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Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis on Janet Jackson's "Control" album 35 years later

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Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis talk to Yahoo Entertainment about the 35th anniversary of Janet Jackson's Control album.

Video Transcript

LYNDSEY PARKER: So this interview with you guys, Jimmy Jam, and Terry Lewis, is perfectly timed, because, obviously, the iconic Janet Jackson album came out exactly 35 years ago. It has gone back to number one 35 years after its release. I assume you saw her tearful, grateful reaction after it went back to number one.

JANET JACKSON: I want to thank all of you for making "Control" number one once again after 35 years.

LYNDSEY PARKER: What are your thoughts on this new round of appreciation for her.

TERRY LEWIS: I just-- I just love to see her happy, and I just like to see her get the accolades. I think people are just reminded, you know, after you get a whiff of that smell that you really love, you just crave that. And, you know, to be reminded of something that was so impactful in your life, is just a special time.

JIMMY JAM: You may not remember what you were doing 35 years ago, but if you put on "Nasty," or you put on "What Have You Done for Me Lately," or you put on "Control," all-- and those memories all come back to you. And there's something that's very divine about that that I think is really cool and people should recognize.

LYNDSEY PARKER: I have to address this. So the anniversary of this album, and it going to number one, kind of coincided within a day or two of Justin Timberlake finally, finally-- took him 17 years. I'm sorry, I'm just going to say it. It took him 17 years, but he did apologize for his role in what happened at the 2004 Super Bowl, and how he did not handle that necessarily the best way he could have. And I'm wondering what your thoughts are on that?

JIMMY JAM: The thing that was interesting to me, or my observation of it, was the way that it got reported. So Janet's record went back to number one because Janet Jackson Appreciation Day coincided with the Super Bowl day, as it has thanks to Matthew Cherry and a few other people-- a few other fans that really got involved with that. So I think that the story was very much-- that was a very positive story. And then, you know, when Justin Timberlake a few days later, or whatever it is, does the apology, all of a sudden the story becomes somehow that the record goes back to number one because of Justin Timberlake. And I don't know whether that's just, I mean, to me it showed where the societal thing that happens to females have been saying for years. How things get hijacked from them.

It really rubbed me the wrong way, because that was not the story. And so the narrative is so screwed up as it has been for years.

TERRY LEWIS: All I can say is, Justin, what took you so long? You know, to let her take all of the heat from that, and, you know, to kind of remove yourself from the circumstance. I mean, when you were actually the one that pulled everything, and actually were part of making it happen. It's kind of odd to me. But, you know, as I reflect on it, I mean, at the time I probably was really pissed off because he didn't say something. But now we-- I've definitely moved on.

How hypocritical are we to sit around and talk about what she did wrong, and everybody seen a breast before. Like no matter whose fault it was, it wasn't. It wasn't, unless you blew it up and magnified it like it wasn't a problem. Reflecting back, I just wish he would have stepped forward earlier and kind of laid himself in the line of fire too, and took his shots. But now, who cares.

LYNDSEY PARKER: So going back to actually the making of "Control." Going back 35 years. This was her third studio album. I think a lot of people think of it unofficially, at least, as her first studio album, because it was, you know, it was her coming out record, establishing her identity. What was that conversation like?

JIMMY JAM: It was a conversation that actually took place over a period of time. When she first came to Minneapolis, we just talked. We hung out. We rode around, and we went to the, you know, hung out at the lake, and then we'd go hang out at clubs at night, and just that kind of thing.

And after about four or five days of that, I remember her saying, when are we going to get started working? And Terry and I said, oh, we've been working. And we showed her the lyrics, or at least the skeletal lyrics, to "Control," talking about her leaving home, moving out on her own, asking her parents permission. And when she looked at the lyrics, she just said, wait, this is what we've been talking about. And we said, yeah. And she said, OK, wait, so whatever we talk about, that's what we're going to write about? And we said, yeah. And then she said, oh, well then I want to talk about this, and I want to talk about this.

But it-- the light bulb came on in her head, because it was the first time that someone had said to her, what are your ideas? And I think that's when it came to her mind that while I can really say something here. It means something.

TERRY LEWIS: I think for the first time, I think when she came up to Minneapolis, she was exposed to just to free life. There was no agenda at all other than, hey, let's get to know each other, and figure out what we want to do creatively. And so once she figured out that she could just be whatever she wanted to be, it was a breeze from there on because of her willingness to try things. And by doing that, I think she revolutionized, I guess, female artistry in a way.

She's just a revolutionary person. She's always going to go and paint outside the lines a little bit, just because that's just the way she is. And in a quiet sweet way though, you know. It's-- I don't know. It's a crazy dichotomy. It's like you would never think a person that's so soft spoken could be that forceful.

And that is an amazing combination of things, because you get your point across in a different way without people feeling like you're shouting at them. They process it a little different. So I think it really worked on her, to her benefit.

JIMMY JAM: But then the record she made, up to that point, where all these very kind of soft pretty records, and we were like, let's get that attitude back. And let's give her tracks that are aggressive. And then when you give her to that kind of track, and then you have her sing like in a low voice like on "Nasty," all of a sudden to me that was kind of where the magic was. And once she figured that out, and we had the trust with each other, we trusted that whatever we threw at her she could do, and she trusted whatever she threw at us, we could do. And that was, to me, the magic that has continued to this day.

LYNDSEY PARKER: Did you butt heads at all with her family, like with Joe whatever was--

TERRY LEWIS: We only he had actually one meeting with Joe, where he told us, don't make my daughter sound like Prince. He said, so, you know, don't make my daughter [? risque. ?]

JIMMY JAM: It was like, oh, because we're from Minneapolis, OK, so we get it.

LYNDSEY PARKER: There's this [? through ?] line where you guys worked with Prince, and you worked with Janet Jackson. Did Janet and Prince ever collaborate together, or work together?

JIMMY JAM: When we did "Love Will Never Do" on the "Rhythm Nation" album, the thought was maybe this would be cool as a duet with Prince and Janet. And that's the reason that Janet sings the first verse low, and then the second verse is high, because we were thinking that it might be cool to put Prince on the first verse. And, you know, it didn't-- it did never happen, but it was thought about, and talked about.

LYNDSEY PARKER: I know there's been some talk that you guys are working on an album billed as yourselves. Is there anything you can share about what you expect from the Jam and Lewis record?

JIMMY JAM: Well, continuing on the Janet theme, which is always a great theme to be on. When we started the record, we started it around the time that "Control" was done. And we had started on a Jam and Lewis record at that point in time. And when the record was done, when the "Control" record was done, John McClain was the ANR, head of ANR, for A&M Records. He comes from Minneapolis. We play him "Control," we play him "Nasty," we play him "Pleasure Principle," we play him "Let's Wait a While," we play him "Funny how Time Flies." Like, we're playing all these hits, right, and like all ANR people, he goes, I just need one more.

So anyway, we hopped in the car, Terry puts a cassette in, and the cassette is basically tracks for our album. So he puts the cassette in, he starts, you know, listening. He goes, what's this? And he says, oh, this go-- this is for our album. So about the third song in, he goes, wait that's the one I need for Janet right there. That's the one. And that song ended up becoming "What Have You Done for Me Lately." Started her career, ended ours.

Now over those 35 years, we had always in the back of our minds thought, well, we should do an album. So we're excited about the record, and I think hopefully people enjoy, you know, what we've been working the 35-year journey on this album.

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