Despite the fact that music reviews are reserved for other publications, I felt that this particular album deserved a piece in the Smugger.
Amidst the controversy, Michael, will be released to the public shortly and while it is not Thriller or Bad, it is darn good. There are traces of the legend on each track, even the rumored non-Michael cuts “Breaking News,” “Monster,” and “Keep Your Head Up.” The album begins with “Hold My Hand,” which is more Akon than MJ but nevertheless keeps the listener from putting their headphones down and sets the pace for the rest of the project.
“Hollywood Tonight,” one of the album’s center points is a work of art and a modern sound for the singer with vocoder and auto tune touches. “Keep Your Head Up,” finds Michael discussing hope and never giving up. It is similar to that of “Will You Be There” from Dangerous, and the epic “Cry,” from 2001’s Invincible. While there may be a vestige of reservation as to his vocals, the adlibs and runs are unmistakably MJ. “I Like the Way You Love Me,” is treated with a different sound than the one presented years ago on the Ultimate Collection. This time it includes a message machine recording of Michael and a varying sound of his vocal range.
“Monster,” which features 50 Cent, has been called 2010’s “Thriller,” is another masterpiece on the album. The reason that there is mêlée around this is because it is a completed demo similar to “This Is It,” not a mastered track. There was no real processing or Jackson magic apparent on every single of the legend’s recordings as Cascio said the tracks were recorded in his basement. Being an audio guru, I can tell you Adobe Audition, ProTools and other similar products give quite a different sound than that of studio engineering. The song was never “treated,” but even a Jackson demo trounces much of today’s #1s.
“Best of Joy,” is a sappy ballad which shows off Jackson’s falsetto. One of his last recordings, it is evident Michael Jackson still had it. The song is a simple melody reminiscent of “Human Nature,” or “She’s Out of My Life.” Its highlight is 1:45-1:59, where Michael breathes new ground into the lyricism making this one of Michael’s best cuts period. “Breaking News,” possibly Michael‘s low point discusses how the overall public and media turned their backs on the singer with its third person mentioning. The beat is overdone, but provides brevity to the ten track portfolio.
The final three cuts solidify why Michael is a legend. “I Can’t Make It (Another Day), features sick guitar riffs from Lenny Kravitz and tinges of angst from Jackson, while the 80’s return “Behind The Mask,” could have easily been featured on Bad with its retro sound. “Much Too Soon,” Michael‘s closer, was written during the Thriller sessions but never found its way on a Michael project. It is fitting finale to an impressive collection.
The controversy from what I’ve observed has come mostly from the family initially, who have ceased their commentary and some of the fans who are buying into conspiracy theories despite several scientific engineers and producers attesting to the fact that on the three Cascio tracks, the vocals are indeed Michael’s. I highly doubt it that Sony would risk their reputation on one singer and it has been rumored that Michael had over 200 songs that were never released on any project. And sure there are those who say that they want to make money (who doesn’t) but they are set to make money regardless of the controversy surrounding three songs. There was a seven album deal that was inked way before Michael was in the workings. Either way, if the material presented on Michael is a preview of what we are in store for in the coming years, this Smugger is satisfied to hear new Michael music.
Listen to snippets of Michael here