Release Date: Dec 14, 2010
Record label: Epic
Genre(s): Pop, R&B, Pop/Rock, Dance-Pop, Adult Contemporary R&B, Contemporary R&B
Whatever creative evolution Michael Jackson intended for himself in middle age, we will never really know; his legacy now falls to the executors who control his vast musical estate. One can understand, though, why the superstar went quiet after releasing his last album of new material, 2001?s respectable if ultimately underwhelming Invincible. A famously relentless perfectionist in the studio, he kept his post-Invincible recording sessions under wraps while peers like Prince and Madonna remained relatively prolific.
To milk an artist for every penny they’re worth even after they’ve kicked the bucket is, in itself, inconsiderate and a tad cruel. And in the most extreme cases, where record companies exhume an index of shoddy demo tapes and unused B-sides to make up the numbers for a cheap money-spinner, it’s downright deplorable. There are artists whose legacies have been treated with some respect (take Kurt Cobain, whose posthumous back catalogue is limited only to live albums and a handful of demos that were released untreated and untouched), but given that Michael is being billed as the first of 10 planned albums to be released beyond the grave bearing Michael Jackson’s name, it doesn’t seem the King of Pop will be afforded that courtesy.
Michael Jackson died, and he was officially inducted into sainthood. All the previous suspicions regarding his child molestation charges were considered hogwash. Talk of his lost grip on reality also subsided—you musn’t speak ill of the dead, even if it is true. This reviewer is going to, through caution to the mainstream popular opinion, approach Michael Jackson’s new posthumous album with a critical eye that some have intentionally blinded towards him and his music.
When Will.I.Am of all people is denouncing your project on the grounds of taste and authenticity, you know you’re on shaky ground. When your lead single is a duet with [i]Akon[/i], you should probably just pack up and go home. Michael Jackson couldn’t do any of these things of course, because Michael Jackson is dead.When you go in to listen to the posthumous album of unreleased Michael Jackson songs you’re met with a 10-page document that painstakingly details the narrative of how this record is authentic, genuine and tastefully in tune with the album Jackson was already planning.
As the first excavation of Michael Jackson’s vaults, Michael carries the weight of expectation it cannot possibly bear to support. After Jackson split with Quincy Jones following 1987’s Bad, he had a revolving door on his studio, letting in all major producers for a track or three, sometimes selecting these songs for a finished album, sometimes not. Michael rounds up ten of these leftovers, relying heavily on cuts he was tinkering with in the years after Invincible, but apart from cameos by Akon and 50 Cent, there’s precious little here that sounds modern.
Hours after TMZ announced Michael Jackson‘s death, something “magical” happened. Everyone decided it was safe to be a fan of the King of Pop again. In a matter of minutes, maybe less, the whole world (more specifically, America) forgot about the corny punch lines they once shared to friends at the water cooler or the countless parodies they had come to enjoy, all of which developed this unfortunate post-2000 personification of an artist that, more or less, had become a modern myth.
A chilling moment occurs during the opening of “(I Like) The Way You Love Me”, one of few enchanting offerings on Michael Jackson’s first posthumous album, Michael. “Okay, this is the tempo and this is the melody…drums!” the late King of Pop directs through what sounds like a voicemail message, just before singing the song’s opening bars and unleashing a furious beat-box intended for the song’s drum pattern. The beat-boxing blends lovely right into the wispy flutes and sublime piano keys that give the track it’s classic uplifting MJ sound.
There is, of course, nothing odd about the posthumous album. Their manner of production has been set in stone ever since the premature rock and pop corpses started piling up in the 60s: cobble together some outtakes, demos and incomplete tracks, tinker with them until they sound finished, present to the public. But "there is, of course, nothing odd about" is a phrase seldom used in conjunction with the late Michael Jackson: 18 months after his death, the World of Wacko can still be relied upon to bring the weird.
New songs from the deceased star – but how many should have seen the light of day? James McMahon 2010 For a man who’s now been dead just over a year, Michael Jackson has been awfully productive lately. This is his sixth posthumous release since he collapsed and died on June 25 last year, his body coursing with Propofol and Lorazepam, midway through rehearsals for the This Is It tour. Yet Michael is notable for being the first release thus far with any legitimate claim to containing new, original material.