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"Control" is a song recorded by American singer-songwriter Janet Jackson for her third album Control (1986). It was written by Jackson, James Harris III, and Terry Lewis and produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. The song was released as the fourth single from the album on October 21, 1986 by A&M Records. Its arrangement, built upon complex rhythmic tracks, showcased state-of-the-art production. The song is about Jackson wanting to finally take control of her life.

Janet Jackson Control.png
Single by Janet Jackson
from the album Control
ReleasedOctober 21, 1986 (1986-10-21)
Format7" single, 12" single
RecordedAugust 1985;
Flyte Tyme Studios
(Minneapolis, Minnesota)
Length5:55 (album version)
3:26 (single version)
5:16 (radio w/o intro)
Songwriter(s)Janet Jackson, James Harris III, Terry Lewis
Producer(s)Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, Janet Jackson
Janet Jackson singles chronology
"When I Think of You"
"Let's Wait Awhile"

In 1988, the song won a Soul Train Music Award for Best R&B/Soul or Rap Music Video, beating out her brother Michael, Whitney Houston, and Jody Watley.

Pitchfork included the song in its Best 200 Songs of the '80s list at #126.[1]

Jackson has performed the song on many of her tours, including Rhythm Nation 1814 Tour, The Velvet Rope Tour, All for You Tour, Rock Witchu Tour, Number Ones: Up Close and Personal, Unbreakable World Tour, & the State of the World Tour. The only tour that it was not included on was the janet. Tour. It has been included in two of Jackson's greatest hits albums, Design of a Decade: 1986–1996 (1995) and Number Ones (2009).


Chart performanceEdit

Released in 1986, the single peaked at number five on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, becoming Jackson's fourth consecutive top five hit on the chart; it also peaked at number one on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and the Hot Dance Club Play charts. The song captured a pivotal moment off the album by showcasing a female streak of independence. It was the 37th biggest Hot 100 single of 1987, the fifth biggest Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs single of 1987, and the ninth biggest-selling 12" single of 1987. In the UK it missed the top 40, peaking at number 42.

Music videoEdit

Jackson performing in the "Control" video.

The music video was directed by Mary Lambert who had previously directed the video for "Nasty". The video shows Jackson playing a young singer preparing for her first gig, only to end up arguing with her parents because she wants to move out of the family home and live on her own. Her father is deadset against her plan. When he tells her they will not discuss the subject any further, she angrily storms out of the house, saying she will drive to the concert herself instead of taking the limo that had been provided for her. Just as she is about to leave for the concert, she is greeted in the driveway by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Jellybean Johnson, and Jerome Benton. They take her to a concert hall to perform her single "Control" where she shows that she wants to be "the one in control". The video version of the song is different from the album version. The nine-minute video was made available on the iTunes Store on April 27, 2007. Ja'net Dubois, who co-starred on Good Times with Jackson in the 1970s, plays her mother in the video. Paula Abdul choreographed the video.

The live footage was recorded at the Grand Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles. Both Lambert and producer Sharon Oreck recall it as a difficult and trying experience; Oreck said in 2011 that it was her "worst nightmare" of the many videos she had produced. The crowd, which had been told that they would see Janet Jackson perform, had expected a free concert. "Instead we gave them 50 takes of Janet lip-synching 'Control,'" said Oreck.[2]

At the time, Janet Jackson was in the midst of firing her father, Joe Jackson, from his position as her manager. Oreck said he was bitter and taking it out on everybody else. He told Oreck that he would not let Janet sit on the trapeze she is seen being lowered onto the stage in unless there was $1 million of liability insurance coverage on her. She told the record company, which responded "Don't tell him anything, but don't tell him no, because we don't say no to Joe Jackson." This evasiveness did not work, and he became even angrier and threatened her with violence. Finally Lambert told A&M she and Oreck would quit the video unless they told Joe Jackson his daughter was insured.[2]

The situation got worse later in the shoot. A&M told Lambert they wanted more white people visible in the audience. There were a few scattered throughout, and under the guise of simple repositioning she began having them sit further forward. Eventually the crowd as a whole figured out what was really happening, and grew angry. Lambert told the record company representative that she absolutely could not go on due to the potential for violence, and he went out and explained things to the crowd, which calmed down enough to complete the video.[2]

Live performancesEdit

Jackson has performed the song on many of her tours, excluding her Janet World Tour. It opened her first concert tour Rhythm Nation 1814 Tour in 1990. It began with Jackson rising out of the floor perched upon a steel lift that resembled an oil rig. As she rose through the fog, she started singing the song.[3] The song was performed during a "frenzied" medley of "Control" "The Pleasure Principle", "Nasty" and "Throb" on The Velvet Rope Tour in 1998.[4] The medley at the October 11, 1998 show in New York City, at the Madison Square Garden, was broadcast during a special titled The Velvet Rope: Live in Madison Square Garden by HBO. It was also added to the setlist at its DVD release, The Velvet Rope Tour – Live in Concert in 1999.[5] During the All for You Tour in 2001 and 2002, "What Have You Done for Me Lately" was performed in a re-worked version, during a medley with "Control" and "Nasty". According to Denise Sheppard from Rolling Stone, it was "another crowd favorite; perhaps best dubbed as the "bitter" portion of the night", also adding that "this performer - who has been performing onstage for twenty-eight years - knows what the crowd comes for and gives it to them in spades".[6] The February 16, 2002 final date of the tour at the Aloha Stadium in Hawaii, was broadcast by HBO, and included a performance of it. This rendition was also added to the setlist at its DVD release, Janet: Live in Hawaii, in 2002.[7]

