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Pssssst--Heard About Michael's New Album?

May 04, 1997|Jerry Crowe

Did you know that Michael Jackson has a new album coming out in two weeks?

The question never would have been asked in the days of Jackson's last album, 1995's "HIStory--Past, Present and Future Book 1," whose release was accompanied by the kind of marketing blitz usually reserved for the Super Bowl or a royal wedding.

By that standard, Jackson's new album, "Blood on the Dance Floor--History in the Mix," will hit stores May 20 with only modest fanfare, though Epic Records insists that it is treating the release the same as it would any other superstar collection.

Part of the reason may be the makeup of the album, which includes only five new songs among its 13 tracks. The rest are dance remixes of songs from "HIStory."

But some in the record industry are suggesting that Jackson may benefit from a less aggressive marketing approach. They cite what many feel was a backlash against the singer in the wake of what was seen as excessive hype for "HIStory," whose U.S. sales fell far short of expectations.

"This one is coming out very quietly," says Bob Feteral, a regional manager for Tower Records, who applauds the move away from the "HIStory"-style blitz. "If they hype [the new album] and it does poorly, it makes them look bad and everybody's disappointed. If it comes out quietly and it does well, everybody says, 'He's back.' . . . They need to let the music do the talking rather than the persona."

Regardless of the marketing strategy, retailers are looking forward to the album, which includes club-ready remixes by some of today's hottest producers, from the Fugees and David Morales to the teams of Terry Farley and Pete Heller and Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.

"We're always excited for a new Michael Jackson album because he definitely has a fan base," says Violet Brown, urban-music buyer for the Wherehouse chain. "He's a sure thing as far as [initial] big sales. I don't know how long it will last, but out of the box, he has a lot of fans who will come out."

Whatever the response from record buyers, "Blood on the Dance Floor" will be embraced by club-goers, says Larry Flick, dance music editor at Billboard magazine.

"What's cool about it is, the remixers who worked on this album are mostly young guys who were raised on Michael Jackson and really respect him," says Flick. "In dance music, Michael Jackson is still a very important figure. They don't care about all the other stuff. They just want to know if the record's jammin'.

"And it's a very good record. It just makes me think, 'Wouldn't it be great if he went and made a record with some of these kids instead of locking himself away and spending millions of dollars on producers who are not necessarily what he needs creatively?' "

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