Picks and Pans Review: Dangerous

updated 12/23/1991 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/23/1991 AT 01:00 AM EST

Michael Jackson

A more apt title might be Pressure. And who would feel more of that than Jackson, trying to compete with the best-selling album in history: his own 1982 Thriller. Jackson's task this time out was complicated by the fact that in the four years since his megaselling Bad, rap and hip-hop have radically altered dance music. On Dangerous, Jackson tries to accommodate the new "rhythm nation" (in his sister Janet's phrase) on several tracks, enlisting New Jack Swing innovator Teddy Riley to write and produce.

Actually it's kind of sad to see a trendsetter like M.J. being led around by his skinny nose, aping current fashions. On cuts like "Jam" and "Can't Let Her Get Away," he captures the outer style but not the energizing spirit of hip-hop. New Jackers know it takes a supple presentation to offset those thudding, mechanistic beats. Jackson can be many things, but loosey-goosey isn't one of them. Guest rappers are brought in, but the rap segments sound, as they did on Prince's recent release, awkward and token.

The strength of this record stems from bouncy, up-tempo pop like "Remember the Time" and "Keep the Faith." Surprisingly effective, too, are the simple, spry rock riffs that power "Black and White," "Give in to Me" and "Why You Wanna Trip on Me." That last title shows how Jackson's seclusion has cut him off from the evolving pop vernacular—"trip on me" is a weird twist on an outdated locution.

To give him his due, though, almost all the songs have appealing elements, whether it's a catchy chorus ("In the Closet") or a dizzy clutch-and-grab groove ("She Drives Me Wild"). There are no stop-the-world numbers. But containing 77 minutes of solid music, Dangerous at least gives the paying audience its money's worth. (Epic)

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