Probably the most impressive thing about Janet Jackson's career is the sheer bulk of it. Billboard rates her the seventh biggest pop star of the Hot 100 era, ahead of even her brother. (Michael, that is, not Jermaine, although she's ahead of Jermaine, too.) She's had ten Number One hits; only eight other artists have had more. She's had 27 Top Ten hits; only five other artists have had more (Madonna, Elvis, the Beatles, Michael and Stevie, all of them not just Hall of Famers but obvious Hall of Famers). Rhythm Nation 1814 is the only album in history with seven Top Five hits.
But what I admire the most about Janet Jackson is the way she has survived in the public eye for four decades, while her brother went crazy and Justin Timberlake exposed her nipple and she had to play a poet named Justice in a movie called Poetic Justice, and has continued to not just do whatever she wants but stay defiantly sane as well. Although she mostly avoided the hellscape that was the family singing group, she appeared on The Jacksons variety TV show at the age of 10, then became a full-fledged star at the age of 11 when she became a regular on Good Times, playing the abused child (!) Penny. She has said she made Control at the age of 19 outside of the family auspices just to get away from her father.
She's been a superstar and an icon ever since, but has never seemed like anything other than a normal person. She even made Michael's twisted angst relatable in the video for "Scream." If you can humanize Michael Jackson, you're really something special.
You do occasionally hear the argument that Janet was a product of her producers, that the brilliant team of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis were responsible for making her a star, starting with her 1986 breakthrough album Control. But Jackson herself took a producer's credit on that record, as well as a songwriting credit on all that album's Jam-Lewis songs. She got a solo writing credit on the Number One hit "Black Cat." The Jam-Lewis-Jackson team soldiered on through 2006's 20 Y.O., but Janet has always seemed the most important and irreplaceable part of that triumvirate.
Do I really have to convince you people? This is an obvious choice. I vote YES for Janet Jackson.