Michael Jackson leaves music-legend Quincy Jones (the producer credited for the phenomenal success of “Off The Wall”, “Thriller” and “Bad” behind for “Dangerous,” his fourth solo release. And, at nearly 80 minutes (with 14 tracks in all), it’s his longest album then; but it’s the way he uses that time that makes it a masterpiece.
The first half is mostly a wild ride of hi-tech funk, gritty grooves and moody attitude; while the second half covers the over-the-top orchestral pieces, epic love ballads and emotional sentiment.
“Gone Too Soon”, the album’s lament, has him embracing a series of poetic similes to mourn the lost of a loved one. “Like a sun-set dying with the rising of the moon…”, he sings, over ambrosial orchestral chords, “Gone too soon”. It’s the perfect song to play at a funeral. But before you can shed a tear, the song is over; replaced by the dark, hypnotic, “Dangerous” pulse of the night-club. And it’s not about him at all. It’s actually about a girl; a girl who just happens to be vindictive, conniving, sexy and divine all at once. The return of “Dirty Diana”? Perhaps.
The ‘rock track’ this time around is a ballad entitled “Give In To Me”. And it’s Slash on guitar as a passionate Michael Jackson plea, rather demands, for a woman to quench his desire. Yes, The King Of Pop isn’t as innocent as you may have thought. At one point, he’s making sex noises “In The Closet” with some chick; “Because there’s something about you, baby, that makes me wanna give it to you.”
“Who Is It” has some repetition towards the end, but the excellent strings combined with the captivating New Jack/R&B groove and Michael’s pained vocals describing a runaway lover and their relationship make this a keeper.
He’s never written better lyrics, the melodies are absolute magic and the beats are all on-point (with special credit to Teddy Riley, whose new-jack-swing production complements Jackson’s style in way that’ll make Quincy Jones proud); marking “Dangerous” as the Michael Jackson classic that doesn’t play it quite as safe as the others.
If it is hardly as effervescent or joyous as either of those records, chalk it up to his suffocating stardom, which results in a set of songs without much real emotional center, either in their substance or performance. But, there’s a lot to be said for professional craftsmanship at its peak, and “Dangerous” has plenty of that, not just on such fine singles as “In the Closet,” “Remember the Time,” or the blistering “Jam,” but on album tracks like “Why You Wanna Trip on Me.” No, it’s not perfect — it has a terrible cover, a couple of slow spots, and suffers from CD-era ailments of the early ’90s, such as it’s overly long running time and its deadening Q Sound production, which sounds like somebody forgot to take the Surround Sound button off. Even so, “Dangerous” captures Jackson at a near-peak, delivering an album that would have ruled the pop charts surely and smoothly if it had arrived just a year earlier. But it didn’t — it arrived along with grunge, which changed the rules of the game nearly as much as “Thriller” itself. Consequently, it’s the rare multi-platinum, number one album that qualifies as a nearly forgotten, underappreciated record.