There are few entertainers in this world who have attained icon status legitimate enough to warrant a tribute: Madonna. Cher. Heidi Montag.
Arguably, however, no one deserves the honor more — at least right now — than Janet Jackson, the most consistently underrated, overlooked pop legend of them all.
To be fair, Janet’s musical legacy was celebrated once before with a grand spectacle, the MTV Icon special back in 2001. It was filmed at a time when P!nk was still serving #SomethingMoreUrban (her moves!), and Yoncé had not yet left Destiny’s Child with the sitter to go on a permanent solo vacation.
But that was well over a decade ago. And at long last, Miss Jackson is back, despite her issues with insomnia, and the children need to do their homework and know why this is such an important moment.
To properly honor Miss Janet with the first ever Ultimate Icon: Music Dance Visual Award at the BET Awards last night, a phone call went in from Janet’s choreographer to three of the industry’s most talented dancers today: Matrix back-bending B.M.F. Ciara, Jason “Ja-son-De-Ru-Lo” Derulo and The Bae, Tinashe.
Kicking off the tribute (quite literally), Tinashe — who has always cited Janet as a major influence — gave us her best “Pleasure Principle” footwork, complete with a touch of that legendary chair sequence. (Remember, this is the video that inspired Britney‘s “Stronger” chair!) She served across the stage, popping, locking and pleasure principling all over in an all-too-brief burst of energy. I would have loved to see Tinashe take on some “That’s The Way Love Goes” or perhaps have a “Control” moment — but hey, she still did the damn thing. YAS, QUEEN.
Derulo came in quickly thereafter with a pleasant, if not equally fleeting rendition of “All For You” until it was time for Ciara to hit the stage — and the giver of Goodies was not playing around.
Ciara’s fiery “If” breakdown provided a wonderfully nostalgic throwback to the 1993 VMAs performance — she even looked a whole lot like Janet. If it wasn’t evident before, CiCi was truly born to do a Janet tribute. And before it was over, all three performers united center stage for a “Rhythm Nation” finale, turning out those militant dance moves — perhaps even signing up a few new recruits from the audience.
But then, the best part of all: The Queen herself strolled out on stage, fresh from a time-travel teleportation machine set to 1993, to accept her award. My God, she looked absolutely stunning.
And in that moment, Nicki Minaj was all of us:
Proud of Tinashe. Proud of Ciara. Proud of Jason JA-SON DE-RU-LO.
And very, very ready for the return of Janet to the stage.