Michael Jackson – [Album]

Friday, 31 December 2010

By the time of his passing in 2009, Michael Jackson's life had become public property – utterly and completely. There was shockingly little that happened in the singer's world that even passing fans or curiosity seekers didn't know about; the singer had become more a mass media and tabloid commodity and payday than a singer. That perception is so all-consuming that, now, it actually takes a second to remember that Michael Jackson was “The King Of Pop” – not just a face in a magazine. Part of that dehumanization has to do with the fact that so many of the images of Jackson that were captured are so potent; images of babies and balconies and a face obscured by masks hold much of the public's mental image of the singer, but he was a singer – and a working one at that. What Michael represents is a sampling of the music that Jackson was working on prior to his death.

Because the songs on Michael were completed by producers posthumously, the final word on the production was not Jackson's  and, because of that, some of the material is difficult to hear because it relies on the producer's discretion and musical sensibilities. That's problematic because because some of the songs sound more like the work of those producers than they do of the singer and some of that work is contradictory; while “Hollywood Tonight” (one of the better pop/R&B cuts on the album) handily illustrates that Michael Jackson was still in good form vocally and his voice was still pitch-perfect, for example, Akon derails “Hold My Hand” and turns what could have been a beautiful ballad into an over-produced, overly Auto-Tune-d monstrosity. It might sound crass but, using those two songs as prime examples of how strong and how soft the productions on Michael can be, listeners are warned that this comp needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Tracks like “(I Like) The Way You Love Me” (which opens with the singer delivering the beat and a rough version of the song's bass line vocally into an answering machine), “”(I Can't Make It) Another Day” (which sounds spare and metallic in its' computerized production) and “Behind The Mask” (which is really only a wisp of a song and was clearly layered with effects after the fact) all present themselves as unfinished work in spite of the best efforts made by the production crews on each song, and even devoted fans will find themselves reaching for the 'skip' button on their CD players to get through them. Even with its' obvious shortcomings, however, there are moments in Michael's run-time that not only give up the goods, but also illustrate how personal the singer's songwriting could be. There are elements of the self-loathing that fans knew plagued the singer laced through “Monster” and that self-loathing is combined with plain resentment in “Breaking News.” In both of those cases, the backing music supports the lyrical themes and prove that Jackson could still pull off his own brand of rock-ish pop when he wanted to, and his teeth hadn't fallen out just yet.

The dichotomy of those two sides – strong and weak – prove that while Michael is by no stretch of the imagination a finished work, Jackson was still capable of making fine music before he died; he wasn't washed up just yet. Because the set assembled here lacks any clear focus, it would never be mistaken for a lost treasure but, from a “reassurance that the King Of Pop still had some great pop in him” standpoint, Michael is heartening.



Michael is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

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