At their best, the slim volumes of the 33 1/3 series should make you reconsider an album you possibly dismissed, or at the least go back to a record and find something new. They can even introduce you to albums – though I’m sure most 33 1/3 series readers are familiar with the albums being celebrated in each book.
Well, Susan Fast’s entry into the series, the 100th book published as part of the 33 1/3 collection is a fast, sometimes furious and always fascinating look at Michael Jackson’s album, Dangerous.
The writing is staggeringly good – impassioned, informative and it makes little room for any truth other than the one its convinced by, and fairly convincing too, that Jackson’s masterpiece is in fact his Dangerous album; it showing his greatest depth and breadth as a solo artist.
Taking into account image – but only as it relates to the music (dance, videos, legend up to that point) Fast builds a case for Dangerous to be reconsidered; builds a case for it as the masterwork. As brain-rattling as this might seem she’s fairly convinced the three albums leading up to it were in fact the warm-ups. That Dangerous captures MJ at his peak.
You laugh now, perhaps, but the book does an amazing job of pointing out Jackson’s great skills – and the many thrills on offer in an album that mixes politics, race and gender issues, channels hip-hop, dance and pop music and should have been seen as Jackson’s grand statement.
It’s books like this one that made me fall in love with the 33 1/3 series. I forgive the odd misfire because you can’t hit out of the park every time. But Dangerous is a fine way for the series to celebrate 100 individual albums, 100 great albums reappraised.
It had me back listening to Dangerous for the first time in some 20 years. And there’s plenty to like about that album, a lot I’d forgotten, having my eyes opened by Susan Fast soon allowed for the ears to follow.
Hers is a remarkable piece of writing – not least because of the respect it affords Jackson by not stepping in or around the murkiness of his personal life, by concentrating firmly, and only, on the music. It reminds us of his musical genius – that he was in fact a musical genius.