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Michael Jackson

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Kicking Out With Jam

Jimmy Jam's work on ''HIStory'' -- The music producer reflects on Michael Jackson and his contributions to the upcoming album

Subtlety has never been one of Michael Jackson's best moves. And the title of ''Tabloid Junkie,'' a song from HIStory: Past, Present and Future Book I, leaves little doubt as to what it's about. ''We were gonna call it 'Tabloid Jungle,' because we felt like the tabloids were the hunters and Michael the prey,'' says Jimmy Jam, 36, who, with his full-time partner Terry Lewis, cowrote and produced that track, plus two others, on HIStory. ''He's the biggest prize in the jungle, and the media's on this mission to capture him.''

The don't-believe-everything-you-read message of ''Tabloid Junkie'' isn't as angry as one might expect. But, like many of the King of Pop's new tunes, it does reflect his stormy life. ''Everything on Michael's mind is on the album — positive and negative,'' explains Jam, who has worked with, among others, George Michael and Jackson's sister Janet — a gig that earned him multiple Grammys.

Unlike the Hard Copy ''Jacko,'' Jam insists, Jackson seems unfettered by media attention. ''He gets around. He's not at all a recluse,'' insists Jam. Jackson's favorite haunt last winter, while recording in Jam's home base of Minneapolis, was the Mall of America, the grande dame of indoor shopping centers, which he visited almost daily in a fake mustache and hat. ''He'd always go at peak times,'' recalls Jam, ''because he said, 'That's when everybody's having fun.'''

Ultimately, though, it was Jackson's musical prowess that made an impression. The highlight, says Jam, was working on Michael and Janet's duet, ''Scream.'' Both Jacksons share ''an ability to elevate the work of everyone around them — through hard work, sheer talent, and a desire to not be second-best,'' explains Jam. ''But Janet is a little more spontaneous, whereas Michael's very methodical. Janet will hear something the first time and know that it's cool. Michael will say, 'Give me a day to think about it and make sure it's cool.'''

Originally posted Jun 23, 1995 Published in issue #280 Jun 23, 1995 Order article reprints