Review: Michael Jackson, Michael

Posted: December 15, 2010 in Album Reviews

I still find it strange that Michael Jackson is no longer with us. I grew up listening to his music, and genuinely felt bad for the guy as he suffered a tremendous fall from grace with multiple scandals involving alleged child molestation (I really don’t believe Jackson did anything wrong except use bad judgment, as he should have known just about any family of his many Neverland visitors would want to extort money from him).
All the negative press and Jackson’s increasingly bizarre behavior often obscured the fact he was one of the greatest entertainers of all time, and throughout the 80s and into the early 90s, the true King of Pop.
In the last decade of his life, Jackson retreated from the music scene, occasionally releasing new tunes on hits collections or boxed sets, but no album since 2001’s largely forgettable Invincible. At various times, it was reported Jackson was crafting a follow-up to that album, but no music ever was issued.
His death of a drug overdose robbed him of the chance to put out an album the way he would have wanted, as he was notorious for taking time between releases until he got things just the way he wanted them.
Following his death, Sony announced a 10-album deal with the Jackson estate to start putting out Michael’s unreleased tunes.
The first of these albums, simply titled Michael, came out today. Many of these tunes were his most recent songs, although a few date as far back as Thriller.
It’s a concise 10-song album, certainly not vintage Jackson, but much better than Invincible. For one, the album’s 10-song length makes it feel more focused than the meandering 70-plus minute mess of Invincible. 1995’s History and to a lesser extent, Dangerous, also could have used editing, as chopping off schlock like “Childhood,” “Gone Too Soon,” and “Tabloid Junkie” would have made those two albums considerably stronger.
The one thing those three albums did have over this one were true killer songs, as there’s nothing on Michael that screams hit single. Some of the production by Teddy Riley, John McClain and “Neff U” Feemster is a bit dated, but it’s awesome to hear Jackson’s voice in full glory again.
I’ve listened to the album three times, and there’s not a weak tune here, although there’s no kick-ass tune either. Jackson explores his problems with fame and tabloid journalists in tunes like “Monster” (featuring a welcome rap by 50 Cent) and “Breaking News.” This was a common theme on Jackson’s last two releases, but it doesn’t come off quite as bitter as it has in the past. (I Like) The Way You Love Me has a catchy hook, and the Lenny Kravitz penned (I Can’t Make It) Another Day is the lone rocker on the set, featuring Dave Grohl on drums. The last two tracks, “Behind the Mask” and “Much Too Soon” date from the Thriller era, and they’re two of the best songs included. “Mask” includes many of Jackson’s trademark “hee hee” vocal inflections, while “Much Too Soon” is a simple ballad featuring Spanish guitar, harmonica and even a touch of accordion.
Michael is more an album for fans, and longtime admirers will be happy with what was done here. Hopefully, the coming vault releases will be done just as tastefully.

Sod rating: ***

Michael Jackson discography
Off the Wall (1979) *****
Thriller (1982) *****
Bad (1987) **** 1/2
Dangerous (1991) ****
History (1995) *** 1/2
Invincible (2001) **

Ratings system
***** Robert DeNiro
**** Al Pacino
*** Sly Stallone
** The Rock
* Screech

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