Label: Epic Records
In the end, there’s only the music. Eventually, the polarized public opinions of Michael Jackson the person will begin to fade, and the man’s records might finally have a chance to sink or swim on their own accord. It was a luxury rarely afforded the King of Pop in his own lifetime. There were just too many controversies, eccentricities and (alleged) depravities surrounding the singer to allow his artistic output to get top billing. Who cared about bridging rock and soul and reinventing mainstream music when there were all those other distractions? The devil may play a mean fiddle, but it’s those hot red horns everybody’s going to talk about.
Recorded (supposedly … which is a story TMZ and Rolling Stone can sift through) with various collaborators over the past several years as a follow-up to Invincible (2001), Michael represents the icon’s second posthumous release, after This Is It (2009); with dozens (or hundreds, depending on whom you choose to believe) of mystery tracks from Jackson’s vault awaiting release, it’s just the tip of the iceberg. It’s also one hell of a dud.
During its best moments, Michael is catchy as hell, but even then, it’s the type of catchy that’s more aggravating than anything. The record bursts out the gate like a vaginal R. Kelly with the campy “Hold My Hand,” loses all serious credibility with the sad sack waitress melodrama “Keep Your Head Up” and renders itself clichéd by the midway point, with generic dance beats and even more generic lyrics, such as, “I like the way you’re holding me/ I like the way you’re loving me/ I like the way you’re touching me/ I like the way you’re kissing me.” So much for finding out anything about the state of mind of Jackson, the supreme enigma.
What’s really disappointing, though, is that several song titles – “(I Can’t Make It) Another Day,” “Behind the Mask,” “Much Too Soon” – give the impression that Jackson, the eternal mass pleaser, finally had something personal to say. Instead, he tries to recreate “Thriller” on “Monster” (“He’s a monster, he’s an animal,” Jackson chants with no hint of irony), goes retro-emo on “Best of Joy” and spends much of Michael crooning silly falling-in-love sentiments over even sillier ’80s beat box grooves. By the time closing track “Much Too Soon” rolls around and hints at something more digestible than rotting cheese, this borderline radio-friendly record sounds downright radioactive to my ears.
In Jackson’s defense, much of the record was apparently completed after his death, so you can’t necessarily blame the artist himself, a meticulous perfectionist, for the excess of familiar beats and dated arrangements. Still, for Jackson’s legion of fans, it’s doubtful to offer anything they haven’t heard before, and for those of us who were never fascinated by Jackson in the first place, it’s not nearly enough to spark our interests now.
by Marcus David