Janet Jackson, by Janet Jackson
Janet Jackson, contrary to popular belief, did not begin her music career with the album Control. That breakthrough album was her third album. Her first album was released when she was quite young and as a self-titled album it was not an accurate reflection of how her career would go. Despite the fact that the album had several songs that charted in the bottom half of the Hot 100 as well as on the R&B charts and dance charts, and thus helped to prefigure the sort of success that she would have in all of those genres in the future, and even though it received some critical praise, this is not an album that Janet Jackson has chosen to have remembered in career retrospectives to this day. Is this a fair judgment or not? Let us discover it.
The album begins with “Say You Do,” a sweet-voiced song where Janet Jackson seeks love from a would-be partner, an appealing enough prospect. “You’ll Never Find (A Love Like Mine)” has an appealing early 80’s R&B sound and production. “Young Love” is catchy and infectious as a dance track, if a bit repetitive. “Love And My Best Friend” is a sweet and gorgeous ballad about finding love with one’s best friend, a pleasing sentiment. “Don’t Mess Up This Good Thing” is the first of what would be many songs that hint at Janet’s impatience with a no-good lover. “Forever Yours” is a song about eternal faithfulness and love sung in a rather breathy and sweet voice with ballad production. “The Magic Is Working” has some funk instrumentation along with some excellent backing voices to an appealing song about falling in love. The album ends with “Come Give Your Love To Me,” the first of many songs that would show Janet’s enduring search for love.
It is a bit unfair that this album has been neglected to such an extent as it has, with some songs having less than 100,000 plays all-time on Spotify. While this album did not have the success of most of her later material, three of the songs on this album hit the bottom half of the Hot 100 and hit songs like the dance and R&B charts, and if the album did not sell many copies it deserves to be better known than it is. If you are expecting from this debut an earthshaking album, it is a disappointment, but if you want a debut that is pleasant to listen to as someone who is a fan of adult contemporary and R&B and dance there is a lot to find appealing here. Janet Jackson was still finding her voice–she was still a teen when this album came out–and she set paths and approaches in this album that would continue throughout her career, which makes it all the more worthwhile to see how early these themes and perspectives began. If you wanted to see where the legendary Janet Jackson started at as a musician, this is a bit less than 40 minutes of music in eight songs that introduces a great musician to the world.
It’s amazing to learn how much public exposure she had before releasing this album. She had performed in Las Vegas at the age of seven, began acting in the variety show “The Jacksons” at age ten, and then played an adopted daughter on “Good Times” for one season when she was 12. She also joined the cast of “Diff’rent Strokes” for two years, as well as played the role of Cleo Hewitt during the fourth season of “Fame”. People in the know realized that her star was poised to shine bright from the very beginning.
Yes, people in the know knew, but I don’t know how much of the general public knew until Control.