First Hit #1: December 11, 1993
Janet Jackson’s biggest singles up until now have been firmly in the dance pop wheelhouse. It makes some sense that she felt the need to branch out, and Again is Jackson’s big ballad. It is actually a bit of a refreshing palate cleanse from her, very minimal arrangement – strings eventually show up, but it’s built around piano and voice – and a focus on her voice rather than much else. This is Jackson’s chance to really show off her vocal power, and get out from under her more dance inspired image.
As a balladeer, her voice doesn’t have the power of some of her contemporaries, but it’s actually refreshing in a way. It sounds gentle, which gives it a unique touch for a song about a woman trying to avoid an ex-lover. She knows that the guy is a bad idea, but she’s also not harboring any real resentment or ill feelings anymore – she remembers the wounds, but time has healed them. It’s a touch that can be only delivered by the performance, the gentleness of her performance suggests that it has been a long time since the breakup that’s the subject of the song. Push the song in a more aggressive direction, it’s going to feel as though the emotions are more raw, but this way it actually explains the twist at the end of the song, because she is now only academically aware of the danger of the relationship, the actual emotional damage has been repaired.