Album Review: Janet Jackson – “Control”

Janet Jackson’s Control album was released in 1986.  It was her third album, but this was the album that broke Janet’s career wide open.  Six of the nine songs on the album were released as singles, with all but one reaching the top ten on the Billboard Hot 100.  I was a pre-teen when I was hearing the singles from this album, and I have to say that I believe that it was the sassiness present in the material that really piqued my interest.

Control opens with the title song, and Janet makes it very clear from her opening lines what the tone and attitude of the overall album is: “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.”  In this song, Janet is basically saying that now that she’s an adult, she’s taking control of her own life.  This was the fourth single released from the album, and it hit number five on the Billboard Hot 100.

The next song on the album is “Nasty.”  In this song, Janet is declaring that men with only “nasty” intentions are of no interest to her as potential dates.  While the overall song is very sassy in nature, the sassiness reaches its peak when Janet declares: “No, my first name ain’t baby.  It’s Janet.  Ms. Jackson if you’re nasty.”  This was the second single off of Control, and it hit number three on the Billboard Hot 100.

“What Have You Done for Me Lately” sees Janet wondering why her boyfriend is no longer doing things for her and why he keeps standing her up, and why it seems he seems to be neglecting her and putting his wants and needs before hers.  This was the lead-off single for the album, and it reached number four on the Billboard Hot 100.

“You Can Be Mine” was one of the three songs on Control to not be released as a single.  As I listen to it, I can see why.  It’s nowhere near as “pop friendly” as the songs that were released as singles.  It’s also rather redundant, both musically and lyrically.

This is followed by “The Pleasure Principle,” which is my all-time favorite song from Control.  It’s a song where Janet is breaking things off with her significant other, and how the relationship wasn’t what she thought it was.  This was the final single issued from the album; unfortunately, it only managed to reach number fourteen on the Billboard Hot 100.

“When I Think of You” is a song where Janet is singing a song of praise for her significant other.  Of the singles released for the album, it’s probably the least “sassy,” and it was also the only single from Control to reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100.  This is my second favorite song on the album, right behind “The Pleasure Principle.”

This is followed by “He Doesn’t Know I’m Alive,” another song from the album that was not released as a single.  It’s more of a mid-tempo song compared to the previous songs to appear on the album.  Musically, it sounds rather generic.  “He Doesn’t Know I’m Alive” sounds a lot like the dance and rhythmic material being released in the mid-1980s; this wouldn’t have really stood out compared to other songs being released to the clubs at that time.  This is probably why it was never released as a single.

The album slows down with “Let’s Wait Awhile,” which is one of only two ballads on Control.  It’s a song about slowing down a relationship, before things go too far and the relationship potentially falls apart.  This was the fifth single released from the album, and it reached number two on the Billboard Hot 100.

The album closes with “Funny How Time Flies (When You’re Having Fun),” another song that was not released as a single.  This is another ballad; however, unlike “Let’s Wait Awhile,” it doesn’t have pop appeal.  Musically, this song is definitely an R&B sounding song.  “Funny How Time Flies (When You’re Having Fun)” isn’t a bad song, but it definitely isn’t a pop single.  This song definitely sounds like it was meant to be an album closer.

Overall, Control is a rather strong album.  However, I think that the follow-up album, Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814, is even stronger.

I wrote this review after listening to a copy of Control that I purchased.


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