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Source Material

Source Material: Janet Jackson, 'Control'

by Rachel Devitt

Source Material: Janet Jackson, 'Control'


Janet Jackson's 1986 breakthrough, Control, wasn't her first album, but it was a debut on multiple levels: most importantly, it introduced the Jackson-Jam-Lewis team, a triumvirate of pop perfection that paired the dance-beat brilliance of producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis with Janet's pop persona (not to mention that family name). But despite the unavoidable shadow cast by her family's showbiz legacy, the album also presented her as an independent woman. Control was meant to mark Janet's emancipation from the family plan laid out for her, a process that had already begun when she eloped with James DeBarge at the age of 18 (the marriage was later annulled). Finally, Control is the debut of Miss Jackson as we know and love her today: a fiercely sweet woman who carefully balances ferocious independence with disarming emotion and a feather-light, cotton-candy wisp of a voice, equally prone to cooing sweet nothings and barking S&M fantasies.

No Jackson album could emerge from a vacuum, of course, and especially not one so steeped in decades of soul, funk and dance-pop stylings. Control both embraces and eschews Janet's family heritage and musical pedigree, mining a host of other sources along the way. Brother Michael's presence looms large over this album, of course, as does The Jackson Five's. But that goes without saying. So for our deep dive into the roots and routes of Control, we've decided to focus on other, equally vital touchstones. Listen in!