The recent reappearance of über-producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis on a track with Sounds Of Blackness felt like a nostalgia kick, a blast from the past – and yet time was when they bestrode the pop world like all-conquering colossi.

Janet Jackson Control

Their imperial period when they dominated the charts and airwaves began with Janet Jackson’s 1986 Control album, which is now getting a belated first-time-on-vinyl (black or translucent red) reissue. Yet if it was a landmark release for them, it was an even bigger one for La Jackson.

Severing all business ties with her domineering father Joe, who had shaped her tepid two previous albums, divorcing her husband James DeBarge and hiring new management, Janet met Jam and Lewis and set about – as the in-vogue phrase has it – taking back control. The transformation was extraordinary.

“This is a story about control… this time I’m gonna do it my way,” intoned Jackson on the eponymous opening track but the album was as much Jam and Lewis’ statement of intent as hers. The duo were on ferocious form, conjuring up dance beats that were sleek, pristine, forensic and irresistible.

An emancipated Jackson roamed the rhythms like a sultry tiger, dispensing put-downs with imperious cool. Nasty gave players a tongue-lashing: What Have You Done For Me Lately eviscerated a lazy lover and was doubtless awkward listening for Mr DeBarge.

Let’s Wait Awhile showed a softer side but if the album had a fault, it was that the non-stop brassy self-assertion could get strident, even grating. It was not to hold it back: Control topped the Billboard chart, spawned seven singles and sold 10 million copies. For Janet Jackson, and for Jam and Lewis, there was no looking back. 


Ian Gittins