« Previous Post | Pop & Hiss Home | Next Post »

Album review: Michael Jackson's 'Michael'

Michael On “Breaking News,” a snappish track on “Michael,” the first album released posthumously from Michael Jackson’s extensive archives, outtakes and potential discard pile, the singer laments the media obsession that defined his life.

“Everyone wanting a piece of Michael Jackson,” he sings in a voice that verges on an angry whisper. “He wants to write my obituary. You just want to read it again.” The context couldn’t be more ironic, considering that “Michael” often feels like a capitulation to those teeming masses who want one more shred of their beloved at any cost.

That’s not to say that “Michael” is embarrassing or damaging to the legacy of the biggest pop star of the last half-century or so. For the most part, it’s a considered artifact, both modern and nostalgic, by Teddy Riley, John McClain and Theron “Neff-U” Feemster, producers who have recently worked with Jackson.

The first song on the album, “Hold My Hand,” a duet with Akon, is a crisp anthem that fits in on the radio but doesn’t really blow anything open, despite its earnest attempts. “Keep Your Head Up” is a classic Jackson inspirational with a starry-eyed, gentle touch, not the full-blown Messiah mode of “Man in the Mirror” or “Heal the World.”

Maybe one of the sweetest, old-fashioned tracks, reminiscent of the aw-shucks romanticism of the Jackson 5, is “(I Like) The Way You Love Me,” which starts with a recorded fragment of Jackson describing the tempo and melody, and then a touch of beat-boxing. That modest snippet of Jackson’s notes imbues the song with the sense of an inspired musician who was still chasing his vision, seeking its most perfect incarnation.

But like some ghoulish postmodern joke on “Thriller,” “Michael” can’t help but feel like the work of zombie hands –- albeit tasteful zombie hands with ears finely attuned to the current whims and fancies of pop radio. Interestingly, questions abound about the album's authenticity in certain spots: Sony issued a rebuttal to the accusation from some Jackson family members that his voice in “Breaking News” is an imitation.

We might never know if it’s fake or not, but the debate only underscores the fact that “Michael” is a product of many different creators that raises as many questions as it answers. We’ll never know what Jackson really would’ve done with these songs but this is the first of, no doubt, many guesses we’ll get that hopefully won’t yield diminishing returns. "Michael" reasserts that in death, he’s still a mystery, the ultimate phantasmagoria of pop music.

 --Margaret Wappler

Michael Jackson
“Michael”
Epic
Two and a half stars

 
Comments () | Archives (30)

Let's be honest.

Michael Jackson is a pretty good singer and an excellent dancer. But thats about it. Is he the greatest pop star of the last 50 years or so? Well....no.

Lets measure his body of work against say Prince. Is Michael a better songwriter? No. Is Michael a better lyricist? No. Is Michaels body of work edgy or challenging? No.

In fact, what is MJ without Quincy Jones? An ordinary singer.

I dont mean so much to take away from Michael as to elevate other better artists and give them the credit that they deserve.

madsircool -Um can you spell correctly?
Evaluate your writing before you evaluate someones talent.

I love Madonna and while I personally don't like some of MJ's music or lifestyle...I do know that he is indeed objectively: The greatest entertainer that has lived!

He has accomplished what you can't.
Hell he's accomplished more than my fav singer Madonna.

MJ is and always will be the King of Pop. That's coming from someone who isn't a die hard fan.


Not to nitpick madonna, but please point out my spelling errors?

And could you respond to my argument rather than attack me? Dont kill the messenger.

Madsircool,

No disrespect- but you've got to be kidding! Either that or you are a disgruntled Prince fan. MJ not the greatest entertainer that ever lived? Look at Beyonce, Madonna, Justin Timberlake, USHER, Rhianna, Britney, Chris Brown, Will I Am....who do they imitate??? Not Prince, sorry. Michael. Who has influenced music, video (what would MTV be without MJ???DUHHH?), dance and fashion more than Michael Jackson?

Ordinary...??? You just wrote that to intentionally piss us off, right? To laugh while we ramble about how awesome he is...and shout to your buddies, "Look at those crazy a-- Jacko fans, ranting on me..."

Uhh...madsircool your very wrong.
Michael could be considered at least equal to prince and madonna seperately. I would never consider Michael to be less than prince for the simple fact that Michael could dance and sing at the same time. Prince to a major degree lacked that ability. While I agree that prince is fantastic and much better songwriter than Michael, he has made a ton of songs that I dislike more than any of the not so good Michael Jackson songs. Also MJ is a pop artist, he can't use a lot of the songs or poems he writes because it doesn't go with the melody of the song that he wants.

