There is quite a bit of chatter about the kind of album that Michael Jackson should be doing. The current producer/songwriter names rumored to be working on Mike’s comeback album range from Ne-Yo (naturally) to Akon to will.i.am.
And folks are talking about what constitutes a great Mike comeback album, some good and some eh…not so good.
So I’ve decided to put together my dream list of collaborators for Mike.
Full disclosure: my favorite Mike album is Dangerous, though I do think that creatively Off The Wall is his strongest (only because Dangerous is overlong and the Free Willy song and Heal The World are on there).
That said, I don’t want him to recreate either of those albums.
But I do want him to go into this album with the same mindset that created those albums. That is: I want him to collaborate with the best songwriters of this generation to make an album that is both current and timeless.
Key words: current, timeless, songwriters.
I picked Andre Harris and Vidal Davis because they worked on Mike’s Butterflies. But any of the Philly Soulquarians would help get Mike in touch with his inner black man. These guys are like fuckin nerds about black musical tradition and they are also tried and true musicians proficient with analog and digital.
Mike – make the call, brother.
This is a no-brainer, folks. Ray Ray is the most consistent songwriter of his generation. Able to bounce from mid-tempo club joints like Dance Tonight to the straight soul of, well, everything he’s done for D’Angelo.
Imagine if Mike sang something like Mary J.’s I Found My Everything.
Mike – make the call, brother.
And of course:
Come on, folks. Basically all the people who have a career right now owe it to Teddy. So why not go to the source. If you want Rodney, fuck, just get Teddy to do it better. You want Pharrell? Nah, homie Teddy’ll lace that joint.
Whatever Happens from Invincible is the unsung gem of that album. Butterflies is good because it definitely reconnected Mike with his inner Motown. But Whatever Happens is like Human Nature: a song so good you just take it for granted. Teddy did that song, man.
It would be foolish to not work with Teddy again and replace him with these turn-of-the-century Teddy wannabes.
Mike – make the fuckin call, brother.
I could argue for a number of other people like Van Hunt or Jamey Jaz (Rahsaan Patterson’s primary collaborators) or even Mike City. I could deal with a Chucky Thompson. But Mike is a snob. He was raised under Berry Gordy and it’s all about hitmakers. The difference now is that we have hitmakers who aren’t necessarily songwriters (key word, remember?) and don’t necessarily do more than one thing well. What this means is that Mike might get a “good” song, but it will sound like the last 50-leven songs you’ve heard. That’s not how we should do Mike.
I do not want this album to be what Discipline became, that is a pale imitation of an imitator.
I don’t think you do either, dear reader.
Under no circumstances should he work with Tim or Pharrell or Lil Jon or any other one trick pony no-talent. Mike rejected Pharrell’s tracks for Invincible.
Mike – good move. Repeat it.
Lastly, the problem with using Ne-Yo, Akon or will.i.am is that it smacks of trendy desperation. One could make the argument that using Teddy in 1991 is the same thing, but I think that speaks more to continuing hateration for all that New Jack Swing is and means in the history of black music than anything else. Teddy was commercially and creatively lauded (the latter, mostly by black music journalists). The same can’t really be said for most of these guys. They make a hit or two, but all the hits are built around the same chord, or the same trick (hi-hat, 808s, etc). Take away the beat and the songs fall apart because they aren’t really songs so much as rhythmic hooks and chants.
Ne-Yo is very talented but for Mike to work with him would be weird. I said that Ne-Yo’s work on Janet’s album was “artistic cannibalism.” It would be same here but worse. Mike doing Mike by way of Ne-Yo?