Review Summary: Janet (New Jack)son bursts onto the scene.Control
was Janet Jackson's third studio album, and the one that caused her to burst into the mainstream as a solo artist in 1986. Along with producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Janet devised a new style of contemporary R&B which would later become known as New Jack Swing, or just New Jack for short. New Jack consists of disco, funk, hip-hop and dance-pop beats, fused with samplers, and swing beats produced by drum machines. This unique style of production at the time would prove to be very influential over the next five to six years, with artists such as Madonna, Paula Abdul and Michael Jackson adapting the sound for their own musical output. Although the style saw a decline in popularity around 1992, many contemporary pop, hip-hop and R&B artists still borrow elements of New Jack for their music today.
opens with the title-track, which begins with a monologue from a then 19-year-old Janet talking about how she is now in control of what she does and what she says, presumably having taken this control away from her parents. This sets the precedent for the rest of the lyrics on the album, which are mostly ruminations about love from the perspective of a naïve and sheltered young woman, who perhaps wasn't granted romantic freedom in her teenage years. Although there aren't any overtly sexual lyrics on this album (you'll have to wait until her self-titled album for that), there are a few indirect references to sexuality. The second track Nasty
sees Janet having cautious interest in "nasty boys", whom she degrades for driving "nasty cars" and eating "nasty food", but whom she also wants to see their "nasty bod[ies] move". The ballad Let's Wait Awhile
shows Janet expressing her desire to wait (for sex, we assume), but promising the man in question that it will be worth the wait.
As for the flow of the album, the first five tracks are banger after banger after banger. These tracks are up-tempo, catchy, and almost impossible not to dance to. When I Think of You
and He Doesn't Know That I'm Alive
, which are tracks six and seven respectively, are still fast-paced, but they have distinctly moodier beats as well as much more soulful singing from Janet. The last two tracks, Let's Wait Awhile
and Funny How Time Flies (When You're Having Fun)
, are ballads, ending what could either be an album or a cardiovascular workout with something to slow dance or relax to. Normally, I prefer when the ballads on pop albums are scattered in the midst of the tracklist, but Control
slowly eases into them in a way that sounds natural, organic. With nine tracks and a modest runtime of 41 minutes, Control
is a concise and accessible listen, and is spared the problem which has plagued every Janet album since, of being a bit too long and containing at least a few filler tracks.
was a phenomenon in the late 80's, and continues to be acknowledged as one of the greatest pop and R&B albums not only of that decade, but of all time. Although New Jack in its purest form has since evaporated, the offspring of Control
can still be detected in today's music, with some obnoxiously fake snare beats here, and some syncopated synth samples there. To conclude, I want to mention once more Janet's brother Michael, or the "King of Pop", if you will. It is no secret that Michael Jackson owned the eighties, barging in with Off the Wall
and solidifying himself with Thriller
. But it was with the stylistic assist from sister Janet that Michael was able to continue his legacy into the nineties with Dangerous
, which is the best-selling New Jack album of all time.