Заговор чёрных

Итак состоялось возвращение Майкла Джексона к с того света. К чему бы это? Достаточно взглянуть на обложку.


Он чёрный, дери его за ногу!


Итак, что мы знаем о альбоме:
1. Майкл мёртв, и песни взяты из его черновиков
2. Говорят новые песенки спеты дублёром за 42 штуки баксов

Безумно позитивные знания, не находите?! Возникает главный вопрос: звучит ли на этом диске истинный Майкл Джексон? Но кого это может интересовать на самом деле? Michael — это ещё один диск издателя гиганта Sony кующего железо пока горячо. Без авторского контроля пластинка возможна только такой какой её видят в финансовом отделе, при чём здесь может быть музыка? It’s a sony!

Достаточно беглого прослушивания чтобы понять, что на это раз рулил кто угодно, но только не перфекционист Майкл. Очень заезженно, обыденно и сухо. Альбом поражает своей безликостью. На вокале, чёрт возьми, мог быть кто угодно и ничего бы не поменялось. Все эти гуэст стары? Зачем они?

Преданные фэны, спросите себя: стал бы Майкл Джексон при жизни записывать обычный рнб альбом, да ещё и по таким кондовым лекалам? Он всегда старался быть на шаг впереди и иметь фирменный звук. А на Michael есть только штампы, штампы и ещё раз штампы!

Всю свою самостоятельную жизнь Майкл стремился быть белым, но чёрные всё-таки достали его из могилы, чтобы выпустить под его именем ортодоксальный нигерский альбом. Вот такое вам и возвращение к корням, вашу мать!

PS Не могу не привести в послесловии наиболее объективный и подробный обзор от Nick’а Danger’a из Манчестера. Написано фэном для фенов.

Foreword

The Noughties were a sad and strange decade for the King of Pop. Bookended with two extravagant artistic endeavors- the release of his tenth album `Invincible’ in 2001 & the announcement and run into what would have been the `This Is It’ comeback residency in London- 50 record breaking sold out shows beginning on 13th July 2009. For the most of the decade MJ did not release any new music nor perform any shows. This was partly enforced by his court trial and recovery from it, but also due to his monetary problems and continued need to secure financial backing from outside sources. Of course we now know the greatest entertainer who ever lived also had a very serious drug problem.

One thing that was clear over the last eight years of MJ’s life- despite the absence of a new album he continued to write & record music right up to and including the time of rehearsals for This Is It. Most notably with Black Eyed Peas head honcho will.i.am in Las Vegas & Ireland circa 2007. In interviews of the time the pair spoke of their aims for the collaboration and Will, of how the material sounded like an `Off The Wall for the new century’. It’s worth noting that Michael was never one to release anything less than what he viewed as perfect. Unlike his most notable contemporary- Prince who adopts a much less constricted mindset and continues to release 10 x the amount of music that MJ did. Of course it was this type of restraint & artistic focus that had a part in creating Michael’s legend and made his album releases landmark global events.

After the below par performance of `Invincible’ in the west (partly due to Sony not supporting it, partly due to a decrease in MJ’s US fanbase) the follow up would have to be no less than a masterpiece. Not only that but in typical MJ style; — its arrival bigger and more extravagant than what had gone before. Unfortunately that day never came. Following Michael’s death he once again became the highest selling recording artist of the year and went on to sell a staggering 35 million albums worldwide in the 12 months after his passing. In light of this Sony struck a deal with the Jackson estate paying them a record breaking 250 million dollars to retain the distribution rights to MJ’s music and together with the estate periodically release 10 new projects including compilations of previously unheard material up until 2017.

Aside from the tragedy of the world losing an artistic visionary, musical genius and an often misunderstood but gentle soul who cared about the preservation of the planet, Michael’s passing could not have come at a worse time. This Is It did not make the opening night yet it would appear from the film he was in good form and that the gloved one combined with the OTT stage show would have made for something truly spectacular. Whether or not he was in good enough shape to complete 50 shows is another matter. The concerts would likely have been followed by a new album which at the time of the singer’s death fans had already been patiently waiting eight years for.

