Michael Jackson – a duel of tributes

In a period of abundance of salsa-style versions of songs known to the general public, we take a look at some of the works done with the legacy of the King of Pop: Michael Jackson.

Musical proposals

It doesn’t take a very deep investigation into the intricacies of the internet to find salsa versions of Michael Jackson’s songs. The proposals are varied and range from large productions to more rudimentary editions.

The explosion of technology has turned a portable computer into a powerful music and audio production tool, and the development of business and online dissemination, namely platforms such as iTunes, Google Play, Spotify and channels such as Youtube, SoundCloud and MixCloud, facilitated the appearance of more versions.

In this text we will focus our attention on two projects that captivate for the excellence of production and care in the treatment of something as valuable as some of the greatest successes of pop music ever.

Unity – The Latin Tribute To Michael Jackson

In mid-April 2015, the album “Unity – The Latin Tribute to Michael Jackson” hits the market, a joint project between Universal Classics, Universal Latin Entertainment and Universal Music Mexico that proposed to incarnate and dress in the Latin style the Michael Jackson’s music, uniting diverse cultures through this art.

Leading this project is a music producer, multi-instrumentalist and arranger created in Miami but with Peruvian roots: Tony Succar. To shape his ideas, he invited renowned artists from Latin music such as Tito Nieves, Obie Bermúdez, India, Michael Stuart, Kevin Ceballo and Jon Secada. Not neglecting the technical component of the audio, he drew on the wisdom of the award-winning Bruce Swedien, the king’s chief studio engineer. Little thing!

Tony Succar’s band and guest during a live performance

Sensations offered

The disc features 12 tracks and, from the start, it is clear the preservation of the style and identity of the original compositions. The arrangements are happy and transport us to the Latin universe in a very natural way. Songs included:

  1. I Want You Back
  2. Billie Jean
  3. Man In The Mirror
  4. Will you not love me
  5. Earth Song
  6. Human Nature
  7. Todo Mi Amor Eres Tu
  8. Black Or White
  9. Smooth Criminal
  10. They Don’t Care About Us
  11. Thriller
  12. You Are Not Alone

The aesthetics of the mix has the signature of the American style. All very clean and controlled … well seasoned but without any imbalance. One or another theme loosens the heart of the drums a little more, but the configuration of the orchestra and the need to manage the protagonism of each instrument leads to this more formal balance.

Patáx Plays Michael – A Tribute

Interestingly, two months after the publication of the Unity project, the proposal “Patáx Plays Michael – A Tribute” appears. Who doesn’t remember those curious videos of a percussionist using the body of female models to create music? Well, that musician is called Jorge Pérez, and he is the leader of this tribute.

This Spanish artist, composer and brilliant arranger, launched the band Patáx in 2013, with the album “Live From Infinity”, a Jazz Fusion proposal that rocked the market and opened the way for other daydreams. They put on themselves the Neo Jazz label and, in the studio, have a visceral approach: recording audio and video live, without the right to overdubbings.

The versions proposed in this tribute fascinate both by respecting the originals, as well as by the exuberant aromas of latin jazz, salsa, flamenco and other exotic genres that give a special color and flavor to this explosive combination creased by a high intensity energy of a group of musicians in artistic boiling.

Patáx in studio

Hearing sensations

It looks like the game of cat and mouse … but also in the department of tracks offered the number is exactly the same! There are 12 songs presented:

  1. Black Or White
  2. Billie Jean
  3. Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’
  4. The Way You Make Me Feel
  5. Keep The Faith
  6. Smooth Criminal
  7. Jam
  8. Thriller
  9. Man In The Mirror
  10. They Don’t Care About Us
  11. Black Or White (Acoustic Version)
  12. Billie Jean (Guaguancó)

The differences with Tony Succar’s project are noticed almost immediately. Instead of a more Pop approach, here we are taken by a jazzy side. It is a brave project, with very creative (and tremendously successful) arrangements, risky, but very comfortable. It quickly enters the listener and touches on the essence of the roots of Latin music. It is restless but, at the same time, it makes sense and does not escape our references (both Latin and Michael Jackson’s discography). It is very well played… and… it is done live!

The YouTube videos published by the band have already accumulated thousands of views. We understand why. These are magical moments. Surprising improvisations in minutes of pure musical delivery.

Smooth Criminal Vs Smooth Criminal

In an attempt to create common points and contrast, we attached the videos of the versions of both projects to the theme “Smooth Criminal”. It is the right time to say: find the differences!

“Smooth Criminal” by Unity – The Latin Tribute To Michael Jackson
“Smooth Criminal” by Patáx

Who wins? What is the best version?

At this point we all won. Both are excellent productions, of very high quality, that treated the theme with immense respect while still giving a great deal of originality (more evident in Patáx).

From the United States comes a very elegant and carefully polished record and from neighboring Spain something more dynamic and visceral, full of emotion.

The tastes, influences and states of maturity of each one of us will dictate the preference. Personally I am drawn to the Patáx’s irreverence. It’s out of the box. Refreshing.

And you? Which one do you like the most?

Posted in

1 Comment

Leave a reply.