I mean when Prince was just getting his debut album off the ground, Michael Jackson already had 6 No.1 Hits to his credit and had released 16 albums with the Jacksons. He and his brothers had already carried out 7 successful world tours. They had already sold between 50-75 million albums worldwide. Michael Jackson was a musical force before Prince released his first album. Michael Jackson had already been a musical prodigy 10 years before Prince. Michael Jackson has been in the music industry for nearly 40 years. Alot of Michael Jackson's songs have very complexed sound effects and are futuristic and innovative in the fact that alot of the sounds are created by Michael Jackson's skill as a beat boxer. Which only few artist actually are able to do. Alot of his beats he creates are done on the beat box.

Prince has his style and Michael Jackson has his style. I'm sure the two artist have great respect for each other.

Overall the greatest songwriter would be Bob Dylan, yet I would never consider Bob Dylan to be a better entertainer than MJ or Prince. Prince is a master Musician, yet MJ is the premire Entertainer (Even Sammy Davis Jr agreeded with that)

Also Quincy Jones is a hack for the simple fact that after bad he really wanted MJ to be a rapper, which would have been an abomination. I'm happy that he went to Teddy Riley and came out with possibly the best album of 1992, Dangerous. It's the highest selling New Jack Swing album ever!

You can't compare then both also after 1992, because both had different personal lives. MJ was sued over 1600 times (from 1993-2009), by opportunists. The already fragile MJ (riddled with lupus and vitiligo), had major court cases that mentally destroyed him as a person and had world tours in the 90s that took a severe physical toll of his body. I mean he almost broke his back in 1999, when he fell with a 50 foot high collapsed bridge on stage in korea.

(I would say though that Michael Jackson was a greater humaniatrian then prince)


@: madsircool
Music is about taste,so you cant just decide based on your taste who was the best entertainer.The records speak for itself,MJ was the undisputed greatest entertainer in the last half decade.

If he was nothing without Quincy ,how come quincy couldnt replicate the success he had with MJ with other young artists he produced after mj sacked him like Tevin campbell.He didnt achieve massive success by being a puppet,it was through sheer hardwork.

MJ wrote most of his hits himself and demo's released shows Quincy didnt do much to those tracks cos there are almost little to no difference on the album version

If you feel prince is the greatest fine,beauty is in the eye of the beholder ,You dont have to bring an artist down just to raise another

As a person who does not like nor respect Prince's music, to me Michael Jackson is the best pop artist ever.

Prince has not and never will move me.

I like other artist but Prince was just never one of them.

Michael jackson is the best and I like this album much better than Invincible. I may lose credit with Jackson purist but I don't care.

I love the New MIchael album, it makes me happy to hear his voice and one, of the songs you can here his fans in the back ground. I feel that Michael would have critiqued it more and tuned it to his perfection. His friends new him well they really did good. Thank you for your hard work, its a pleasure to listen too. Its All For Love. Michael Jackson we love you and always will in hearts forever.
BevRae<3<3<3<3

"Is he the greatest pop star of the last 50 years or so? Well....no."

Well....yes.

"Lets measure his body of work against say Prince. Is Michael a better songwriter? No. Is Michael a better lyricist? No. Is Michaels body of work edgy or challenging? No."

Let's measure the actual impact on the world. Did Michael have a much bigger impact than Prince could ever dream of? Yes.

You can keep desperately pretending that Prince outperforms Michael, but it fail.s

LOL. Prince thinks he's a rock star b/c he could play repetitive drum loops and guitar riffs. Without $exually provocative lyrices, he's no one special.

Let's be honest. Since Jackson died Prince fans have been trying to make him look better by trashing Jackson. Has Prince reached the sales numbers Jackson has? Well.....no. Has he even come close? Well.....no. Do sales numbers indicate how many people like an artist's music? Well....yes. Are professionals in the music industry calling Prince the best entertainer that ever lived (not just the biggest pop star in 50 years)? Well...no. Did Quincy Jones produce Jackson's second biggest selling album? Well....no.

What you are saying is Prince's work can't stand comparison to Jackson's unless you trash Jackson. Good job.

All I can say is "BIEBER FEVER"

My 15 & 17 year old daughters are enthusiastic fans of Elvis Presley. Through my girls listening to Elvis' music, I grown to love the sound & quality of his vocal talents. Posters all over their rooms of Elvis, 33 years after his passing...Elvis was a great entertainer & a hunk, too!

To each his own.

wellllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll i think his the bestt beat that u punk under neith meeeeeeeeeeeeee if u dont like him then y r u even commenting ......... beat it just like the song

To each his own and everyone will have an opinion. Artists will always be compared with each other in one way or another .One thing we all have to admit and it is this, Michael Jackson had and still has an impact on this world that is evident. Whether we like it or not his music and his life has always gotten our attention, be it in a positive or negative way. The important thing to note here is that his INFLUENCE(good or bad) is real . You can tell the greatness of someone by the influence he commands. Enough said.

