Thursday, February 4, 2016

Janet Jackson - Control

Today (February 4th) marks the thirtieth anniversary of Control, the third studio album from Janet Jackson. Working with producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, this 1986 release was a smash hit that combined R&B, rap, funk and dance into a perfect package. The record soared to number 57 in Japan, number 47 in Sweden, number 36 in Germany, number 28 in Switzerland, number 25 in Australia, number in Canada, number 8 in the UK, number 7 in the Netherlands and number 5 in New Zealand. Here in the US, it went to number 1 on both the Billboard Album chart and the R&B chart. Its stay on the former chart was impressive one-hundred and six weeks total run, two of which was at the top spot.

Side one kicks off with the title track. "Control" was the fourth single from the record, released in October of 1986. It still managed to hit number 82 in Australia, number 42 in the UK, number 20 in Belgium, number 18 in Canada, number 16 in New Zealand, number 12 in the Netherlands, number 5 on the US Billboard Hot 100, and number 1 on both the US Billboard R&B and Dance charts. Janet opens it with a prophetic thirty second message, stating that things are going to be done her way this time. She is in control, and it definitely shows on the song and the rest of the record. She co-wrote and co-produced seven of the nine tracks with Jam and Lewis. This self-asserting song is dominated by a driving, echoing, digitized drumbeat that rules the dance floors.

"Nasty", the second single, shot all the way to number 99 in France, number 21 in Austria, number 20 in Ireland, number 19 in the UK, number 17 in Australia, number 14 in Italy, number 8 in Canada, New Zealand and Switzerland, number 5 in the Netherlands, number 4 in Belgium, number 3 on the US Billboard Hot 100, number 2 on the US Billboard Dance chart, and number 1 on the US Billboard R&B chart. Janet opens with the exclamation "give me a beat!", and boy does she get one. This song too was all over the dance floors back in the day; it was guaranteed to get the crowd up on their feet and moving. Its overall confidence and attitude could not be denied.

Next Janet asks "What Have You Done For Me Lately". As the first single, it hit number 27 in New Zealand, number 19 in South Africa, number 10 in Ireland, number 9 in Switzerland, number 8 in Germany, number 7 in Belgium, number 6 in Australia and Canada, number 4 on the US Billboard Hot 100, number 3 in the Netherlands and the UK, number 2 on the US Billboard Dance chart, and number 1 on the US Billboard R&B chart. The lyrics reflect the singer's frustration with her failed marriage with her recently divorced husband James DeBarge. I always liked the keyboard hooks of this one as they are a reflection of the 80's Minneapolis sound.

"You Can Be Mine" closes out a pitch perfect first half. The melody cascades through out, and Janet's vocals equally modulate from verses to chorus.

Side two begins with "The Pleasure Principle". Penned and produced by Monte Moir, this sixth single hit number 50 in Australia, number 37 in New Zealand, number 35 in Canada, number 24 in the UK, number 23 in Ireland, number 17 in Belgium, number 14 on the US Billboard Hot 100, and number 1 on both the US Billboard R&B and Dance charts. The beat comes thundering right out of the gate, while a funky bass line runs throughout in the background to give the song a great foundation. Through the lyrics, the singer turns her back on a loveless materialistic relationship and seeks true happiness.

The third single was "When I Think of You". It went to number 53 in Australia, number 36 in Germany, number 24 in Spain, number 23 in New Zealand, number 10 in Ireland and the UK and on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart, number 8 in Belgium, number 6 in Canada, number 3 in the Netherlands and on the US Billboard R&B chart, and number 1 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and Dance charts. The music video, directed by Julien Temple, was very cool in that it follows Janet through a neighborhood setting. What was even more amazing is that the entire thing was only done with five cuts. Paula Abdul choreographed it and even appears in a cameo. The keyboard opening really pulls me right in every time I listen to it.

The B-side to the first single was "He Doesn't Know I'm Alive", a song written by Spencer Bernard. This song about a woman who is experiencing unrequited love features Troy Anthony on saxophone.

It is finally time to slow things down a bit. "Let's Wait Awhile", an anthem for sexual abstinence and the delay of intimacy, heated up the charts in early 1987. This fifth single went to number 34 in Germany, number 27 in Switzerland, number 26 in New Zealand, number 21 in Australia, number 16 in the Netherlands, number 15 in Belgium, number 11 in Canada, number 3 in the UK, number 2 on both the US Billboard Hot 100 and Adult Contemporary charts, and number 1 on the US Billboard R&B chart. This was a big slow dance number back in the clubs.

"Funny How Time Flies (When You're Having Fun)", the closing ballad, charted at number 59 in the UK and number 24 in Ireland. This one has a cool sway to it with a very intimate arrangement and vocals.

I owned a copy of Control on cassette back in 1986, and I wore it out playing it so often on my boom box during my final my college years. This record was one of my go-to's for preparing for a night out dancing. It still remains one of my favorite albums from that year. Jam and Lewis, along with many of their fellow members of the Time, took Janet to a whole new level musically and created one of the landmark albums of the 80's.

The album was nominated for four Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year, Best R&B Song, Best Female R&B Vocal Performance, and Producer of the Year (which it won). It was nominated for twelve American Music Awards, of which it won four. It also won three Soul Train Awards, six Billboard Music Awards and one MTV Video Music Award. Rolling Stone ranked it at number 28 on the list of "the 100 Best Albums of the Eighties", Vibe included it on its list of "the 100 Essential Albums of the 20th Century", and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ranked it at number 86 on its list of "the Definitive 200: Top 200 Albums of All-Time".

For more from Janet Jackson, click here.


Mark said...

Teaming up with Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis may have been the career move of the decade. "When I Think of You" is by far my favorite on this one.

HERC said...

This was an absolute MONSTER back in the day, spinning off hits not just left and right but every which way. While you are familiar with many tracks from radio play and your nightly clubbing adventures, my fondest memories of this are the state of the art twelve inch single remixes, which come to think of it were probably getting massive club play though I listened to them pretty much every where I went.

While attending a massive car stereo competition in Tempe in the Fall of 1986, I first heard "Control (The Video Mix)" in a semi-trailer tricked out with the latest in mobile audio gear from a top manufacturer (Pioneer or Alpine?) and it was pure audio nirvana with the sound coming at from 360 degrees. It was one of the few times I was blown away by the sound of a cassette recording.

Shortly thereafter, Janet's Control: The Remixes CD showed up in the import section of Loco Records and I bought it immediately though I recall it was very expensive; might have even been my first purchase with my shiny new credit card. Still didn't have a CD player in the HERCmobile so I ended up dubbing it on a TDK MA 90 tape, padding it out with a few other mixes from my own collection of twelve inch singles from Control. Of course, I dubbed it Complete Control as I didn't foresee the release of two further singles from the album. Who releases seven singles from an album? Back then, only people named Jackson or Springsteen did.

While "When I Think Of You" might be my favorite track on Control, the Cool Summer Mix (Part One) of "Nasty" is my favorite remix and gets play by the pool every Summer along with Herb Alpert's horny "Nasty" Cool Summer Mix (Part Two). In fact, though it was released smack dab in the middle of Winter, Control will always be a Summer album to me.