“Control” by Janet Jackson (1986)

Janet’s 1986 declaration of independence caused reverberations that are still being felt in 2018. Control, the album, changed the game for pop and R&B in a way not unlike her brother did with Thriller four years before. It found the youngest Jackson crossing the child-to-adult star finish line in classier fashion than anyone outside her own family, and set the template for Beyonce, Britney, Taylor, Aaliyah, Justin and just about every pop star to emerge in the last three decades. It’s so good that JJ’s archrival Madonna co-opted the lyrics for her own “Deeper and Deeper” six years later.

“Control” the song is funky, sassy and defiant without being incredibly heavy. Janet even laughs at one point. There have been life lessons learned (“so young and so lucky, I thought it would be easy”), but Janet’s not letting life get her down just yet.

Janet’s voice has often been criticized for its smallness (relative to Patti/Aretha/Whitney and the image of the typical black female vocal powerhouse), but it’s full of character. Her singing has attitude, but she also sounds like she’s got life experience beyond the 19 years she’d accumulated up to that point. I guess she did, really…she was a teenage divorcee who’d been involved with an addict and…well, she was a Jackson on top of that. Think about it. Janet might’ve been the most famous teenage black girl in America until Kim Fields and the Huxtable sisters showed up. Have I mentioned that Janet needs to write a book? A real book, not that self-help True You stuff.

Low-key never discussed fact: Control was the first New Jack Swing album.

Killer mission statement, killer production, killer album opener, killer lyrics–things you can say about the majority of the Control album, actually. Five stars without question.

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