Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2008

"Thriller" Turns 25, Gets Remixed

By Evan Rytlewski
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Epic faced an obvious problem marketing their 25th anniversary edition of Michael Jackson's Thriller: Everyone already owns the album. So, in addition to the requisite bonus DVD, the label packaged their set with five star-driven remixes, which ultimately are worth hearing only for the curiosity factor.

Black Eyed Peas leader will.i.am masterminded four of these overhauls, headlining two of them and backing Akon and Fergie on a song apiece. After raking up a slew of production credits over the last two years, will.i.am has become a formidable, behind-the-scenes force in pop music, but his humdrum contributions here highlight his worst quality: his safe-'n'-shameless, by-the-book aping of whatever's popular. He's more of a Diddy-esque chameleon than a trendsetter like Dr. Dre or Pharrell, so for this project, he's distilled legendary Michael Jackson hits into flaccid, Timbaland rip-offs.

Akon sounds characteristically pleasant on "Wanna Be Startin' Something," while a de-sassed Fergie is comically out of her element trying to pass herself off as tough on "Beat It." Of course, so was Jackson, but he had the pipes to pull it off.

Kanye West fares better, partially because he has a signature sound to draw from, mostly because he's more faithful to the source material. He pads "Billie Jean" with some of those mournful strings he loves so much and flashes up the drums, but his remix is only .99 cents on iTunes good, not spring for the $20 set good.

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