We’re looking at the Top 40 metrics of The Jackson family to analyze their influence during the 1980s. During the last post, we reviewed 1984 & 1985, the Thriller aftermath.
Michael was the top dog in the family, but Jermaine held steady at #2. Not too shabby, especially in a large family such as the Jacksons. As 1986 began, this would have been when Jermaine consoled himself with ‘well, at least I’m the second most talented Jackson.’ That was about to go out the window.
Jermaine Jackson – I Think It’s Love [#16, 9 wks]
JJ has another Top 20 hit, making it his fifth during the 80s. It was the debut single from his eleventh studio album, Precious Moments, and was co-written by Stevie Wonder. Jermaine had charted twice in the year previous with soundtrack tunes, a duet with Pai Zadora (why?) called When the Rain begins To Fall and (Closest Thing to) Perfect from the film, Perfect. They both bombed, so this was a good pick-me-up. Jermaine would never hit the Top 40 again.
In fact, this is the point when, going forward, the music-buying public decided to give their complete devotion to only two Jacksons and no more. Because…
Janet Jackson – What Have You Done For Me Lately [#4, 13 wks]
After two underwhelming albums, Janet broke free from Poppa Joe and hired two dudes from the Time, who were looking for their own breakthrough. Convincing her to record in Minneapolis, the trio released Control, a groundbreaking soulful dance album whose influence musically and lyrically is still being felt in pop music. This was the debut single, and it entered the Top 40 one week after Jermaine’s single on March 22nd, 1986. She would leapfrog him on April 5th and never look back. It will be the first of many #1 R&B and Dance Singles for her.
It’s worth noting that we had grown up with Janet on TV shows Good Times, Diff’rent Strokes, and Fame. So when a powerful album like this merged with her new defiant image, we willingly went for the ride.
Janet Jackson – Nasty [#3, 11 wks]
This is the penultimate Janet. She’s recorded a lot of great music, but this one set the table for the rest of her career. No one else can do this swaggering synth-funk strut better than her. I mean, this isn’t a woman asking for respect. She’s demanding it. The video, which features choreographer Paula Abdul, backs it up. Listening to her vocals, I believe her every word.
Janet Jackson – When I Think Of You [#1 (2 wks), 13 wks]
Now that she had your attention, it was the perfect time to release something sweet like this track, her first Pop #1. It’s just the same two chords over and over against a simple dance beat, hypnotizing and sucking you in.
Janet had 5 #1 Soul singles from Control, but this one only reached #3 on the R&B charts.
Three singles made the Top 5, with one #1, spending a total of 37 weeks in the Top 40, not to mention countless years since on radio.
Janet Jackson – Control [#5, 13 wks]
We’re three singles in, and Janet finally releases the title track, which outlines who she got here and how she had to take “control” of her life. It’s one of the album’s best dance tunes and will hit #1 on Club charts.
The video has a nice call back to her Good Times era, as Janet Du’Bois plays her mom again, looking a little too much like her real mom, Katherine. I wonder who the dad is supposed to be?
Janet Jackson – Let’s Wait Awhile [#2, 11 wks]
And now, Janet showcases her tender side with a ballad that ended up as an anthem for abstinence, embraced during the height of the confusing AIDS era. It was kept off the top of the mountain by Club Nouveau’s Lean On Me.
Also, it sounded a hell of a lot like this America song. I would say it’s a coincidence, except that we know Prince and his crew loved the band, or maybe America’s Greatest Hits. Didn’t Purple Rain come from Ventura Highway, a song that Janet would sample on Someone To Call My Lover from 2001’s All For You? Hmmm…
Herb Alpert – Diamonds [#5, 12 wks]
Give some credit to Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss for keeping Janet on the label after she bombed twice. Now that she was a superstar, Herb wanted in on that action. Why not? He’s the boss. He hired Jam & Lewis to produce four songs on his 27th album, Keep Your Eye On Me, including this one on which Janet sings lead. It might as well have been a Control cut with Herb noodling around on trumpet behind them. Regardless, the Damit Jo bandwagon will help it climb to #5 and #1 on the R&B and Dance Club charts.
Janet Jackson – The Pleasure Principle [#14, 10 wks]
This was the sixth and final single from the Control album. Written by Tim keyboardist Monte Moir, it’s my favorite of the singles released, and I love blasting this with my windows down.
Also, Prince and his crew were big Joni Mitchell fans, and so was Janet. The Purple one mentions her on The Ballad of Dorothy Parker from his Sign O The Times album. Janet’s first clue was on this 45, singing about a “big yellow taxi,” a tune she would sample fifteen years later.
Back to Michael – While planning his next album and constantly avoiding tabloid rumors, MJ hooked up with Francis Ford Coppola to produce the 17-minute 3-D film, Captain Eo. It began showing in 1986 exclusively at Disneyland and Epcot, where I saw it in July 1987. It was one of the biggest attractions at the Florida park until it closed in 1994.
Michael Jackson – I Just Can’t Stop Loving You [#1 (1 wk), 11 wks]
Depending on how old you are, Bad may be your Thriller. It was a highly anticipated release, produced again by Quincy Jones. It was prefaced one month earlier with this single, a duet with singer Siedah Garrett. [Rumor is that MJ asked Streisand and Whitney first, but they declined.] It will reach #1 at the beginning of September after hitting the zenith in the UK two weeks before.
It also has an unintentionally creepy (then and now) spoken word intro on the album version, which features these awkward lines – “A lot of people misunderstand me. That’s because they don’t know me at all. I just want to touch you and hold you.”
Herb Alpert – Making Love In The Rain [#35, 3 wks]
This was the follow-up to Diamonds, and although Lisa Keith sings lead vocals, Janet’s backing vocals are featured prominently in the chorus. I’m counting it.
Michael Jackson – Bad [#1 (2 wks), 11 wks]
I know this word was slang for good, and MJ was the King of Pop. But during the pre-90s “irony” context, he was only inviting criticism and mockery with this title, a song that wants to sound tougher than it is. Also, “your butt is mine?” At least there’s a sweet organ solo by jazz great Jimmy Smith.
At least there was the video, an 18-minute short film directed by Martin Scorsese, starring a young Wesley Snipes. Not quite the hype that thrill received, but definitely worth a watch.
Janet: Five Top 40 songs, four of them were Top 20, three of them were Top five, a total of 49 weeks in the Top 40
Michael: Two #1 songs, 22 weeks in the Top 40, and he’s just getting started again….