A week and a half after the release of Michael Jackson’s second posthumous album XSCAPE (By the way it’s AWESOME, see below), The King of Pop made a special appearance at the 2014 Billboard Music Awards.
But wait, didn’t he die five years ago? I’d know. I watched the coverage all summer. If you were not the kind of person who could accept the fact the dead can’t come back to life, well…this picture speaks for itself:
Michael Jackson died on June 7, 2009. This is fact. Michael Jackson’s body is interred in a crypt in Los Angeles. Also fact.
So how is an obviously dead man touching a living person in front of a live audience and millions more watching?
Simple: It’s actually a hologram of Michael Jackson.
You can tell that it’s not actually a person much easier in these pictures:
…I’ll give ’em credit for trying. Looking at the faces of the live audience–most of whom have probably seen MJ perform live–it goes without saying it’s not the same. It also drove home for alot of folks in denial The King of Pop is dead and has been for five years next month.By the way, the song performed was Slave to the Rhythm from the recently released Album XSCAPE. If the choreogrphy looks familiar, they meshed it from live shows he did. I could tell at a glance it was a combination of the choreography for Billie Jean, Beat it and Remember the Time.
Actually everything on the stage when the curtain was raised onward was a hologram. Only the dancers in the foreground and in the aisles were real people. It would’ve been too obvious otherwise. Unlike Tupac’s hologram from two years ago (which was done to include Dr. Dre and Ice Cube), MJ’s hologram would be performing solo.
Enough about the Billboards. Now we’re going to talk about the recently released album XSCAPE:
It’s interesting to note I didn’t even know this was in the works until I saw samplings for some of the tracks on The Playstation Network two weeks ago. That said, when I looked to buy the album on iTunes I decided to buy the Deluxe version so that I could have both the original and remastered versions of each song.
Like I did when I wrote my review of 2010’s “Michael”, I read some of the top reviews on Amazon.com for the album before writing this. They come from folks claiming to be hardcore and lifetime fans of MJ my age and older. They’re quck to call Michael (the album) a failure but hesitate to even suggest XSCAPE is anything but the real deal.
Anyway, this review is about MJ’s second post-humous album XSCAPE. Eight songs were chosen for this album. The standard version only has the remastered versions of the songs while the Deluxe Edition comes with both the Remastered and Original versions each song. Both versions of the album include Justin Timberlake’s Remix of Love Never Felt So Good, which can be easily argued has no place on either version of the album. While yes, we get it, Sony wants to attract Justin Timberlake fans and vice versa but it would’ve been better released as an LP on one of his (Timberlake’s) albums or something than including it with XSCAPE.
Moving on, let’s go down the list track by track:
1. Love Never Felt So Good: One could date the original version as part of Off the Wall (the album). This album’s lead track, Love Never Felt So Good does its job of pulling you in. for the rest of the album. The remastered version I think will do its job of pulling in new fans as it is a nice fusion of past and present. It’s also my understanding the remixed version was leaked on the internet late last year according to some reviewers. If that’s true, I never heard about it regardless.
2. Chicago: I heard echoes of “Invicible” in the remastered version and Human Nature in the original version of this song. It’s your classic “girl once burned wants to play the fielnd” ballad. This is one of those songs that are just made to transcend time itself.
3. Loving You: The word for the original version of this song is RETRO. I would highly reccommend anyone who picks XSCAPE as their first MJ Album and likes this track makes Thriller 25th Anniversary Edition their second. The bonus track on that album Carusel and the Original version of this song are so similar, I suspect he recorded both songs for the album but like Carusel, it didn’t make the final cut for Thriller’s original release.
4. A Place With No Name: If the intro for the Original version sounds familiar, MJ sampled America’s “A Horse With No Name” and used it as a base for this song. For the record, he got their blessing and permission to do it. The remasterd version reminds me of The Way You Make Me Feel from Bad. The subtle galloping you hear in the remastered version is a nod to the song that inspired the original version of the song.
5. Slave to the Rhythm: This track seems to be somewhere between Dangerous and Invicible. I think the Remastered version does a better job highlighting MJ’s vocals but the pacing for the original is to jam to. All in all the track does its job of acting as the bridge between MJ’s older albums (Thriller, Off the Wall and Bad) and his newer ones (Dangerous, Blood on the Dance Floor and HIStory). As a reminder, this song was performed by the MJ Hologram at the 2014 Billboard Music Awards.
6. Do You Know Where Your Children Are: Easily the most controversial song on the album. I have no doubt it will be used as fodder for the haters and critics. Even I will admit it’s a very odd song and it immediately made me think of Demerol, which is the bridge for the song Morphine (Blood on the Dance Floor). The gist of the remastered version in no uncertain terms describes a young girl who is a victim of child sexual exploitation. Again, unless you heard the bridge for Morphine (in which MJ literally says he’s addicted to Demerol) you’d have thought this to be far outside the realm of what MJ does. Then again, the same could be said about Scream (“Stop F***ing with me”), Privacy (Invincible) and Leave Me Alone (Bad) in which MJ takes shots at his critics and the paparazzi. The original version had more of an emphasis on the vocals and seems to be somewhere between Bad and Dangerous. I dunno. I think this is one of those songs that should have been released while he was alive. Soon enough, his legacy will be called into question once again only this time he’s not around to defend himself.
7. Blue Gansta: Easily my favorite song on the album and a stark contast to the preceeding song. It’s as if MJ is saying “Yeah I wrote that song but so what? What are you gonna do about it?” According to one of the top reviewers, this song was leaked some years ago under the title No Friend of Mine but was renamed Blue Gansta for the Album release. The original version has shades of Smooth Criminal and The Way You Make Me Feel (both from Bad) thrown in with a touch of You Rock My World (Invincible). It also seemed to have the essence of Duke Ellington’s Jeep’s Blues with those trumpet blasts. An instant classic.
8. Xscape: The cover song is yet another blend of classic and mondern MJ. I mean that for both versions of the song.
All in all I give the album a 10/10.
I’d have given it a 8/10 if I only got the standard version. With XSCAPE, I think it’s safe to overlook “Michael” if you didn’t like it. I didn’t have a problem with it personally but that’s just me. This one will no doubt make critics of The Estate releasing his unreleased song rethink their stance. While yes I ‘d be the first to agree the unfinished songs on “Michael” should have never been released, there is a demand from the fans to hear more of his unreleased work.
And we all know that there are HUNDREDS MORE songs where these two albums came from.