Janet Jackson News: Janet Jackson’s song could crash laptops! Microsoft says ‘Rhythm Nation’ video led to mysterious system failures

The transformative power of music is well documented. Music is known to inspire spiritual devotion, motivating people to go far. However, have you ever heard of the destructive ability of music? Perhaps, a rather unusual occurrence.

Tech giant Microsoft recently revealed how playing a particular song can crash some models of its laptops. The song up for grabs was “Rhythm Nation” by popular singer and dancer Janet Jackson.

Chen, a senior software engineer at Microsoft, said they discovered an unusual incident. According to Chen, playing “Rhythm Nation” on a laptop caused another laptop placed next to it to crash. This happened even when the song was not playing on the laptop.

Natural resonant frequency

In the blog, Chen said the song contained one of the natural resonant frequencies of the 5400 rpm model of laptop hard drives used by Microsoft and other companies.

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“The manufacturer got around the problem by adding a custom filter in the audio pipeline that detected and removed the offending frequencies during audio playback,” Chen said.

The software engineer went on to say that he was sure they put a digital version of the “do not remove” sticker on the audio filter. “And I’m sure they’ve put a digital version of a ‘Do Not Remove’ sticker on that audio filter. (Although I’m afraid in the many years since the solution was added workaround, no one remembers why it was there. Hopefully their laptops don’t carry this audio filter yet to protect against damage to a hard drive model they no longer use.)” read the blog post.

According to experts, the problem resembled the breaking of glass by an opera singer who sings in a particular pitch. Since sounds are acoustic waves, a particular wavelength for a said material can create the most vibrations. This is called the resonant frequency of the medium.

A security breach?

A report filed by The Miter Corporation, an NGO conducting security R&D, said affected laptops sold in 2005 had crashed due to a similar frequency found in Jackson’s music video. The organization classified the issue as a security vulnerability that could potentially allow hackers to crash the system using the audio signal from the “Rhythm Nation” music video.

Today’s laptops are unlikely to face such a problem since manufacturers have added a custom filter into the audio pipeline that identifies and erases disturbing frequencies during audio playback.

“Rhythm Nation”, the second single from Jackson’s album “Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814”, was released in 1989. The song which was known for its social theme and upbeat music soared to number two on the Billboard Hot 100 when it comes out. The song went on to win several accolades, including the BMI Pop Award for Most Performed Song, the Billboard Award for Best Dance/Club Single, and Jackson’s nomination as Grammys Producer of the Year.