This month, 30 years ago, an album of extraordinary splendor saw the light of day.
JANET JACKSON CONTROL (1986, A&M RECORDS)
I was 12, going on 13 and my horizons were steadily widening from an all-pop landscape to more challenging aspects of the musical map. The year was 1986 and while Madge’s True Blue positioned her pop icon status and as my pop goddess, and Peter Gabriel’s So was my album of the year, both Anita Baker and Prince stepped into my life, with the albums Rapture and Parade, respectively. This was also the year that I for the first time discovered the wonderful world of R&B, thanks to Ms. Jackson’s Control.
For me, prior to this she was one of the kids in the TV-show Fame. But Control did turn the tables altogether, not just for her, but also how funky R&B crossed over to the pop scene, without feeling like a sellout. This very much thanks to Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, who took on Janet and what they did was so refreshing and inspirational, with a genuine and true feeling of emancipation in every chord, word and note. Because yes, this was definitely about freedom and about taking a stand. Janet wanted control and took it.
As much as I loved the album, the radiant and sassy music videos was an additional reason to fall in love with Ms Janet. The videos for What Have You Done For Me Lately, Nasty, When I Think Of You and The Pleasure Principle were more like revelations to me, than just ordinary pop videos. The attitude, the confidence, the dancing, the choreography. The shear atmosphere of the production got me on my knees. Or rather, on my feet. It had the 13-year old me dancing long before I even thought I could make a career out of it.
I do think that The Velvet Rope could actually be her best album to date, but what Control had was that air of something new, something I’ve never heard before. And it still does throw me back to that moment in time, to that beat, that lovely, nasty beat.
No, my first name ain’t baby, it’s Janet, Miss Jackson if you’re nasty