DAR Music: Michael Jackson's Dangerous

By @TrueGodImmortal 

1. Jam 
2. Why You Wanna Trip On Me 
3. In The Closet
4. She Drives Me Wild 
5. Remember The Time 
6. Can't Let Her Get Away 
7. Heal The World 
8. Black Or White 
9. Who Is It 
10. Give In To Me 
11. Will You Be There 
12. Keep The Faith 
13. Gone Too Soon 
14. Dangerous 

25 years have passed since Michael Jackson's most underrated studio album was released. Unlike his other classics such as Off The Wall, Thriller, and Bad, there were no documentaries or special edition album releases containing unreleased demos, leftover tracks, or anything of that sort. It was a bit surprising, as the Jackson estate has made an effort to make sure Michael and his legacy remains in the forefront on anniversary dates. Yet, November 26th came and went without a big mention from the estate or anything special for it. Why? Many could say that with Quincy Jones not being involved in the making of said underrated album that maybe the story and the importance of it isn't as significant. You'd be incorrect to think this. One thing that makes this period stand as one of the biggest points for Michael Jackson in his career was the newfound freedom he obtained in the early 90s. After going his separate ways with Quincy Jones, the man who helped Michael with his vision over his 3 biggest albums, he would gain his artistic freedom, now being mostly on his own. In addition to this, Michael signed a deal with Sony Music for 50 million, which was the biggest deal for a star at the time, and he seemed to be on cloud nine as an artist. After a very successful Bad album and tour, a huge deal being done, and that independent freedom, what could have possibly been next?


Dangerous, his eighth solo album, was carefully planned and produced, with over a year of work being put into the process. Michael was now in charge, writing most of his songs himself (12 out of the 14 here), and being the leading producer of the album alongside Teddy Riley and Bill Bottrell. Inspired by the New Jack Swing R&B era, as well as some elements of rock, pop, and funk. This new direction was essentially special for Michael, as he would cultivate a sound that we hadn't seen from him before and make it his own. Dangerous is widely seen as a New Jack Swing album to many, and while I don't fully agree with that assessment, I'd call it "New Jack Swing-Plus", as it had far more than just that sound within it. Still, as Michael geared up for the album, it seemed as if he was stepping into his own more as a man and as a visionary. He was concise in what he wanted to do, and began securing business deals for himself that would line his pockets even more, like his LA Gear sneaker endorsement. From a business and musical standpoint, I view Dangerous as the culmination of everything that Michael had previously been building.

The first single he would release from the album, the racially charged "Black And White" exemplifies what Michael represented: that color shouldn't matter, it's more about the person within. While I wasn't fond of the song itself that much, it skyrocketed to no. 1 on the charts, kicking the "Dangerous" album well into gear. When November 26, 1991 arrived, tons of MJ fans hit the stores to finally hear the next masterpiece from the King of Pop. It managed to hit no. 1 in multiple countries, affirming the status of MJ as one of the biggest stars in the entire world, and to many, he was still the biggest star there was. What makes this album so special to me is the way MJ went for chart domination all across the board with his singles. Every single he released was a smash hit somewhere in the world. If the song didn't take off on the charts in the US, it would hit top 20 in a number of foreign countries, which was massive. For example: "Give In To Me" didn't chart in the US, but hit big in Canada, the UK, France and other countries. With this type of chart domination, Dangerous would go onto sell over 7 million copies in the United States, and well over 33 million worldwide. Those numbers were reported back many years, so one would imagine after his passing in 2009 that the album has likely moved many, many more units.

Now, while Dangerous was no slouch charts wise, it tends to go slept on amongst fans when talking about the discography of MJ. The same could be said for Bad. Now, I know that it's hard to imagine an album that sold 33 million worldwide being somewhat slept on, but this is Michael we're talking about. In critics' circles and among many fans, it's regarded as an album that doesn't get the love that Off The Wall or Thriller does, but I'd put Dangerous right up there next to them both, alongside Bad. Even the fact that the estate didn't do a 25th Anniversary edition for the album should tell you it's not held in the same regard. Perhaps it's the legacy of the album being Michael all on his own, or the New Jack Swing sound, but Dangerous doesn't get the credit it deserves. It's a top tier MJ album and the first one where he was REALLY in control. As an artist myself, I love albums where the artist gets more control and writes what THEY want to write without much outside help. In my opinion, this is probably the most pure MJ album ever, and from the opening song to the end, it's a magical journey of a listen.

The first track "Jam", was one that caught me by surprise. It had a really nice groove to it, one that seemed to bridge the gap between the transitions that make MJ's music so infectious and the New Jack Swing sound. Michael sounds comfortable here (who could forget the hilarious video starring the other MJ, Michael Jordan) and even has Heavy D supply a verse to give the album a rare hip hop boost that we weren't used to hearing from Michael. It was a solid way to kick off the album and flowed smoothly into the 2nd track, which is my 2nd least favorite of the album personally, "Why You Wanna Trip On Me". The song, one of the only two tracks that MJ didn't write or assist with writing and it sort of shows in the execution of the song. It's a decent track, but it lacks something that gives it the feel I was looking for.

My 2nd favorite track of the album follows next with "In The Closet", which features the sultry vocals of Princess Stephanie of Monaco. The song is as aggressive as we've seen Michael, oozing sexual energy that was missing from Bad, Thriller, and Off The Wall. In a way, this is probably his most raunchy yet subdued track, as he speaks about a passionate romance that tends to remain private. One would assume that this song was written based on a numerous amount of relationships that Michael had over the years. You rarely ever heard about Michael being involved in a serious passionate relationship, but we aren't naive fans. We know he was likely intimate with a number of women, and this song probably only added to that number. It has some intense sounds in the production, and the way Michael sings it, it's almost a whispered vocal throughout minus the chorus. It's really a great song and one of the best on the entire album through the intensity it brings.