It was not to be but MJ did leave behind recordings of many new songs in various states of completion — some of which would have been used for that 11th album. For the release of `Michael’ the Jackson estate and Sony worked together to compile an album of material ranging in vintage from 1981-2009, claiming fans would `hear the songs he most recently created along with tracks that Michael had a desire to bring to fruition.’ Various musicians were hired to perform on some of the unfinished songs and the final mix was executed by longtime MJ collaborator Teddy Riley. At long last, the album that never was is finally here… or is it?

Review

Hold My Hand (Duet with Akon) (3:34)
Written by Aliaune Thiam, Giorgio Tuinfort, Claude Kelly
Produced by Akon, Giorgio Tuinfort & Michael Jackson

Originally recorded in Las Vegas circa 2008 with the intention to be included on Akon’s then upcoming album `Freedom’, HMH was leaked to the internet the same year. The estate now tell us MJ actually intended this song to be the lead single for his next studio album. Whatever the case HMH is a laid back anthem with a simple message of love, unity and peace. Essentially a sing-along ballad intended for mass appeal which despite being a duet actually features more of Akon than MJ with the only lead vocals from Michael being the first verse. Despite MJ taking the backseat to Akon this dynamic actually works quite well. Akon went into the studio late this year to finish up vocals on this new version and the track climaxes with a choir sung chorus & hand claps. 8/10

Hollywood Tonight (4:31)
Written by Michael Jackson, Brad Buxer/Spoken Bridge Written by Teddy Riley
Produced by Teddy Riley, Michael Jackson/Co-Produced by Theron «Neff-U» Feemster

Invincible leftover the estate claim MJ resurrected in 2007 to work on again. This one’s a banger that demands you blast your speakers and is all about a girl who leaves behind humble origins to pursue dreams of stardom in Tinseltown. HT starts off with MJ beatboxing prior to delivering the first verse- `Lipstick in hand, Tahitian tanned, in her painted on jeans. She dreams of fame, She changed her name, To one that fits the movie screen — She’s headed for the big time, that means…’ then it’s straight into a huge chorus that upon first listen becomes ingrained in your head. It all sounds great but in the absence of a bridge after the second chorus the song loses momentum and to fill the gap we get a spoken bridge by Riley that comes off slightly camp and ultimately detracts from the songs impact. Instead of the spoken bridge HT would have worked much better with a rap section. Clearly an unfinished track that shouldn’t be on here, despite this it’s still quite good and contains some of the old magic. 7/10

Keep Your Head Up (4:52)
Allegedly Written by Michael Jackson, Eddie Cascio, James Porte
Produced by C «Tricky» Stewart, Angelikson, and allegedly Michael Jackson

In the 1980’s Dominic Cascio worked at regular Michael Jackson haunt the New York Palace Hotel managing apartment suites. Upon meeting Dominic, MJ enquired if he was married, if he had any kids and that he would love to meet them. This encounter created a secret 25 year friendship between MJ and the Cascio family where MJ would often visit the Cascios whenever near their home in New Jersey, referring to them as his second family. In 2007 MJ stayed over at the Cascio home as he often did, and it was reported he was recording at their home studio. Fast fwd to the days following the 25/6/09 and the Cascios registered a number of songs as the work of Michael Jackson. Let’s get straight to the point here- THE LEAD VOCALS ON THIS SONG AND THE TWO OTHER CASCIO SONGS ARE NOT MICHAEL JACKSON. Instead the Cascios, the estate or Sony hired an imitator to sing on these songs as at the time of his passing, as one can only assume most, if not all of these songs he allegedly recorded with the Cascio’s in 2007 did not feature vocals. Obviously done so the Cascios can profit & the estate / Sony can release as many `Michael Jackson albums’ as possible by mixing genuine tracks with fakes. Here’s an entry from Taryll Jackson’s (MJ’s nephew) Twitter page on Tuesday 7th December 2010— «I remember when Teddy and I were at Encore listening to KYHU. We both knew it wasn’t my Uncle. He stopped working on it because (and I quote) «it didn’t sound enough like Michael. Michael doesn’t swing like that.» He also said he was only working on the Cascio records in hopes that he would eventually be given a «real Michael Jackson song.» As he knows, I never agreed with that logic. I’ll never forget when Teddy called me telling me, «I’m so excited, I finally got a ‘Michael record.’ It’s called Hollywood Tonight and it’s him.» —There’s nothing you can really say about this situation except that it’s a travesty that those in control of MJ’s estate only care about money. Some fans will choose to believe that the Cascio tracks are in fact MJ, but they obviously don’t know his voice well enough. Even the best MJ impersonator and likely guilty party here- Jason Malachi cannot fool the real fans. No one can sing exactly like MJ except the man himself. What is it the kids say these days… EPIC FAIL. 0/10