To those who question the greatness of the King of Pop, are you kidding me?
He literally revolutionized the manner in which so many artists within the industry compose their pieces. Your Neyos, Beyonces, Ushers, Derulos, Biebers and even Bow Wows are influenced and inspired by none other than Michael Jackson, and it's evident in their dance and their style of music.

Michael Jackson has THE best voice I have ever heard. He's good on tape, and he's better live- how many artists can you say that about? Not many...

So get educated before you trash talk Michael Jackson. He's ten folds better than most artists of today, and will always remain one of the BEST musicians of all time.

Stupid.

We don't have to bring down one artist to lift another. A die hard M.J. fan will not see or appreciate what other artists did better than M.J. and vice versa. It's almost like asking what's the better part of hip hop, break dancing or beat boxing? They're both different things. M.J. was a much better dancer than Prince. Micheal could never play any of the dozens of instruments that Prince does. If you like dancing better you're gonna go with M.J., if you appreciate how hard it is to master not just one but a dozen instruments, you're gonna go with Prince. Who was the bigger celebrity? Who is the better all around musician? It's obvious. No need to tear either one down because when it comes down to it, neither one possesses the raw talent, unadulterated skill, and sensual funk that Justin Bieber has.

michael jackson is the best.its good to hear his voice.i think he would have done a much better job with the album.long live mj and his music

michael jackson is the ultimate king of pop.i enjoy this album because i miss his voice and when you listen to keep your head up you tend to wonder that the music world is poorer without him.

Prince is good, but forgettable. music and dance just wouldn't be the same without Michael Jackson. Michael's influence is phenomenal in the entertainment industry. anyway,I finally got a chance to listen to "MICHAEL" in the privacy of my car, nice album. its a keeper! Long live the King of Pop!

While I used to be a huge Michael Jackson fan during his Thriller days....I have come to realize that Elvis Presely was THE MAN. Elvis did not have MTV videos nor any world tours....and yet look how many albums and singles he sold...!!!!!

It's been very interesting reading the comments. Thank you Louis Gonzales for your comment. You did a great job of summing up MJ's contributions as an entertainer.

Prince is an exceptional entertainer in his own right, but he can't touch the accomplishments of MJ. That is an unequivocal fact. One may not like MJ or his music, but he has been acknowledge since the time he was a child to be a bone fide prodigy. THE REAL DEAL. Not some corporate created studio invention a.k.a. Britney Spears. His vocal skills are exceptional not to mention the unique style he created with dance. A style imitated repeatedly by contemporary artists today. Although Prince was far more prolific in his output, he doesn't have the same level of influence that MJ had. That's a fact! Michael was a triple-threat, and then some, performer. Singing, dance, song writing, arranging (despite not being able to read or write music), video production, live performance. Not to mention he could beat box like a champion. A difficult skill to master, by the way. The only thing that he is not known for is performing an instrument in a live setting. That's not a short coming since his instruments were his feet and his voice. With his voice he had full command of 3.5 octaves and could scream like a rocker and croon like a balladeer without skipping a beat. This is not sentimental opinion, this is fact. He is no Britney Spears!!! He doesn't need studio tools to enhance his voice like she does.

madsircool, a pretty good singer describes Madonna, an exceptionally gifted singer describes Michael Jackson! Fact not sentiment!

First of all, there is no comparison when it comes to Prince and Michael. I love both of there music, but we all know that Michael will ALWAYS AND FOREVER remain THE GREATEST ENTERTAINER THAT HAS EVER LIVED. No one has had Thousands even Millions of fans fainting during concerts. No other celebrity has given Millions of dollars, that they have earned through hard work, to charities. No other artist has impacted people all around the world like Michael has. There are little kids doing Thriller and Billie Jean on the streets. There are grown men who screamed and fainted when Michael Jackson was even mentioned. Michael will never die. He lives in the hearts of Millions and his legacy will be carried on from Generation to Generation. In 3000 kids will still be moonwalking and wearing shiny socks and gloves. Alot of people look at Michael and forget all the things he has done for this Earth and the great loving person he was. That's most important. (P.S. Justin Bieber doesn't hold a candle to Michael nor Prince.)

@ J Brad you're kidding right?

Michael Jackson and Prince in the same league? You have GOT to be kidding me! LOL. Thank you for the huge laugh!

I love "Michael". Awesome! Great job once again. The KING, the ONLY KING, is back!

WE LOVE YOU MORE MICHAEL ♥

 
1 2 | »

Advertisement
Connect

Recommended on Facebook



In Case You Missed It...

Video



Recent Posts


Tweets and retweets from L.A. Times staff writers.

Categories


Archives
 



Get Alerts on Your Mobile Phone

Sign me up for the following lists: