The song cuts to the crux of many relationship problems: the inertia that sets in once you are established as a couple. The guy who used to take the lady out for sushi and dancing finds himself on the couch watching football once he gets comfortable.
The song found its way into the cultural lexicon, and Eddie Murphy used it as the basis for a comedy bit in his 1987 Raw concert film. Murphy gave his interpretation of the song: You better have money, or you won't get any loving from the ladies (Eddie used a different term, but we'll keep it clean). He pointed out that women love this song, as its encourages women to keep wanting more from their men - and sweet talk won't cut it.
Janet Jackson thought she was done recording the Control album and returned home to Los Angeles only to be summoned back to Minneapolis to belt out one more: "What Have You Done For Me Lately." A&M label exec John McClain wanted one more uptempo song to round out the album. When she got back to the studio, songwriters/producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis had the song cranked at full blast. Jam remembered: "She was sitting outside in the lounge and said, 'Man, that's a funky track. Who's that for?' And we said, 'It's for you,' and she said, 'Oh, cool.' I think she was very pleased when she heard the track."
This song was nominated for two Grammy Awards in 1987: Best Female R&B Vocal Performance and Best R&B Song.
The music video for this song features a few notable cameo appearances. Paula Abdul, who choreographed the video, appeared as Janet's friend, along with Tina Landon, who later became a choreographer on the world tours for janet. and The Velvet Rope. Actor-dancer Rudy Huston, who played Janet's boyfriend, knew the singer from when they both worked on the Fame TV series a few years earlier. Huston was a familiar face on other videos of the decade, including R&B singer Pebbles' "Girlfriend" and "Mercedes Boy."
Although this was the last song recorded for the album, it was the first song to be released as a single. Jimmy Jam thought it was the perfect set up: "I think it was very representative of the sparseness and the funkiness that the rest of the album had and the attitude Janet had about being in control, being mature to the point where she had definite opinions about what she wanted to say."
La Toya Jackson ironically chose to sample her sister Janet's song on an album called No Relations (1991) on the track "Wild Side."
"Eric B. Is President," the debut single from Eric B. & Rakim, was conceived as an answer song to this track. Rakim told NME: "She was comin' on like she's a goddess from above and that got me real upset. Every time I heard it, I'd get real mad."