Published January 14, 2015
Yet the sedate new video from Janet Jackson (search) -- a fixture on the cable channel for almost two decades and its first "MTV Icon" -- has been absent from its playlist.
That's not Jackson's only problem. Her first single, the rock-tinged "Just a Little While," fizzled at radio. The second, the ballad "I Want You," hasn't got much love from Top 40 stations, though it is shaping up to be a hit for black radio.
"Some stations received negative calls the day after from people who, beyond whether they were offended, recognized it as the latest publicity stunt in an attempt to up the ante on (MTV smoochers) Britney and Madonna," said radio analyst Sean Ross, vice president of music and programming for Edison Media Research.
Jackson's Feb. 1 Super Bowl appearance was intended to heighten awareness and anticipation for "Damita Jo," her first album in three years.
Instead, when Justin Timberlake (search) ripped off a piece of her clothing to reveal her bare breast (which they called a "wardrobe malfunction"), the outcry was dramatic. Then came the FCC investigation (search), congressional hearings and widespread criticism of CBS, halftime show producer MTV -- and Viacom, owner of CBS and MTV.
At the time, MTV Networks Group President Judy McGrath wouldn't comment on whether there would be any repercussions for the stunt -- for which Jackson has apologized.
Last week, network spokesman Graham James said her new video hadn't been played simply because it hadn't been submitted by her label yet. He said no executive was available to discuss the matter.
Yet the video was already receiving heavy airplay on BET (search) and was appearing on VH1 (search), both sister stations of Viacom-owned MTV. Meanwhile, Jackson's name had barely been mentioned on MTV -- unusual for a superstar whose previous projects have typically gotten heavy promotion.
Then, on Monday, James said MTV had received the video Friday, and it would be put into rotation in about a week.
A Viacom spokesman did not immediately return a call for comment.
"You can probably read between the lines with MTV. It's certainly being played at BET," said Jimmy Jam, who along with Terry Lewis has been Jackson's longtime music producer. "I would guess that if MTV wanted to play it, they would, but this is just speculation on my part. It certainly could raise a few questions if you have an investigative mind."
VH1 plans at least one Jackson special, a "Driven," episode. BET has not only played the video, but aired an interview special with the star and a behind-the-scenes special on the making of "I Want You."
"There was never any doubt that when Janet Jackson put out her video, we would play the video," said Stephen Hill, a senior vice president at BET, which stands for Black Entertainment Television.
Jackson hasn't enjoyed such strong support at Top 40 radio. The first single stalled at No. 45 on Billboard's Hot 100 singles chart. Her last album, "All for You," had two top-10 hits -- the title track and "Someone to Call My Lover" -- and sold more than 3 million copies.
Ross said the Super Bowl incident may have hurt Jackson's popularity among older fans. But Albie Dee, a music director at Washington's WIHT's Top 40 radio station Hot 99.5, says fans just didn't respond to the first single "Just a Little While."
"Initial response was pretty good, but I think after a while, the response died off for radio," he said. "I don't think they made a conscious decision to say, 'Hey, we don't like Jackson."'
Still, Jackson is expected to debut on the top of the charts with "Damita Jo." Her last disc sold more than 600,000 copies its first week out.
And she's starting a heavy publicity push -- she was to appear on "The Late Show with David Letterman" on Monday, followed by "Good Morning America" on Wednesday. She was scheduled as both host and musical guest on the "Saturday Night Live" (search) on April 10.
Jimmy Jam said that while the Super Bowl fiasco may have caused some problems for Jackson initially, he expected her to prevail.
"At the end of the day, she's had a long career and I think will continue to have a long career, he said. "Two seconds out of the 18 years that we've been dealing with her doesn't change anything for us."