The first time I sat down to watch this video was a few years ago. I had actually never seen a full Janet Jackson music video before (how, you may ask? I wish I knew, but I really don’t have an answer) but I was beyond excited. Her third studio album Control was an album that I easily gravitated to, and although it wasn’t one that I listened to very often, the infectious pop songs that it’s made up of are impossible to forget. “Nasty” was released as the second single and remains one of her best-known songs, which is a no brainer as to why. With a funky pop groove and straightforward lyrics, this song is not only empowering but ridiculously entertaining as well. After going on a music video watching binge, I realized I needed to watch the video for one of the most important songs in music history. And what started with pure excitement ended with tears streaming down my face.
The video for the song starts out with Janet and her friends going to the movies, as described in the first verse of the song. There are a group of boys following them who are relentlessly asking what they’re doing after the film and trying too hard to flirt, even though the girls are clearly not interested. Janet has had enough of this, so she gets up, yells “Stop!”, which not only makes her friends and the boys freeze, but the characters in the movie hold still too. She backflips into the movie and goes into a full choreography (organized by Paula Abdul, who makes a cameo the video as well!) with the characters of the movie with such ease, as if that’s a normal thing we can all do. The dancing doesn’t stop however; we go through the entire video with Janet and her dancers moving to the beat nonstop. The only moment where they really pause for a little break is when she gets into car with one of these “nasty” boys for the part in the song where she sings “No, my first name ain’t baby, it’s Janet”, which is an iconic moment just in itself. Towards the end, before the video closes, we see her friends singing along with her, and she exists the scene of the movie while all the characters press themselves up against the screen, unable to get out the way she did.
There are so many interesting aspects of this video, and a good place to start would be the production of it all. Now, I know that with the technology we have today, this might not seem like the most exciting thing to ever happen in a music video. But back then, it was quite a different time without all of the bells and whistles we have today, so something like this is truly remarkable in itself. The part where she flips into the movie screen, or the smooth transitions through the different clips are perfect examples of the effort put forth to make this project polished and worthwhile. Considering how wonderfully this was produced in the mid 80’s, I can’t even begin to image even how much higher quality it would be if it were produced today. Thought the production may not have been simple for that time, I do appreciate how they kept everything else rather easy going. Today, artists are more focused on creating something eye catching with ridiculous outfits and effects, but in this video, Janet is donning a simple all black outfit with a silver chain around her neck. Her hair is swept in gorgeous curls and the only makeup she’s wearing is some eyeliner and red lipstick. There are no costume changes at any point and even her friends and dancers are dressed in simple outfits from the times. Costumes and special effects do make for great a music video, don’t get me wrong. But it’s refreshing to go back and watch videos that brought the song to life in a more realistic way with choreography rather than a visual way with special effects.
Not only did this little movie represent the song in a huge way, it also serves as the epitome of the album itself. Control is all about Janet Jackson coming into the world as her own and being the leader in her own storybook. She emits confidence and she’s clearly having fun along the way, with the utmost elegance and grace. She really doesn’t even need to try too hard, letting her talents do all the talking. This is something I find that most modern artists struggle with, that instead of crafting their performance and entertainment skills, they opt for over editing and overly saturated videos to get their work noticed. This is the reason why I teared up so badly watching this video. It brought me back to better times in pop music, where it felt easier to connect to it and artists were more than just entertainers. I grew up in a world where dancing was everywhere, and it was a huge inspiration for me and many others. Not only were music videos exciting, so were live performances, and being able to learn the choreography myself always made me feel like I was actually a part of the music. Pop artists nowadays rarely have the same rhythm and dancing capabilities that these older artists did, and it’s disappointing to see the way pop music has declined in quality in that aspect. Yet, at least we have the ability to go back in time for a bit and appreciate videos like this and how things used to be. With this production, Janet showed us (and continues to show us) that you do not need any fancy editing or expensive outfits and makeup to make a good video. Pure talent alone will do that, and it’ll extend a lot father into fans’ lives than some special effects ever will.