With “Nasty,” Janet Jackson gave pop music feminism its first beat

Vincent Anthony
3 Min Read


Ms. Jackson delivered this iconic catchphrase at the start of her classic hit “Nasty,” the second single, and track, from Janet’s Control album, and with it, the music world would never be the same again.

In response to Janet’s demand, producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis certainly delivered. The beat is a funky yet ferocious dancefloor-ready jam. Inspired by a real life run in with some “nasty boys,” the song’s lyrics chide any perverted boy who steps to a woman disrespectfully. Janet’s scolding not only yielded a game-changing hit, but also a new nickname for the pop star when she proclaimed that, her “first name ain’t baby, it’s Janet… Ms. Jackson-if-ya-nasty!”

Aggressive was certainly never a word one would have chosen to describe Janet before 1986’s “Nasty” – but this song changed that forever. While she indeed was softspoken and sweet, Ms. Jackson made it very clear that if you get nasty with her, well, she will get nasty with you too, because the only nasty thing she likes, “is a nasty groove.”

With that nasty groove, Janet started yet another trend for her music: the dance break – built into the actual track. “Nasty” had a fittingly nasty interlude where pop’s new Queen of Dance could showcase her moves in its iconic music video. It started a movement that put nasty boys everywhere in their place … and gave ladies the inspiration to stand up for themselves and, all the while, jam to Janet’s new feminist anthem. “Nasty” laid the blueprint for the girl power movement of the 90s, with acts like Lil Kim, TLC, Destiny’s Child, and the Spice Girls unapologetically throwing men under the bus and asserting their power as females. In the 2000s and beyond, that movement shifted to being called feminism, with Beyoncé, Nicki Minaj, and even Taylor Swift trying their hands at the task. It was Janet, however, who opened that door with this, now classic, song.

From that point on, Janet’s competition (and those nasty boys) had every reason to fear the next time someone gave her a beat.

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Vincent is the founder of the magazine and has had a strong passion for popular music since, well, 1997! If it's not obvious, his favorite artists include Destiny's Child, Mariah Carey, Janet Jackson, Michael Jackson, P!nk, and many more. Vincent lives in New York, where he is a high school English teacher, and currently he is pursuing a Master's in Journalism at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY.