Album Review – Michael Jackson – Xscape (2014)
YES! After much anticipation we finally have that posthumous album we’ve been awaiting! After all, Michael Jackson is that dude: Mr. Pop himself! You can’t get much better than Michael. One of the first records I ever owned was Thriller and it changed my life! After his death, I was just waiting for something, especially because I knew he had plenty of music that hadn’t come out. Even though I grew up on Michael, I don’t think I really listened to him much after Blood on The Dance Floor. It’s not that I stopped listening entirely, it’s just I started getting into other trends and such. I still listened to every single of his though, and it’s still that classic Jackson feel in one way or another.
I can’t deny L.A. Reid when it comes to finding talent. And this is the guy that had the honor of having full access to Michael Jacksons archive and pulling out what he thinks are those “gems”. Of course, there’s reason why Michael Jackson shelved a lot of his material. He is a perfectionist anyway, right? But some of these tracks were because of studio pressure and others were because it just wasn’t that strong of a track. And yet, L.A. Reid decided to dust off those old tracks and add some shine to them by hiring Timbaland! In turn, Timbaland got to choose his producers: J-Roc, StarGate, John Mclain, and Rodney Jenkins to name a few. And so, this review begins.
Love Never Felt So Good would have been good on his Off the Wall album. Everything is there: Signature Disco sounding pop vocals, piano, and strings. Here’s the deal though, it’s not 1970. Even after they remixed and remastered this, it’s not anything you would expect on the radio today. It’s dated obviously, and even though I love nostalgia tracks, not really feeling this. Has nothing to do with what Jackson was able to do with it, because you know it’s classic Jackson, but it’s classic 70’s Jackson.
Chicago is smooth! I mean, it has the ability to really get you within the first couple of seconds just with that bass line! This is a Michael Jackson putting game on a girl kind of track. Jackson has the ability to really set the mood so well and this track is a great example! The production of this track is perfection! It just sounds so good dynamically and there’s plenty of peaks and valleys to make it a great ride. it might sound a little dated, but I really don’t care this time. This is my favorite tracks on the whole album!
Loving You is like they took the time machine back again. And although I hear what they did by putting a strong brass and drum beat behind Jackson, it still sounds old school. Although the song feels smooth, there’s nothing really unique about this song. Michael doesn’t really do anything amazing on this song besides the usual harmonizations. It’s okay but if L.A. Reid is calling this a gem, I don’t know what he was going for.
A Place With No Name has a funky bass line with some primitive (almost African like) sounding drums. This track is probably one of the more modern sounding tracks off of this album. Reminds me of something he would put on Blood on The Dance Floor. His singing is more dirty on this song and it’s much needed. That raspy Jackson voice is great on this track. The beat itself continues to push the song forward and it’s arranged so nice! Only thing is that this song could have been up to a minute and a half shorter.
You know I want to like Slave To The Rhythm. I mean, it’s all there! It’s easily a dance song and I can tell what Jackson was trying to do. But I can also tell what the producers were trying to do to make this song more “modern”, and it just didn’t work for me. This song sounds to beat machine to me. And those synths aren’t helping it at all either. The original track is better than this remake to me. Timbaland didn’t need to add a beat to this, at least not this type of beat.
Do You Know Where Your Children Are is a nice synth track. And the beat isn’t overbearing at all. Jacksons in the pocket and the arrangement feels good. Different variations of the melody help in making it not so repetitive too! The harmonizations are nice. The subject matter is a good idea but I don’t really know why he would make this song so upbeat. Sometimes we must hide depressing subject matter in a energetic song though so it doesn’t sound too depressing.
Blue Gangsta sounds strange at first. The harmonization is nice but the orchestration in the background doesn’t sound like it should be there. Once the beat drops though, it makes you want to forget about the beginning because that beat is so funky! It’s also nice to see how they play with the dynamics of this song. This track is the most modern of the tracks off this album! In fact, you could almost call it crunk or dirty south. It’s nice to hear this sound on a Jackson track! Those harmonizations though are killing it. Almost makes you wonder what Jackson could have done over some newer Hip-Hop style beats.
Xscape should have been that track! I mean, that’s what the album title is, right? And yet, I really wasn’t feeling this track. It’s just too much clutter, too much going on. Love the strings and brass on this song but it’s just too much vocally. Which brings us to the end, right?
I mean, 8 tracks ought to be enough for an album, right? I think not! In fact, that’s what really pissed me off about this offering of Jackson goodies. I was expecting an album by todays terms: at least 14 to 15 new tracks I’d never heard before. Instead, L.A. Reid would rather give us the original versions of these songs to lengthen the album. Some of the original tracks are completed but others are just sparse scratch tracks. Which makes you wonder, why even put the original versions on the album? And the surprise track for you: Love Never Felt So Good again! This time we’ll have Justin Timberlake singing a verse.
So, here’s what I’m thinking happened. And this is all speculation, but I think it’s enough to get the general gist of what happened. We all know that Jacksons archive is extensive, right? I mean, he was in the studio a lot during his prime perfecting his sound. And his death put his catalogue under enormous attention. But, what good is a catalogue if you can’t sell it in spurts, right? You want to be able to sell as many albums after his death as possible. And I hate to say this, but I think that’s what is ultimately going to happen with the catalogue. We’ll get probably another 4 to 5 albums of original works like this in spurts. They’ll add some producers and features to make it sound newer. They’ll P-Diddy it and remix it to put another 2 or 3 albums out. By the time their done, Sony Music Entertainment will have raped this catalogue for all it’s worth and some. Which is why it’s so hard to listen to a new Jackson album after his death and why I think I’m just going to stop buying a new Jackson album from here on out! Let the man rest and leave the tracks alone.
With that said, I was really disappointed in this album. I’m giving it 2.5/5!