Should you listen to Michael Jackson’s XSCAPE?

Should you listen to Michael Jackson’s XSCAPE?

The posthumous album has all the makings of a hit but is it for you?

By Sonam Savlani  May 9th, 2014

This past week, the folks over at Sony Entertainment Network have been giving us a taste of Michael Jackson’s new album XSCAPE, teasing one song at a time.

It’s the second posthumous release of Michael Jackson’s songs, featuring eight songs that never made it to his albums. Epic Records Chairman and CEO, Antonio Reid (aka L A Reid) went searching through Jackson’s outtakes for scratches that the pop star recorded from start to finish (he found about two dozen and whittled them down to eight), between 1983 and 1999 – some of which he recorded over and over, like ‘Slave to the Rhythm’ which he went over 24 times. 

The term “contemporised” has been dropped a lot with reference to this album. That’s because even though the structures and the harmonies that Jackson set are still in place, they’ve been padded up with pumped-up bass lines and whoompy synths by producers Timbaland, Stargate and Rodney Jerkins. Fortunately, they don’t override Jackson’s powerful voice – like on ‘A Place with No Name’, where he reimagines the 1972 folk-rock classic ‘A Horse With No Name’. Even ‘Slave to the Rhythm’ has the legend’s hallmark angsty vocals and perhaps comes closest to his original material.

There are moments, however, when you wonder if some of the songs are too busy to really be his (sample the now-much-darker-and-pounding ‘Blue Gangsta’) and if they could’ve done without all the percussive embellishments.

Thankfully, the Deluxe Edition of the album remedies this by giving us original demos in addition to the new versions. There’s enough here for a music nerd (especially the liner notes which delve into the stories behind each of the songs), or even a good listen.

XSCAPE releases on May 13