Today's Janet Jackson's 46th birthday, so I'm taking that excuse to post this song that everyone's heard a million times but that I've nonetheless been obsessing about recently. Have you listened to this song lately? Like, really listened to it, not just took it for granted as the pop wallpaper that megahits can become over time? It's worth it.
To me this song is all about the audacity of chill — it bumped its way into pop culture 19 years ago to launch Janet's fifth album (but third one that really mattered), janet. Instead of hitting us in the face with any of the album's many uptempos, Jan, Jam and Lewis teased the set with the relaxed hip-hop soul of "That's the Way Love Goes." The album it comes from was all about her sexual blossoming, and here's where the petals started to move. The song relies on deceptively gripping hooks (earworms are never chill and this is crawling with them) and exploits Janet's musical muttering better than anything before or since. For not demanding too much and letting her just ooze, this song resulted in the vocal performance of the woman's career.
(Also, I love how hypnotic the "Like a moth to a flame burned by a fire" bit is — if you didn't know that was a cliché going in, it's repeated so many times in this song alone that it becomes one in the process.)
(Also, I remember my friend's mother storming into her room when this song was out, thinking that Janet was saying, "Masturbate," instead of, "That's the way," and demanding my friend turn off the song. I don't know, I think, "Masturbate" is a really good message? Better than, "Fuck indiscriminately without a condom," at least?)
(Also, enjoy a very young and lip-lined Jennifer Lopez in the video.)
If you're feeling particularly festive, check out DJ Brainchild's Black Doll mix, made specifically to commemorate Janet's birthday. It blends 23 Jan classics and obscurities in less than 50 minutes.