However cliché it might sound, it’s true: Michael Jackson lives on through his music, which continues to inspire millions and will probably continue doing so for many years to come. Ever since his passing, there have been countless magazines, books and music that have been released. While you would have hoped that all were simply about celebrating his life, it’s fair to say that many were simply cashing in on the event.
Which is why, when I hear about the release of Michael Jackson remixes, I can’t help but feel extremely uneasy. I grew up with his music on my tapes, CDs and on my mp3 player (does this show my age a little bit?) and like most fans I have spoken to; I feel very protective of it. And so, it bothers me to hear less than worthy, so-called in memoriam items that seem to have been put together sometimes clumsily just to make a buck.
But, as a true Michael Jackson fan, I’m also always ready to give anything related to him a chance.
Michael Jackson: The Remix Suite, released by Universal Motown Records, is a five-part series meant to pay homage to Michael Jackson. Three of these suites have already been released, and two are still to come (October 6th 2009 and October 20th 2009).
These suites of remixes are not to be a "sombre tribute to an iconic legend," but rather a rediscovery of some of his greatest hits through the talent of mixers from around the world. This particular series (Suite III) focuses on the hits from the time when Michael Jackson, still part of the Jackson 5, was also discovering his own voice. Some of the remixed songs include "Ben" (remixed by Akon), "Ain’t No Sunshine" (remixed by Benny Blanco), "Maria" (remixed by Emile Haynie), "Who’s Lovin You" (remixed by No ID) and "Maybe Tomorrow" (remixed by Sturken & Rogers).
I had the opportunity to listen all the tracks on Michael Jackson: The Remix Suite III. As a huge Michael Jackson fan, I love the originals of all the songs remixed in this suite, so it’s going to take a lot for me to like these remixes, and even more to make me love them.
This CD boasts three remixes of "Dancing Machine", one of my favorite Jackson 5 songs. Unfortunately I was very disappointed by them; I found that all three versions ruined the song itself. In my opinion, some songs are not meant to be reworked, but enhanced, given an atypical vibe and/or adapted to various styles – think Alanis Morisette’s version of Seal’s "Crazy".
This is what they did with another one of my favourites, "ABC"; it was remixed with a reggae vibe, and (a little surprisingly, perhaps) it really works well. This track is definitely one of my favorites off this suite.
My other favourites were the remixes that didn’t touch the original song, but rather added to them with a beat, looping of particular segments or adding extra voices to the chorus (think DJ Morsy’s version of "Working Day and Night"). The first track on the CD, "Skywriter" was remixed with added dynamism, perfectly suited to today’s upbeat pop sounds. The second track was also a tribute to the original song rather than a remix; "Never Can Say Good-bye" sounds like an updated version rather than a total remix; so is "Who’s Lovin' You".
"I Want You Back" is another song that was only touched up; the unmistakable beat was left untouched and some of the best parts of the song were looped for emphasis. While a little unsettling on the first couple of listens (when, for example, you start singing only to realize that in this version, the singing starts a little bit later), it’s a great remix.
There are some others that were remixed to become electronic-style club songs – and, big surprise, I didn’t like any of those.
"Forever Came Today" was remixed almost beyond recognition; the generic opening beat seems almost insulting, as it kicks off the remix of a song by one of the most avant-garde artists this generation has known. The original track of "Forever Came Today" was added almost as an after thought; you can barely hear Michael’s voice. So, while the song itself is really good, it doesn’t make for what I’d consider a good remix.
The remix to "Hum Along and Dance" was very interesting, to say the least. It was given an old school hip hop edge. Again, as was the case with "Forever Came Today", it barely featured the original track, and it’s not that the song itself isn’t good; but as a remix of a Jackson 5 song, it really doesn’t pull its weight.
In short, this is an interesting CD, and a solid addition to the Michael Jackson collection of any fan. However, be ready to be shocked and perhaps even offended by what was done with some of these songs.