The year I graduated high school was the year of the Jackson. They were everywhere it seemed, Micheal, Janet, Rebbie and Jermaine. Jermaine is not most people’s favorite Jackson, but he just might be the most interesting, at least in 1984. He certainly discovered the There were many Jacksonesque traits that Jermaine shared with his brother and sister – one of them being having a penchant for militaristic uniforms. In this respect Micheal and Janet would follow Jermaine’s cue. More importantly, arguably it was Jermaine who discovered the power of funk well before the rest of his musical family would make it part of their musical vocabulary.
Jermaine’s his independent streak has resulted in a kind of experimentation not attempted by Micheal or Janet (until later in her career). For such daring under the glass R&B ceiling, a price was to be paid – for Jermaine it was often the lack of cross over success compared to the standards set by his younger siblings.
After winning the race to electro funk (with the help of Devo no less), only to to be out paced by Micheal, Jermaine was poised to make his most promising stab at parity with his brother (and sister). A lot was riding on the release of Dynamite, his 10th album and first on his new label Arista. With Thriller still on the charts and saturating the airwaves, Jermaine must have seemed sure that Dynamite would still some of Thriller’s thunder.
There was no reason it should not have.
By far Jackson’s most accessible album, Dynamite featured playful sci-fi themed songs, beautiful ballads and dancible pop. It was everything it’s namesake promised. Guest appearances included Pia Zadora (‘When the Rain Begins to Fall’) on later versions of the album, and a young realitivly unknown Whitney Houston (‘Take Good Care of My Heart’).
The albums most popular and dynamic track ‘Tell Me I’m Not Dreamin’ was technically not a single due to legal issues related to Michael Jackson appearance. Other Jacksons like Tito and Randy appeared on another track ‘Escape from the Planet of the Ant Men’ which was not destined to be a single due to it’s whimsical nature. Jermaine’s sense of whimsy was very Michael-like except that even co-producing with Clive Davis was not enough to make it work in the way that Micheal’s kid inspired fantasies like ‘Thriller’ or ‘Speed Demon’ worked.
Despite the strong dance tracks, the album excelled at ballads. The uplifting ‘Take Good Care of My Heart’ was a preview of the elegance that would be Whitney Houston. The albums best ballad and quite possibly best track is the touching ‘Do What You Do’.
The misses aside don’t detract from the fact that Dynamite was a successful album and quite frankly one of the best overall packages ever assembled by Jermaine. After Dynamite Jermaine’s output sadly went back to being uneven and not as boldly experimental as he had been. Keeping up with the Jacksons is difficult to do, even if you are one of them.