The Pleasure Principle (song)

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"The Pleasure Principle"
Janet Jackson The Pleasure Principle.png
Single by Janet Jackson
from the album Control
B-side"Fast Girls"
ReleasedMay 12, 1987 (1987-05-12)
RecordedOctober 1985;
Flyte Tyme Studios
(Minneapolis, Minnesota)
Length4:57 (album version)
4:14 (edit)
Songwriter(s)Monte Moir
Producer(s)Monte Moir
Janet Jackson singles chronology
"The Pleasure Principle"
"Making Love in the Rain"

"The Pleasure Principle" is a song by American singer-songwriter Janet Jackson, recorded for her third studio album, Control (1986). It was written by and produced by Monte Moir, and was released as the sixth single from the album on May 12, 1987 by A&M Records. "The Pleasure Principle" is an "independent woman" anthem about love gone wrong built around a dance beat. The photo for the single cover was shot by fashion photographer David LaChapelle.[1]

The accompanying music video for "The Pleasure Principle" was directed by Dominic Sena. It depicts Jackson entering a loft wearing only a T-shirt and jeans to practice her dancing. The video was seen by critics as iconic, and was nominated at two categories at the 1988 MTV Video Music Awards, eventually winning one. "The Pleasure Principle" was performed on many of Jackson's tours, most recently on her 2015-2016 Unbreakable World Tour. The song was also performed on some promotional appearances, including at the 2006 Billboard Music Awards. In 2008, Jackson's lingerie line was named after the song.[2] It has been included in two of Jackson's greatest hits albums, Design of a Decade: 1986–1996 (1995) and Number Ones (2009).

Background and development[edit]

"I usually attempt to swipe as broad of a brushstroke as possible in regard to telling a story and expressing as much emotion around it as I can, which can be tricky when you only have a set number of lines to do it. It was about being in a situation that was no longer working and that she no longer wants to be a part of. There was also the metaphor of riding in a limo in the relationship vs. her 'meter running', and taking a cab to leave. That sounds so 80's to me right now."

Monte Moir on the lyrics of "The Pleasure Principle".[3]

After arranging a recording contract with A&M Records in 1982 for a then sixteen-year-old Janet, her father Joseph Jackson oversaw the entire production of her debut album, Janet Jackson, and its follow-up, Dream Street (1984).[4] In 1985, Jackson subsequently fired her father as her manager and hired John McClain, then A&M Records' senior vice president of artists and repertoire and general manager.[5] Commenting on the decision, she stated, "I just wanted to get out of the house, get out from under my father, which was one of the most difficult things that I had to do, telling him that I didn't want to work with him again."[6] McClain subsequently introduced her to the songwriting and production duo James "Jimmy Jam" Harris III and Terry Lewis, former Prince associates and ex-members of The Time.[7]

"The Pleasure Principle" was the only song not to be written or produced by Jam and Lewis. Instead, it was penned by American producer Monte Moir, The Time's keyboardist. At the time, he was working with his old band colleagues at Flyte Tyme Studios when they were offered the project for the album with Jackson, and Moir was asked to come up with some songs.[3] He did not have a concept or title for the song at first, which was not uncommon for the producer. According to Moir, "As verses started to take shape, I had to figure out what it was I was trying to say, I just stumbled into the title and Freudian concept (of the pleasure principle) and realized it fit." After songwriting was done, Moir recorded it "fairly quickly" as there were a lot of projects going on at one studio.[3]


Written and produced by Monte Moir, "The Pleasure Principle" is lyrically about Jackson taking control of a personal relationship by refusing to settle for loveless materialism, while she sings, "What I thought was happiness was only part time bliss". The song parallels a fleeting love affair with a ride in a limousine. It mentions a "Big Yellow Taxi", alluding to the 1970 Joni Mitchell song, which Jackson would sample on her single "Got 'til It's Gone" from her seventh studio album The Velvet Rope (1997).[8] Sal Cinquemani from Slant Magazine noted that musically "synths bump like busted shock absorbers and the electric guitar screeches like rubber on pavement".[8]

Critical reception[edit]

Kareem Gantt from AXS TV commented that compared to "Control" and "Nasty", "The Pleasure Principle" was more toned down, but "still a sonic groover".[9] "The Pleasure Principle" was nominated for Best Single, Female at the 1988 Soul Train Music Awards.

