Michael Jackson, the legendary King of Pop is back with a new album! Anyone who ever doubted the man’s claim to the royal throne surely can’t begrudge Michael now that he’s managed to release his first full length album in nine years despite the small matter of his death just 18 months ago. Tongue in cheek anyone? It’s no secret that the release of Michael has been a controversial choice for Sony with almost everyone in the Jackson camp coming out to bash the idea with some even speculating to the authenticity of the vocals on some of the tracks and artists such as Will.I.Am denouncing the record company’s choice to release a highly respected musician’s unfinished art without his consent. Despite all this, the album is just two days from an official release so it’s time to forget the controversy and find out exactly what the King was up to behind the scenes for his final years.
Things take off slowly with the R&B styled Hold My Hand which features Akon. Not a bad song by any means but given that this is the opening to a deceased legends posthumous album, you’d expect a little bit more of a show. Hollywood Tonight provides the template for a classic slice of Michael pop but doesn’t really deliver the balls to make it a stand out classic and just seems to go with the flow. Maybe it could have worked with more work from the artist but unfortunately he was unavailable to provide his feedback. Keep Your Head Up is another Soulful R&B number in the style of tracks from 2001’s Invincible album. It isn’t until (I Like) The Way You Love Me kicks in that you get a real taste of Michael’s legendary smooth as silk talent.
Monster (featuring 50 Cent) continues the albums ascent towards acceptable with it’s beefed up, glass smashing, ‘Shamone’ style pounding. Amazingly enough 50 Cent’s contribution works well next to Sir Michael with the King’s vocals holding up their share. Maybe a little too broad to become a classic but nice to hear Michael was still prepared to strain the cords when called for. Best of Joy is another bog standard light number with it’s cryptic ‘I Am Forever’ chorus and then we come to the albums most controversial number, Breaking News.
Breaking News is the song several family members have claimed contains vocals from some MJ impersonator and Sony are going well out of their way with experts, analysts and collaborators being brought in to confirm the vocals are those of the King. Personally, Tickets There thinks they sound more like Britney Spears, just like the song itself. As a Michael Jackson song, it sounds a little too obvious in it’s subject matter and far too similar to every other pop act from the mid-2005 era with it’s electro drums, banging noises and layer upon layer of effects to flesh out the sound and convince you that underneath all this hoopla there’s something actually happening. Not a terrible song but only made interesting by the fact that Michael Jackson sings it. If it was anyone else, we wouldn’t care.
(I Can’t Make It) Another Day on the other hand is an excellent Michael Jackson song. Back to guitars, drums and Michael’s powerful voice throwing shapes against some great wind we always in vision him working against. A guest appearance by Lenny Kravitz is very welcome while Dave Grohl’s drumming seems a little understated. Much Too Soon closes things of with a very gentle, no frills ‘Ben’ styled niceness.
It’s not a bad album. In fact it’s a lot better than Invincible but like Invincible, there’s not a lot here to tack onto Michael’s legacy. Some nice moments, a handful of pretty great moments and a lot of rehash Michael styles that were never amazing to begin with (I’m looking at you Heal the World….and most of Dangerous really). The King is gone and this is by no means a slur on his career or an aborted attempt to salvage what ever last shreds of a record he had prepared. It’s solid, it’s finished and it’s 100% Michael. It’s just not the greatest Michael Jackson album of all time and that’s exactly what it needed to be for people to embrace it fully. Saying that, it’s nice hearing him sing again.