Dangerous is the eighth studio album by American recording artist Michael Jackson, released on November 26, 1991 as his fourth studio album released under the Epic Records label. lt is Jackson's first album since 1975's Forever, Michael not to be produced by longtime collaborator Quincy Jones, who had agreed to split after the final recording sessions for Jackson's 1987 album, Bad. Dangerous has sold 32 million copies worldwide, 7 million albums were shipped in the United States alone, and has been cited as one of the best-selling albums of all time. The album produced four top ten singles on the Billboard Hot 100, including the number-one hit "Black or White". Similar to the musician's previous material, the album's music features elements of R&B, pop and rock while also incorporating a newer genre, new jack swing, after the inclusion of producer Teddy Riley to the project in a bid to present Jackson to a younger urban audience.
Dangerous took over a year in production. Lyrical themes expressed in the album included racism, poverty, romance, the welfare of children and the world and self-improvement, topics Jackson had covered before. Nine singles were released from Dangerous between November 1991 and December 1993, with seven singles issued in the United States, and two others released only outside the US. The two singles released outside the United States were successful, charting within the top ten and top forty respectively. Dangerous peaked at number one in nine countries, while charting at the top ten in four other territories. The only songs not released were "Why You Wanna Trip on Me", "She Drives Me Wild", "Can't Let Her Get Away", "Keep the Faith" and "Dangerous"; a video and a single release for the latter song was said to have been planned but was postponed indefinitely due to the musician's tour and allegations of child sexual abuse. Song "She Drives Me Wild" also had a single release as the B-side for the 7 inch edited version of "Heal The World"
Dangerous was produced by Jackson with additional production from his friend, Bill Bottrell, and Teddy Riley. Jackson wrote twelve of the fourteen songs on the album. Dangerous received several Grammy nominations, winning only one for Best Engineered Album (Non Classical) by Bruce Swedien and Riley. The album also received three nominations at the American Music Awards of 1993 ultimately winning two awards, mainly: Favorite Soul/R&B Single for the single "Remember the Time" and Favorite Pop/Rock Album for the album itself. According to Chicago Tribune journalist Kelley L. Carter, it is the most successful new jack swing album of all time.
In January 1989, following the successful but gruelling world tour to support his Bad album, Jackson decided to focus on outside works, including a deal to promote L.A. Gear sneakers. He also planned to release two greatest hits packages, Decade 1979–1989 and Decade 1980–1990, comprising hits from his studio albums Off the Wall, Thriller, and Bad, plus unreleased demos and new songs including a cover of the Beatles song "Strawberry Fields Forever".
In 1988, CBS Records was acquired by Sony Music. Sony Music would now distribute records by artists who had recorded for CBS subsidiaries including Epic and Columbia. In March 1991, days after his sister Janet Jackson had signed a $32 million deal with Virgin Records, Jackson signed with Sony Music for a reported $50 million, the most lucrative contract in music history. Jackson's stipulations for the contract were that he must release at least three studio albums (Dangerous, the second disc of HIStory and Invincible respectively), a remix album (Blood on the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix), two greatest hits collections (the first disc of HIStory and Number Ones) and a box set (The Ultimate Collection).
Recording sessions for Dangerous took place at Ocean Way/Record One's Studio 2 in Los Angeles, starting on June 25, 1990, and ended at both Larrabee North and Ocean Way Studios on October 29, 1991, making it, at sixteen months, the most extensive recording of Jackson's career at the time, where before he usually took six months.
After Jackson and Bottrell began work on some songs including an early version of "Dangerous", he decided to recruit Teddy Riley to overlook some of the album's production. For the first time since 1979, Jackson was without longtime producer Quincy Jones, who had produced Off the Wall, Thriller, and Bad. According to Jones, he convinced Jackson to have Riley replace him in the production of Dangerous.
Some album sessions were put on hold due to Jackson's health problems as he had spent time in a L.A. hospital for weeks after complaining of chest pains. When he was released, he continued work on the album, desiring to take his music to a harder sound than in previous albums, inspired by his sister Janet's edgy sound in her album, Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814. Prior to working with Riley, Jackson had desired to work with producers Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds and Antonio "L.A." Reid. Around the same time, his brother Jermaine Jackson, who had signed with La Face Records, was set to work with them and, since Michael didn't tell Jermaine about it before, Jermaine considered it as an act of betrayal, though he later dismissed the notion. Jermaine's song, "Word to the Badd", was composed with lyrics aimed negatively at his brother, and were later revised to lyrics aimed at a bad relationship.
