This week’s featured LP is one of the several classics from the Jacksons. If you know about the history of the Jackson family, you know that their father, Joe Jackson, controlled their careers for quite some time, which actually goes right with the theme of the album.
Two Jacksons, in particular, were able to branch away from the shackles of their father and go on to have successful solo careers, those being Michael and Janet. Control is Janet’s third studio album but her first not having her father as a manager.
The very first thing I picked up on when starting this record was the intro to the song “Control.” I know I heard those words somewhere and it turns out Jhene Aíko uttered the same exact words on the intro of Ab-Soul’s album Control System.
Janet then goes on to sing about severing ties with her family and being grown. Control is somewhat of an autobiographical album from Janet’s perspective. She had just fired her father as a manager and was newly managed under John McClain who was the executive of A&M records at the time. She married James DeBarge in 1984, of whom her family disapproved, two years prior to the record, and divorced him just a year later.
This was a profound transformation for Janet, having new management and producers to solidify her style for this LP. She said that she didn’t even want to make her first self-titled record because she wanted to go to school, but of course papa Joe wasn’t having that.
Many themes can be found through this record, from independence, sexual fluidity, rebellion, feminism, abstinence, and of course, love. Janet really proved herself as a performer too, as she filmed several music videos for songs from this LP, showcasing her dance moves. This was big for Janet especially being around the time that MTV was gaining popularity.
Producers Terry Lewis and Jimmy Jam, who were responsible for most of the writing and production of Janet’s record, were both affiliated with Prince and his various bands. Sonically, the record is extremely 80s for obvious reasons and the flow of the album perfectly transitions from upbeat to more calm. They even won a Grammy for Producer of the Year for this record, and the record itself was nominated for Album of the Year in 1987.
A total of five singles (“What Have You Done for Me Lately,” “Nasty,” “Control,” When I Think of You,” and “Let’s Wait a While”) from this nine-song LP peaked on the Billboard charts in the top ten, and the album charted at number one on the Billboard 200. Seven songs total became singles which is an incredible batting average. Also, with over 10 million records sold, it’s safe to say that Control is a classic.
My personal favorite is the last song, “Funny How Time Flies (When You’re Having Fun)” mainly because of the smooth chord progressions throughout the track. Control is definitely a stepping-out from the shadows of Janet’s brothers and especially her father, and it goes to show how she took full control of the rest of her career, which was and still is extremely successful.
Shouts out to, unfortunately, Trump, “nasty woman,” and Hillary Clinton for making Janet’s song “Nasty” relevant again during the debates last year. Spin Control below via Spotify.