Michael Jackson: Xscape

Posted May 14, 2014 by in Pop



3.5/ 5


Genre: ,
Producer: , , , , , , , ,
Genre: Dance, pop, R&B
Producer: Timbaland, Jerome "J-Roc" Harmon, Dr. Freeze, L.A. Reid, Babyface, Stargate, Cory Rooney, John McClain, Paul Anka, Giorgio Tuinfort
Label: Epic
Format: Digital download, compact disc
Time: 34:25; 73:43 (deluxe)
Release Date: 13 May 2014
Spin This: "Love Never Felt So Good," "Slave to the Rhythm," "Loving You"


Enhanced and smarter production aboard MJ's vault demos; JT duet reigns superior with "Loving You" and "Slave to the Rhythm" being second place finishers


A few of the original demos sound better than the finished products, hindering the album from shining like a MJ classic LP

Xscape reveals King of Pop’s best posthumous LP to date

by J Matthew Cobb
Full Article

Xscape reveals King of Pop’s best posthumous LP to date 

For those who easily express outbursts of unfiltered anger due to the rotation of posthumous albums coming from the King of Pop, Xscape – Michael Jackson’s second posthumous solo LP – may not be what you want to hear. You just want to marvel at MJ during the good times, when he was on top and dominated the world of music. You only want to remember MJ when he was a trendsetter and not slumping to the dwarflike stars that reign today. You don’t want to hear under-developed stuff that he hummed at home on tape. But for those who “don’t stop ‘til you get enough,” it isn’t a bad voyage. Compared to 2011’s Michael, it might even be his best album since Dangerous.

Culled mostly from demos stretching from 1981 to the Invincible era, the ten-track merry-go-round is rewarded by smarter post-production mostly handled by laborers like the revived Timothy “Timbaland” Mosley (who singlehandedly put Justin Timberlake back on top of music) and frequent MJ collaborator Rodney “Darkchild” Jenkins. In their hands, these lightweight leftovers are enhanced to a higher standard, one that even MJ would give the thumbs up to. The opener, “Love Never Felt So Good,” sounds like pop disco remnants from Off the Wall. With the “in and out my life” nods to the O’Jays’ “This Time Baby” and Paul Anka’s co-writing, things feel a bit safe and tepid for MJ’s conventions. Usher in Timbaland’s hip-hop swagger and a riveting cameo from Justin Timberlake for a remix tucked at the very end of the deluxe edition’s bonus tracks. The end result is purely MJ extravagance. Other inside tracks are also worth noting and bear the potential of a summer smash crossover. “Slave to the Rhythm,” despite its exhaustive theatrical prelude, kicks up flickers of “Blood on the Dance Floor” and Quad City DJ workouts.  Jackson saves a spot to plant nuggets of wisdom on “Do You Know Where Your Children Are” as he confronts poor parenting in a pessimistic new century. The performance is strengthened by MJ’s classic “hee-hee” chants and an energy that rivals his Thriller sessions, but all of that seems to be overshadowed by all the synth dubs and booming techno enhancements curated by Timbaland. “Loving You,” another Timbaland/Jerone Harmon production, is a piano-heavy neo-soul throwback. Only the Dr. Freeze-produced “Blue Gangsta” sounds like a bewildering letdown as it tries too hard to fire up a recipe for urban tease.

Thanks to the deluxe edition, you can hear the pop genius brainstorming his ideas on the original tracks. Only a shell can be heard on the finger-snapping “Love Never Felt So Good.” Even the original of “Slave to the Rhythm,” with its simple drum programming and ‘90’s production, sounds like pale when matched up with the feistier finished product. Only the America-sampled “A Place With No Name,” MJ’s 2008 original, reigns supreme over StarGate’s over-produced 2014 affair. But in most cases, the originals are substantially improved by the new age producers. For MJ trivia buffs, comparing the originals with the final selections will create a new activity at the living room table. But for the rest of the world – those who believe MJ was one of the greatest of all time – Xscape does what it was meant to do. It’s not perfect and will never touch the opulence of his platinum solo albums, but it adds a few gems to his crown. In a day where good pop music can often be so hard to find, MJ’s sluggish stuff exceeds normalcy. It’s a better album than Michael was; that should be enough to silence MJ’s toughest critics.

About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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