Jacko’s back!… Well kind of. After a five year wait, Michael Jackson’s first posthumous album of original material was released earlier this month, Dom Kureen shares his thoughts.
Speculation that hundreds of his unreleased MP3 recordings were locked in a vault filtered out during the immediate aftermath of Michael Jackson’s passing on June 25, 2009.
One popular fable suggested that the ‘King of Pop’ had held back a host of his freshest cuts in order to release them after his 50-date O2 arena residence concluded in early March the following year.
Despite the conjecture, the silence was deafening.
Almost five years down the line, the recent release of the Timbaland/LA Reid produced ‘Xscape’ means that Jackson has joined the likes of Tupac Shakur, Ray Charles and Aaliyah in having posthumous commercial success.
The eight-track LP begins well enough, with the album’s plat du jour, ‘Love Never Felt So Good,’ a Justin Timberlake fuelled duet that yields a simple melody weaved around punchy instrumentals.
That early optimism is soon little more than dust in the rear view mirror, dislodged by a mass of indulgent and lazy synthesised production clichés that never hint at fulfilling the early promise.
In truth, a compilation of recordings deemed unworthy of lesser Jackson albums such as ‘Invincible’ and ‘Dangerous’ were never destined to set the world alight, particularly with half a decade of hype and rumour-mongering placing them on a quixotic pedestal.
Even with that caveat, the forced ‘Do You Know Where Your Children Are’ and monotonous ‘Loving You’ are almost entirely worthless.
Title track ‘Xscape’ is at least defiant in its message and assuredly blends a sweet harmony with provocative bursts of resentful rhetoric. In spite of these fruitful elements, the chief after taste is a stale one and symptomatic of the album’s overall malaise.
Providing thinly veiled padding, the impotent ‘Chicago’ and ‘Slave to the Rhythm’ are complimented by the equally benign ‘Blue Gangsta,’ which rapidly fades into plodding tedium following a vocally dynamic opening burst.
The deluxe edition supplements eight studio embellished melodies with their original counterparts, which, in a colossal condemnation of the combined prowess of Messrs Timbaland and Reid, are far more liberated than the heavily burdened revisions.
Virtually every organic element of what could have been a half-decent eulogy has been removed, their vacancies seized by a veneer of dated, apathetic din.
As a result this is little more than a sweaty McDonald’s hamburger in music form, courtesy of a pair of cack-handed butchers with all the credibility of former S Club 7 singer Hannah Spearritt applying to headline ‘Night of The Proms.’
It’s a crying shame that Jackson’s former mentor, Quincy Jones, didn’t fancy stepping up to the plate, although his abstention was retrospectively a wise one.
A commercially successful hatchet job, ‘Xscape’ will line a lot of already deep pockets, but leave fans feeling numb.