“Can’t Let Her Get Away” by Michael Jackson (1991)

Teddy Riley was the best option for Michael Jackson when he was elected to take the reins of production from Quincy Jones. Q was famously behind the boards for MJ’s three career-making albums; 1979’s Off The Wall, 1982’s Thriller and 1987’s Bad. Even by the time the last album was recorded, pop and R&B music had undergone sonic sea changes. Quincy was old-hat, and Michael recognized that.

When it came to black music in the early ‘90s, you essentially had three options if you were looking for a big-name producer. The team of Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis was too closely associated with Janet Jackson. Michael was likely not interested in them at the time because he didn’t want to be seen as riding his little sister’s coattails. Michael did some work with the team of L.A. Reid and Babyface, but the sound never gelled. That left Teddy Riley, the youngest and most streetwise of the three entities. He and MJ collaborated on half of Dangerous, and that material finds The King of Pop sounding tougher and more current than similar artists of his vintage.

“Can’t Let Her Get Away” is a standout on Dangerous. It’s the most hip-hop sounding of the album’s tracks, and the beat is perfect for Michael to indulge in some of the most percussive staccato singing of his career. He alternates between a grainy rasp and his falsetto with ease, and the song builds into a bridge/breakdown (complete with a grunting Michael, who was probably dancing hard in the studio) that suggests James Brown with new jack swing production. If you are a dancer and have not heard this part of the song (or the song at all), it will give you life. I can say with the certainty of someone who has worn various configurations of Dangerous out and has danced himself into a sweaty mess to this song numerous times–it’s a jam.

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