now that the president of the FCC called the incident “a new low for prime-time television,” but yeah, that happened.) In this more reasonable dimension, Jackson was not banned from the Grammy Awards one week later, and her music and videos were not stripped away from pop radio and MTV—another hard-to-believe truth that caused her March 2004 album Damita Jo (which Jackson spent more time creating than any other to date) to become her lowest-selling album (3 million copies worldwide) since 1984.
In a world where absurd outrage doesn’t lead to completely avoidable destruction of an iconic artist’s career, Las Vegas might not have needed to wait until 2019 for a Janet Jackson concert residency. It could have happened in 2006, when she released 20 Y.O. to commemorate 20 years since her breakthrough album Control. She could have shared the Colosseum stage at Caesars Palace with Celine Dion, Elton John and Cher.
But this is the world we live in, and 2019 is the year when Vegas gets Janet, just months after the 53-year-old superstar—May 16 is her birthday—was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. (Def Leppard, another upcoming Strip residency act, was also inducted this year. The English rockers have already played a mini-residency at the Hard Rock Hotel.)
“It’s about time,” Questlove told Las Vegas Weekly last month. The Roots bandleader/drummer and Janet fanatic attended the Rock Hall ceremony with Jackson’s group, and she called him “my biggest champion” during her speech.
Questlove has his own residency of sorts at Park MGM this year—a recurring DJ gig at On the Record just across from Park Theater, where Jackson opens her Metamorphosis residency this week.
“Vegas gives artists stability while you can still be creative. Plus, for her, it’s really full circle. She literally started in Vegas,” Quest said. “Her very first gigs were in 1974 with her brothers. For it to come around [like this], I think that’s cool. She has a legacy and a history, and most important, she has a lot of hits and her show is entertaining. And even though she’s universal, black people really don’t have a lot of legacy artists left. If Prince were still alive, if her brother were still alive, all of our greats we look up to and revere, it’s few and far between. I think she is the perfect person, and I can’t wait to go out there and see it.”
JANET JACKSON: METAMORPHOSIS May 17-18, 21-22, 8 p.m., $72-$337. Park Theater, 844-600-7275.