Daily Archives: December 5, 2009

David Taking “Control”: A Janet Jacksonesque Meditation

Reprinted from The David Chronicles.

Janet Jackson is on my mind of late, having tuned in to her interview on November 18 with Robin Roberts and also having recently purchased her retrospective album, Number Ones.Talk about taking a trip down memory lane!  I’ve been doing a “happy dance,” literally, since I bought it. Jamming to haven’t-heard-in-decades tracks like “Diamonds” and “Rhythm Nation” (her best album bar none), and singing at the top of my lungs to “Love Will Never Do Without You.”

See, I came of age when Janet Jackson came out with her third album, Control, which placed her on the world map of pop music and which was the first of her collaboration with the Minneapolis team of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. I was in junior high in the Bronx, a young black girl learning to write poetry and other creative stuff.  I was dealing with my changing body, and here comes Janet Jackson taking “control” over her own body and her own mind.

“When I was 17, I did what people told me/ did what my father said and let my mother mold me/ But now I’m all grown up.”

From learning how to mouth off to the “Nasty” boys on the streets and in school to getting affirmation that I could say to that special guy, “Let’s wait awhile.” But perhaps the more salient message came from when I actually tried to reenact her choreography from her “The Pleasure Principle” music video and twisted my ankle trying to do that move with the chair thing.

Lesson learned: “Do not try this at home.”

Yep, those were the days. I had gone from my crush on her big brother, Michael, to finding the perfect role model, and I seemed to grow up right along with her.  By the time of her Superbowl scandal, when I was tripping over certain faux pas on the job, and feeling my alienation at times as a professional black woman, Justin Timberlake’s disrobing of her felt like a metaphorical disrobing of sorts. I was too angry at the world, and I was hurt by the persecution of my childhood hero.  But like Janet, I too survived and strived.

So, I bring up Janet Jackson here because one of my regulars on Soul David (might have been Desertrat or BrooklynDawn) expressed desire to see David follow in the trajectory of Janet instead of Michael Jackson. In particular, looking forward to David producing a Control-like album.

“When I was 17, I did what people told me…”

Whatever aspects of David that we think already exerts this control, there is still a persistent image  out there that he’s not (in control, that is).  And at some point, I imagine David will, like Janet, like Michael, find that magical pairing with the right producer or producing team, who will take those particular “David sounds” and take them to the next level.  Beyond the sound is the image of “maturing,” and wondering how best he will project that maturity.  Yes, declaring control and independence will definitely come with the package.  And while female empowerment looks very different from a man declaring his power, I look forward to how David will make this same statement.

Obviously, from what he has revealed about pop album #2, David is already moving in that direction.  But I’ll still be waiting for the magic to occur when the stars align him with the perfect production pairing.