I'm not here to feed your insecurities
I wanted you to love me
This has become an all too familiar scene
It's not the first time I've paid the fare
Where'd you get the idea of material possession?
Thank you for the ride nowhere
And oh my meter's running, so I really have to go.
After several years of professional and familial turmoil, two prior albums flopping,note and a recent annulment of her marriage to James DeBarge, Janet finally fired her father, Joseph, as her manager. She conferred with A&M's resident A&R John McCain, who then subsequently linked her with former The Time members James "Jimmy Jam" Harris III and Terry Lewis, also known collectively as Flyte Tyme. Temporarily relocating to Flyte Tyme's native Minneapolis, mainly to prevent her father from running interference, Janet spent the first week with the producers getting to know them on a personal level, partially so they'd know what songs would fit her best.
Although most of Control's material was already previously written for another singer that rejected the songs for being "rambunctious," Janet offered her input on the lyrics and production. As a result, much of the album is heavily autobiographical in nature. For instance, "What Have You Done For Me Lately" was re-written to convey her emotions about her split from James DeBarge, while the title track dealt with Janet's emancipation from her father's overbearing management, and wanting to take control of both her music career, and her life in general. Meanwhile, Flyte Tyme crafted the album's production with their former boss' trademark "Minneapolis Sound," adding in some extra Hip-Hop influence to appeal to the urban community, while also aiming for crossover pop success.
As time would tell, she didn't need Joseph at all. Control was Janet's declaration of independence. And it served its purpose well.
Regarded as Jackson's breakout album, Control was critically and commercially successful, becoming her first chart topper on both the Billboard 200 and the R&B charts. Critics praised both the album's innovative production, and Jackson successfully breaking out of her family's shadow by making herself stand out on the album. Control was eventually certified six-times Platinum in the US, and sold over 10 million copies worldwide. Since then, Janet has worked with Jam & Lewis almost exclusively, with 2008's Discipline being the lone post-Control album that didn't feature their work.
It produced seven singles: "What Have You Done For Me Lately", "Nasty", "When I Think of You", the Title Track, "Let's Wait a While", "The Pleasure Principle", and "Funny How Time Flies (When You're Having Fun)". The first five were all Top-5 hits on the Billboard Hot 100, with "When I Think of You" becoming Janet's first #1 single. Five of them were also hits in the UK, with three going Top 10 there.
The album, particularly the tracks "Nasty" and "What Have You Done For Me lately", is frequently cited as the early blueprint of the New Jack Swing fusion genre, which further blended the sound of New York City hip hop with the Minneapolis Sound; culminating in Keith Sweat's Teddy Riley-produced debut Make It Last Forever being released the year after Jackson's Control.
The album won Flyte Tyme a Grammy Award for Producer of the Year, Non-Classical, in 1987. Several of the associated music videos earned her praise for their choreography, particularly "Nasty", which was choreographed along with rising choreographer and future music star Paula Abdul. "Nasty" (1987) and "The Pleasure Principle" (1988) won Janet Best Choreography in consecutive years at the MTV Video Music Awards. She also dominated the Best Music Video category at both the American and Soul Train Music Awards in both years.
While Control did not feature on the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time from Rolling Stone in 2003 or 2012, they did rank it #28 among the Best Albums of The '80s. It was finally placed at #111 on the 2020 version of their all-time list; both Rhythm Nation 1814 and The Velvet Rope appeared on all three lists, and Control placed higher than either of those albums ever did.
- "Control" (5:53)
- "Nasty" (4:03)
- "What Have You Done For Me Lately" (4:59)
- "You Can Be Mine" (5:16)
- "Start Anew" (4:19)*
- "The Pleasure Principle" (4:58)
- "When I Think of You" (3:56)
- "He Doesn't Know I'm Alive" (3:30)
- "Let's Wait Awhile" (4:37)
- "Funny How Time Flies (When You're Having Fun)" (4:29)
* = "Start Anew" was originally recorded in 1985 for a Japanese VHS commercial, and was included on early Japanese pressings of Control as the fifth track. It's one of the few tracks not written or produced by Janet or Flyte Tyme.
"What have you troped for me, lately? Oooo, yeah..."
- Album Intro Track: Although not a separate interlude track, as would be pervasive in future Janet albums, there is a spoken-word intro to the opening track, "Control":This is a story about 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?
'Cause it's all about control
And I've got lots of it.
- Album Title Drop: "Control" in the Title Track.
- Canon Discontinuity: The success of Control actually displaced her first two albums from her discography to the point where most people think Control is her debut. Janet still acknowledges them, but Control is still treated as her de facto debut, as evidenced by the fact her 2006 album 20 Y.O. was an anniversary album for Control, and not her debut.
- Coming-of-Age Story: Control's creation as a whole served as this for Janet, which is reflected in much of its lyrical content, particularly on the title track.
- Early Installment Weirdness: While Control showed early signs of Janet embracing her more sensual side, it still pales in comparison to janet. years later.
- Let's Wait a While: The song of the same name is the Trope Namer, and was written at the height of the AIDS epidemic to encourage sexual abstinence.
- Lyrical Cold Open: Janet shouts out "Gimme a beat!" at the beginning of "Nasty".
- "Metaphor" Is My Middle Name: Used in "Nasty" during the third verse.'Cause "privacy" is my middle name
My last name is "control"
No, my first name ain't "baby".
It's Janet. Ms. Jackson, if you're nasty.
- New Jack Swing: Control was the prototype, and served as the blueprint for Teddy Riley and even Jam & Lewis themselves to take hip hop and R&B music by storm for the next decade.
- Record Producer: Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, aka Flyte Tyme, former Prince underlings and founders of The Time, who became hitmakers during the mid-80's before linking with Janet. Fellow former Time cohorts Jellybean Johnson and Monte Moir contributed as well, with Moir's "The Pleasure Principle" being the lone track Jam & Lewis didn't produce themselves. Janet herself has co-production credits on every track except "Start Anew".
- Remix Album: Control: The Remixes, released in 1987 everywhere but North America.
- Spoken Word in Music:
- "Control" has a spoken intro.
- "What Have You Done For Me Lately" on the album begins with Janet talking with another woman about the man she's in love with, with the woman asking Janet "what has he done for you lately?"
- Take That!: The album has many not-so-subtle shots at Jackson's ex-husband James Debarge, and especially her father Joseph.
- Prince, who had a well-known disdain for copycats, shaded Jam & Lewis during a concert by performing a snippet of "What Have You Done For Me Lately", before stopping and asking "Who wrote this?", then segueing to his song "Controversy", as if to imply he wrote it; and regularly continued doing this from the single's release, to his dying day. It's been long rumored that Flyte Tyme jacked the song from Prince, but there's been no solid evidence to prove it.note
- They Call Me MISTER Tibbs!: Follows up the "Metaphor" Is My Middle Name lines in "Nasty".
- Title Track: "Control".
- What Have You Done for Me Lately?: The song ain't the trope namer, but the phrase is commonly associated with the song, and for good reason, since it's aimed at a selfish lover.