Songs that were recorded for the Dangerous album but were eventually left out included "Monkey Business"; "She Got It"; "Work That Body"; "Serious Effect" (which included rapper LL Cool J); "If You Don't Love Me"; the ballad "For All Time", which was later released on Thriller 25; "Earth Song," which was initially recorded for the album but was later included on HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I; "Superfly Sister"; and "Blood on the Dance Floor", the latter two later issued on Jackson's remix compilation, Blood on the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix. Another song that didn't make Dangerous was the Riley produced "Joy" - the track would later be included on Blackstreet's 1994 self-titled debut where it was released as the third single.
With Riley, Jackson recorded under the new jack swing genre, a genre Riley has been often credited with inventing. It was also the first album in which Jackson began rapping. The inclusion of the rap group Wreckx-n-Effect, Jackson's embrace of hip-hop rhythms and new jack swing were designed to give Jackson a new younger urban audience. In other recordings, with Bottrell, Jackson's sounds were more diverse as it had been in other albums with "Black or White" recorded under the pop rock genre while the Slash-featured "Give In to Me" was recorded as a hard rock ballad. The ballads, "Keep the Faith", composed by Jackson and his "Man in the Mirror" collaborators Siedah Garrett and Glen Ballard, and the self-composed "Will You Be There" both featured strong elements of gospel music while the other ballads "Heal the World" and "Gone Too Soon" were softer pop ballads. The smooth R&B number, "Remember the Time", featured elements of not only new jack swing but also funk, while "Who Is It" and "Jam" had stronger funk elements.
Lyrics for the songs' subject matter were more varied than in Jackson's previous records. Though he often talked of the subject of racial harmony in some of his songs with his brothers, The Jacksons, Dangerous was the first of these albums in which he talked openly of racism, which was the main topic with the hit song, "Black or White". Other social commentary topics that Jackson had never touched as a solo artist including poverty and inner city life were discussed in the song "Why You Wanna Trip on Me", in which he compared social ills to his own alleged publicized eccentricities that were covered in the press at the time asking critics and tabloid media why were they focusing on him when other more social problems were going on. He addressed similar issues in the album's opening track, "Jam", which included rapping from Heavy D. "In the Closet" had originally been set as a duet between Jackson and Madonna though this recording never happened and focused on two lovers carrying on a discreet affair without being open about the affair. The album also included songs of other personal nature especially in songs such as "She Drives Me Wild", "Remember the Time", "Can't Let Her Get Away", "Who Is It" and "Give In to Me". The social commentary "Heal the World" was in the middle of the number of personal songs. "Gone Too Soon", written by Larry Grossman and Buz Kohan, was written and recorded for Ryan White following White's death from AIDS in 1990. The title track's lyrics were compared to that of "Dirty Diana" with the song focusing on a seductress.
The album was released on November 26, 1991. After its first week of release, it debuted at number-one on the Billboard 200, staying there for four weeks, spanning two different calendar years. Sales of the album were shipped for seven million under two months, making this the fastest-selling album ever for Jackson in the United States, breaking the sales record he had held for Bad, which had shipped seven million in four months. The album was certified seven-times platinum for sales of seven million copies alone in the United States, according to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).
Globally, Dangerous dominated worldwide charts debuting at number-one in the United Kingdom while also reaching number-one in seven other territories including Australia, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain. It was also a huge success in Asian countries. Sales of the album eventually reached over 32 million copies worldwide.
Similar to how Jackson's label had approached the Bad album, expectations again were raised high for the Dangerous album. In September 1991, Jackson netted a deal to have his videos air on the Fox TV network alongside regular music-video channels, MTV, BET and VH-1. The eleven-minute "Black or White" video debuted on November 14, 1991 and was seen in 27 countries and reportedly watched by a record 500 million viewers, said to be the most to ever watch a music video. The airing and later controversy of the video helped the sales of Dangerous, as did the broadcasting of two other Jackson videos for "Remember the Time" and "In the Closet". Jackson's first HBO concert special, Michael Jackson: Live in Bucharest, also helped in the sales of Dangerous after it aired in October 1992, reviving sales of the album. After several weeks of tapering off again, Jackson made personal appearances in early 1993 including the American Music Awards and Grammy Awards, the latter in which he accepted the Grammy Legend Award from his sister Janet, and the much talked about interview with Oprah Winfrey, helping to return the album to the top ten.
