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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
Two and a half stars

Comments () | Archives (30)

i think the cd is AMAZING, just hearing his voice agian on new tracks, instead of the old ones ive listened to over and over again; i believe makes one realize that he is in deed gone, but not to far away. it makes me smile to hear how raw these songs are, because as Michael knowing excatally how he wanted each and every song he relased and would spend hours until they were perfect for his beloved fans. its nice to hear songs that didnt have as much time spent on them; because i feel like im hearing apart of his heart and soul, i feel closer to him. as fans we need to keep in mind that, these songs would have never been released by Michael himself, until they were perfect. but however he would be happy he could make us smile, again the way he did while in our presents, since he is no longer here to give us his all. which is why i am thankful this cd was released. my by far favortie is (i like) the way you love me; i play it over and over again. i do agree these tracks dont sound like his normal pretreated songs, and im sure these songs wont be palyed over and over on the radio, but i know they will be blasted in fans rooms and hearts every where just as though Michael was here putting on a show. " hollywood tonight, breaking news(which anyone can tell that its is NOT Michaels voice sings in this song) and monster" are probally the closets to the songs we are use to hearing from him. the others sounds like their songs from his heart (minus i cant make it another day and hold my hand, for he did not write those) and that is why i feel so connected to him, all though i do miss his occasional "hehehes" in the verses, but then i just pop in Thriller, and im good to go. Michael, you are loved and very much missed. im gonna keep your memories alive, the way they should be and the thing you worked so hard for. i love you, Michael. Rip.


why in the world was jb eveen mentioned hes not even good enough to be a foot rest for mj nor prince who said anything about elvis or madonna (not saying they are bad)
why are you guys comparing 2 different people prince is great in his way and michael is great in his way and even if u r still comparing them its in the name King of Pop and Prince dont you think if prince was better than mj he would be nicknamed King and really stop comparing the both its insulting to both of them that you cant appreaciate them and their doings without comparing them to someone else and how do you get off comparing people and the article doesnt have any tthing to do with comparing people and srry prince but MICHAEL JACKSON is the greatest entatainer

(and yes i know im comparing the both by saying what i said but aye im wrong too)

Michael is and will be the best entertainer of the last 50 years, no doubt about it. Prince is OK, but in not way in the same league as M.J.
Michael was an Awesome dancer, even got recognition by Fred Astaire, another great dancer.
Michael wrote many songs, who knows if he actually wrote as many as Prince, could be, it would not surprize me at all.
Michael was one of the great MASTERS! Like Michael Angelo, Beethoven, Dvorak, Picasso, Mozart.
This Is It was going to be the BEST performance yet. Wish he could have done just one show!
Artists keep trying to outperform Michael, but they do not have his imagination, his creativity. Michael was able to see the song and the music in his head, how cool is that!
Michael did play instruments, he was good @ the piano. But he was a singer-dancer first, you cannot dance and play an instrument.
MICHAEL is great...I love (I like) The Way You Love Me.
I know that if Michael were alive, those songs would be different, but I settle for them, I love when I hear a song by Michael that I haven't heard before.
Sorry Justin Bieber in cutsie, but not in the same league as M.J.
And last, but not least, no one can rival Michael's smile...OMG, the way he smiled

Madsircool: I do not know if you were aware that Michael Jackson played the drums, synthesizer, and guitars on the song "Scream". Michael also used rappers, Notorious B.I.G and Shaquille O'Neal on the Blood on the Dance Floor, History in the Mix album from 1997. So not only could Michael, song, dance, write songs, create videos, entertain, mentor, and colloborate but he was also a musician.

Michael is unique, they can try to imitate him , but impersonators is all they can even be. When you hear Michael's pure voice , like in best of Joy, you know nobody has come close & probably never will . So greatful to be able to hear his voice even if not fully finished by him.

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