(I Like) The Way You Love Me (4:35)
Written by Michael Jackson
Produced by Theron «Neff-U» Feemster, Michael Jackson

Originally appearing on 2004’s The Ultimate Collection in demo form, this version of the TWYLM sounds complete and features more instrumentation inc piano & flute and beefed up backing vocals. The demo was great but this new finished version is sublime and sounds finished. As such this is perhaps one of the rare occasions on `Michael’ were the studio effects and wizardry of the producer, in this case- Neff-U, have made a considerable difference for the better and transformed a demo into a fully realized song without losing the demos original impact and flavour. A lot of this is probably due to the demo vocals being mostly complete. One of the albums standout tracks- a sweet, understated, romantic masterpiece. 10/10

Monster (Ft. 50 Cent & Orianthi) (5:06)
Allegedly written by Michael Jackson, Eddie Cascio, James Porte/Rap Lyrics Written by Curtis Jackson
Produced by Teddy Riley, Angelikson, and Michael Jackson, allegedly

Another Cascio penned abomination ft. the vocals of an impersonator Sony would have you believe is Michael Jackson. It sounds like a Lady Gaga cast off and the whole thing is a mess. The vocal impersonation is not even close this time- it’s clearly not MJ and sounds EXACTLY like Jason Malachi- see youtube. 50 Cent is crap here and as `MJ’ returns he sings `Why did you take it, why did you fake it’ why indeed. Finally fans of guitar goddess Orianthi who hoped to hear her shredding a Beat It style solo on `Michael’ are left scratching their heads as her contribution to the end of the song is mixed so low she is barely audible. Embarrassing for all parties involved, except of course the impersonator who got paid and remains anonymous. 0/10

Best of Joy (3:03)
Written by Michael Jackson
Produced by Theron «Neff-U» Feemster, Michael Jackson
Co-Produced by Brad Buxer

One of MJ’s final recordings which he planned to continue work on in the summer of 2009 whilst in London for This Is It and debut during the shows. In light of this and the quality of the song itself, this is undoubtedly the albums most potent track. Some rumors suggest that in his final years MJ intended to move away from writing angry songs that focused on his frustrations and more towards tracks that simply expressed the joy of music like this one. You wonder how many complete vocal tracks MJ left behind from his final years. Assuming there is more than just Best of Joy, had the estate put out an album of material solely recorded in last few years and in this vein we’d possibly be listening to the greatest Michael Jackson album ever right now. Vocally, when you put this next to the Cascio songs there is just no comparison;- it’s like trying to pass off a chocolate coin wrapper as solid gold. Pure MJ magic. 10/10

Breaking News (4:15)
Allegedly Written by Michael Jackson, Eddie Cascio, James Porte
Produced by Teddy Riley, Angelikson, allegedly Michael Jackson

