Billboard Music Awards Tout Janet Jackson
Almost three years after the infamous Super Bowl halftime show that introduced the phrase "wardrobe malfunction" into the American vernacular, the superstar singer is resurfacing as the opening act at the 2006 Billboard Music Awards. FOX televises the event Monday, Dec. 4, from Las Vegas' MGM Grand Garden Arena as Billboard honors artists and songs that have topped the publication's charts this year.
Others slated to perform include Gwen Stefani, Black Eyed Peas lead singer Fergie, Ludacris, Mary J. Blige, the Fray and the Killers. Celine Dion, Carrie Underwood, Rihanna, Chris Brown, Flavor Flav, the cast of the Disney Channel movie "High School Musical," and "American Idol" alumni Katharine McPhee and Chris Daughtry also are scheduled to appear.
The owner of more than 30 Billboard Music Awards herself, Jackson plans to start this year's show with a specially revised version of "So Excited" from her latest CD, "20 Y.O." She says, "We get involved in every aspect, from the staging to the lighting. We really get into it a month ahead of time, but the whole process starts way before then.
"I just see it as another performance," she adds, "but you're obviously always trying to do your best. You just go out there and try to 'hit it,' whether it's the first performance or in the middle or at the end."
As Jackson readies for her first big post-Super Bowl showcase on the home screen, she claims no extra nervousness. "When you've done this for so long, really all your life, you get used to it. I just want it to be something that's exciting and enjoyable for the audience as well as for the people at home.
"Millions and millions of people are watching; they get to see what it is that you do, how you do it and how you present the whole package. It's exciting to think what your set design will be, whether or not you'll have dancers, if you'll have a guest performer -- it's like putting a minitour together."
Getting to congregate with other music stars is a bonus for Jackson. "I usually don't get to see a lot of them," she says, "but you get to chat for maybe a quick moment, and you realize you really like this or that person. The next time you meet up usually is at a function like this, so it's nice to be able to say hello and see how someone's doing, how they've been."
"20 Y.O." stands for "20 Years Old," since Jackson wanted to commemorate the two-decade anniversary of her album "Control," which she deems the real birth of her career.
"I'm fortunate that I grew up in the family I did and was exposed to the kind of music I was exposed to," she reflects. "It was such an eclectic array, I think that's what shows in the music I've created up to now. I didn't want it to go unnoticed that it had been 20 years, even though it doesn't seem like it's been that long. Time goes by so quickly, I wanted to make mention of that in my own way."
Jermaine Dupri, Jackson's current beau, joined "Control" veterans Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis in producing "20 Y.O."
Jackson has been pleased with the response since the album's September release: "Even when I was in Paris for Fashion Week, so many people came up to me and talked to me about how they loved it, or told me their friends had gotten it and raved about it. That means so much to me, because that's what it's really about, that people enjoy the music you create. If something has a nice melody to it, I guess it's easy for it to become timeless."
Jackson considers the 2006 Billboard Music Awards sort of a warm-up for her next concert tour, which will begin in March or April. "When it comes to the physical aspect, the rehearsals and the dancing, that's starting now," she reports. "The working out has already started, though. That's a whole other ballgame."
Before music became the center of her professional life, Jackson was a television star on the series "Good Times" and "Fame." She says, "I couldn't sleep one night recently and 'Good Times' was on. I enjoy watching it from time to time; I just can't believe myself as a little kid. With some of the stuff I did, I think, 'Wow, where did that come from?' I was incredibly shy, but it must have been in me somewhere."
Jackson's television impact was considerably different in early 2004, when her Super Bowl stint with Justin Timberlake exposed more of her than she says was intended. Along with the game's enormous audience, the Federal Communications Commission noticed, as did networks that began putting time delays on live events that had aired without them previously.
"It's passed for me," Jackson maintains. "It's over and done with, and I have so moved on. For the most part, I think everyone else has, too. Obviously, people still like to talk about it since this is my first project coming off that, but I feel very good. It's simply the past."
In the present, Jackson also is looking forward to Christmas and New Year's. "My family didn't grow up celebrating holidays, being Jehovah's Witnesses. I celebrated my first birthday when I was 23 years old, so it was all really foreign to me. The time we all get together is around this time of year, only because everything shuts down. It's whoever is in town, which is mostly everyone, except for a couple of people. There are a lot of us, 28 nieces and nephews alone, and we all have a good time together.
"I sit there and think, 'All those years, I missed out on this.' I guess you can't miss something you never had, but as a kid, to see all your friends running around with presents and you're empty-handed -- you wish you could experience it."