Released December 2010 by Epic
Clearly, Michael, the posthumous studio album from Michael Jackson, is infused with the spirit of his music from the past. That alone will make it a must purchase for many many fans. However, it is difficult to listen to the music here and not simply long to listen to other similar but superior songs released in the past. Most of the tracks here do sound a bit like leftovers. The quality of Michael Jackson's music is uniformly high enough that this is pleasing to hear, but it breaks little new ground in the understanding of Michael Jackson as an artist.
Solid Set of Songs
There is a solid set of songs here. That is a tribute to the songwriting prowess of Michael Jackson and his collaborators as well as the choice of one cover version which is one of the very best tracks here. "Monster" is a classic paranoid of the press and paparazzi song from Michael Jackson. It fits in the tradition of "Scream" and "Leave Me Alone" and gets pumped even higher with a rap from 50 Cent. "Hollywood Tonight" seems like a partial song that could have been truly great. The existing lyrics are repeated and extended to fill the length of a normal song. The spoken voice of Teddy Riley breaks things up to maintain interest. This song could have inspired a classic Michael Jackson dance production.
The single "Hold My Hand" is a familiar type of Michael Jackson ballad. The addition of Akon brings a contemporary presence to the song. Perhaps the best track is the finished version of Michael Jackson's cover of Yellow Magic Orchestra's "Behind the Mask." This song was originally intended for Thriller nearly 30 years ago. However legal battles have kept it in the vaults. There are retro elements here, but the melody and performance here are so strong any concerns about being dated are moot. This is perhaps the primary unearthed treasure on Michael.
Occasionally Wispy Performances
Much of the ballad work here seems a reminder that Michael Jackson is indeed gone. It is likely that for most of the songs here what was left behind were bits and pieces of songs with a primary idea but little of the beefed up support that would be used to make the recording whole. It is easier to hide that thin, unfinished feeling in production effects on an uptempo track. Songs like "Hold My Hand" and "Keep Your Head Up" do give the audio equivalent of a wave goodbye from Michael Jackson as he slowly drifts away from our sight. Choruses and additional vocalists are used to beef up the sound, but the power of Michael Jackson present on past ballad successes is not in full evidence here.
Top Tracks On 'Michael'
- "Hollywood Tonight"
- "Monster" featuring 50 Cent
- "Behind the Mask"
- "Much Too Soon"
A Good Reminder and Coda on Michael Jackson
Ultimately, the major discussion about the album Michael will be about whether these songs deserved to see the light of day or if they should have been left in the vault. They are a solid reminder of the artistry of Michael Jackson and for that reason they are worth hearing. The songs here also provide a nice coda, a repeat of many classic elements, to his work thus far. However, it is likely there is a significant amount of additional vault material on its way. If these songs truly are the cream of the crop, it is quite possible it would be best to stop here. For now, enjoy the gift of a lingering presence from one of the top pop musicians of all time, and then seek out those previous, classic songs to listen to one more time.