"Rock with U" is a song by American recording artist Janet Jackson, from her tenth studio album, Discipline (2008). It was written by Ne-Yo, Jermaine Dupri, and Eric Stamile, and produced by the last two. The song was released as the album's second single on February 5, 2008, by Island Records. "Rock with U" is a pop song that was created for the gay community, as Jackson felt the necessity to do something for its members.
"Rock with U" received positive reviews from music critics, with the majority lauding its retro, but futuristic sound, and commending the song's elements of house music. The song had minimal success, only being able to reach the Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles and the top-twenty of the Hot Dance Club Songs, although it did manage to make the Top 5 of the UK R&B Chart. Saam Farahmand directed the long take music video, which features Jackson having a party inside a club, with red and white rays of light entering the room. "Rock with U" served as the title for Jackson's Rock Witchu Tour the same year, where the song was also performed.
In July 2007, it was announced that Jackson had signed a recording contract with Island Records, after her five-album deal with Virgin Records was fulfilled with the release of her album 20 Y.O. (2006). Jackson's tenth studio album, Discipline, which was an acknowledgment of Jackson's commitment, focus and dedication to her career, was released on February 26, 2008 under the supervision of label head L. A. Reid. She did not write or co-write any songs on the album, a departure from her usual practice of co-writing and producing all of the songs on her albums. "Rock With U" was written by Shaffer Smith, Jermaine Dupri and Eric Stamile, with Dupri producing it, while Stamile co-produced it. In an interview for NewNowNext, Jackson explained that the song was created for the gay community, saying,
"Honestly the song was created for the gay community. I kept stressing to Jermaine [Dupri, the song's co-writer], ‘I got to do something for the kids.’ I had talked about it on the last album – and there was a song that I had, and it wasn’t quite completed. And I talked about it to the papers, gay magazines, and it didn't wind up on the album with the cut-off date. I felt really badly about that. So he just handed me a CD and said, ‘Here are 10 tracks for the kids; tell me which one you like the best.’ I fell in love with 'Rock With U'."
After the song was released, Jackson was awarded the Vanguard Award at the 19th annual GLAAD Media Awards, honoring her contributions in promoting equal rights among the gay community. The organization's president commented, "Ms. Jackson has a tremendous following inside the LGBT community and out, and having her stand with us against the defamation that LGBT people still face in our country is extremely significant."
"Rock with U" is a "digitized form" of pop song which draws influence from Euro disco. According to Jackson, it still reminiscent of "Together Again" or "Throb" from The Velvet Rope (1997) and janet. (1993), respectively. "It's still classic me but with a different twist to it – a modern twist", she said. Jim Farber from New York Daily News noted the song's riffs, which he considered greater when they first appeared in Madonna's 1985 song "Into the Groove". The song was compared to Michael Jackson's "Rock With You" (1979), due to its disco themes.
"Rock with U" also contains vocodered whispers and murmured vocals. The song opens with the line, "Strobe lights make everything sexier," while it talks about an erotic proposition which was reportedly dedicated to the gay community.
"Rock with U" was made available for sale through the US iTunes Store on February 5, 2008 along with a pre-order offer for her tenth studio album, Discipline. The song was serviced to rhythmic crossover radio stations on February 11, 2008 and was released to Top 40 radio stations on February 26, 2008.
"Rock with U" was met with general critical acclaim from most music critics, with most praising its style and retro vibe. Picking the song as one of the album's best tracks, Andy Kellman of Allmusic named it "an irresistible, grade-A dancefloor track," calling it "swift and swooning." Bryan Borzykowski of Now newspaper called it a "bouncy house track," while Nick Levine from Digital Spy called it "cosmic, sleek, catchy and bracingly modern", writing that "it wouldn't disgrace itself as a Kylie [Minogue] single." Dan Gennoe of Yahoo! Music was extremely positive, writing that the song marries Jackson's sweet and stomping side for an 1980s influenced song, which we called both genuinely exciting and "sounds 100 per cent like Janet Jackson".
Ann Powers from Los Angeles Times enjoyed the track, calling it "the gentlest time travel ever accomplished." Powers also wrote, "Playing on memory and melancholia, Janet's 'Rock With U' is nowhere as great as the original, but as a bit of intimate meta-pop it's utterly poignant. Jackson has long been the bearer of her brother's secrets, and on this song she shows that she can still crave something other than sexual fulfillment. Something like innocence." Michael Arceneaux of PopMatters praised the track, calling it "a sensual gem" and "almost euphoric", effectively complimenting Jackson's "whispery delivery." Arceneaux added, "It’s a digitized form of pop music Janet should look into for future recordings." Tom Young from BBC was negative in his review, saying that its lyrics would not seduce anybody.
The accompanying music video for "Rock with U" was directed by Saam Farahmand and choreographed by Gil Duldulao. It premiered on Access Granted on March 5, 2008. Jackson described Farahmand as an excited, passionated and creative person. He wanted to make the video as a long take video, like the music video for previous single "Feedback", which he also directed. According to the singer, the makeup looks and fashion of the video were a "futuristic version of the Blitz Kids from the 80's". Dulduao commented "I just wanted sort of bring Janet into the visionary style she's had in the past and I wanted to bring to like, video, and bring it back". He also mentioned that it took him at least a day and a half to finish its choreography.
The long take video begins with many people dancing on a hallway, until a girl comes and opens a door which leads to a room. There, other dancers are dancing to the song in midway of white rays of light, until the camera shows Jackson in the corner of the room and they start performing a dance routine. While the singer disappears from vision, people dance until she appears again dancing to the song. Then she goes to a hallway and enters a red-lighted room, accompanied by dancers, where entertainer Mimi Marks is seen. There she dances another routine along with her dancers. After dancing, she enters in another hallway where she gets alone with a man, until they share a kiss. Then, people who were in the previous room enter to the hallway to connect to another room, with Marks taking Jackson with her. The video ends with people coming closer to Jackson.
Jackson included the song on her similarly titled Rock Witchu Tour in 2008.Janet Jackson – vocals
Shaffer Smith – songwriter
Jermaine Dupri – songwriter, producer, vocal production, mixing
Eric Stamile – songwriter, co-producer
Manuel Seal – vocal production
Ian Cross – vocal production, mixing assistant, vocal recording
John Horesco IV – guitar, recording
Josh Houghkirk – engineer
Steven Barlow – assistant engineer
Chris Soper – assistant engineer
Angie Teo – assistant engineer
Credits and personnel adapted from Discipline album liner notes.