A lush reverie, “Remember the Time” was Jackson’s finest attempt at updating his sound for the hip-hop era. After splitting with Quincy Jones over creative differences following Bad, he began looking for a young producer and landed on Teddy Riley, architect of New Jack Swing, the hot R&B sound of the moment. “I came in with 10 grooves,” Riley said at the time. “He liked them all.”
“Remember the Time” was a high point of their collaboration and one of Jackson’s best post-Eighties vocal performances. Engineer Dave Way recalled watching the singer working on “Remember the Time” as he nailed “each note and harmony, double it, triple it and then maybe quadruple – each time singing it perfectly, vibratos perfectly matched, perfectly in tune, rhythmically dead on, knowing exactly what he wanted to do the whole time. Flawless.”
Who was Jackson singing about? Riley claimed the song was written after Jackson told him about his feelings for his second wife, Debbie Rowe (a claim he later retracted on Twitter). Jermaine Jackson, though, said the song was written for Diana Ross.