Control

Album: Control (1986)
Charted: 42 5
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  • In the title song of her breakthrough album, Janet proclaims her independence for the first time in her life. It doesn't take much reading between the lines to figure out the whole album represents a break from her famous family, including superstar brother Michael and father, Joe, who was primarily interested in being a manager rather than a dad. "'Control' came from the heart," she told the Los Angeles Times. "It was all about stepping out, taking control of your life... a certain point in your life when you ask yourself who you are and what you want to do."

    The album hooked her up with producers/songwriters Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, who helped her create a sexy and funky image. Jam and Lewis went on to write and produce most of her hits, including this one (Janet also has a writing credit on the track).
  • Although Janet wanted a fresh start, she didn't want to forget about her past or her old friends. Ja'net Dubois, her former co-star from the '70s sitcom Good Times, played her mother in the music video for this song.
  • The unique break in this song came about by accident during the production of "Nasty," another hit from the album. Jimmy Jam explained: "When you program drum machines, you program a lot of different patterns in. But the way we do it, we never put the programs in a sequence. We play and change the sequences by hand. So at one point in 'Nasty,' I changed to the wrong sequence and it made this weird drum break. A lot of times when that happens, we leave it and figure out what to do with it musically later. That's what happened on 'Control.' There are two or three breaks where it stops and there's a little 'do-do-do-do-do,' and that was the creation of hitting the wrong drum program at the wrong time. But it worked."
  • Producing the music video for this song was one of the worst experiences in Sharon Oreck's career. Behind the scenes, Janet's soon-to-be-fired manager Joe Jackson was trying to sabotage the project by making wild demands (which were last-ditch efforts to control his daughter). He angrily insisted Janet be insured for $1 million before she was allowed to be lowered onstage via trapeze. Meanwhile, the live footage was being recorded at the Grand Olympics Auditorium in Los Angeles in front of an audience who expected a free Janet Jackson concert, not "50 takes of Janet lip-synching," Oreck remembered. The crowd was disgruntled over that, but nearly rioted when white members of the audience, who had been scattered throughout, were slowly moved to the front. An A&M label representative was able to calm everyone down when he explained the migration wasn't an act of segregation but a trick to make it look like the audience was more diverse. The video later won a Soul Train Music Award for Best R&B/Soul or Rap Video, but Oreck called it her "worst nightmare."
  • Glee's Dianna Agron, Darren Criss and Kevin McHale covered this song on the season 3 episode "Hold On to Sixteen."
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