Feb 15 2022

Album Review: Janet Jackson – Control (#MWE)

l’m not sure if I want to make the argument here, because I’m not sure of where I stand on it… but you could definitely make the case for Janet being the superior Jackson. After all, Janet never faced the inevitable downturn most pop stars face; even the King of Pop, her brother Michael, eventually started seeing diminishing returns on the charts. No, actually the thing that prevented Janet from continuing her hitmaking streak was an undeserved backlash to a wardrobe malfunction, a reaction that in hindsight seems tinged with unfairness and misogyny. If it had never happened, Janet probably would still be selling millions today. She seemingly had no end to her innovation.

That all started with Control, her third album, and the beginning of many things: the first, for Jackson, with the all-star team of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, and the first project independent of her father Joseph’s supervision. It’s also considered a sort of proto-New Jack Swing album, and the first of Jackson’s projects with an autobiographical theme. The title track and first song sets the template – Janet takes charge of the narrative and proclaims that this time, she’s in control. Behind the boards, Jam and Lewis fuse rap, R&B, heavy percussion, funk, and an amalgamation of other disparate sounds they honed under the guise of Prince and his team at Paisley Park.

From there, the beat goes on, as does Jackson’s dynamic presence: “Nasty” and “What Have You Done For Me Lately” are a one-two punch of Top Ten singles that speak to female agency and independence. Control is an overwhelming treasure trove of infectious hooks – even when the trio play it somewhat safe, as on “Pleasure Principle,” the end result is still a disco-tinged, guitar solo-laden dose of fun. Elsewhere, when Jackson makes the decision to turn down the assertion and coast into a fun love song, as on “When I Think of You,” a strutting bass line and synth stabs accompany her playful cooing over a danceable post-disco shuffle. The album slows down the tempo near the end via the single “Let’s Wait Awhile,” which upon release was praised for its pro-abstinence message in the wake of the AIDS crisis, and closer “Funny How Time Flies.”

The story goes that before Control, Jackson was underestimated greatly by critics as just a pop star with a notable family name coasting through a series of hits, all of which she had little input. In fact, even when she continued to prove everyone wrong, they still doubted her. In hindsight it seems ridiculous that they ever did; Janet Jackson is unquestionably a pop icon who reinvented her approach several times over, all to great degrees of success. In many instances, she was ahead of the curve, predicting trends years before they dominated the zeitgeist. Control is just the first instance of this happening, when a savvy Black woman changed the whole game and made everyone else look very, very stupid. Some people still haven’t learned the lesson, one Janet has been teaching since 1986.

Score: 9/10

Jul 12 2010

Just An Obligatory Post Cuz It’s Almost Midnight

I really like these videos. You will too. Promise.