Michael Jackson’s Xscape album reviewed by a fan

By on 2014/05/23
Michael Jackson's Xscape album review

Michael-JacksonThat’s me. Been a fan of Michael Jackson for over 25 years, I have been asked few times recently on my opinion on the recent posthumous album release “Xscape” and on  releasing old material of MJ in general. After the controversy caused with the first posthumous album titled just “Michael” –on which fans claimed that a singing impersonator had been used to fill the gaps on the unfinished tracks- there was already a huge aura of skepticism for this new compilation, even when this was coming from on of MJ’s music producers in the past (LA Reid) and well-renown mixers, Timbaland, Rodney Jerkins amongst others.

Probably Michael would have approved this album in this same circumstances. After all, he always pushed for innovation and, how many other artists have released two posthumous albums and performed a brand new single as a hologram on an Awards show?

To the question of “Would Michael have approved this album and would want this tracks to see the light? That is a question that, far from getting an answer for obvious reasons, could lead to multiple theories based on another question “Why these tracks didn’t see the light before?!”

I will expose my own view or theory. I can see a common factor in the 8 tracks of the album, despite them coming from different periods of Michael’s career. Aside from two tracks, the beautiful “Loving you” and a very current mid tempo “Love never felt so good”, we have Jackson singing about unfaithful wives, child prostitution, and escaping the justice in a very graphic and detailed way. This proves the fantastic storyteller that Jackson was; he was not only a great singer and performer but he also could put together fantastic lyrics that are not too cryptic for the crowds to understand or too simple to sound predictable.

Iconic songs like Black or White,  Wanna Be Startin’ Something or Leave me Alone are examples of good delivering of messages through music. However, perhaps because I grew with them, they are less close to the limit of sensitivity that “You know Where your children are” where MJ tells the story of a 12 year old seduced by celebrity life that ends up working as a prostitute or “Slave to the Rhythm”, where this time in a more subtle way, Jackson talks about a submissive wife and businesswoman that pleases all men to maintain her lifestyle. Then long time ago I had heard of “Xscape” not been released because it talked about “getting away from the system” and saying things like “I do what I wanna cause I gotta face nobody but me”  in a time where Jackson was on trial.

In the same way that I could never have the same feeling when watching old footage of Elvis and could understand fully what all the fuzz was about in the 50s about him moving his hips on TV… – nor the current teenagers, used to see their idols singing in their bras and shaking it all in a daily basis – the post-death MJ fans will never fully get what the “Michael Jackson phenomenon” was about.

So perhaps it was now the right time for these songs to appear. And on what the quality of the tracks is concerned, these are far from being B tracks. We can hear some amazing vocals in “The Place with no Name” (brilliantly mixed by Stargate and a favourite between fans), where he proves he had a very varied range and a total control of his voice. In the likes of “Another part of Me”, we can hear MJ’s “angry” high pitch tone. He sounds as powerful as ever. All tracks in “Xscape” could have been all singles, or better said, might be singles, as “Xscape” is No. 1 Album in  over 50 countries. And if something I know that Michael Jackson would be happy about is that he is making news at the moment on his music only. That is what he worked so hard for, what he would like to be remembered for. His music.

 

When I think of the new generation of MJ fans after his death I am more amazed about the lengths of his legacy. These fans will never fully comprehend the origins and grounds of this legacy. They were not there when he made history by showing us his very first moonwalk move, when he constantly broke fashion rules with his iconic outfits or when created worldwide expectation prior to the release of what he called “short films not music videos”. In the same way that I could never have the same feeling when watching old footage of Elvis and could understand fully what all the fuzz was about in the 50s about him moving his hips on TV… – nor the current teenagers, used to see their idols singing in their bras and shaking it all in a daily basis – the post-death MJ fans will never fully get what the “Michael Jackson phenomenon” was about. But then again, in the same way I admire Elvis Presley even when he lived in different time to mine, the new generation of music lovers can enjoy MJ’s music and his legacy will live through them. So probably Michael would have approved this album in this same circumstances. After all, he always pushed for innovation and, how many other artists have released two posthumous albums and performed a brand new single as a hologram on an Awards show?

Perhaps fans were not happy with the artwork for Xscape’s cover. A galactic Michael Jackson wears a perhaps too estrange of a gear that covers half of his face. A touch of mysteriousness or a bad executed design trick to hide the montage of his head onto a body from a different shot? Some fans have criticised the artwork, claiming that MJ looks in an awkward posture where he seems to be clenching his shoulders and looking neckless. For that reason, some fans have proposed their own improved versions of  the cover design, some of which you can see in the gallery below, courtesy of the Spanish Michael Jackson fan community www.mjhideout.com

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