By SEAN DALY
Times Pop Music Critic
Did the world's most famous "wardrobe malfunction" really sink the career of Janet Jackson, who will be playing the relatively intimate David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts on Sunday?
It certainly looks that way, although that doesn't seem very fair or reasonable. In the new pop-culture order, people with absolutely zero discernible skills other than having rich parents — your Kim Kardashians, your Paris Hiltons — became megafamous after, and probably because of, sex-tape scandals.
And yet Jackson, a singing-dancing-acting triple threat, was initially derailed by a relatively benign skin show. On Feb. 1, 2004, at Houston's Reliant Stadium, the site of Super Bowl XXXVIII, Jackson and Justin Timberlake engaged in hijinks that ended — by accident or not, depending on whom you believe — with her exposed.
Before the Super Bowl, Ms. Jackson If You're Nasty was a multiplatinum superstar, at times as popular, if not fleetingly more so, than brother Michael. After the incident, however, three albums — 2004's Damita Jo, 2006's 20 Y.O., 2008's Discipline — were flops, and any residual tours failed to inspire. Couple her own malaise with the death of Michael, and a Janet comeback seemed difficult to fathom.
But we're not the only ones who bailed on the career of the woman who gave us What Have You Done for Me Lately and Escapade. The truth is that Jackson bailed on herself a bit. The music and energy that followed her internationally televised breast baring wasn't particularly good.
Jackson is 45 now, and this local stop appears to be a small step back to her place in the stars. Reclaiming her place will be tough, but maybe she can do it. First things first? She should probably keep her clothes on.
Sean Daly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8467. His Pop Life blog is at tampabay.com/blogs/poplife.