Latin Tribute to Michael Jackson Salsifies 'Smooth Criminal': Watch It Here

Here's the first single from the upcoming tropical tribute to the King of Pop.

An album of Latin music versions of Michael Jackson's hits? Could be really bad, like MJ "Bad." Or it could just be really bad.

Unity: The Latin Tribute to Michael Jackson started in 2011 as a (successful) $10,000 Kickstarter campaign by Tony Succar, a young Peruvian-American percussionist (and major Jackson fan) from Miami. He had the idea for the album after recording a salsa arrangement of "Thriller" for a Halloween party, and getting an encouraging reaction after putting it on iTunes.

But actually getting the recording done was not as easy or economical as Succar had originally predicted -- and Kickstarter backers have been waiting for quite a while. (Succar, who had never produced an album before, admits, "I had no idea what I was getting into.") But the album is now set for release on Universal Music Classics in April.

Tracks include hits from throughout the King of Pop's career, with "Billie Jean," "I Want You Back" and "Man in the Mirror" among them. Well-known tropical artists including Tito Nieves, Obie Bermudez, India and Michael Stuart perform on Unity, supported by an old-school Latin big band.

"Smooth Criminal," the first single from the project, is now out with Puerto Rican singer Jean Rodriguez in Jackson's shoes. 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.

It gets really good about half way through when the band breaks out and Rodriguez turns up the heat when he starts singing -- and soneando -- in Spanish, improvising and playing off a group of backup singers. What started as a pretty cool Michael Jackson cover ends as a hard salsa celebration. We're looking forward to hearing more.