Before she could tackle the world’s problems and play utopian visionary on 1989’s Rhythm Nation 1814, had to handle her own business. She did so with Control, the career-making declaration of independence she released 30 years ago, on Feb. 4, 1986.


Control was the culmination of a series of very wise decisions that must have taken a lot of guts. In the mid-‘80s, Janet was a TV actress (Diff’rentStrokes, Fame, Good Times) who also made middling pop records. Her father, Joe, had overseen her first two albums, Janet Jackson (1982) and Dream Street (1984), and given the success he’d achieved with her older brothers, there was pressure to let him continue running the show.


Only Janet didn’t want to play by her family’s rules, so she fired her father as manager and hired A&M exec John McClain. In the lead-up to Janet’s third LP, McClain suggested she fly to Minneapolis, of all places, and try her luck with a couple of former Prince associates. The trip paid off in a big way.


Producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis had been playing together since high school — before Prince tapped them for his offshoot band The Time — and by the mid-‘80s, they’d developed a hard-edged, synth-driven pop sound that looked back to vintage funk while anticipating the ubiquity of hip-hop. Rather than write a bunch of songs before their new client arrived, Jam and Lewis waited to hang with Jackson and get a sense of who she was and where she was headed.


2/6/2016 by Kenneth Partridge Kenneth Partridge