I had one overwhelming thought watching Janet Jackson descend from the sky during the opening number of her new show, ‘Metamorphosis’: Britney Spears would love this.

Growing up and living in Las Vegas helped inspire my journey into pop music journalism. As an unwavering fan of the princess of pop, I couldn’t believe how the stars aligned in that my fav would call Sin City her second home for five years. I saw Piece Of Me probably ten times(!!!) during that timeframe – even once getting the rare opportunity to join Brit on stage for a little (British accent:) NAUGHTAY TIME. When Britney announced she’d return to Vegas with ********** at the Park Theatre, I was selfishly excited, but wary; something felt off at the time, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. As we are well aware now, she cancelled, and months later the #FreeBritney movement is in full effect – a campaign that urges the judicial system to take a second look at the legal restraints placed upon her for more than 11 years.

Park MGM had likely spent millions in promotion, and appears to be at odds with Britney’s team as they figure out how to handle the fallout – Britney’s manager, Larry Rudolph, says Vegas is totally out of the question at the moment, possibly forever. The Theatre had to think quick to replace the revenue they expected to incur during Britney’s next installment.

Cue Janet Jackson.

At 53-years-old, Janet puts on a show that rivals her fellow pop titans. The setlist features more than 40 songs; that’s absolutely insane. It reminds you just how many timeless hits she’s created over the years. Each track received a gloriously vibrant sound and light display that elevates her presence far beyond a singer-songwriter: she is a literal icon, and you’re made aware of it in every instance of the near two-hour show.

Metamorphosis takes flight because of the stunning TV screen effects that interact with her performances, her team of elite (and very attractive) backup dancers and body-hugging, very questionable costume choices. One of the greatest champions of the show is the Park Theatre itself – it’s capable of seating 6,400 people comfortably – and Janet’s May 22nd show proved that. It’s also tricked out in laser displays and a state-of-the-art sound system. I couldn’t get over how crystal clear Janet’s music and vocals sounded in the venue. That’s an important selling point when asking concert-goers to shell-out hundreds of dollars for a ticket, but Janet delivered. The elephant in the room is that yes, at times, her vocals were pre-recorded, but the dance routines rarely let up, so it’s understandable.

It was bittersweet, because Britney’s Vegas sequel had real potential to amaze us one more time (pun intended heh). I had never seen Janet live up until this point, and I couldn’t help but draw comparisons to Britney. Dare I say Britney shares more of a likeness to Janet than Madonna, which was an interesting revelation to ponder mid-show. Every inch of Metamorphosis is calculated and obstructs spontaneity for precision. I’ve grown to celebrate that element of live shows. I saw Cher in the same theatre last year – she candidly spoke about her career for more than 10 minutes, and while I appreciated it, it de-energized the momentum she had built. Every moment of Piece Of Me was carefully crafted, as was Janet’s show, because that’s the kind of animal that fans want to feast on. Her choreography is monstrous and unending.

From the start, Britney has credited Janet as someone who inspires her.

“She’s mesmerizing,” Britney said in 2001 at the age of 20. “I’ve looked up to her since I was a little girl.”

Elsewhere, she said: “I remember the first time I went to [Janet’s] show. I was just like, ‘oh my god I want to be her.’ She just has this presence. You’re so drawn to her; you can’t keep your eyes off her.”

Remind you of anyone?

I danced emphatically when Janet tackled fan-favorites like “Feedback,” “If” and “Nasty,” but when “Control” sparked the stage, my mind wandered off. I couldn’t help but recall Britney’s recent photoshoot she posted to Instagram. Fans were probably reading into things too much, but there was a comparison made to Brit’s pics and Janet’s Control album cover. I love me a conspiracy theory, but Britney has a history of trying to low-key convey messages to fans that’ll probably fly over her team’s radar. If anyone can relate to the song’s lyrics, it’s Britney (“When I was 17 I did what people told me / Did what my father said,
and let my mother mold me”). And while we could probably chalk things up to coincidence, her followup post dancing to Janet and Michael’s “Scream” was very telling. The lyrics also eerily draw similarities between Britney and Janet, from injustices and schemes, to insurmountable pressure and merciless fathers. Both women grew up in the spotlight, endured scrutiny for their sexuality and berated for their outlooks on life. Britney and Janet are far more alike off the stage than on.

Britney helped pave the way for pop stars to maintain relevance with a residency, but Janet didn’t need Britney for that. She came first, and reminded the audience of that, telling us she first performed in Vegas alongside her brothers (she mentioned Randy, not Michael) at just seven years old in a partnership with MGM, then marveled at how curious life is – that despite a lifetime passing by, everything seems to come full circle.

Metamorphosis ended on a high note. I left Park MGM exhilarated from the pop greatness I just witnessed, yet perplexed that the chatter surrounding Britney right now is that she may never perform again (Britney refutes that by the way). Nearly 50 years into her career, it appears Janet Jackson is thriving, yet fans of another pop icon are wondering what’s next. I think it’s safe to say Britney will take the stage again sooner than we think, and hopefully she does so in Las Vegas. Britney idolizes someone like Janet Jackson… an immensely talented mother who’s braved the white-hot spotlight of celebrity only to come out the other side triumphant. Janet clearly still finds passion through singing and dancing. It’s a metamorphosis with the power to transform a fellow pop superstar to spread her wings… and fly.

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