The entire world claimed Michael Jackson upon his death, with collaborators, fans, and random admirers carving up pieces of his formidable legacy for themselves. Motown’s The Remix Suite, a best-of compilation compiling tracks from three recent Michael Jackson remix EPs, finds a battery of top dance and hip-hop producers remixing tracks from the icon’s Motown days and recreating Michael’s music in their own image. Mostly, that means a lot of big-name dance producers and DJs letting Jackson’s early songs float away on an interchangeable wave of four-on-the-floor drum patterns and disco synthesizers. The dance-first approach sometimes yields dividends, like when Mikkas transforms Jackson’s infamous self-pity anthem “They Don’t Care About Us” (of “Kick me, Kike me” notoriety) into slinky house paranoia; it’s incoherent rage you can dance to!
The Neptunes give the space-disco chill-out treatment to “Never Can Say Goodbye,” and Stargate’s “Skywriter” remix has a Queen-like sense of cheeseball bombast. But too many of the remakes are overly faithful or generic exercises in getting asses on the floor. Some are even worse: Akon inexplicably slathers adult-contemporary pianos, synthesizers, and syrupy background vocals to make the already maudlin ode-to-a-rat ballad “Ben” even more insufferably treacly. Great remixes forever change the way we perceive familiar songs, or put classic songs in radical yet strangely perfect new contexts. This forgettable footnote of a posthumous cash-in does neither.