The first installment of Michael Jackson: The Remix Suite, which features contemporary producers reworking classic MJ and Jackson 5 tracks, hits iTunes today. (Four further digital installments are planned, with a physical release of the full set on Oct. 27.) So how do the first five remixes compare to the original hits they’re based on? Listen below to the best of the bunch – Polow da Don’s take on “Dancing Machine” – then click through to the jump for my reviews of all five.
“Skywriter” (Stargate remix)
The Norwegian duo doesn’t do much here beyond cleaning up the mix a bit and adding their standard watercolor wash. They deserve credit, at least, for doing their part to rescue one of the Jackson 5’s least-remembered tunes from obscurity. B-
“Never Can Say Goodbye” (The Neptunes remix)
For some reason, the Neptunes thought it was a good idea to replace the original classy soul backdrop with some synths that might as well have fallen off an assembly line. Note to Pharrell: This song is a teary ballad about heartbreak, not a sequel to Snoop Dogg’s “Beautiful.” C-
“Dancing Machine” (Polow remix)
Unlike some, Polow da Don is smart enough to make this song his own without mistaking the essence of the original. His tricky synth textures weave in and out of the mix, turning “Dancing Machine” into something that Michael’s successor Justin Timberlake could have fit comfortably into his last album. A-
“I Wanna Be Where You Are” (Dallas Austin remix)
Windchimes and tin-can percussion make for a light, funky new backdrop. It’s still not as good as the cover version that Erykah Badu and the Roots cut just days after MJ’s death, though. B
“ABC” (Salaam Remi remix)
The boldest of these five remixers, Remi transforms an iconic Jackson 5 hit into a lilting reggae-ish groove. He deserves extra points for thinking outside the box, but the result is ultimately forgettable. B-
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