The music lives on as Michael gets the 2Pac treatment.
It's been more than a year. Can you believe that? Gone but through his music never forgotten and believe me the people ready to cash in will make sure of that. Still negativity aside it's good to hear some newish music from the King Of Pop who was prepping a new album ('7') and much more before he tragically died. So just like 2Pac, The Notorious B.I.G. and all modern day fallen icons the endless posthumous release schedule begins. Thanks to some unfinished vocals and songs producers and some artists have got their hand on some Jackson remnants for 'Michael'. The first new material released since the epic 'This Is It' and the first full length album since the singer's last 'Invincible'.
'Michael' is not a bad album as feared, as a matter of fact it's a lot better than expected for a piece that will either be loved or hated. It's great to hear what could of been but just like Tammi and Marvin said 'Aint Nothing Like The Real Thing'. Michael was a talent from Motown to the mainstream that will never be matched, rehashed or duplicated. Still even if the die hard's, Will.i.am and the Jackson estate don't like it (with good reason) the new album is here for the holidays. Plus at least M.J.'s uplifting music will help us through the harsh Winter nights in any form. At least the man's charisma will outshine the projects controversy which has stirred up all sorts of problems from it's artwork and Prince related rumors.
The 'new' album begins with 'Hold My Hand' a duet with Akon that Michael actually was working on in 2007 in Las Vegas. It's a sweet number that shows us what Michael's new material could of sounded like. As good as this sounds there's nothing like classic, vintage M.J. From the Jackson 5 to Quincy Jones and then Teddy Riley, M.J. may have changed sounds but he always maintained a genuine, trademark style like no other. A style that is more evident and welcome on tracks like 'Hollywood Tonight' (produced by Riley in fact) and 'Breaking News' (even if the vocals authenticity have come into question) where Michael shows us his introspection and fight respectively that amongst everything else he never fully got credit and respect for. This underrated quality is underlined perfectly by production that could of sat in the 'Bad' and 'Dangerous' era perfectly. Thank God for Teddy.
This album is more refreshing as most posthumous pieces focus on trying to update an artist to the modern day, which usually is a method that doesn't even work if an artist is still alive. The Akon duet maybe certified but there are still other guest appearances that could come into question. The Lenny Kravitz duet '(I Can't Make It) Another Day' isn't one of these however. It was recorded by both parties together during the 'Invincible' sessions and Kravitz's guitar feels as at home with M.J. as Slash's did. It's the 'Monster' 50 Cent collaboration that raises a few doubts. The track isn't' bad but it isn't 'Bad' either, if you get me. The two were always rumored to collaborate together but it would have been better to have heard something that was the real product of studio time. Authenticity has been the subject of much controversy with this album and it's better to be safe than sorry. Sorry 50.
Back to the M.J. music at hand however the track 'Keep Your Head Up' is another great uplifting track from Michael. Much in the same vain as 'Cry' or latter M.J. underrated classics of that nature the song is trademark Mike, going from sorrow to solidarity. The man who scraped the lyrical sky of 'Human Nature' again cleverly crafts stories for this ballad with beautifully poignant lines like, "She's looking for a job and a finer place to stay/She's looking for the hope and the empty promises/She's working two jobs, keeping alive/She works in a restaurant during day/She waits her life away/She wipes her tears away".
The 'Thriller' era songs 'Behind the Mask' (a brilliant cover) and 'Much Too Soon' (a gentle guitar cut) show that even on his outtakes the man was as outstanding as he was thrilling. Still these are outtakes that are being used for an album that is not billed as that and this is the problem. Even the previously released 'The Way You Love Me' has been given a polish it didn't need and changed to "(I Like) The Way You Love Me". The song was good on it's own but now re-worked like most of this project it feels less like the work of the man himself. If it aint broke, don't fix it may be a cliche but someone should of offered it up in the studio.
The M.J. gem 'Best Of Joy' was one of the last songs Jackson recorded but by the time you listen to it and take it in it's lost in a sea of tracks that's origins are unknown. When you don't know which way is up with this piece it's hard to really appreciate what's actually this artists until you close your eyes, forget about everything and listen to the man himself. That's what shines through here, the incredible lyrics and vocals but that's thanks to Michael Jackson not 'Michael'.
Overall this album will go down in as much history as it will controversy. As controversial as the enigmatic talent himself, because this album is not 'History', nor is it 'Bad', and for sure it's no 'Thriller'. After all is said and done and heard it may be nice to hear more of the work from the tireless, greatest ever but when the job is finished by someone else it just reaffirms one thing. There is nothing quite like Michael. TIM DAVID HARVEY.