Michael Jackson meets techno -- The pop star recruits electronic artists like Moby to remix ''Dangerous''

What do you do if you’re the self-proclaimed King of Pop but your album’s a commercial fizzle? If you’re Michael Jackson, you recruit the top names in clubland to give your reputation — and sales — an extra boost. Starting with the 12-inch single for ”Jam,” out in June, Jackson has been allowing dance-music producers to remix his past work for the first time. As a bonus, the Gloved One is including with each 12-inch single from Dangerous a pumped-up new version of an old hit. ”Jam,” for example, comes with a remix of the 1979 No. 1 smash ”Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough.”

The call for help is ironic, considering Jackson’s seminal place in dance-music history. But with Dangerous down in the mid-70s on the Billboard pop album chart, Jackson seems willing to spend roughly half a million dollars — as much as $60,000 per track — on remixing to jump-start sales. Apparently, he also wants to reestablish his importance on the club scene, where Dangerous has been heavily criticized. Frankie Knuckles, one of two house-music DJ-producers redoing ”Rock With You” and ”Thriller,” says of Dangerous, ”All those soulful pop hooks that Michael is usually known for just weren’t on this album.”

Jackson recruited a state-of-the-art lineup of dance mavens for this project, from Chicago house team Steve ”Silk” Hurley, E-Smoove, and Maurice Joshua (”Remember the Time” and ”Jam”) to hip-house DJ Tommy Musto (”In the Closet”). ”Practically speaking, we all re-produced the work,” says Frankie Knuckles. ”We really started from scratch.”

For techno whiz kid Moby (”Beat It,” ”Who Is It”), known for his club-hit reworking of the Twin Peaks theme, making Michael Jackson hip for the ’90s dance scene was a considerable challenge. ”I have incredible respect for the guy,” says Moby, ”but this music isn’t exactly geared for my usual crowd. So I did drastic things with the music. For ‘Beat It,’ I kept the main body fast and added a frenetic edge to it; then his singing comes in and I cut the tempo in half so it slows from 140 to 70 beats per minute. I kept the voice at the original pitch but at half the tempo, while the track slips into this slow dub-reggae mood. For ‘Who Is It’ I did this one mix that uses a 15-year-old drum machine doing a repeated loop, backwards reverb vocals, and it gets so muted and mournful it sounds like a Joy Division mix.”

The Jackson remixers believe their work will sell him to today’s clubgoers, but they suspect that Dangerous sales may not be improved. Hot remixes, says Moby, ”don’t mean the kids are going to rush out and buy the original Dangerous album. They’re going to want the remixes.”

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