Genre Soul pop
|B-side "Pretty Boy"
"Nasty" (Cool Summer Mixes)|
Released January 6, 1987 (1987-01-06)
"Let's Wait Awhile" is a song by American singer Janet Jackson, released as the fifth single from her third studio album Control (1986). It was written and produced by Jackson and Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, with Melanie Andrews also serving as the co-writer of the song. It is also the first song Jackson co-produced. Inspired by a conversation the singer had with a friend, the song speaks of sexual abstinence and postponing intimacy within a relationship.
- Background and recording
- Composition and lyrical interpretation
- Critical reception
- Chart performance
- Music video
- Live performances
- Track listings
The song received generally favorable reviews from music critics, who praised the track's sweetness and Jackson's tender delivery. It was also praised for its meaningful message, considered to be a teaching tool to encourage sexual abstinence. In the United States, it peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100 and Adult Contemporary singles charts and became a number one hit on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. Outside the US, it reached number three in the United Kingdom, where she made her debut on the BBC's Top of the Pops on March 26, 1987, and number four in Ireland, in addition to charting with the top 40 in several other countries. It has been included in two of Jackson's greatest hits albums, Design of a Decade: 1986–1996 (1995) and Number Ones (2009).
A music video for the song was directed by Dominic Sena and tells a lighthearted, accompanying story of a couple in love. Jackson has performed the song live in all of her tours, beginning with the Rhythm Nation World Tour 1990 through the Unbreakable World Tour (2015-16), receiving praise for her vocal performance. The single has been covered and sampled in numerous songs throughout the years, while also being featured on the soundtrack of a telenovela in Brazil. In 2004, Serbian singer LoOney and Lud samples "Let's Wait Awhile" in Geto Riba, from the 2006 album, U Ime Igre by Lud in 2006.
Background and recording
While writing for her upcoming breakthrough album, "Control", Janet Jackson's manager John McClain introduced to Jackson the record producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis to work and produce with her the majority of the album. "Let's Wait Awhile was one of the tracks they penned together, along with Melanie Andrews. Jackson, Jam and Lewis also produced the track and provided rhythm arrangements, while the latter two with Andrews were responsible for vocal arrangements. Jackson alone provided digital bells and background vocals, while Jam and Lewis were responsible for drum programming, digital keyboards, acoustic piano and percussion. It was recorded and mixed at Flyte Tyme Productions, Inc., Minneapolis, Minnesota. "Let's Wait Awhile" is written in the key of D major, set in a rock ballad tempo of 85 beats per minute. Janet's vocals span from the low-note of A3 to the high-note of D5. The introduction follows the chord progression of G–F♭7–D/E–E♭7-D/E-F♭7-A, while the verses follow the chord progression of G♭7-F♭7-G♭7-F♭7-G♭7.
Composition and lyrical interpretation
"Let's Wait Awhile", written by Jackson, Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis and Melanie Andrews, Janet's best friend, is a simple love song, as described by Jam and Lewis. Lyrically, it talks about abstinence and waiting until the right moment to have sex. In her book True You: A Journey to Finding and Loving Yourself, Janet commented that she was inspired to write the track after talking to a friend about how he was unsure if he really wanted to have sex with his girlfriend, since she was sexually assertive and he was in doubt about his sexuality. She advise him to wait awhile and after that discussion she was inspired to write the track. "I connected that song to Todd and millions of young people who might need encouragement to think rather than act, to pause rather than move," she stated. Jam further commented, "The theme of the song was Janet's idea. She's not a preachy person. She's not telling people how to live their lives. All she's doing is offering an opinion."
In addition to serving as an anthem to sexual abstinence, the song also became a hit during the height of the AIDS pandemic. Some school teachers adopted the song as a teaching tool to help steer students toward sexual abstinence. The song was also a precursor to a sexually liberated Jackson who emerged on the Rhythm Nation 1814 track "Someday Is Tonight", a sequel to "Let's Wait Awhile", which can be looked at as Jackson's readiness to go further in their relationship. On her album janet., several songs revolve around the theme of sexual intimacy as well. On 20 Y.O., the track "With U" was written as a follow-up to "Let's Wait Awhile". According to the song's producer, Jermaine Dupri, "With U" takes place after the act of intimacy the two have put off, which results in "romantic confusion".
"Let's Wait Awhile" received mostly positive reviews from music critics. Ed Hogan of AllMusic saw the song as a "sweet soft departure from the hard funky veneer of [previous singles] "What Have You Done for Me Lately," "Nasty," and "Control." Eric Henderson of Slant Magazine praised "how perfect her tremulous hesitance fits into the abstinence anthem 'Let's Wait Awhile', also noting that it "would've been a great place to end the album." Norman Riley of The Crisis praised the track, calling it "pleasing and surprising". Nelson George of Billboard picked the track as one of the album's highlights, calling it "somber". Danyel Smith of Vibe praised the track, writing that "on the fragile [ballad], Jackson's tender, hesitant delivery conveys all of the trepidation and wonder felt by a young girl on the brink of losing her innocence. Wendy Robinson of PopMatters praised the track for "showcas[ing] Janet’s ability to combine a gorgeous melody with a meaningful message." Nick Levine wrote for Digital Spy that the "seemingly gooey '80s ballad has a hard centre," referring to the song's lyrics.
