Few artists are as singular as Janet Jackson. Over a 34-year recording career, the pop star has sold over 26 million albums in the U.S., scored five Grammys, notched 10 No. 1 hits on Billboard’s Hot 100 (one of the most for a female artist ever), crafted some of the MTV Generation’s most memorable music videos—all while fashioning herself as a cultural icon who broke down barriers of race and sexuality in America and who continues to make killer records today. In honor of Miss Janet’s 50th birthday, EW’s celebrating her towering catalogue of music with a look at our Top 50 favorite songs from her solo career.
50. “Can’t B Good” (2008)
Jackson’s work with Ne-Yo on Discipline was one of her better moves away from her comfort zone with longtime producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. After all, Ne-Yo has worn his MJ influence like a sequined glove. In the lush atmosphere of this song that he cowrote and coproduced, you can hear echoes of Off the Wall’s “Can’t Help It” and Thriller’s “Human Nature.” –Chuck Arnold
49. “Someone to Call My Lover” (2001)
Jackson had already showed some love for ’70s folk-rock with the Joni Mitchell-biting “Got ’Til It’s Gone.” And here she lifted the guitar riff from America’s 1972 hit “Ventura Highway.” Although she has yet to find someone to call her lover, the mood is irrepressibly upbeat and optimistic about pre-Tinder match-meeting. Surprisingly, after a great run, the song would become her last Top 10 hit. –C.A
48. “I Want You” (2004)
Just as his own career was taking off as an artist, Kanye West collaborated with Jackson on three Damita Jo cuts, the best of which is this old-school slow dance. Also cowritten by John Legend, the song samples B.T. Express’ version of “Close to You.” But with its swirling, sumptuous ’60s nostalgia and a vocal that recalls a young Michael, it’s a love letter to her family’s Motown roots. –C.A
47. “Say You Do,” (1982)
With bright disco strings, horn tuttis, and a Fender Rhodes keyboard groove, the third single from her debut album is a carbon copy of her brother’s “Don’t Stop ‘Till You Get Enough,” released four years earlier. But with a hook as indelible as that, who cares? –Kevin O’Donnell
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46. “All Nite (Don’t Stop)” (2004)
“It’s time to dance,” Jackson declares at the outset of this electro-funk cardio session, but it’s pretty clear by the bridge—what with her orgasmic moans, don’t-wake-the-neighbors whispers and instructions to “get hardcore”—that she’s not really talking about tearing up the dance floor. Blurring the line between the club and the bedroom has long been one of Jackson’s specialties; too bad the fallout over Nipplegate kept this raunchy track from making much of an impact on the charts. –Nolan Feeney
45. “Enjoy” (2006)
Her brothers had a hit with “Enjoy Yourself” during their post-Motown incarnation as the Jacksons, and their sister captured the same kind of feel-good vibes on this buried gem. A midtempo slice of sunshine, it was a welcome escape from the trying-too-hard sexuality on some of the post-Nipplegate 20 Y.O. Bursting into “la, la, la, la la’s,” a children’s singalong and signature Janet giggles, it showed that even in her 40s, Miss Jackson’s girlish charm was still intact. –C.A.
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