CD single cover art.

"What Have You Done for Me Lately" is the lead single from Janet Jackson's 1986 album, Control, released on January 13, 1986.

Background and compositionEdit

The song was written by Jackson and Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis and produced by Jam and Lewis. Jackson helped with the lyrics of the song and was credited as a "co-producer", although she is not given official credit as a producer. The song deals with a relationship that has gone bad because the man is not doing enough to please Jackson, prompting her to ask the title question. It received nominations for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance and Best R&B Song at the 1987 Grammy Awards, where Jackson performed the song live.

Critical receptionEdit

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 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. "What Have You Done for Me Lately" was compared favorably to similar recordings of female empowerment released by black women, such as "New Attitude" by Patti LaBelle, "Better Be Good to Me" by Tina Turner and "Sisters Are Doin' It for Themselves" by Aretha Franklin. Oprah Winfrey commented: "What you're seeing in all the areas of arts and entertainment is black women internalizing the idea of black power and pride ... Black women started listening to their inner cues, rather than society or even the black community's idea of what they are supposed to be and can be." "What Have You Done for Me Lately" ranked number three hundred and forty-one on Blender's list of "The 500 Greatest Songs Since You Were Born." 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".

Chart performanceEdit

"What Have You Done for Me Lately" was released on January 13, 1986 and became a breakthrough single. It debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 at number 95. The song climbed moderately and peaked at number four on the Billboard issue dated May 17, 1986. It spent twenty-one weeks on the chart and became the first top ten single for Jackson. The song charted well in Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and Hot Dance Club Songs where it reached number one and number two respectively. "What Have You Done for Me Lately" became her first number-one single on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. It placed at position 43 for the Billboard Year-End chart for 1986. The song was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for the shipments of 500,000 copies.

"What Have You Done for Me Lately" also achieved international success. In Canada, the single entered the RPM Singles Chart on March 29, 1986 at number 92. It peaked at number six on June 14 and became Jackson's first top ten hit and spent twenty-four weeks on the chart. It placed at position 53 on the RPM Year-end chart for 1986. In United Kingdom, "What Have You Done for Me Lately" debuted on the UK Singles Chart at number 67 and peaked at number three on May 3, 1986. It spent fourteen weeks on the chart and was certified silver by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) for the shipments of 200,000 copies. In New Zealand, the song entered and peaked at number 27 on the New Zealand Singles Chart and spent nine weeks on the chart. In Australia, the song peaked at number six on the Kent Music Report.In the Netherlands, the song became her first number-one single, topping the Dutch Top 40 for three weeks. Across Europe, the song reached the top ten in Belgium, Germany, Ireland and Switzerland

Music videoEdit


Screen cap from the video.

In the music video, directed by Brian Jones and Piers Ashworth in December 1985, Jackson goes to a funky diner with her friends to talk about her relationship problems. Her boyfriend shows up with his friends, and Jackson decides to give him a piece of her mind. 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 2-D. The "What Have You Done for Me Lately" video won a Soul Train Music Award for Best R&B/Soul or Rap Music Video in 1987. The video's choreographer was Paula Abdul, who appears in the video as Jackson's friend. The video also featured Tina Landon who would later become a choreographer and personal friend to Jackson. It was made available on iTunes on February 1, 2007.

Music video actor-dancer Rudy Huston played Jackson's boyfriend in the video and was also in numerous other videos of the era including Pebbles' top ten hits "Girlfriend" and "Mercedes Boy". Jackson met Huston on the set of the television series Fame starring Debbie Allen, in which Jackson had a co-starring role and Huston was a featured dance student along with Jasmine Guy, before the latter's A Different World fame.

Live performancesEdit


Jackson performing "What Have You Done for Me Lately" at the 1987 Grammy Awards.

Jackson performed the song live on the 1987 Grammy Awards, which were broadcast by CBS, and on all of her concert tours: Rhythm Nation 1814 Tour, Janet. Tour, The Velvet Rope Tour, All for You Tour, Rock Witchu Tour and Number Ones: Up Close and Personal Tour.

Track listingEdit

U.S. and Canadian 7" single
Australian limited edition 7" single
A. "What Have You Done for Me Lately" – 4:59
B. "He Doesn't Know I'm Alive" – 3:30
U.S. and European 12" single
Canadian 12" promo single
A1. "What Have You Done for Me Lately" (Extended Mix) – 7:00
B1. "What Have You Done for Me Lately" (Dub Version) – 6:35
B2. "What Have You Done for Me Lately" (A Cappella Version) – 2:19
Canadian 12" single
A1. "What Have You Done for Me Lately" (Extended Mix) – 7:00
A2. "Nasty" (Extended) – 6:00
B1. "Nasty" (Instrumental) – 4:00
B2. "Nasty" (A Cappella) – 2:55
UK 7" single
A. "What Have You Done for Me Lately" (Single Version) – 3:28
B. "Young Love" – 4:56
UK 12" single
A1. "What Have You Done for Me Lately" (Extended Mix) – 7:00
B1 "What Have You Done for Me Lately" (Dub Version) – 6:35
B2. "Young Love" – 4:56
European 7" single
A. "What Have You Done for Me Lately" (Single Version) – 3:28
B. "He Doesn't Know I'm Alive" – 3:30


Chart (1986) Peak
Australian Kent Music Report 6
Belgian Singles Chart 7
Canadian Singles Chart 6
Dutch Top 40 1
German Singles Chart 8
Irish Singles Chart 10
New Zealand Singles Chart 27
South African Singles Chart 19
Swiss Singles Chart 9
UK Singles Chart 3
US Billboard Hot 100 4
US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs 1
US Billboard Hot Dance Club Songs 2

Year-end chartsEdit

Country Certification
United States Gold
Australia Gold
Canada Gold
United Kingdom Silver
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