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POP EYE

Bobby Brown Cruising to the Top Again

December 24, 1989|PATRICK GOLDSTEIN

It seems like just yesterday that Bobby Brown was cruising along in the Top 10 with his mega hit album, "Don't Be Cruel," which sold more than five million copies and generated (count 'em) five Top 10 singles. Normally pop performers take at least a year off between albums. So what is Brown doing headed back to the Top 10 again so soon?

Call it re-mix magic. When a pop star is hot, fans don't just want to hear his hits--they want to hear every different version of them. For years, rap and dance producers have been cranking out 12-inch singles with re-mixed versions of the artist's current hit.

Now record companies have upped the ante. If fans will buy a single full of remixes, why not an entire album?

With that in mind, MCA last month released "Dance! Ya Know It!," a collection of fresh remixes of Bobby Brown's biggest hits. The results have been astounding. The record has already sold more than 500,000 copies and hit the Top 20 after only five weeks on the charts.

Madonna, Chaka Khan and the B-52's have put out similar dance remixes (Madonna's "You Can Dance" eventually sold 1.5 million copies), but Brown's collection has a new wrinkle to it.

"We made it a real party album--it's non-stop music," said Louil Silas Jr., one of the industry's top re-mix producers who conceived the remix idea with MCA president Al Teller. "One song goes right into the next. The idea was that if you were a deejay, or just a fan having a party, you could put the record on and it would play for an hour."

Now an A&R exec at MCA Records (which has just released a similar Jody Watley compilation), Silas is something of an expert in dance-floor psychology. Before joining MCA, he worked as a deejay at such local dance clubs as Disco 9000 and Moody's, an experience he draws on when he produces remixes today.

"When I'm doing a remix, I try to recapture that vision--to see myself out on the dance floor," said Silas, who did a popular remix of "Desire" for U2 last year. "It's all feel and emotion. Ther's no formula to it."

Silas does have one rule--the artist can't get in the way. "I don't like the artist coming by because it tends to inhibit me. They already have the sound stuck in your head, so they tend to get frightened by the changes your making. So now I don't let the artists come by at all. It just causes too much confusion--they can hear it when it's done." (Silas acknowledged that some artists, including Watley have contract clauses giving them final remix approval, but said he's pushing to keep such clauses out of future contracts.)

Critics of "Dance!" contend that MCA could have released the remixes at a budget price--and still made a healthy profit. They also wonder if MCA may be milking Brown too early in his career. Isn't Brown in danger of being overexposed, both with fans and clubgoers, by having his songs lingering on the dance circuit? Wouldn't it have been better for him to escape centerstage so he could make a bigger splash when his next album arrives?

"We didn't want to overkill Bobby, but we did want to take advantage of his popularity," Silas said. "After all, record companies are supposed to make a profit--that's the way the system works. Plus the record will keep him on people's minds till he gets a new album out next summer.

"The pricing isn't my call. But there are a couple of tracks on the record that weren't available anywhere else, so the fans are getting something new. And I don't see anyone complaining about the cost--the records are flying out of the stores."

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