Design By Humans
Published On: Wed, May 14th, 2014

Michael Jackson: Xscape

mj xMichael Jackson
(Epic Records)

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A posthumous album from the world’s greatest pop star was inevitable. In fact, this will surely not be the last one we see either. It’s something that we should try to make peace with and try to enjoy for what it is. And as far as posthumous albums go, Xscape is rather enjoyable. Curated by L.A. Reid, the album features tracks that Jackson was working on before he died that have been re-touched and updated by producers ranging from Timbaland to Stargate to Rodney Jerkins. If the thought of Michael Jackson’s voice floating on top of modern dubstep productions scares you though, don’t worry. The productions remain fairly reserved and neutral throughout.

The songs themselves are mostly good. Opening track and lead single “Love Never Felt So Good” is a throwback disco track that fits nicely into today’s retro landscape. When it was originally recorded in 1983, of course, it wasn’t a throwback. But luckily the sound came back around, and Timbaland’s lush arrangement brings it to life nicely. A lot of the songs, however, are less exciting. Some are downright odd, like the cautionary “Do You Know Where Your Children Are,” which tells the story of a 12-year-old girl who runs away from home because her step father had been sexually abusing her, only to be sold into child prostitution. But with tracks like “Slave To the Rhythm” or “Loving You,” Jackson sticks to what he does best, which is pure dance pop of the highest caliber.

Most interesting is the chance to hear all the original recordings with the Deluxe Edition of the album. Hearing Jackson’s original demos not only gives you a greater appreciation for the subtle production added posthumously, but also allows for a degree of transparency, letting us see Jackson’s songs in their barest forms. Overall, it’s just great to hear Michael Jackson’s voice again. For as many of these albums as they put out, it will never not be great to listen to him sing, even if it is a bit disconcerting to hear his voice over trap snares.

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Michael Jackson: Xscape