There was a time when Michael Jackson could legitimately call himself the King of Pop. Alas, those days have gone the way of the Jheri Curl. Between his diminished productivity and the ongoing psychodrama of his life, the guy seems like a sad relic from another era, as removed from mainstream pop as Rosemary Clooney. One almost wishes he’d retired after 1982’s Thriller, a watershed he can only dream of topping.
Blood on the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix points up Jackson’s creative stasis. Featuring eight remixes of songs from 1995’s HIStory — Past, Present and Future, Book 1 and five new songs, it smells like a holding action. With the remixes served up by such musical master chefs as Fugees’ Wyclef Jean and Pras, Todd Terry, Frankie Knuckles, and longtime Jackson collaborators Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Blood is being touted as a gift to Jackson’s clubland constituency. Unfortunately, no amount of fresh break beats or Sly Stone samples will make those who’ve waited years for a ”proper” Jackson album any happier with what amounts to an EP plus high-gloss filler.
On the plus side, some of the new material is quite listenable (small wonder, with A-list cowriters/coproducers like Jam & Lewis, Teddy Riley, and others). Although the wooden drumbeats and dinky guitar solo in ”Superfly Sister” sound 10 years out of date, ”Morphine” is a dance step in the right direction — alternating Trent Reznor-style sturm und clang with Bacharachian orchestral pomp, the track drags Jackson’s sound out of the mid-’80s muck. ”Is It Scary” is the other standout, a big production number that shifts from tender ballad to all-out assault faster than you can say ”Beat it!”
But forget the music; armchair psychologists will have a field day with the words. ”Who gave you the right to share my family tree?” Jackson asks on ”Ghosts,” a line that should give pause to the mother of his new son. And add Susie — who stabs the protagonist of the title track — to the list of women who’ve drawn Jackson’s lyrical bile. Yet even more criminal than his apparent misogyny is the way Jackson’s essence is buried beneath the studio manipulations of Blood’s hired guns. For several years the pallid one has looked like a ghost of his former self. Now he sounds like one. C-