First Hit #1: January 31, 1998
Death continues to haunt the charts, since Together Again is a tribute to a friend Janet Jackson lost to AIDS. But unlike a lot of death-focused songs, this one’s happy. It could have been miserable, it could have been the most maudlin ballad ever made, it could have sounded like the end credits song to an overwrought melodrama about a giant boat. Instead, it’s actually joyful, a song that becomes about acceptance, moving on, but treasuring life. It’s the beat that does it, a little bit of disco that has been kept away from the charts for a few years now. It’s also Jackson’s performance itself, which isn’t really attempting to go all out – she’s always been one of the more sedate singers to regularly grace the top position – but feels comfortable and happy. It’s almost religious dance, a song from a firmly spiritual viewpoint – it’s clear that there’s a belief in the afterlife here, and that’s the foundation on which the song is built – but using that viewpoint to help with the grieving process. The person is gone, but we’ll always have them in our memories, let’s celebrate who they were, and celebrate the idea that we’ll see them once more.