Chart performance[edit]

In the United States, "The Pleasure Principle" debuted at number 78 on the Billboard Hot 100 on the week dated May 23, 1987.[10] It later reached its peak at number 14 on August 1, 1987.[11] It became the only song released by Jackson to miss the top ten of the chart until "Son of a Gun (I Betcha Think This Song is About You)" peaked at number 28 in 2001.[12] It nevertheless became her fifth chart-topper on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and her third on the Hot Dance Club Play. It was ranked number 34 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs year-end chart of 1987.

Outside the U.S. the single would be able to make it into the top 40 in most markets, but failed to match the international success of Control's previous singles.

Music video[edit]

The accompanying music video for "The Pleasure Principle" was directed by Dominic Sena and premiered on MTV on June 1, 1987.[13][14] Choreography was handled by Barry Lather.[15] In the beginning of the video, Jackson enters a loft wearing only a T-shirt and jeans to practice her dancing. She gives a solo dance performance while singing about the pleasure principle. Elements of the choreography incorporate a chair and a microphone stand. At the 1988 MTV Video Music Awards the video won for Best Choreography and was nominated for Best Female Video.[13] While reviewing Jackson's video album Rhythm Nation Compilation (1989), Wendy Robinson from PopMatters commented that "this is the first video in which Jackson appears alone, with a sleek new hairdo and unleashing a repertoire of exciting new moves",[16] and Justin Joseph from Centric TV noted that the video was "probably more iconic than the song", while describing its choreography as "so dynamic".[13]

The video was already re-enacted by singers Mýa, Tinashe and Normani.[17][18] Britney Spears referenced "The Pleasure Principle" video, as well as Jackson's "Miss You Much" video for the chair routine in her "Stronger" music video, with the video's director Joseph Kahn saying her idea was inspired by "Janet Jackson's 'Pleasure Principle' — the iconic chair sequence in that".[19] A review of the video commented "Ms. Spears gives us her best Janet Jackson impression ('Miss You Much') with a dizzying chair-dance routine."[20] American singer Cassie was accused of copying "The Pleasure Principle"'s concept on her music video for "Me & U" (2006), described as evoking Jackson's "impromptu solo dance rehearsal" during the video's mirror scenes.[21] Cassie stated "I'm a diehard Janet Jackson fan. A lot of people compare my video for 'Me & U' to hers for 'Pleasure Principle'. I was just rehearsing in the studio, they filmed me and the record label thought it would be great for the video. I'd love to emulate her career. She's incredible, from her moves to her voice."[22]

Live performances[edit]

Jackson has performed the song on most of her concert tours, excluding the Janet World Tour and the All for You Tour. The song was performed during a "frenzied" medley with "Control", "Nasty" and "Throb" on The Velvet Rope Tour in 1998.[23] The medley at the October 11, 1998 show in New York City, at the Madison Square Garden, was broadcast during a special titled The Velvet Rope: Live in Madison Square Garden by HBO. It was also added to the setlist at its DVD release, The Velvet Rope Tour – Live in Concert in 1999.[24]

On December 4, 2006, while promoting her ninth studio album 20 Y.O., Jackson opened the 2006 Billboard Music Awards with a medley of past hits "Control", "The Pleasure Principle" and new single "So Excited", accompanied by black and red-clad dancers.[25][26] For her first tour in seven years Rock Witchu Tour in 2008, she chose to open the show a medley with "The Pleasure Principle", "Control" and "What Have You Done for Me Lately". After an interlude, Jackson made her entrance amid fireworks and theatrical smoke to perform the medley, while donning a Mohawk hairstyle.[27][28] It was also included as the opening song on her 2011 Number Ones: Up Close and Personal tour. Jackson included the song on her 2015-2016 Unbreakable World Tour and on the 2017-2019 State of the World Tour in a medley with What Have You Done for Me Lately & Control. Jackson included the song at her 2019 Las Vegas residence Janet Jackson: Metamorphosis

