I’ve never been a fan of labels releasing music from people after they pass away. To me, it’s a way for them all to cash in and make a quick buck. And chances are, B-sides, and never released material are never released for a reason. They’re never really up to par with what we fans are used to hearing. Tupac Shakur is a prime example. At one point, his company released a new album of his rejected songs at least once a year. It was overflowing, and usually, the tracks were underwhelming. But hey anything for money right? So I was on the fence when I heard Michael Jackson’s label released a new album called “Xscape.” But I will say, this album is good. It’s very good. I enjoyed this album a lot more than his previous album, Michael, which was pretty much a compilation of unfinished tracks salvaged and reworked by people such as Akon. Not a good one. In fact, proceed to go if you ever see that album. This album, Xscape, brings the King of Pop back to original form. I can completely imagine him spinning and sliding on the stage with every “Woooooooo” he sings.
The album is broken into two parts – the first 8 songs are completely new and enhanced with updated beats and vocals and the last 8 are how they songs originally sounded, with the last track being a duet with Justin Timberalake. Oh the magic of technology. These 8 songs were fully produced over the years from 1983 to 2001. He sounds more upbeat, and full of joy for the most part, the way I care to remember him truth be told. They sound as fresh and wonderful as he was from back in the day. The lead single, Love Never Felt So Good, which was co-written by Paul Anka, is a throwback to his Off The Wall days even though it was recorded in 1983. And it also wraps up the album with Justin Timberlake’s vocals, just re-worked. It’s smooth, it’s dance-y, it’s pop gold. Timbaland threw his hand in as producer. Tim stayed true to the original but still put in a bit of disco flare. It works. And I didn’t have to hear that annoying “I’m Timbo I have to be heard on EVERY track I produce.” He let the music do the talking – which is what ALL producers should do – for him. I always thought JT was another MJ wannabe but this track just solidifies my theory. But I digress. One standout, “A Place With No Name,” which partially samples the instrumental to “Horse with No Name” by America includes a powerful sound of drums and percussion. It reminds me of his hit “Leave Me Alone.” “Slave to the Rhythm”, the original version, sounds like another single from the Bad era.
“Loving You” displays a playful Michael who is just over the moon in love. I always enjoyed that version of him. He puts his love on a pedestal no matter what the day is, he wants to stay in and take care of her. Ain’t that sweet? He wants to dance in the heavens and fly and take her away from here. Oh if love was really that grand lol. We’d all be accepting of it. “Do You Know Where Your Children Are” is so heavily synthesized and industrial sounding you could swear Trent Reznor was behind the console. “Blue Gangsta” definitely sounds like something from his “Invisible” time period. The sped up and slow down melody and syncopated rhythms makes me think Rodney Jerkins had something to do with this. Just sayin’.. The title track, Xscape, is a Rodney Jerkins produced track. This is the only original I didn’t care for too much. It just gets to a point where a song sounds like a machine and not a song if that makes sense. The music is so loud it takes away from the vocals. It’s heavy on the percussion and it’s a return to MJ’s complaining about how he can’t be himself, which over the years got a bit annoying to hear. But overall I thoroughly enjoyed this album and MJ fans should as well. It’s done right.
I took time out to write this because MJ has a special place in my heart. Say what you want about the man – yes he was out there let’s face it – but musically, he will forever be a genius. It saddens me greatly after I listened to this album, how much music we will miss out on because of his untimely departure. Xscape is the album we’ve been waiting for and it’s worth the wait.
Thanks Michael. Wherever you may be.
PS- How long til we see a hologram of Michael onstage like we did Tupac? You know it’s coming.
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