"Rhythm Nation" is the second single from American R&B and pop singer Janet Jackson's fourth studio album, Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814(1989).
The song became the second of the historic seven top five singles released off the Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814 album. Jackson composed the lyrics while Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis composed the music, which featured a sample from Sly & the Family Stone's 1969 song "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)". The song preached racial unity and harmony among nations and in promise of "looking for a better way of life" and a way to stop "social injustice". The song became as famous for its countdown in both the song and the video as it was for its message. It peaked at number two on the BillboardHot 100 (behind Phil Collins' "Another Day in Paradise") and number one on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs during late 1989 and early 1990.
The song inspired the name of English DJ Trevor Nelson's BBC Radio 1 show "Rhythm Nation". Nelson told Jackson this during their 1998 interview which aired on the same show. The show also spawned several compilation albums under the same name.
The famous black-and-white, military-inspired dance video was directed by Dominic Sena in August 1989. It was the finale in the Rhythm Nation 1814 Film. Famous for its high-octane choreography in an abandoned factory, the video won for Best Choreography (shared by Jackson and choreographer Anthony Thomas) and was nominated for Best Dance Video at the 1990 MTV Video Music Awards, where Jackson also received the MTV Video Vanguard Award. "Rhythm Nation" ranked thirty-seven on VH1's Greatest 100 Videos and forty-four on MTV: 100 Greatest Videos Ever Made. The video features a young Tyrin Turner.
Through her choice of Anthony Thomas, a black American street dancer, as her choreographer, Janet Jackson secures a threefold achievement: she satisfies the dictates of commercial pop music industry by creating a dance image which is significantly different from her earlier work; she demonstrates that, despite fame, she is still in touch with contemporary youth pop culture and its fashions; and finally, she utilizes, not the dance traditions of the Hollywood musical which, although often black in inspiration, remained very much under the control of white choreographers, but the work of a black young man who's training is outside the institutions of Western theatre and clearly an Afro-American cultural expression of the late 1980s.
—Stephanie Jordan and Dave Allen, Parallel Lines: Media Representations of Dance, 1993
During MTV's first ever mtvICON in 2001, singers Pink, Mýa, and Usher each paid tribute to Jackson by performing dance moves from Jackson's earlier hits including "Pleasure Principle", "Miss You Much", and "Alright". At the end of the performance they all gathered together and performed "Rhythm Nation".
Jackson has performed "Rhythm Nation" on all her tours, including Rhythm Nation 1814 Tour, janet. Tour, The Velvet Rope Tour, All For You Tour and Rock Witchu Tour. She performed Rhythm Nation on the Rhythm Nation 1814 Tour and the janet. Tour she was dressed in a military suit. When she performed the song on The Velvet Rope Tour, she was dressed in an army suit. When she performed it on the All For You Tour, she performed the song while dressed in a black catsuit. When she performed it on the Rock Witchu Tour, she was dressed in a black body suit and underneath was a white blouse with a black tie.
Jackson also performed the song at the half-time show of the Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004, just before the infamous "wardrobe malfunction" incident.
Jackson included the song in her current tour, Number Ones: Up Close and Personal.