Michael Jackson

Epic, 1991


REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith


This is the point of Michael Jackson’s career where he started getting seriously criticized for the choices he was making not only personally, but creatively as well. When the gargantuan epic Dangerous was released in 1991, the first noticeable surprise was the absence of Quincy Jones as producer. Instead, Jackson opted to go with the New Jack Swing maestro Teddy Riley (for virtually the entire first half of the album) and lesser-known names like Bruce Swedien and Bill Bottrell. However, Michael took on the heaviest workload of all as executive producer, so Dangerous was, for all intents and purposes, his baby.

Another criticism leveled at the singer was in the unnecessarily violent content of the video for the lead-off single “Black Or White,” which depicts him smashing a car windshield and storefront windows (after gratuitously groping his crotch, of course). Censors demanded that the clip be edited down and the offensive material be deleted, but by then a lot of damage to his clean reputation had already been done. If all of that controversy wasn’t bad enough, there were persistently nagging rumors that Michael’s skin had been bleached and that he was getting too close to comfort to the children he had invited over for sleepovers at his Neverland ranch.

Michael reverted back to safe-mode for the Egyptian themed “Remember The Time,” getting a little help from famous friends like Magic Johnson, Eddie Murphy, and Iman in the process. He even brought back some stellar special effects, something he frequently had employed in the past with memorable videos like “Thriller” and “Smooth Criminal.”my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

For the tongue-firmly-in-cheek hit “In The Closet,” Michael hoped to dispel any gay rumors that were abounding at the time by cozying up to model Naomi Campbell. Though Madonna had initially been his first choice of duet partner, Michael ultimately decided on a lightweight “mystery artist,” who sounds like a cross between his sister Janet and frequent collaborator Siedah Garrett. Presumably, the Madonna direction would have only fanned the flames instead of extinguishing them. Michael kept his friendship with the Material Girl afloat just long enough to escort her to the Oscars that year.

We probably will never see superstars as huge as Michael Jackson and Madonna ever again. The way they manipulated the media helped to ensure that they stayed on top of their game as long as possible. Now, with Michael’s untimely passing and Madonna no longer the creative force she used to be, both thrones have been left vacant for the taking. It will be a tall order indeed for someone with the megawatt charisma, the shrewd business acumen – and the talent to back it all up – to come along and blow us all out of the water. Stranger things have happened, but it will take a minor miracle for it to in this day and age where everybody is jockeying for their five minutes of empty fame.

After the flawless Quincy trilogy of Off The Wall, Thriller, and Bad, the subsequent trilogy of Dangerous, HIStory, and Invincible come as second-tier disappointments. Each had some unique cuts that stood out here and there, but overall, they were spotty and redundant affairs. On Dangerous, you get the full gospel-infused treatment of the Free Willy theme “Will You Be There,” a guest appearance by Slash of Guns N’ Roses on the “Dirty Diana” retread “Give In To Me,” and the vastly underrated dance track “She Drives Me Wild.”

Had there been less Teddy Riley, fewer spoken-word bits and shorter songs, Dangerous could very well have ended up becoming the masterpiece Michael Jackson was clearly intent on creating. Certainly, message songs like “Heal The World” and “Gone Too Soon” have a striking and sad resonance now that Jackson is no longer with us, so in that way his legacy is preserved and his music does live on. Tragically misunderstood as MJ was, we mustn’t neglect the fact that he was also addicted to fame and all of its pitfalls. Somewhere along the line, Michael lost touch with reality and started trusting the wrong people (especially the unethical, deceptive, and greedy quack “doctors”). After so much pain, disappointment, and struggle, he even lost his conscious contact with a higher power that he sings about so strongly in “Keep The Faith.” In the end, he had nothing left of himself to give.

Life in a bubble never lasts, because eventually…it bursts.

Rating: B-

User Rating: B


I bassically agree with the review. If you listen closely to " in the closet" I swear that that is Maddona on that track. Listen to again, it's her.

© 2009 Michael R. Smith and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Epic, and is used for informational purposes only.