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Janet Jackson’s ‘Rhythm Nation’ has a wild audio glitch — which crashes laptops

Janet Jackson’s 1989 hit “Rhythm Nation” is too much for some laptops to handle.

Microsoft’s principal software engineer Raymond Chen revealed on his blog Tuesday that the song has the same frequency as some older model laptops’ hard drives — called a resonate frequency, which is the natural frequency of an object.

And, unfortunately, it can cause laptops to shut off.

This wacky coincidence is comparable to how glass shatters when exposed to certain sounds.

Chen reported that an unnamed “major computer manufacturer” figured this out when nearby computers surrounding the one playing the song crashed.

“I would not have wanted to be in the laboratory that they must have set up to investigate this problem. Not an artistic judgement,” Chen wrote in his blog.

“It turns out that the song contained one of the natural resonant frequencies for the model of 5400 rpm laptop hard drives that they and other manufacturers used,” according to Chen

However, Chen said manufacturers added a “custom filter in the audio pipeline that detected and removed the offending frequencies during audio playback,” which resolved the bug.

Older laptops may not be Janet Jackson fans.
Older laptops may not be Janet Jackson fans.
Redferns; Getty Images/iStockphoto

“And I’m sure they put a digital version of a ‘Do not remove’ sticker on that audio filter. (Though I’m worried that in the many years since the workaround was added, nobody remembers why it’s there),” Chen wrote.

“Hopefully, their laptops are not still carrying this audio filter to protect against damage to a model of hard drive they are no longer using,” he added.

Upon its release in the ’80s, “Rhythm Nation” debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard Top 200 chart. It also earned Jackson a Grammy nomination for “Producer of the Year.”

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