This was the first track from `Michael’ to be streamed online. Monday 8th November was the day the s**t hit the fan. Prior to the song going live members within the Jackson family claimed some of the tracks on the album were not sung by MJ and instead featured the vocals of an impersonator but no one in the fan community really took them seriously. Once the song was posted it became clear we were not hearing the voice of MJ and the Jacksons were telling the truth. In contrast to the other two fakes, these lyrics actually sound a lot like something MJ would have written and musically the songs falls within familiar New Jack Swing territory. The vocal trickery is more cunning here;- the lead vocal is sung by the impersonator- most say Jason Malachi, some James Porte, whoever it is it’s not Michael Jackson. But real MJ vocals in the form of breaths and ad libs from previous albums have been cut and pasted in amongst the main vocal in an attempt to trick the listener. What we are left with is a song that is clearly not sung by MJ, but not only that- sounds strangely synthetic and overly processed. Additionally the production is uninspired and it sounds like there is a glitch at 0:44. The song itself is not bad and the best of the three fakes. Had MJ actually recorded this he would have made it 10x better but as this is not him the song is worthless and should not be included. We know they are lying about who is singing these songs, so why should we even believe that MJ wrote them unless they can produce hand written lyric sheets which can then be verified by independent forensic handwriting experts? These songs were not registered until after the singer’s death so it’s possible that they were entirely written / recorded after his passing.
0/10

(I Can’t Make It) Another Day (3:55)
Written by Lenny Kravitz
Produced by Lenny Kravitz
Co-Produced by Michael Jackson

Invincible leftover that leaked in January of this year. Written by Lenny Kravitz AD is a rock track about MJ’s relationship with god, tho it can be interpreted in more than one way. Lenny re-recorded a more subdued take on the song with Jay Z entitled `Storm’ which appeared on his 2004 album Baptism, needless it does not compare to the MJ version. This year Lenny headed back into the studio to finish the song adding new guitars, drums & vocals. It was clear upon first listen back in January that AD was a great song, but sadly this final version is not as good as the original. The funk styled Bass lines on the verse sections are good but the new guitar parts on the chorus detract from its impact and the riff sounds like it is ripped off from Led Zepp’s `Moby Dick’. This aside, the power and quality of the song still shine through and AD stands as a modern MJ classic. 9/10

Behind The Mask (5:03)
Written by Michael Jackson, Chris Mosdell, Ryuichi Sakamoto
Produced by Michael Jackson, John McClain

Originally appearing on Yellow Magic Orchestra’s 1979 album Sold State Survivor, BTM is a cute Electropop track ft. robot vocals and cryptic lyrics. During the Thriller sessions MJ recorded a new version of the song with extra lyrics he had written about a two timing woman but legal difficulties prevented the songs release. Gregg Phillinganes (MJ/Eric Clapton keyboards) released a cover of the MJ version on his 1985 album `Pulse’ and later Eric Clapton released the second cover of the MJ version on his 1986 album `August’. Here for the first time the original MJ version is unveiled with an updated sound that retains a 1980’s flavour (robot vocals/saxophone) while still sounding current. The track begins with crowd chants of -Michael- from the live broadcast Bucharest date of the Dangerous world tour on October 1st 1992. The crowd sounds bring a nice ambience to the start of the track, but when they return later on as MJ interacts with the audience they are unnecessary and spoil the song a little. Overall this is a pretty good but of the 7 genuine tracks this is the weakest and there’s no way MJ would have released this on a future album. 6/10

Much Too Soon (2:49)
Written by Michael Jackson
Produced by Michael Jackson, John McClain

Ending on a Thriller outtake, Much Too Soon is a tender acoustic ballad ft. a string section, accordion and gentle backing vocals. Coming in at under three minutes this one is short and sweet. On MTS the introspective/sensitive side of MJ’s personality is on display similar to She’s Out of My Life. Like BOF & TWYLM this one is another beautiful track but one minor complaint is that at 1:58 a slight crackle can be detected which really should have been removed and suggests a lazy production job. 8/10

So what are we actually getting here? The answer is- 2 new songs, 2 Invincible leftovers, 1 previously released song, 2 Thriller era leftovers and 3 songs that feature the vocals of an impersonator. Are we to really believe that MJ was at one point working on this set of tracks as his next studio album? This is what the estate are telling us in the `Michael’ press release, but since they are also telling us it’s The King of Pop who is singing on the three Cascio tracks I think this can be safely dismissed as fantasy. It was well known that it his final years MJ had been working with modern day Pop/R&B hitmakers such as Akon, Neyo & will.i.am and was always re-iterating to them how the music they created together had to represent an new level greatness and be bigger and better than anything that had previously been done. MJ was always the guy who wanted to scale new heights and break boundaries to create something unique and spectacular. Why then would he want to resurrect a one dimensional, Thriller era leftover such as BTM? There’s no way MJ intended this set of songs or anything similar to this to be his next studio album if for no other reason that as a collection of tracks `Michael’ is nowhere near as strong as any previous album.

