Wednesday, December 26, 2018

"What Have You Done for Me Lately?" by Janet Jackson

Top 10 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Rated 10 Alert!
Song#:  2629
Date:  02/22/1986
Debut:  95
Peak:  4
Weeks:  21
Genre:  R&B, Dance-Pop

Pop Bits:  As a teen, Jackson was not necessarily ready for a career in music, but she got pushed into it by her father who had control over her career. After two mediocre solo albums that saw Jackson taking a backseat to everyone else, she had had enough. She fired her father as her manager, stepped away from her family, and took fate into her own hands. She was ready to assert herself as an independent woman and music artist. For her third album, her new manager introduced her to the up-n-coming songwriting/production team of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. The duo had already begun to secure hits for other artists while developing their own brand of music. Jackson liked what Jam and Lewis had to offer, so she packed up and went to their Minneapolis studio to record her next LP, Control. It ended up being the exact right move at the right time and Control not only became a huge success, but it became a watershed moment for both Jackson and women in music. It all began with this first single. It wasn't an out-of-the-box hit, but once it picked up airplay and the video began to get exposure on MTV, it quickly climbed the charts. It got to #1 at R&B, #2 Dance, and became her first Pop Top 10 hit. It also made a #38 showing at AC. The song would get a Grammy nod for Best R&B Song while the album would get one for Album of the Year. Jackson would get a nomination for Best R&B Vocal Performance Female for the album. Jam and Lewis would win the Grammy for Producers of the Year. Jackson would quickly become a worldwide superstar and it all started with this single.

ReduxReview:  It's hard to describe what it was like when this song came out and what a big deal it was. For the most part, folks knew Janet as the youngest Jackson who had appeared on the TV shows Good Times and Fame and not many paid attention to the teeny-bopper R&B albums she had recorded. Then this song hit the airwaves and it was like a blast of assertive independence that announced "I'm here!" Within a nanosecond, Jackson grew up and was a woman on a mission. Jam and Lewis were the perfect co-conspirators for Jackson. This was the album that they perfected their signature style and it was on full display with this track. The groove was excellent as was the arrangement and it sounded great on the radio (and also cranked to 11 on the home stereo). It just wasn't the typical pop/R&B fare of the time and it really made an impression. No one would view Jackson in the same way after this...including her father.


Trivia:  A new, up-n-coming choreographer created the dance segments throughout the video for this song. Paula Abdul, who also made a cameo in the video, got introduced to the Jackson family when she was hired in to do the choreography for The Jackson's "Torture" video and also for their Victory album tour. The success of this song led to Abdul choreographing three more videos for songs from the Control album. By the time that run of singles was finishing up, Abdul had signed on as a recording artist and was getting ready to release her own mega-selling debut album.



  1. She was probably best known as Willis's girlfriend on Diff'rent Strokes.

    1. I remember that! I used to love that show as a kid.