Because of the anniversary of Chuck Brown’s death yesterday, the Morning Groove missed another big milestone. Yesterday, Janet Jackson turned 50. That’s right. Fifty years old, or young, depending on your perspective. For me, it’s just another reminder that Janet will always be older than me. Two months, give or take a few days, but who’s counting? Well, I guess I am.
I know in an earlier post, I discussed whether or not Janet was a better singer than Whitney Houston. That point having been decided, this post is to celebrate an artist that in any other family might be the greatest entertainer in the bloodline. That’s not a knock on Janet, that’s just the facts. As talented as she is and as many millions of records as she has sold, she has a long way to go to catch Michael. That said, what Janet does, she does very well. She has been doing it for over thirty years now; closer to forty if you include the years she was primarily an actress (“Penny” in Good Times and “Charlene” in Diff’rent Strokes come to mind; she was also in the TV series based on the movie Fame).
But if we’re going to discuss her singing career: does anyone remember before the Control album set the world on fire, that Janet released two albums that contained not one Pop top 10 hit? Sure, there were two R&B top tens (“Young Love” from her self-titled debut album, and “Don’t Stand Another Chance” from Dream Street if you’re keeping score), but no big hits. Once she annulled her marriage to James DeBarge, changed management and got together with Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, one of the greatest production teams of all-time, not just the 1980s, the hits began to come in waves.
It’s hard to believe now, but Control has been out now for thirty years. The songs from that album have become iconic; if you had a copy of that album back in the day, you know the album from start to finish. Or at least I do. Since I’m keeping stats in this post, let’s name those memorable songs: six top ten R&B hits (“What Have You Done For Me Lately,” “Nasty,” “When I Think Of You,” “Control,” “Let’s Wait Awhile,” and “The Pleasure Principle”—the only one of those to not make the Pop top ten), one quiet storm mainstay (“Funny How Time Flies (When You’re Having Fun)”), and millions of albums sold. Needless to say, Ms. Jackson was on her way.
Today, I’ve chosen as the Morning Groove the only hit from that list above to make #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 (and the only one to miss #1 on the R&B Singles chart), “When I Think Of You.”
Watching this video when writing this post reminded me of so many memories; the choreography (by one Paula Abdul), the hair (so 80s!), and not the least of which was my crush on Janet in those days. Last year, she released her first album of new music in almost ten years, Unbreakable. While I wouldn’t call it a classic return to form, it was solid; thankfully she toned down the raunch that threatened to overrun quite of few of the albums prior to Unbreakable.
If you have a favorite Janet Jackson song from Control or any of her albums, leave it in the comments. As always, please enjoy today’s Morning Groove, and thanks for reading and listening.