Janet Jackson came out of semi-seclusion to kick off her first album in four years with a lavish pre-MTV Award party at the historic Cloud Club, the nest atop New York City's Chrysler Building.

The classic art-deco club was reopened for the event after being closed for 65 years. It was once the private men's retreat of Walter P. Chrysler and his millionaire cronies.

Just the sort of ultraposh spot that seemed an appropriate place to check out The Velvet Rope, Jackson's album due October 7--her first collection of new recordings since 1993's multi-platinum, chart-topping janet.

Her label, Virgin Records, pulled out all the stops at the star-studded soiree in a vigorous attempt to restore the venue to its 1920's men's club ambiance--not easy, as the place was gutted years ago. The label brought in antique furniture, bars, rugs and other assorted props. "It is a virtual time-capsule of the era," the label boasted. "The decor and the overall atmosphere of the period is completely preserved, as if figures like Al Capone exited the back stairwell."

A long walk down, considering the club towers 67 stories above the street. It was who was coming up the stairs, however that had a throng of fans queued outside behind metal barriers, if not velvet ropes.

Besides Jackson, guests included Beck, Puff Daddy, Marilyn Manson, Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins, Sheryl Crow, Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliot and, for no apparent reason, the non-musical Michael Douglas, who has been making the rounds lately plugging his new film, The Game.

Jackson has a lot to celebrate this week. Her new single, "Got 'Til It's Gone," featuring samples of one of her musical inspirations, Joni Mitchell (Jackson has also recorded a cover of Mitchell's "Beat of Black Wings" for an upcoming tribute album), hits radio and has its MTV video premiere today. Jackson will be a featured presenter at the MTV Video Music Awards Thursday night; on Friday she will collect the Lena Horne Lifetime Achievement Award at the Soultrain Lady of Soul Awards.

Ironically, the opulent bash and formal award show appearance belie her intended image for the album, which is themed around the idea that there should not be a velvet rope separating the haves and have-nots.

Jackson, who has recorded with Public Enemy's Chuck D and poet Maya Angelou in the past, is trying to update her sound even more this time around. Rope has an edgier, hip-hop flavor (featuring A Tribe Called Quest's Q-Tip on "Got 'Til It's Gone"). Since launching her solo career in 1981, Jackson has sold some 40 million albums and at one time signed the world's largest record deal, a $30 million pact with Virgin. Rope will be only her second album of new tunes since inking the deal.

Reaction to Rope at last night's schmooze-fest was generally positive, with several partygoers guaranteeing Jackson's trip back to the top of the charts.

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