being done for

What Have You Done for Me Lately

"What Have You Done for Me Lately" is the lead single from Janet Jackson's third studio album, Control, and her first smash hit on both the pop and R&B charts.

Song information

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" on the song, 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 Grammy Award nominations for "Best Female R&B Vocal Performance" and "Best R&B Song" in at 1987 Grammy Awards, where Jackson performed the song live. The song, in particular its title, is referenced in the 1987 film Eddie Murphy Raw, as a common question that women ask their partners prior to breaking up.

It should be noted that the famous "LatelyBass" preset on the Yamaha TX81Z (used extensively on house and techno songs of the late '80s and '90s) was based on the bass tone of this song, and subsequently named after it as well.

The song was interpolated for a medley sung in the 1993 comedy Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit, and was covered by the American soul/funk band Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings in 2002 for their debut album, Dap Dippin' with Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings.

"What Have You Done for Me Lately" ranked 341 in Blender's The 500 Greatest Songs Since You Were Born.

Music video

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. "What Have You Done for Me Lately" 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 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.

Chart performance

Released in February 1986, "What Have You Done for Me Lately" is notable as the breakthrough single for Jackson; it was her first big hit after several years of only minor success on the R&B chart, and helped her to establish an artistic identity separate from that of her brother, Michael Jackson. It also sounds remarkably similar to Chico DeBarge's "Talk to Me", which was released in the same year.

The single debuted on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart at #95 the week of February 22, 1986, and checked into the Top 40 of the chart a month later, advancing from #48 to #39. Eight weeks later, the week of May 17, 1986, "What Have You Done for Me Lately" reached it's peak of #4. On the Billboard year-end charts, "What Have You Done for Me Lately" was ranked #43 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles of 1986, #13 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs singles of 1986, and #28 on the Hot Dance Club Play singles of 1986.

The single reached #1 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart; it also reached #3 in the UK. The song was certified gold in the USA and platinum in the UK and also topped the charts in the Netherlands. It was an international hit and one of Jackson's biggest hits outside of the U.S. The song made the top ten in almost all the countries it charted in.


Chart (1986) Peak
Australian ARIA Singles Chart 4
Belgian Singles Chart 7
Canadian Singles Chart 2
Dutch Top 40 1
German Singles Chart 8
Swiss Singles Chart 9
UK Singles Chart 3
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 4
U.S. Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs 1
U.S. Billboard Hot Dance Club Play 2
U.S. ARC Weekly Top 40 4

Official versions/remixes

  • Album Version – 4:59
  • A Cappella – 2:19
  • Design of a Decade International Edit – 3:32
  • Design of a Decade US Edit – 4:44
  • Dub Version – 6:35
  • Edited Version – 3:28
  • Extended Mix – 7:00


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