I’m a moderate Michael Jackson fan. My mom has been a big fan all her life, so I’ve listened to my share of his music as well. I’m no superfan, but I do enjoy songs like “Beat It,” “Thriller,” and “Smooth Criminal.” When I heard that Sony would be releasing a posthumous album containing some of Michael Jackson’s unreleased songs, I knew I had to at least give it a listen. As it turns out, this is one of the best albums I’ve listened to this year, and this review will run through the modernized versions of the 8 tracks on the album.
There are two version of Xscape: the deluxe version and the standard version. The standard version has 8 tracks, and the deluxe version has 17. Why? Well, both versions feature finished, edited versions of each of the 8 songs. The deluxe version also includes the 8 original recordings; maybe Michael hadn’t finished editing in all the sounds and instruments he wanted, or maybe Sony took matters into their own hands and simply updated them. The 17th song on the deluxe edition is a duet between Michael and Justin Timberlake (though I think Justin is simply edited in).
With that being said, I’m only going over the standard version of Xscape, simply because I’d sound pretty redundant going over two similar tracks eight times in a row. Besides, I do prefer the finished/edited versions of pretty much all the songs because they have more of a classic Michael Jackson feel to them. I’s almost as if these recordings were originally meant to be a departure for Michael to change his image. I have no problems with an artist reinventing themselves, but for a posthumous release like this, the fans would be very thrown off by the change in image without Michael here to explain himself. As it was, the first time Sony released some of Michael’s other songs a couple years ago, they caught flak because many listeners didn’t believe it was actually Michael singing. Anyhow, without further adieu, here we go!
#1: Love Never Felt So Good- This song starts the album off on just the right note. The track is inviting, catchy, and isn’t too slow to be boring or so fast that listeners are taken aback by such an abrupt takeoff. This song has a nice, smooth sound to it, and the instruments come together to create a very enjoyable track, even for a love song. More importantly, it truly sounds and feels like Michael Jackson, which is extremely important.
#2: Chicago- This is one of my favorite songs on the album. “Chicago” has a darker, edgier feel to it, and you can hear the tension by the tightness in Michael’s voice during the chorus. This track is kind of a blend between modern sounds and classic 70’s and 80’s themes. A solid bass line and snare beat give the song a very distinct sound
#3: Loving You- Track 3 is a much more classic Michael Jackson love song, and his smooth crooning on this one would have probably charted very well back in the day, had he released it then. Songs like this one really confirm (for me, anyhow) that this album is truly a Michael Jackson album, and not a hoax with a fake singing into the microphone.
#4: A Place With No Name- As soon as the vocals started on this track, I knew something sounded familiar, but just barely. I couldn’t quite place it, so I looked at the name of the song. It made me think, “Oh hey, that’s kind of like the old song ‘A Horse With No Name.'” Then, at the very end of the track, Michael’s backgrond singers sing a few “na-na-na-na-na’s,” and my suspicions were confirmed. “A Place With No Name” is heavily influenced by the classic America track “A Horse With No Name.” This is also a great track, and it’s quite catchy and addictive to listen to; another favorite.
#5: Slave To The Rhythm- This song is another “Michael goes modern” track. It still most definitely retains the classic Michael Jackson vibe, but it’s also modernized, as one can tell by the computerized sounds in the background. This track is again dark and haunting, and Michael keeps a tight, snappy tone throughout the track. There’s a certain enjoyable, addictive quality to this dark track, and it’s a good pick for the album.
#6: Do You Know Where Your Children Are- This song is a sort of public service announcement reminding everyone to keep tabs on their kids; it tells the tale of a young girl who runs away from home to become famous in Hollywood, only to become a prostitute. I’m not even a parent, but the song was a great reminder that anything can happen, and it’s nice to hear a song with meaning. Even better, the song is a good one to listen to, and it, of course, retains the Michael Jackson vibe.
#7: Blue Gangsta- This one is also decidedly dark, but it’s extremely catchy as well. Again, it’s definitely a Michael Jackson track all the way. It’s one of the more interesting songs on the album, and the background singers take more of a leading role on this one. Another solid track, just like all the rest!
#8: Xscape- This is definitely one of my top three tracks on the album, and it’s also got a killer bass beat. Xscape is probably the best mix between a classic Michael Jackson song and a new, modern one. It’s an upbeat, fun way to end a great album, and its sound and tone sums up the whole album in one song. This was a great choice to finish off the album, and there is definitely a reason they titled the album after this song.
Honestly, Xscape is a great release whether you’ve listened to Michael Jackson before or not. If you enjoy Pharrell Williams, Maroon 5, Royal Tailor, or Justin Timberlake, you’ll probably enjoy Xscape as well. After all, Michael Jackson was a big influence for each of the artists mentioned, and by listening to Xscape, you can definitely hear why, and you can see how Michael truly changed the face of music.
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