July 1986: Janet Jackson Controls the Charts with 'Control'

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With each album release, Janet Jackson reclaimed her title as the queen of reinvention. With 1986's Control, she asserted a new manifesto of dominance as she proclaims in the album's opening seconds, "This time, I'm going to do it my way."

While she had already made a name for herself with the innocently sweet hit singles embedded in her first two albums (including “Young Love" and “Don't Stand Another Chance"), Jackson embarked on her next album on a quest to assert her true, radical personality. 

Things changed for the 19-year-old when former Time members and producers James "Jimmy Jam" Harris III and Terry Lewis came to Jackson's songwriting table with a different approach for the youngest Jackson. 

"The two records that Janet had done [1982's Janet Jackson and 1984's Dream Street] were both well-produced records, but we always felt they actually had none of her in it," shared Jam to Rolling Stone. "It was just her showing up and singing. Our approach to the artist had always been, 'What do you want to sing about?' We knew that Janet had a lot of attitude and a lot of feistiness just from watching her as a kid on the different TV stuff she did. Let's create music that has that kind of attitude and let her run with it."

Jackson spent the next few days hanging out with the production duo around Minneapolis. As Jam and Lewis would come to terms with her authentic sass that had been veiled by her previous bubblegum-pop image, the trio ran into situations that naturally translated into the inspiration for Jackson's next songs. 

"'Nasty' was about some guys bothering her at a club and she was like, "I don't like nasty boys.'" recounted Jam on the songwriting process. "She was talking about, 'I'm moving out on my own. I'm getting a place.' Great, we're going to write Control. That was the process."

The resulting record came filled with uncensored, metallic funk that thrust Jackson into her own distinctive spotlight. Filled with four US R&B chart-toppers, including the attitude-heavy "Nasty" and the no-nonsense sauciness of “What Have You Done for Me Lately,” the album launched the singer into a new era of respect and fame. 

Control would establish itself on the top spot on Billboard's album chart on July 5, 1986, ending Whitney Houston's 7-week reign with Whitney Houston. Jackson's coming-of-age album would be replaced two weeks later by Patti LaBelle's Winner in You. 

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