Pop #TBT: Relive Janet Jackson’s 2001 ‘MTV Icon’ Special

by | PopCrush
Janet Jackson
George De Sota, Getty Images

It’s Janet June! All month long, we’re paying tribute to Janet — Miss Jackson, if you’re nasty — with a celebration the legacy of the icon as she prepares to make her long-awaited comeback to the music scene. Welcome back, Miss Janet.

Remember when MTV used to honor great artists of our time mid-career? Remember when there were artists worth honoring mid-career? Remember when MTV played music videos? Also, did you know that Pink, the unofficial ambassador of Australia, used to dance? We briefly forgot. That is, until we dug back into the archives and pulled out 14-year-old footage from the network’s 2001 MTV Icon special — the very first of which was dedicated to the great Janet Jackson.

It isn’t often that a family produces one child who comes to alter the face of music forever — let alone two. And while the rest of us mostly have tone-deafness and a penchant for alcoholism coursing through our DNA, the Jacksons have multi-octave vocal range and rhythm: We got Michael, and then came Janet. And together, they were a veritable demonstration of the fluidity of motion. “Scream,” anyone?

It wouldn’t be easy to step out from a shadow cast as widely as Michael’s, but Janet paved her own way, leaving a lasting impact on the music industry and cementing her status as a living legend. With the announcement of an upcoming album finally near-ish a release date, we thought it appropriate to take a moonwalk down memory lane — and yes, she could do it too.

Pink was a part of this special — and she danced.

2001 was a much different time: Pink’s stage-name actually made sense, Mya was a regular part of the pop cultural vernacular and Justin Bieber was just a seven-year-old kid without Internet access. The thing most people probably forget is that Pink was actually a pretty good dancer at one point! She was so good, in fact, that she was chosen to honor Janet by performing a medley of “Miss You Much,” “Alright,” “The Pleasure Principle” and “Rhythm Nation” along with Mya and Usher. Check out that Britney circa “Stronger”-level chair dancing above and tell us she doesn’t belong there.

Beyonce let Michelle sing on “Let’s Wait Awhile.”

No Destiny’s Child reunion will ever truly be sufficient at this point in our lives, so we deal with that pain by reliving the past via YouTube. The trio performed a cover of Janet’s “Let’s Wait Awhile” during the tribute, a song about…well, waiting a while (before having sex). The song has always managed to be more earnest than preachy, and Destiny’s Child’s delivery makes us want to set that drugstore on fire with every condom inside, because boy, we are gonna abstain tonight.

NSYNC recreated Janet’s “That’s The Way Love Goes” video.

Justin Timberlake and Chris Kirkpatrick delivered a bizarre introduction to what is ultimately a scene-for-scene copy of Janet’s “That’s The Way Love Goes” video, which is also something that never needed to be made. But for many of the youths watching at home, NSYNC’s video caused them to sit up straight and pay attention to Janet Jackson. Those youths’ parents may have failed them, but better late than forever ignorant to all things Rhythm Nation. (Justin later went on to throw Janet under the bus immediately following that whole wardrobe malfunction Superbowl fiasco, but you didn’t hear that from us, since it’s all technically conjecture.)

Buckcherry covered “Nasty.”

Proving that Janet’s appeal really does transcend gender and genre, the show had the California-based rock band cover her huge hit “Nasty.” It was the weirdest cover of the night, and a total reimagining of the song’s original melody. The camera did not pan to the audience very much.

Janet destroyed everyone with her own performance.

The special ended with Janet taking it upon herself to upstage every previous performer that took the time out of their undoubtedly busy schedules to honor her by delivering a six-and-a-half-minute long performance of her then-single, “All For You.” She killed it, practically slaughtering every artist who was up before her and mopping up their remains with whatever dance move was most popular at the time, then painted the walls of the California arena with their blood — proving to everyone watching at home that as good as some of those pop stars paying tribute would become, she would always be better.

Next: 9 Ways Janet Jackson Changed the Music Industry Forever