As the reigning King of Pop, Michael Jackson has hits of the major, moderate, and minor persuasions. The common theme? He has H-I-T-S!
This week’s From The Vault pick pays homage to one of the late singer’s more muted chart successes – 1991’s ‘In The Closet’.
Produced by Teddy Riley, the sensually-charged track served as the third single to be lifted from MJ’s mega-selling ‘Dangerous’ album. Beyond boasting an edgy title, the said LP houses some of Jackson’s most progressive and provocative material – with ‘Closet’ standing as one of the most prominent examples.
Previous releases such as ‘Thriller’, ‘Smooth Criminal’, and ‘Bad’ saw Michael become renown for his left-field approach to songwriting; an approach which saw him largely deviate from the well-treaded music narratives of “love” and “sex” in favour of more wholesome/all-encompassing themes. However, with ‘In The Closet’ the King through a curveball and drew on those exact topics. Put simply, he embraced the racy.
And while modern times have seen artists push the envelope with adult themes, MJ’s move – at the time – was seen as relatively revolutionary. Indeed, here stood the world’s biggest and most mass appealing act belting the lyrics “there’s something about you baby that makes me want to give it to you”. It excited many, yet unnerved others. A polarizing response that was amplified once its accompanying video debuted.
Unlike the elaborate mini-movies that have come to define much of Jackson’s career, the visual for ‘Closet’ was a fairly simple affair. Aptly set in the Salton Sea desert in California, the clip wasn’t without titillation and served up heat aplenty. A then-rising Naomi Campbell was tapped to star opposite MJ – with the supermodel assuming the role of his love interest. By no means a timid affair, the pair danced up a storm and sent temperatures into fever-pitch with the intimate nature of their choreography.
A triangulation of the song, its video, and the hype both generated helped the single peak at #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 (and #1 on the Billboard R&B Chart). The track was also a global success, achieving top ten status in the UK, France, Australia, and many other countries. Still, in following the two super smashes that preceded it (‘Black Or White’ and ‘Remember The Time’), ‘Closet’ is often treated as a “lesser hit” and is routinely forgotten in retrospectives on MJ’s iconic discography.
Yet, like the impact of Jackson himself, we here at That Grape Juice will never forget. Ever.
Fun Fact: Did you know that ‘In The Closet’ was initially conceived as a collaboration between Michael and…Madonna?! The legendary pair began working on concepts for the song, however MJ vetoed the idea after feeling like Madge’s vision for the track was too provocative. We can only imagine.