Michael Jackson’s most underrated album turns 30

MJ+Dangerous

Tilemahos Efthimiadis | Flickr

Dani Heba

Michael Jackson’s eighth album “Dangerous” will turn 30 on Nov. 26.

“Dangerous” was Jackson’s first album without producer Quincy Jones after over a decade of collaboration. Jones featured on the ninetimes platinum “Off The Wall” in 1979, “Thriller” in 1982 and 11-times platinum “Bad,” released in 1987.

The eighttimes platinum “Dangerous” was a highly experimental album by Jackson, as it saw him adapt to the new jack swing style of the late 1980s and early 1990s. This style encompasses elements of jazz, funk, rap and R&B. To meet the moment, Jackson called upon Teddy Riley, a pioneer in the new jack swing style, to produce the album.

In addition to a stylistic departure from his previous music, “Dangerous” saw a more socially conscious side of the singer, a remarkable feat because he had frequently touched upon such themes in previous songs such as “Man In the Mirror” and “We Are The World.”

The change in style and increased social awareness are seen right off the bat in the first track,

“Jam.” Following the sound of glass shattering and a funky beat drop to start the song, Jackson sings, “Nation to nation, all the world must come together/ Face the problems that we see then maybe somehow we can work it out.”

In the chorus, he proceeds to sing, “Jam/ It ain’t, it ain’t too much stuff,” carrying two meanings: first, arguing that he isn’t jammed up by people weighing him down and that he’s able to carry the weight of the world; second, a reference to dancing, which was a significant aspect of Jackson’s performances and legacy.

“Why You Wanna Trip On Me” is another funky vibe, featuring the singer telling the media to stop their obsession with him and focus on more important issues. “They say I’m different/ They don’t understand,” Jackson sings. He also makes references to the HIV/AIDS outbreak of the late twentieth century with lyrics like, “You’ve got world hunger/ Not enough to eat” and “You got strange diseases/ Ah but there’s no cure.”

Jackson argues that instead of focusing on unimportant issues, such as his lighter complexion and altered nose that the media obsessed over, they should focus on issues actually impacting people and leave him alone.

“In the Closet” is one of the sexiest songs Jackson ever released. The intro starts with a woman whispering with a soft piano playing in the background proposing to have sex with Jackson. The song then jumps right back to the new-jack-swing style, with the singer rebutting that while he is interested, he cannot make their desires public given the nature of his life.

However, when he sings “Oh, because there’s something about you, baby/ That makes me want to give it to you” and “Just promise me whatever we say/ Or whatever we do to each other/ For now we will be making a vow/ To just keep it in the closet,” Jackson is saying that they can be with each other, only if they keep it “in the closet,” hence the song’s title.

“Remember the Time” is one of the album’s most timeless songs, peaking at No. 3 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 upon release. With an upbeat but nostalgic feel that many can relate to,

Jackson reflects on a cherished time when he fell in love: “Do you remember when we fell in love?/ We were young and innocent then,” Jackson sings, before proceeding to the chorus where he asks, “Do you remember the time?/ When we fell in love/ Do you remember the time?/ When we first met, girl.”

In “Can’t Let Her Get Away,” Jackson contemplates the scenario of a failing relationship to the softer, but still funky, beat of the song. He poses the relatable thoughts of wondering why he’s not good enough for his girl, or what he did to make her want to leave him, before deciding that he needs to save what they had.

“I told you that I need you/ A thousand times and why/ I played the fool for you/ And still you said goodbye (still you said goodbye),” Jackson laments.

“Heal the World” displays Jackson’s unprecedented humanitarianism and generosity. The song takes a slow, soft and melodic pace, taking a step back from the dominant sounds of the album.

“There’s a place in your heart/ And I know that it is love/ And this place could be much brighter than tomorrow,” Jackson sings. “There are people dying/ If you care enough for the living/ Make a better place for you and for me.”

In 1992, following this song, Jackson established the Heal the World Foundation. He donated millions of dollars to humanitarian issues including hunger, medicine and education for children. Jackson donated all profits from his Dangerous World Tour to the foundation, raising millions of dollars. He also brought underprivileged children to his theme park in the Neverland Ranch, providing them with a short but unforgettable time to escape from the troubles in their lives.  “Black or White” is one of Jackson’s most notable songs ever, featuring the new jack style once again with elements of rock and rap most prevalent in the song. In this song, the singer preaches racial equality, less than 10 years following his breaking of the color barrier in the music industry with “Billie Jean” being the first piece of work by a Black artist featured on MTV.

“I said if you’re thinking of being my baby/ It don’t matter if you’re black or white/ I said if you’re thinking of being my brother/ It don’t matter if you’re black or white,” Jackson declares in the song.

“Dangerous,” the title track closes the album and wraps it with the new musical style that dominated the project. In a theme similar to that of “Dirty Diana” from his “Bad” album, Jackson talks about a girl seducing him, but he knows she has bad intentions for him.

Of course, Jackson included his signature “hee-hee!” on the project as well.

“She’s so dangerous/ The girl is so dangerous (Hee-hee!)/ Take away my money, throw away my time/ You can call me honey, but you’re no damn good for me,” Jackson sings.

With “Dangerous,” Jackson exploded out of his normal style for an iconic project. After 30 years, the themes of racial equality, humanitarianism and love, along with the groove of the newjack-swing style,  make this classic as enjoyable and underrated as ever.