Michael Jackson (with help from his Estate and Sony Music) returns from the grave once again to deliver Xscape; an 8 track compilation of hidden treasures, previously locked away deep inside the King of Pop’s vault. Unfortunately, earlier release Michael lacked that magic touch; it didn’t sound like a classic Michael Jackson album and it seemed a little rushed. There’s also a lot of debate about the singer’s integrity being exploited, especially because the man was a perfectionist and many seem to think there is an obvious reasoning why the songs on Michael and the new Xscape album never saw the light of day. There is some hope that decent recordings will be found, Jackson allegedly had hundreds of outtakes and demos intended for his albums.
Xscape consists of songs recorded by Jackson from 1983-1999, when he was in his recording prime; there were bound to be some decent works written for and between albums. Leading single Love Never Felt So Good really is a feel good track, the classic MJ essence was sustained; when listening, it actually reminds you a little of the Bruno Mars track Treasure. Releasing an alternative featuring Justin Timberlake was a decent marketing move, but not really necessary. Chicago demonstrates Jackson’s immense vocal range, the verses are sung relatively low for him and escalates into his vocal growl and higher ranges; Loving You is another early take from the Bad sessions, you can hear that youthfulness in his voice, the song isn’t bad but it isn’t the greatest either. A Place With No Name was Jackson’s 1998 adaptation of America’s 1972 hit A Horse With No Name; it’s definitely one of the groovier and catchier tracks on Xscape, band members of America were also impressed with the quality of the adaptation.
Slave To The Rhythm was an outtake from the Dangerous sessions, it was cleverly written and the sound of the era has been expertly left intact and alive throughout its veins. Do You Know Where Your Children Are was a work in progress throughout both the Bad and Dangerous eras, written about what could happen to kids who become runaways and the delivery of the track successfully captures that anxiety and concern. Blue Gangsta was allegedly a 1999 sequel to Jackson’s 1988 hit Smooth Criminal intended for his Invincible album, another catchy miss that would have suited the album so well. Finally, Xscape was a work in progress beginning from 1999 and after the release of Invincible; it captures the angst felt by Jackson when hounded by the media, the world is no stranger to the controversies and publications in regards to his personal life.
Xscape was definitely handled with care; even though the bulk of the tracks were produced to differ from the original recordings, producer LA Reid and executive producer Timbaland were successful in keeping the album true to the Jackson sound the world loved. A lot of MJ’s deepest fans hold the belief that Michael Jackson’s vault should have remained untouched, and that Sony should cease exploiting his death; on a personal level, as a hardcore Michael Jackson fan myself, I enjoyed listening to this album and could hear the love and care put into it. Michael Jackson was a perfectionist, and perhaps he never wanted these particular songs to be released; but in the light of his death, it is a wonderful thing that his voice is still being heard in new and exciting ways.