"I perform like Mike,
Anyone -- Tyson, Jordan, Jackson"
Face it. Despite all his alleged missteps, Michael Jackson is a legend. Even Biggie Smalls had to give him his props, long after all the charges that tarnished the crown of the King of Pop. Pretenders to the throne like Justin Timberlake and Usher have run with his style so long, they should be paying him royalties. Thriller was the biggest album of my generation. But while Thriller was huge, MJ's legacy was cemented by the Motown 25 TV special. In a pop culture sense, his performance was our generation's "Where were you when Kennedy was shot?" I remember where I was because I was sleeping but my mom woke me up because she realized this was going to be something I should see. And I was amazed by it. I could gush on and on about Thriller but that would be pointless. Either you know or you don't. That's it. Point blank.
But like all classics, someone wants to go back and tinker with it. But what happens when you mess with classics? Disaster. Coke became New Coke which went right back to being Coke Classic. Not to mention, George Lucas, in all his brilliance, messing with the Star Wars movies. In honor of its twenty-fifth anniversary, Thriller 25 will arrive in stores next month. And like so many works of art, they've decided to jazz up some of the old favorites with remixes of classic songs. And it's not pretty.
Black Eyed Peas member will.i.am does the majority of the remixes and doesn't do the best job. (Note: will.i.am is hit or miss. His production for Nas, Talib Kweli and The Game almost make you forget the BEP catalog. Almost. Then you remember his list of musical hate crimes and it erases all the good work he's done.) He turns Jackson's duet with Paul McCartney (before he was Sir Paul) into a shoddy club song. Taking McCartney's place, will.i.am adds soaring synths and the brilliant lyric "She likes the way I rock." He repeats this in the chorus ad nauseum. There may need to be a music version of the Nuremberg Trials for this sonic atrocity. Also, will.i.am has a hand in joining Akon in ruining "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin" and "P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)" I'm sure you're thinking "How is that possible." He's that good. Will.i.am can do the impossible. Does he really think adding his dreadful lyrics helps the song? I guess the answer is yes. Fergie, another musical war criminal and fellow Black Eyed Pea, performs "Beat It 2008," a duet with the King of Pop. They guitar part, which is the real heart of this song, is muted and lacks the punch of the original. I'm pretty sure The Black Eyed Peas hate everything that's good and won't rest until all is destroyed and the only thing left is "My Humps."
Thriller 25 has one saving grace in "Billie Jean 2008" featuring Kanye West. It's a step slower than the original. West infuses melancholic strings and classic hip-hop drums, similar to "Flashing Lights." Where Kanye differs from will.i.am. is that you can still hear the original composition being newly interpreted. Will.i.am seemed to be just trying to do club versions of old Thriller classics. Also, West just offers simple ad-libs of "Uh huh" instead of trying to kick entire (wack) verses.
Unfortunately, this is the way the world works. Jackson's legal fees over the last decade or so, have rendered the King of Pop practically bankrupt. He needs a hit. Badly. Like a crackhead (word to Chris Rock). And when you need a hit record, you have to turn to artists like Kanye and people pretending to be artists like Fergie. That's how it is in the '08.