“This is a story about control. My control. Control of what I say. Control of what I do. And this time I’m gonna do it my way. I hope you enjoy this as much as I do. Are we ready? I am. Cause it’s all about control. And I’ve got lots of it.” as a 19 year old Janet Jackson speaks on the intro to her single ‘Control’ which became a signature moment in her career which took to her to new heights. Long before Destiny’s Child, Beyonce, Spice Girls or even Shampoo, Janet was preaching for her own independence and girl power for herself and every woman way back in 1986. The young Janet back then felt like she had a lot to prove as a Jackson as she felt like she was living in her brothers shadow.
The album title ‘Control’ was no gimmick. It didn’t just have it’s small moment in her career and then we all moved on. The title is exactly what Janet did. She took control of herself and career.
The album album became a huge success worldwide selling over 10 million copies and is still referenced 31 years later as it has influenced the young generation of pop stars that have come up after Miss Jackson.
The album was the first to be produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis and was the start of many masterpieces they would create with Janet. The album created many hit singles that would become anthems for woman everywhere. Some of those included ‘Nasty’, ‘What Have You Done For Me Lately’, ‘The Pleasure Principle’ and her first #1 single ‘When I Think of You’.
Apart from being siblings at this moment in time, what separated Michael and Janet’s music was the vibe they would give off in their music. Michael was riding high off of Thriller, which is the worlds best selling album of all time which contained sweet soulful songs like ‘Human Nature’ and ‘P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)’ whilst Janet’s album contained feisty anthems and slow numbers which was the start of her being a sex symbol on the dreamy ‘Funny How Time Flies (When You’re Having Fun)’. The next year, Michael would go on to have a more tough sound and image on ‘Bad’.
The first single from ‘Control’ was ‘What Have You Done For Me Lately’ which was Janet’s first worldwide successful single. Described as being an “aggressive independent woman” on the song Janet is questioning what her man has to offer her and mentioning his previous actions. Jackson sings: “I never ask for more than I deserve, you know it’s the truth. You seem to think you’re God’s gift to this earth. I’m telling you no way” with such strength and power, it was no wonder it became such an anthem. As the first single to launch the album and the first song we heard from Janet where she was allowed to have a big input on her music compared to her first two early albums, we got to see who the real Janet Jackson actually was and how she was actually feeling.
The follow up single ‘Nasty’ see’s Janet on a much harder beat as she demands “GIMME A BEAT!” at the beginning. We learn from the early stages of this era that Janet is not a woman you wanna mess with. Rolling Stone described the song perfectly, they said: “She’s still basically a nice girl but ready to kick some butt if you try to put her on a pedestal“. The song contains such sass and independence as she contentiously sings in the chorus: “Nasty boys, don’t mean a thing” as she reminds them who’s in charge: “I’m not a prude. I just want some respect. So close the door if you want me to respond.” as she continues and delivers the iconic lines: “‘Cause privacy is my middle name. My last name is Control. No my first name ain’t baby. It’s Janet. Miss Jackson if you’re nasty“. The energy and strength in the song and video was inspiring as we’re hearing and watching such a young woman be so sure of what she does and doesn’t want which is why in 2017, these songs are still considered feminist anthems.
The album title track was written about Janet separating from her dad and having the career she wants to have, her way. Janet’s dad had a big input on her first two albums and Janet had had enough of being managed and controlled by him. In the music video we see Janet question her parents about how she should be moved out and living in her own place but her dad is having none of it. The video breaks into the song where the intro is Janet speaking: “This is a story about control. My control. Control of what I say. Control of what I do. And this time I’m gonna do it my way. I hope you enjoy this as much as I do. Are we ready? I am. Cause it’s all about control. And I’ve got lots of it.”. Janet goes on to sing: “When I was 17 I did what people told me, uhh! Did what my father said, and let my mother mold me. But that was long ago” as she proudly continues: “So make your life a little easier, when you get the chance just take” influencing others to make something of themselves their own way.
Not all of ‘Control’ is about independence and empowerment but the whole record fits into the albums title as it’s the first album from Janet that was made the way she wanted it to be. She picked the producers, she was writing all the songs this time around and she had a creative input in the music videos too as we see Janet choreographing the whole of ‘The Pleasure Principle’ video all by herself which has been impersonated numerous times.
Janet’s ‘Control’ was a staple moment in Jackson’s career as it was the beginning of many things to come. Not just her own career but it opened the doors for females and even males to express themselves freely in their art via sound, video and on stage performances. From all female group’s like Destiny’s Child and TLC singing their ‘Independent Women’ and ‘No Scrubs’ anthems to R&B male entertainers like Usher and Jason Derulo to the obvious solo females like Britney Spears, Tinashe, Jennifer Lopez, Rihanna and Ciara – they have all borrowed from the success and sound Janet created as she built the house they are living in right now.