The song became a success in the United States, peaking at number two on the Billboard Hot 100, behind Club Nouveau's "Lean on Me". It became Jackson's fifth consecutive top five hit on the chart. It also reached number one on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart for one week, her fourth single to top the chart. "Let's Wait Awhile" was placed at number 48 on Billboard's Hot 100 Year-End Chart of 1987 and at number 42 on the year's R&B chart. The single also peaked at number two on the Hot Adult Contemporary charts. In the United Kingdom the song was released in March 1987 and peaked at number three on the UK Singles Chart a month later, spending ten weeks on the chart. It became her second top-three single there and her most successful at the time, along with "What Have You Done for Me Lately". The single also peaked inside the top-twenty in Belgium, Canada, Ireland and Netherlands.
The music video was directed by Dominic Sena and is set in New York City. The actor and martial artist Taimak Guarriello was cast to play Jackson's love interest after receiving a call from a modeling agent, who informed him that Janet wanted him to play her boyfriend. The video follows Jackson and her boyfriend (played by Guarriello) going out for a romantic night on the town. In the middle of the video, her boyfriend wants to end the evening by taking their relationship a step further, but Jackson wants to wait until they are both ready.
Jackson has performed the song on all of her tours. It was performed on the 1990 Rhythm Nation 1814 Tour. Jackson included "Let's Wait Awhile" during her Janet World Tour in 1993-95. During some shows, the singer asked a prayer to her brother Michael Jackson. According to Greg Kot from Chicago Tribune, she sang it "as if to say she's still the one in charge" following her female-powering themes throughout her career. During the 1998 The Velvet Rope Tour, she sang the song sat on a stool, accompanied by a guitarist. 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.
For the performance of "Let's Wait Awhile" on the All for You Tour in 2001 and 2002, she was in the center stage to sing the song. Denise Sheppard from Rolling Stone called the number "mellow", and commented "Without question, [it was] one of the night's most beautiful and verklempt moments arrived out of nowhere forty-five minutes into the set. It was the first time that a break in the action occurred - no dancers, no music -- and as a close-up captured Jackson looking genuinely happy, the audience spontaneously burst into what became a five-minute standing ovation. Looking on, shocked by the sincerity of the moment, she shed sincere tears, simultaneously overwhelmed and overjoyed. 'I love you so much, Vancouver. Thank you'." The February 16, 2002 final date of the tour at the Aloha Stadium in Hawaii, was broadcast by HBO, and included a performance of it. This rendition was also added to the setlist at its DVD release, Janet: Live in Hawaii, in 2002.
For her first tour in seven years Rock Witchu Tour in 2008, she included "Let's Wait Awhile" in its setlist. Phil Gallo of Variety praised her vocals during the performance of the song, praising her "startlingly full-bodied" vocal performance on the track. In contrast, Marsha Lederman of The Globe and Mail perceived that the performance was "a bit bumpy and she seemed to be struggling a tad as she held her hand up to her ear in an effort to catch the right notes." On the Number Ones: Up Close and Personal tour, Jackson used a diamond-encrusted lavender gown to perform a ballad medley of "Nothing", "Come Back to Me" and "Let's Wait Awhile". Annabel Ross of Sydney's "Everguide" praised Janet for "hitting some impressive high notes herself." Joanna Chaundy of The Independent agreed, calling it "the highlight of the show's first half since her voice was more audible and still in fine form." It is also included in her current 2015-2016 Unbreakable World Tour.
In 1987, the song was part of the international soundtrack of Brazilian telenovela "Brega e Chique" (English: "Tacky and Chic"). In 1988, smooth jazz/fusion guitarist Paul Jackson Jr. covered the song for his album I Came to Play. In 1989, jazz fusion saxophonist Nelson Rangell covered the song on his album Playing for Keeps. In 1990, Hong Kong Singer Cass Phang covered the song for her album "With Love". In 1994, Booker T. & the M.G.s covered the song instrumentally on their album That's the Way It Should Be. In 2001, Ashanti covered the chorus on the Big Pun album Endangered Species. Destiny's Child sang the song live as a tribute to Jackson during MTV's MTV Icon special during the same year. In 2002, smooth jazz guitarist Norman Brown covered the song instrumentally on his album Just Chillin'. In 2004, Australian actress Emily Browning covered this song. In 2005, Ilona Irvine covered the song on the compilation album Island Soul: A Way of Life, Vol. 1. In 2007, Filipino singer Nikki Gil covered the song, while the song's refrain is sampled by Melody Thornton on Jibbs' single "Go Too Far". In 2013, Justin Timberlake sang part of "Let's Wait Awhile" on his The 20/20 Experience World Tour. In 2014, Amber Riley and Kevin McHale covered the song in the Glee episode "Tested".