Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Janet Jackson, Control (1986)

This is a weird album. It's a commercially controlled work coupled with 80s raunchiness/sleaziness that showcases Janet Jackson as a unique artist while being highly imitative of her famous brother. In our world, all these things are true.

As for the commerciality of the LP, take the conceit of the album, "Control," where Janet essentially says it's gloves off, she's not going to self-censor, she's going to be herself. But are we to be fooled that this is an album full of pop songs with top-of-the-line production and multiple writers on the lyrics? A lot of money went into this.

Another way that the idea of "control" is all in the marketing concerns the fact that this is the third studio album of Janet's, not the first. Okay, so the first two didn't establish her, but the plan is for this one too. And how are the money-folk going to get her to success? By imitating Michael while playing up Janet's sexuality.

The 80s really were a crazy time. I doubt I'm the first to notice that the chucka-chucka percussion of "Nasty" sounds like a copulative noise. Other things: cheesy sound effects like a car crashing on one of the tracks, funky basslines, snapping snares, big horns. People who created this were hopped up on something.

While all this has been critical of the album, I'm going to hold onto it. Her voice and pop sound is really singular. I would take this over Taylor Swift any day.

Speaking of, one reason I've never liked Taylor Swift's music is that I've never bought into her as an artist and her music as art. When she appeared on the scene, there was this image of her as just this Pennsylvania girl who just gosh-darn somehow locked into making her country songs commercially viable. And then the studio folk rode this for a while and then they wanted to rebrand as more poppy and then came 2017's "Reputation." And now she was singing a different tune, literally. Now she was telling everybody she's a bad girl, don't mess with her, she's not the country girl we've seen before. Oh brother.

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