Review Summary: Even though only five years have passed since Michael Jackson's tragic death, he's still busy with a whole new album filled with unreleased material, some of which has been online for years.Michael Jackson
has been busy during these last five years, due to the release of several documentaries (This Is It
, The Life of an Icon
, Bad 25
, the latter was directed by Spike Lee), a posthumous album (Michael
), a remix album (Immortal
) and a re-release of one of his major albums (Bad 25
). Anyway, it's not just Michael who has been busy, but his Estate and Sony Music.
Trying to make people forget what Sony (and Company) did with the album 'Michael' (2010), L.A. Reid hired some famous producers to work on a new project, made of unreleased songs, so they could update those songs with a refreshing sound and vibe. Giving the album the title Xscape
, which comes from the song of the same name included in this album, L.A. Reid also explained that this new album was meant to show what Michael would've wanted had he still lived. Producers such as Timbaland (famous for having worked alongside Justin Timberlake, who also appears in this album), Rodney Jerkins (the only original produced who actually worked with Jackson), the duo Stargate, and Jerome Harmon, just to name a few, one could think that this album was going to be far better than Michael
, but at the end, the result was mixed to positive. It's not that the album is poorly executed, because that's not the case here. In a couple of songs, the update is well done and gives a new atmosphere, but in other songs, the new versions feel inferior to the original ones.
But these new versions are better than the ones included in Michael
, and you can also notice how the process of making this album is so much different from the one used to produce the previous album. Where in Michael
there are songs obviously not performed by Jackson (especially the now-infamous 'Cascio' tracks), and that the whole set of songs did not work as a whole, in Xscape
, the songs flow much more naturally, with a higher level of production, and the treatment that has been given to them.
For this new album, eight (only eight!) songs were chosen to be featured, including 'A Place With No Name', a reworked version made by Jackson of the classic hit 'A Horse With No Name' by America, and 'Blue Gangsta', which appeared in 2006 in a remix by The Fugees, without the Estate's permission. Basically, almost every song has been listened to online, due to them having been leaked a few years ago. The album also has the infamous song 'Do You Know Where Your Children Are' (also known as '12 O'Clock') which recalls the Dangerous
era, 'Slave to the Rhythm' (whose 2010 version made by Tricky Stewart was going to be part of Michael
), 'Chicago' (also known as 'She Was Lovin' Me' and produced by Corey Rooney), 'Loving You' (from the Bad
album sessions), 'Love Never Felt So Good' (written by Jackson and Paul Anka, being the second time Anka co-wrote a song with Jackson, the one being 'This Is It'), and finally, the title track, 'Xscape' (produced for the Invincible
album, back in 2001). It is amazing to see how the songs vary from 1983 ('Love Never Felt So Good') to 2001 ('Xscape') and how they feel cohesive within the new album.
Another thing, if you want to buy this album, you either have the standard edition - which is extremely short, due to having only the aforementioned eight songs - or the deluxe one, which is my favourite. Apart from the 'updated' versions, you also get the original and untouched versions that Jackson wrote and produced during his lifetime and a remix of 'Love Never Felt So Good', featuring Justin Timberlake. It also includes a DVD with a short documentary (which lasts over 20 minutes), featuring the producers talking about the project and, basically, adulating each other about their work. In the end, even the deluxe version feels empty, as if there's something missing. A music video or a longer documentary (or 'short film', in Jackson's words) could've made this version much more interesting, but this is what we have to accept. Talking about the original versions, they are completely unfinished (just give a try to 'Love Never Felt So Good' in its 1983 version, and you will see what I'm referring to), except for, maybe, 'Xscape' and to a lesser extent, 'Blue Gangsta'. The revised versions also change the song's pace and vibe. For example, 'Loving You' turns into a modern-pop song, despite originally being a distinctive 80s track. 'Chicago' is similar to 'Give in to Me', from Dangerous
in terms of sound, lyrics, and general rhythm. 'Do You Know Where...' and 'Slave to the Rhythm', originally produced during the Bad
sessions were re-worked into dance tracks, especially the latter (which was featured in the 2014 Billboard Awards, with a 'special' appearance by Jackson in a technique called 'Pepper's ghost' and not 'hologram' as it is believed). 'Blue Gangsta' and 'Xscape' are both agressive in their lyrics and sounds, with 'Blue Gangsta' being a reworked version of 'Smooth Criminal', while 'Xscape' definitely could've been included in Invincible
Overall, the album is far more enjoyable than the disaster of Michael
, and we need to be sure that, in no time, a third posthumous will come to the surface, since the contract between Sony and The Estate will finish in three years.