On December 4, 2006, Jackson opened the Billboard Music Awards with a medley of past hits "Control", "The Pleasure Principle" and new single "So Excited", accompanied by black and red-clad dancers.[8][9] For her first tour in seven years Rock Witchu Tour in 2008, she chose to open the show a medley with "The Pleasure Principle", "Control" and "What Have You Done for Me Lately". After an interlude, Jackson made her entrance amid fireworks and theatrical smoke to perform the medley, while donning a Mohawk hairstyle.[10][11] While promoting her second greatest hits album Number Ones, the singer performed an eight-minute medley of six hits during the American Music Awards of 2009. It included "Control", "Miss You Much", "What Have You Done for Me Lately", "If", "Make Me", and finished with "Together Again".[12][13] She also included the song on her 2011 Number Ones: Up Close and Personal tour, 2015-2016 Unbreakable World Tour, and the 2017-2019 State of the World Tour. Jackson included the song at her 2019 Las Vegas residence Janet Jackson: Metamorphosis


The spoken intro of "Control" was sampled on Kylie Minogue's song "Too Much of a Good Thing", from her 1991 album Let's Get to It.[14] In 2010, the song was included in the Dance Central DLC setlist to be played using Kinect for the Xbox 360.[15] Glee covered the song in the episode "Hold On to Sixteen", where the New Directions sang three songs originated by members of the Jackson family. Dianna Agron (as Quinn Fabray) opens the song with its spoken introduction, with leads sung by Darren Criss (as Blaine Anderson) and Kevin McHale (as Artie Abrams). The song is included on the soundtrack album Glee: The Music, Volume 7.[16]

The song is also listed in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's list of 500 songs that shaped rock and roll.[17]

Track listingsEdit

Official versions/remixesEdit

  • Album version – 5:53
  • A cappella – 3:56
  • Design of a Decade US edit – 5:15
  • 7" edit – 3:26
  • Extended mix – 7:33
  • Dub version – 5:55
  • Video mix – 6:02
  • Video mix edit – 4:35


Weekly chartsEdit

Chart (1986-87) Peak
Australia (Kent Music Report)[18] 82
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[19] 20
Canada Top Singles (RPM)[20] 18
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[21] 9
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[22] 12
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[23] 16
South Africa (RISA)[24] 2
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[25] 42
US Billboard Hot 100[26] 5
US Dance Club Songs (Billboard)[27] 1
US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs (Billboard)[28] 1

Year-end chartsEdit

Chart (1987) Position
U.S. Billboard Hot 100[29] 37


Region Certification Certified units/sales
United States (RIAA)[31] Gold 641,991[30]

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b c Marks, Craig; Tannenbaum, Rob (2011). I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution. New York, NY: Dutton. pp. 289–90. ISBN 978-0-525-95230-5.
  3. ^ "Jackson`s Action Turns Miami Into Rhythm City". Sun Sentinel.
  4. ^ "Live Report: Janet Jackson".
  5. ^ The Velvet Rope Tour – Live in Concert (Laserdisc, VHS, DVD). Janet Jackson. Eagle Rock Entertainment. 1999.CS1 maint: others (link)
  6. ^ "Ms. Janet Jackson Gets Nasty".
  7. ^ Janet: Live in Hawaii (VHS, DVD). Janet Jackson. Eagle Rock Entertainment. 2002.CS1 maint: others (link)
  8. ^ "Jamaica Gleaner News - Janet Jackson to perform at Billboard Music Awards - Saturday - December 2, 2006". Archived from the original on 2014-07-14.
  9. ^ Billboard.
  10. ^ "Janet Jackson concert review".
  11. ^ "Janet Jackson Resumes Rockin' Witchu".
  12. ^ "Janet Opens the American Music Awards". November 27, 2009. Retrieved June 16, 2014.
  13. ^ Kaufman, Gil (November 22, 2009). "Janet Jackson Kicks Off American Music Awards With Energetic Medley". MTV News. Viacom. Retrieved June 15, 2014.
  14. ^ Let's Get to It (Album liner notes). Kylie Minogue. PWL. HFCD 21.CS1 maint: others (link)
  15. ^ "Dance Central Gets New Songs from Janet Jackson and More". IGN.
  16. ^ "Glee: The Music, Volume 7 Available Tuesday 12/6". Sony Music Entertainment. November 22, 2011. Retrieved November 24, 2011.
  17. ^ "Experience The Music: One Hit Wonders and The Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll".
  18. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970-1992. St Ives, NSW, Australia: Australian Chart Book. pp. 150–151. ISBN 0-646-11917-6. N.B. The Kent Music Report chart was licensed by ARIA until the commencement of the in-house produced ARIA Chart on 26 June 1988.
  19. ^ " – Janet Jackson – Control" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved September 21, 2017.
  20. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 0772." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved September 21, 2017.
  21. ^ " – Janet Jackson – Control" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved September 21, 2017.
  22. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – Janet Jackson" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40. Retrieved September 21, 2017.
  23. ^ " – Janet Jackson – Control". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved September 21, 2017.
  24. ^ "South African Divas Singles". Geo Cities. Retrieved April 11, 2019.
  25. ^ "Janet Jackson: Artist Chart History". Official Charts Company. Retrieved September 21, 2017.
  26. ^ "Janet Jackson Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved September 21, 2017.
  27. ^ "Janet Jackson Chart History (Dance Club Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved September 21, 2017.
  28. ^ "Janet Jackson Chart History (Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved September 21, 2017.
  29. ^ Billboard Top 100 - 1987 - Longbored Surfer - Charts
  30. ^ "Janet Jackson's most downloaded songs in the U.S." JNTSRB. Retrieved April 12, 2019.
  31. ^ "American single certifications – Janet Jackson – Control". Recording Industry Association of America. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH. 

External linksEdit