One of the other songs that tends to falter on the album a bit is "She Drives Me Wild", which isn't bad by any stretch, it just pales in comparison to the others. The production is a bit clunky in spots, and while Michael kills it vocally as always, I could have done without this track entirely on the album. It's my least favorite on the album for this reason, but it doesn't really bring the album down much as a whole. However, the following track is where the album reaches the apex, with the classic "Remember The Time". It might be the most soulful track on the album and probably one of the most soulful and traditional R&B style songs of MJ's career. It has a beautiful arrangement and production from Teddy Riley, which has one of the most infectious melodies I've ever heard. We've always heard that Michael responds well to melodies and one could assume that when Michael heard this one, it was a wrap. He eases into the song with a really smooth verse before the hook comes in and completely grabs you. The hook is simple and to the point, but it's honestly one of my favorite MJ hooks ever. Check it out:

"Do You Remember The Time/
When We Fell In Love
Do You Remember The Time/
When We First Met
Do You Remember The Time/
When We Fell In Love
Do You Remember The Time/"

The best part of the song however comes at the end, when Michael goes off vocally, and his signature sound shines through. There's passion and intensity behind his vocals on certain  songs on this album, and this one might be the strongest song vocally here. If I had to rank the songs on Dangerous, this would be at the very top, no question. The next track "Can't Let Her Get Away" is another solid one on the album, and though not my favorite overall, it's really sequenced well in the album and feels like it fits perfectly.

Now, the song that really felt like an anthem for Michael is the next track, "Heal The World". It would be a precursor to the direction Michael would take on his next release, becoming more conscious and aware through infectious music. This track is a really heartfelt song, and while some might say it's a bit cheesy, it fit perfectly for where Michael wanted to go. It also fits well in the tracklist as it leads right into the next song, the aforementioned "Black Or White". I don't think it was a coincidence that "Heal The World" is placed right before "Black Or White" on the tracklist and it was clear the message that Michael wanted to convey to his audience. He succeeded very well in doing so.

The next song, "Who Is It" is an interesting listen. It feels like the end of a romance for Michael, and one where the woman decided to step out on him. The lyrics seem to paint the picture before leading into the bridge/hook, but the verses are pretty clear:

"I gave her money
I gave her time/
I gave her everything
Inside one heart could find/
I gave her passion
My very soul/
I gave her promises
And secrets so untold/

And she promised me forever
And A day we'd live as ane
We made our vows
We'd live A life anew/
And she promised me in secret
That she'd love me for all time
It's A promise so untrue/
Tell me what will I do?/"

The hook is actually pretty intricate for MJ, before leading into the instantly catchy yet simple question that makes up the title of the song: Who Is It? The way that he delivers that question in the song is honestly amazing and the fact he makes it so infectious to the ears is another testament to his greatness. The rock inspired "Give In To Me" features legendary guitarist Slash and it's a great listen, but what really makes the song is the hook. The verses are sung in a lower tone than usual for Michael and the vocals can almost be seen as distraught until you get to that resounding chorus, and Michael goes off being backed by the booming guitar. The chorus is admittedly smooth in execution, though it sounds extremely resounding, but the lyrics are what does it for this hook. Take a look:

"Love Is A Feeling
Give It When I Want It
'Cause I'm On Fire/
Quench My Desire/
Give It When I Want It
Talk To Me Woman
Give In To Me/
Give In To Me"

After we get the rock sounding "Give In To Me", we then get treated to yet another anthem for Michael in "Will You Be There", known to most as the theme from the movie Free Willy. Backed by what sounds like a choir, Michael sings so easily and seamlessly over a rolling yet minimal production. One thing I liked about the vocals here are that they start off much deeper through his verses and we get a glimpse at his real speaking/deeper singing voice. The soft spoken style of Michael always went out the window in favor of intense vocals in his music, but to hear him sing slightly deeper here somehow added an element to the song. The choir also helps to elevate this song, much like they do for the next track "Keep The Faith", which isn't my favorite track, but it fits for the message Michael was conveying throughout the album. He wanted people to remain strong, stand united, and don't waver in their beliefs, and these were songs that helped to push that message strongly.

As the album arrives near the very end, we get the somber sound of "Gone Too Soon", which is a very heartfelt yet saddening track to listen to. I admittedly skip over it from time to time when listening to this album, but it was sung beautifully by Michael. The title track ends the album out, and it's another infectious groove by Teddy and MJ, and probably the most "New Jack Swing" sounding track on the album. The vocals on the chorus are smoothly layered and the way the production comes together in a marriage with his vocals for the song is top notch. As the album ends, you realize that this really was an album that reflects freedom for Michael. His message of love, unification, and healing a world divided shined through while some of his catchiest songs come from this album as well.

Dangerous, while not the BEST Michael album, it is the most free and true to him in theory. He wrote what he felt and controlled the direction of the album without having someone over his shoulder and while the album may have a track or two that didn't exactly work, it was without a doubt an amazing listen that sits high in his discography and remains one of the better selling albums of all time. Let's hope the 30th anniversary of this album sees a Spike Lee documentary or a remastered version of the album with unreleased tracks. It's only right.



Popular Posts