Robot Review: Michael Jackson’s “Michael” Album
We review of the highly anticipated “Michael” album by the late Michael Jackson which was released today.
Clearly the biggest new release this week, and probably of this year, is Michael Jackson’s new album “Michael.” Its release marks the first of what promises to be many posthumous releases from the King of Pop, MJ. What some people may not know is that he was actually a pretty prolific artist. He was always writing and recording. Just because he didn’t put albums out all the time doesn’t mean he wasn’t always working. He loved his fans and was constantly working to make them happy.
This new Michael Jackson 2010 album represents 10 songs that were either finished or close to being done. Long time Jackson producer Teddy Riley was brought in to help piece the album together and finish it off. The album itself has caused a lot of controversy as some people have said this is simply Sony Music and others trying to cash in on his legacy. While I don’t dispute the validity of that argument I’m going to choose to look at this strictly from a musical perspective. Putting politics aside the question remains: is this a good album? The answer is: it depends on where you are sitting.
His personal issues aside, there is no question that Michael Jackson was a genius. I have always felt sorry for him and seen him as a tragic figure. While he had wealth and fame, it seemed to me like he was trapped by that and music appeared to be his only real escape. His previous works have had songs about just that. To me, this album lacks the depth that his previous albums had.
The album opens with “Hold My Hand” a duet with Akon which has a smooth sound, but feels odd. It is a soft song about yearning for attention and it comes off as a little strange. I get the feeling that maybe the producers just wanted someone current on a track and this is where it best fit. That said, another duet, “(I can’t make it) Another Day” featuring Lenny Kravitz works well. Kravitz is smart enough to get out of the way and let Michael do his thing. He provides some strong guitar work, but it is Michael Jackson who is the focal point. Rapper 50 Cent makes an appearance as well for the duet “Monster.” It is a little uneven and off (I’m going to write more about this track in a different article).
Maybe the finest moment on the album is the closing track “Much Too Soon.” This finds Jackson doing what he does best which is drive is voice over a wall of sound – in this case classic guitar and strings – while keeping things quiet, soft and intimate. It is a painful song and about yearning for something you don’t have and it is vintage Jackson.
There has been a lot of controversy over the song “Breaking News.” Many members of his family have said that they don’t believe it is Michael Jackson’s voice on the track. Producer Riley says he had to put more processing on the voice in order to achieve the sound they were looking for and that is why it might not sound like him. I’m no expert, but here is how I feel. There are small parts during the chorus and some vocal effects thrown in that are clearly Jackson. But the main voice on most of the track? I’m not buying it. It doesn’t sound like him at all. If it really isn’t him and they brought in someone who sounded like him to finish the track they should be ashamed of themselves.
For me this entire Michael album is a mixed bag. It has moments of brilliance and shows off the genius Michael Jackson was. At other times it simply falls flat and I think it is because it is what it is which is to say that it is an unfinished album. When Jackson died he had a lot of unfinished work. He was a perfectionist and I think he would have never released an album like this. I think the label and producers simply took the pieces they had and hammered them into something that looks like an album. Do I think it should have been released? I don’t know. I guess I would have rather seen just the good parts put together in an EP.
Which brings me back to my original point about whether this is a good album or not depending on where you are sitting. If you are in the seat of wanting another great Michael Jackson album, then you will probably be a little disappointed. If you are in the seat where you feel any Jackson is better than no Jackson, then there is enough here that you should be happy.
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