Track listings[edit]

U.S. 7" single
A. "The Pleasure Principle" – 4:58
B. "Fast Girls" – 3:20
U.S. and European 12" single
Australian limited edition 12" single
A1. "The Pleasure Principle" (long vocal) – 7:23
A2. "The Pleasure Principle" (a cappella) – 4:23
B1. "The Pleasure Principle" (12" dub) – 6:58
B2. "The Pleasure Principle" (7" vocal) – 4:19
UK and European 7" single
A. "The Pleasure Principle" (The Shep Pettibone Mix) – 4:19
B. "The Pleasure Principle" (Dub Edit – The Shep Pettibone Mix) – 5:10
UK 12" single
A1. "The Pleasure Principle" (long vocal remix) – 7:28
B1. "The Pleasure Principle" (dub edit) – 6:58
B2. "The Pleasure Principle" (a cappella) – 4:19
UK CD single and 12" single – "The Pleasure Principle"/"Alright" – Danny Tenaglia/Todd Terry Mixes
  1. "The Pleasure Principle" (Legendary Club Mix) – 8:16
  2. "The Pleasure Principle" (NuFlava Vocal Dub) – 7:21
  3. "The Pleasure Principle" (Banji Dub) – 7:10
  4. "The Pleasure Principle" (D.T.'s Twilo Dub) – 9:04
  5. "Alright" (Tee's Club Mix) – 6:22
  6. "Alright" (Tee's Beats) – 3:25

Official versions/remixes[edit]

  • Album version – 4:57
  • A cappella – 4:23
  • 7" vocal/The Shep Pettibone Mix – 4:19
  • Long vocal/Long vocal remix – 7:23 (appears on the UK edition of Control: The Remixes)
  • Dub edit – 5:19
  • 12" dub/Dub edit – 6:58
  • Design of a Decade edit – 4:13
  • D.T.'s Twilo Dub – 9:04
  • NuFlava Vocal Dub – 7:21
  • Legendary Club Mix – 8:16
  • Legendary Radio Mix – 4:17
  • Banji Dub – 7:10


Chart (1987) Peak
Australia (Kent Music Report)[29] 50
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[30] 17
Canada Top Singles (RPM)[31] 35
Irish Singles Chart[32] 23
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[33] 25
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[34] 15
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[35] 37
South Africa (RISA)[36] 8
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[37] 24
US Billboard Hot 100[38] 14
US Dance Club Songs (Billboard)[39] 1
US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs (Billboard)[40] 1


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  4. ^ Bream, Jon (1986-02-07), "Janet Jackson still seeks an identity", Star Tribune, Michael J. Klingensmith, p. 03.C, ISSN 0744-5458
  5. ^ Edmond Jr., A. (1987), "John McClain creates solid gold money-makers", Black Enterprise, Earl G. Graves, Sr., 18, p. 54, ISSN 0006-4165
  6. ^ Saunders, Michael (1996-10-03), "The 3 Divas Janet Jackson turns her focus inward", The Boston Globe, p. D13
  7. ^ Gaar, Gillian G. (2002), She's a Rebel: The History of Women in Rock & Roll, Seal Press, pp. 323–324, ISBN 1-58005-078-6
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  21. ^ Cinquemani, Sal (2006-08-07). "Cassie : Cassie - Music Review - Slant Magazine". Slant Magazine. Retrieved 2014-02-07.
  22. ^ "Cassie dismisses 'copycat' claims". ChinaDaily. 2006-08-08. Retrieved 2014-02-07.
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