The album's leading track, "Black or White", was an instant number-one hit upon its release that November, debuting at the top of the charts several weeks after it was released, staying there for seven weeks. It would be his only number-one single from the album on the pop charts. Jackson had four top ten singles in the United States from the album including "Remember the Time", which peaked at No. 3 but reached number-one on the R&B chart, his first R&B number-one since "Another Part of Me" nearly four years earlier; "In the Closet", which peaked at No. 6 on the Hot 100, but also reached number-one.
The last top ten single for the album was "Will You Be There", which reached number seven and was boosted by an appearance on the Free Willy soundtrack, helping to boost more sales from Dangerous. "Who Is It" peaked at number fourteen, while "Jam" and "Heal the World" would both peak at the top thirty on the Hot 100 respectively, Jackson's lowest pop showings since early 1979; and the overseas-only singles, "Give In to Me" and "Gone Too Soon" with "Give In to Me" reaching the top five in the UK, Netherlands, Australia and hitting the top of the charts in New Zealand, while "Gone Too Soon" was more moderately received, charting within the top forty.
The singles success of Dangerous was more successful overseas than in Jackson's native United States: in the UK alone, seven of the singles from the album all reached the UK top ten. This was a record for any studio album in the UK until Calvin Harris broke this in 2013.
In a contemporary review for Rolling Stone, Alan Light wrote that Jackson was "a man, no longer a man-child, confronting his well-publicized demons and achieving transcendence through performance", on an album that rose to "the impossible challenge set by 'Thriller'" during moments when Riley's production dance rhythms "prove a perfect match for Jackson's clipped, breathy uptempo voice". Robert Christgau of The Village Voice deemed it Jackson's "most consistent album since Off the Wall, a step up from Bad even if its hookcraft is invariably secondary and its vocal mannerisms occasionally annoying." While he felt Jackson was too insistent with the "faith-hope-and-charity" message songs, Christgau applauded the production's "abrasively unpredictable" rhythms and the "sex-and-romance" songs, calling them the most plausible of Jackson's career. Jon Pareles was less receptive in The New York Times, calling it Jackson's "least confident" solo album yet. He believed the singer sounded anxious and out of place with Riley's electronic beats while panning the "dogmatically ordinary" lyrics of the love songs, writing that "they seem based on demographic research rather than experience or imagination." Los Angeles Times critic Chris Willman found the record "relatively tame" and "wildly unfocused", being particularly critical of the songs not produced by Riley such as the embarrassingly oversentimental "Heal the World"; of the overtly "black" first half of songs, Willman found the music innovative although lacking in substantial themes. Dangerous received four Grammy nominations including three for Jackson including Best Pop Vocal Performance for 'Black or White', as well as Best R&B Vocal Performance and Best R&B Song for 'Jam', while Teddy Riley and Bruce Swedien won the Grammy for Best Engineered Album – Non Classical.
In a retrospective review for AllMusic, Stephen Thomas Erlewine believed Dangerous was "a much sharper, riskier album than 'Bad'." Culture critic Joseph Vogel was of the opinion that it fulfilled Jackson's creative ambitions and was at once his most socially conscious record, "his most personally revealing", and "a dazzling musical odyssey", comparing it to Stevie Wonder's Songs in the Key of Life as "the work of an artist engaging with the world around him-and inside him-as never before." Writing for PopMatters, Vogel argued that the R&B/New jack swing album's music was more groundbreaking than any other pop record of the time. "If indeed it is considered a pop album, Dangerous redefined the parameters of pop. How else to explain an album that mixes R&B, funk, gospel, hip-hop, rock, industrial, and classical; an album that introduces one song ('Will You Be There') with Beethoven's Ninth Symphony and another ('Dangerous') with what sounds like the heart of a steel-city factory; an album that can alternately be paranoid, cryptic, sensual, vulnerable, idealistic, bleak, transcendent, and fearful?" In 2007, the National Association of Recording Merchandisers (NARM) ranked Dangerous at number 115 on its list of the "Definitive 200 albums of all time developed by the NARM". Chuck Eddy named it the eighth most essential New jack swing album in a list published by Spin.Notes
^[a] signifies a co-producer
Personnel as listed in the album's liner notes are: