What do you get when you combine fiercely talented Latinos, award-winning multi-instrumentalists, artists, and a Peruvian-American musical arranger who loves salsa and Michael Jackson?
The first-ever Latin album salute to the King of Pop called “Unity: The Latin Tribute to Michael Jackson,” which is the brainchild of producer/multi-instrumentalist/arranger Tony Succar.
Succar, a young Peruvian-American percussionist who was born in Lima, Peru and lives in Miami, Florida, has been a huge MJ fan his entire life. After the pop icon’s passing, he was inspired to carry on his legacy and revive Jackson’s sound, but with a Latin spin.
“Michael influenced me so much and inspired all of us,” Succar said. He also reiterated that Jackson’s songs not only celebrate all different cultures and racial backgrounds, but the overall “unification of human beings for a better tomorrow.”
“The one thing that stood out in Michael’s music was love. The reality was unity,” Succar added. “I also wanted the title to stand for something: a real marriage between Latin roots and American pop culture, and to help keep Michael’s legacy alive.”
“Unity: The Latin Tribute to Michael Jackson,” which will be released on April 14, 2015, will feature over 100 musicians including Latin superstars Tito Nieves, Jon Secada, Obie Bermúdez, among many other notable artists and musicians.
“I think you’re going to love this project and enjoy the experience,” Secada said.
“The result is Jackson’s timeless pop and R&B tunes, such as ‘Thriller,’ ‘Billie Jean,’ and ‘I Want You Back’ married with glorious salsa and tropical rhythms, resulting in innovative, vibrant arrangements that snap to life with exhilarating energy,” according to Universal Music Latino.
Puerto Rican singer Jean Rodriguez lends his suave vocals to Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal,” the first single from the project.
“The song seems set for Latin dance floors and radio from the first minute, thanks to the congas and horns punctuating the framework of the original song — plus, Rodriguez brings some urban Latino love to the English vocals,” Billboard added.
“This album has a lot of potential,” Rodriguez said.
“American funk, soul, jazz-all those styles that were influencing Michael- were inspired from African music,” Succar added. “Same with Afro-Peruvian music, Cuban music. These songs were meant to be. Their original flavor lends itself to these Latin rhythms.”
You can’t keep Jackson’s legacy alive without help from the masters who were behind the King of Pop.
“Even the horn lines, I would transcribe them from Quincy Jones’ productions and then apply them to the arrangement in a different way,” Succar explained. “The essence of every song was respected. I gave it my best to create this very thin line between what Michael did with his production and what I brought to the project.”
While Succar is the producer and arranger, “Unity” also features two tracks – “Earth Song” and “Smooth Criminal,” which are mixed by Jackson’s legendary engineer Bruce Swedien with Nick Valentín. Grammy winner Carlos Álvarez engineered the rest of the album and achieved “a sonically crisp sound.”
How did Succar’s musical labor of love come to fruition?
Succar recorded a salsa arrangement of “Thriller” for a Halloween party, which received a lot of buzz and an encouraging reaction after he put it on iTunes. DJs started playing the track and Succar began getting requests from around the world for a full album of Latin-flavored Jackson songs. After such a welcoming reception, the idea for the album was born.
“That sparked it,” Succar explained. “I was such a fan. I felt like I had to do something.”
With that said, Succar spearheaded a $10,000 Kickstarter campaign to fund the album, according to Billboard. The album also supports The UNITY Project, “an innovative sound that interconnects elements of American Pop, Jazz, Tropical, and World Music with the enduring foundations of the King of Pop.”
While pulling off the recording was “not as easy or economical as Succar had originally predicted,” Kickstarter backers will finally see Succar’s hard work come to fruition this Spring. Universal Music Classics in partnership with Universal Music Latin Entertainment will release the album.
The 2015 Grammys may have just wrapped up, but Latino music lovers and American pop culture aficionados can get still their music fix with a creative Latin spin on Jackson’s most celebrated hits.
“It’s also a reminder to the world that Latinos love Michael Jackson,” added La India, a featured vocalist on “Unity.”
“Unity: The Latin Tribute to Michael Jackson” will be released on April 14, 2015.
Check out “UNITY: The Latin Tribute to Michael Jackson Teaser 2015.”
Also, check out the video for the first single for “Smooth Criminal,” which premiered on Vevo Jan. 13, 2015.
Here’s also a complete track listing for “Unity: The Latin Tribute to Michael Jackson:”
01: I Want You Back (featuring Tito Nieves)
02: Billie Jean (featuring Jean Rodriguez)
03: Man in the Mirror (featuring Kevin Ceballo)
04: Sera Que No Me Amas (featuring Michael Stuart)
05: Earth Song (featuring India)
06: Human Nature (featuring Jon Secada)
07: Todo Mi Amor Eres Tu (featuring Obie Bermúdez & Jennifer Peña)
08: Black or White (featuring Kevin Ceballo)
09: Smooth Criminal (featuring Jean Rodriguez)
10: They Don’t Care About Us (featuring Kevin Ceballo)
11: Thriller (featuring Kevin Ceballo)
12: You Are Not Alone (featuring Tito Nieves and Tito Nieves Jr.)