[sic] Magazine

Michael Jackson – Michael

Perhaps the strangest thing about this record is that it exists. It’s an unusual release in every way shape or form. Perhaps best then, to ask yourself, would this be any good if it had been released during MJ’s lifetime? The simple and best answer is a resounding negative.

This is a frustrating, uneven album. For a start, there are no simple, obvious, out of the park Jackson classics on here. Not even anything that comes close to the better cuts from ‘Invincible’, let alone ‘Thriller’. Easily the best song on this is ‘Hollywood Tonight’, a snarling and funky thing that sounds utterly 1987 and 2009 at the same time. Sandwiched as it is though, between two mid-paced ballads, it also shows the albums greatest weakness: it sounds like a bunch of songs from many decades thrown together in a vague order and doesn’t work as a full album.

It starts with the saccharine, starchy ‘Hold My hand’, in which Jackson feels like a guest on his own lead single. There are recognisable fragments of Jackson vocals and noises, but as soon as you get a strong Jackson line, the auto tune melds it beyond recognition and it sounds like someone said, at mixing stage, that ‘This Song Has Too Much Michael Jackson On It’ . And Akon blabbers over the top. You would’ve thought that, if you were going to sing on a Jackson song, you’d bring your lyrical and melodic A-Game to the table. Not here. There’s also ‘Keep Your Head Up’, which is average with a nice linguistic twist, and ‘I Like The Way You Love Me’, which opens with a snatch of an answerphone message and a fragment from MJ’s musical plate of offcuts : something MJ would’ve never allowed in his day.

‘Monster’ is a passable interpretation of a ‘Thriller/Bad’ style mid-set LP track. Sadly, 50 Cent appears which spoils the illusion it’s 1986. Aside from that though, it thunders on, on a half-decent groove – think 1992-era Prince – and no doubt would’ve gone down a storm live. It’s a great song apart from the 50C appearance.

The album ends on a couple of reheated and reworked mid 80’s songs that didn’t quite make the grade at the time, and it shows : overall though, these songs are a big change stylistically and musically from what precedes it, an obvious bolt on from a different era that jars with the personality and feel of what comes before. Add to this to fake crowd noise, bolted on fragments of existing demos at intros and outros, and the uneven, different production alongside guests that have been drafted in to fill where Jackson hadn’t finished the work yet, alongside some questionable vocal lines that sound like, but not quite, like Jackson himself, and we have a musical Uncanny Valley akin to Queen’s ‘Made In Heaven’, where there is an attempt to finish or create a work that was never intended for release and where the limitations of the lack of original material to work with makes this a passable record that does not match Jackson’s normal high standards.

Add to that the sentimental and chintzy, memorial dinner plate artwork that clearly resembles a Jackson album from 1991 and what you have is an average record from a great artist who cannot stand over the body of work and control it any longer. If this is the Best of what remains, there might be some ugly moments in the future.

For more from Mark, please visit The Final Word