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Janet Jackson - What Have You Done For Me Lately (1986)

  • Video Views 9,192,487
  • 80's Score80's Score 80's score: 2.13
  • Find this song on: Music Stack

"What Have You Done for Me Lately" is a song by American singer Janet Jackson from her third studio album, Control (1986). ...

"What Have You Done for Me Lately" is a song by American singer Janet Jackson from her third studio album, Control (1986). Jackson co-wrote the song with its producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. It was released on January 13, 1986, by A&M Records as the album's lead single. After two unsuccessful albums and a management change, the singer began developing a new album. "What Have You Done for Me Lately" was originally penned for one of Jam and Lewis's own records, but the lyrics were rewritten to convey Jackson's feelings about her recent divorce from James DeBarge in January 1985. It revolves around a woman's frustration with her partner in a relationship.

Critical reviews for "What Have You Done for Me Lately" were positive, with music critics believing it erased the former "pop-ingénue image" of Jackson's first two albums, reestablishing her as an "independent woman" figure. The song has been featured in critic lists as one of the greatest songs of all time and received a nomination for Best Rhythm & Blues Song at the 1987 Grammy Awards. The song peaked at number four on the US Billboard Hot 100 and was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). It also peaked at number two on the US Dance Club Songs and topped the US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs charts. Outside of the US, it topped the singles chart in the Netherlands and peaked within the top ten in Germany, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

The accompanying music video for "What Have You Done for Me Lately" was directed by Brian Jones and Piers Ashworth and choreographed by singer Paula Abdul. In it, Jackson goes to a diner with her friends to talk about her relationship problems. The video won a Soul Train Music Award for Best R&B/Soul or Rap Music Video in 1987. The song was first performed live by Jackson at the 29th annual Grammy Awards in 1987. She has also performed it live in each of her concert tours, beginning with the Rhythm Nation World Tour 1990 through the State of the World Tour (2017). It has been included in each of Jackson's greatest hits albums Design of a Decade: 1986–1996 (1995), Number Ones (2009), and Icon: Number Ones (2010). "What Have You Done for Me Lately" has been sampled and covered by various artists, and is also regarded as one of Jackson's signature songs which helped establish her as a known artist.

Critical reviews for "What Have You Done for Me Lately" were positive. Rolling Stone's Rob Hoerburger expressed that "What Have You Done for Me Lately" erased the former "pop-ingénue image" of Jackson's first two albums. According to William Ruhlmann of AllMusic, Jackson was an "aggressive, independent woman" on the song. Connie Johnson from the Los Angeles Times gave the song a positive review, emphasizing her "spunky authority". Eric Henderson of Slant Magazine praised the song, calling it "female-empowering" and wrote, "'What Have You Done for Me Lately' predates TLC's 'No Scrubs' by over a decade".

For Spin magazine's J.C. Stevenson, most of the album's power is in its dance floor authority, with songs such as "What Have You Done for Me Lately". Blues & Soul considered it "supreme in its execution". Nelson George in his book Post-Soul Nation: The Explosive, Contradictory, Triumphant, and Tragic 1980s called it an "instant dance anthem". For the 29th annual Grammy Awards of 1987, "What Have You Done for Me Lately" received one nomination for Best Rhythm & Blues Song but lost to Anita Baker's "Sweet Love".

Music video

The accompanying music video for "What Have You Done for Me Lately" was directed by Brian Jones and Piers Ashworth and filmed in December 1985. The video's choreographer was Paula Abdul, who appears in the video as Jackson's friend. According to a Jet magazine publication in 1990, in the video Abdul "combined sexual energy with classy, alluring moves. The combination propelled Janet into the classification of sexy superstar. Any who saw the videos witnessed the fact that Janet was, indeed, a full-grown woman." The video also featured Tina Landon who would later become Jackson's choreographer. Jackson shared in her book True You in 2011 that her recording company thought it was important that she appeared thinner in the video:

"I'd been told that my whole life, but at this critical juncture, with my career taking off, I didn't have the wherewithal to argue. [...] We [she and Paula Abdul] shared a house and spent weeks exercising [in Canyon Ranch]. [...] I was as motivated as ever to come out on top. [...] I felt good when it was over. I enjoyed the compliments about my "new" shape. I shot the video and did in fact reshape my image."

It premiered on BET on February 17, 1986. In the video, Jackson goes to a diner with her friends to talk about her relationship problems. Her boyfriend (played by Rudy Huston) shows up with his friends, and Jackson decides to share her feelings about their relationship. In the video, Jackson's reality is a dark world with faded colors. In a more dreamscape world, the colors are vibrant and everything is 2D. The video won a Soul Train Music Award for Best R&B/Soul or Rap Music Video in 1987. While reviewing the video, Vanity Fair magazine said in 1986 that Jackson "might be Michael's androgynous twin in the sweep of her arm, the accusatory glare in her eyes, the collapsing diagonals of her dancing".

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