On this date in 1986, Janet Jackson began a two-week stint at No. 1 with her “Control” album. The recording was full of hits and served as a foreshadowing of the music to come from Jackson’s later album’s, including 1989’s “Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814.”
“Control” was full of songs that persist as classic’s from Jackson’s catalog. “Control” is largely considered the album that established her as an artist in her own right and not just as a member of her show business dynasty family.
The popularity of “Control” by Janet Jackson
While the actual factors that impact an album reaching the top of the charts is often difficult to pinpoint, sometimes there are circumstances that aid an album’s popularity.
In 1986, r&b was dominated by males, such Morris Day and The Time, Prince and a handful of newcomers that had releases in 1985 like Ready for the World. Fans of r&b were ready for something new. Also, on the pop side, synth pop and new wave were showing their ages. In short, it did not seem that anyone was doing exactly what Jackson was doing.
And for fans who hadn’t seen Jackson do much since her role as “Penny” on “Good Times,” “Control” was an effective reminder that she had a voice and a vision.
And maybe that was it – – “Control” succeeded because it harnessed Jackson’s vision. In addition, young women agreed with her. The protest against boorish male behavior in “Nasty” and the self-determining ethos of “Control” (the title track), along with the ever popular ballads, such as “Let’s Wait A While,” made “Control” a fan favorite. Not to mention that “Let’s Wait A While” seemed to be an urban high school talent show staple. Even adults in the era could cheer for a song that seemed to promote waiting before engaging in sexual intimacy.
Aside from the ballads, the popular tracks on “Control” are danceable. In 1986, the idea of going out dancing was as popular as ever. Jackson’s fashion and moves from the videos for “Control,” “Nasty” and “Pleasure Principle” (except for the chair move, maybe) inspired young women across the US to take charge of their lives. Or put another way, and to use a metaphor from Jackson’s world: the album encouraged listeners to be their own choreographer. Watching Jackson dance in powerful moves wearing black clothes and a bright lip signaled power to viewers. The result was likely the album’s ascent to No. 1.
There are reasons that “Control” reached No. 1. As with other chart-toppers, it is difficult to pinpoint exactly why the album was so popular. But, the fact that the sound and style of “Control” is still remembered more than 30 years later attests to its classic status.