Considering the absence of stronger unreleased noughties material such as `Xscape’, and the inclusion of a previously released song & discarded early 80’s tracks, it’s clear that Sony had no intention of compiling the closest representation of MJ’s next studio album, or even the best album of unreleased material they could. Instead it would appear their plan is to drip feed us what new music MJ did leave behind over as many releases as possible alongside 20 yr old leftovers & songs which MJ may or may not have written featuring the vocals on an impersonator (word has it the Cascio’s turned over 12 songs to the estate). Not collecting all the strongest unreleased Noughties material on one album was to be expected, but the fact that several of these songs feature the vocals of an impersonator/s which the estate claim to be Michael is one step too far. It is an insult to the fans and MJ’s legacy. In light of this latest seedy development it’s no wonder MJ himself had such disdain for Sony, but I don’t think anyone would have thought they’d sink this low.

Sony and the estate claim to have hired audio experts who analyzed the tracks fans accused of featuring an impersonator. These experts supposedly confirmed the vocals on the tracks to be MJ. But since Sony have issued no proof of this occurrence we can consider this news as worthless as the Cascio songs. Even without the multiple testimonials from the Jacksons claiming the Cascio songs to be fake, the vocals on these tracks are instantly recognizable to any longtime fan as not belonging to MJ. OK, let’s talk positives. The good stuff that is on this release is very good. Best of Joy and the finished version of TWYLM stand as two of MJ’s greatest ever songs. Another Day is great as is Much Too Soon but I’d preferred to have seen these on ultimate editions of Invincible & Thriller respectively. The sheer diversity of all 7 tracks showcases MJ’s amazing talent so despite this release being a rather contrived compilation of odds and ends mixed with a couple of genuine new songs it still makes for compelling listening.

For those wondering what became of the highly anticipated songs MJ created with will.i.am from 2006-2008, Will decided that since MJ was a perfectionist, and since he can no longer grant the songs his blessing he will not release them. Interestingly Will holds the music for these songs, while the estate now holds the vocals. Let’s hope Will changes his mind about this in the future. MJ is now dead and what new music he did leave behind should released the RIGHT WAY- for the benefit of his children and the fans, else I fear the estate will just build new music around these vocals and release an inferior product. Back to `Michael’- It’s a crime that the whole experience is soured by three songs that feature the vocals of an imposter. Buy the seven authentic songs as downloads from amazon- don’t buy the CD because if you do you’re telling Sony it’s OK for them to continue lying to everyone and conning the fans. Despite the few amazing tracks on offer the overall feeling after listening to `Michael’ is one of being slightly underwhelmed. Discounting the fake tracks, if any other artist put out this album I’d rate it much higher just by token of how exceptionally good a few of the songs are. But for a `Michael Jackson album’ it is simply not good enough. Of course, this isn’t really a Michael Jackson album.

A side note about the artwork- award winning artist Kadir Nelson was approached by MJ several years ago to create a piece that detailed his career. The project was never brought to fruition but after MJ’s passing the estate contacted Kadir and the mural was completed. Like the album itself, the artwork is brilliant in parts but overall a bit of a mess. The focal point of the piece- a 1980’s MJ wearing gold armor being crowned by two cherubs is great, but the background collage of the gloved ones adult solo career is cluttered and unorganized. The saddest aspect of this release is not the fans getting screwed, or even MJ’s legacy being tainted, it’s that long time friends whom MJ had known for decades-Teddy Riley, the Cascio family & others have sold him out and endorsed a bunch of fake songs for financial gain. These people have no honor — no integrity. I’ll leave the final words to the King of Pop his lyrics to `Money’ from 1995 say it best-

I’ll never betray or deceive you my friend but…
If you show me the cash
Then I will take it
If you tell me to cry
Then I will fake it
If you give me a hand
Then I will shake it
You’ll do anything for money…

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