‘Michael’ Album Review – A Nostalgic Look To The Future
By Matt Blank
MJWN was invited by Sony Music to attend the preview of the forthcoming album ‘Michael’. Here’s our review:
Let’s begin by dispelling all the nasty rumours that have been circulating amongst the internet and media. There’s very little question about the legitimacy of the vocals. These polished versions we hear on this album are not the same as the leaks and scream Michael in everyway.
Now we have that out the way, let me tell you, this is an amazing album and something I’m sure Michael would have been proud of. The songs are wide ranging but together, make a very rounded and complete sounding album, from dance to funk to ballads and with even a little bit of bubble gum pop thrown in for good measure, this album has it all and is worthy of Michael’s good name being associated with it.
The album brings a sense of ‘old skool,’ Michael with a modern twist. As you listen to each track, there’s a familiarity to them yet something new and exhilarating. It’s a nostalgic look to how Michael may have presented us with his next album.
Within the album sleeve there are sadly no photos of Michael, however, all the lyrics are there for you to learn and scans of four hand-written notes from Michael. The first one reads:
“I hear the whole entire song and arrangements in my head. What each instrument is supposed to do. I put them down orally on tape then I go out, find that instrument, I don’t give in until I get exactly what I want. I sing every part with my MOUTH.”
Whilst I don’t want to ruin all your surprises for when you open the album, the final message is very touching with the opening written words being; “We only live once…”
The project itself is very exciting, with Sony Music investing a lot of time, effort and money into promoting it worldwide. With high profile adverts coming to our television sets, radios and billboards in the coming week and a unique approach to promotion that is sure to grab our attention, this is certainly an album to be excited about, even though the loss of Michael and his physical absence still casts a shadow over it and is something that we’ll forever miss.
So let’s go through the tracks:
Hold My Hand
We’re all aware of this fabulous song and what it has to offer. When we first heard it in 2008 it was something we all hoped would be released. We’ve waited a long time, and whilst we’re sure this anthem track will fair well with the public and fans alike, it is by no means the highlight of the album.
Wow!! I could not fault this track in anyway. From the ‘Who Is It’ style opening to the beat boxing which sounds slicker than that on ‘Tabloid Junkie,’ this is everything you’ve wanted from a Michael Jackson track. Whilst listening I wondered if the album had peaked too early, only the second track! It has a little bit of everything, from a 1980’s Jacksons feel with the “ooohs” to a classic MJ catchy tune with an infectious beat. An almost haunting song, it’s an amalgamation of everything we love about Michael.
Keep Your Head Up
One of the early songs to be leaked and also heavily criticised by many, however, you will soon realise the importance of not passing judgement until a finished product is produced. This has changed somewhat since its leak. Gone are the ‘Earth Song’ vocals we’ve heard previously and a gospel choir has now joined to create an uplifting track. Reminiscent to ‘Cry’ this song is inspirational and no-doubt includes the vocals of the King of Pop.
(I Like) The Way You Love Me
We all know this song from the 2004 ‘Ultimate Collection.’ However this now starts with a recorded phone call from Michael explaining how he wants the track to start as it slowly goes into the song with a piano forming the main instrument in the music, even bordering on a slight honky-tonk feel. Flutes are also added to the instrumental from its predecessor six years ago and the vocals seem to be clearer as well as new vocals added.
This tune is surely a dance floor filler. Rumours are flying that this is a close contender with ‘Hollywood Tonight’ to be the second single release from the album and there’s good justification for that. This is a hard hitting track with Michael near enough spitting out the verses, yet singing the bridges, quite gently. The song reminded me a lot of ‘Threatened’ but better! A very heavily produced track with plenty of sound effects and a rap by 50 Cent that isn’t half bad. I can see why this may become a favourite amongst fans.
Best Of Joy
Take from this what you will, but I like it. It’s simple and sounds like it’s in a very early demo stage. It seems as if they’ve just recorded Michael singing a little ditty to himself and looped it cleverly. Bubble gum pop is the way I would describe it and something that could have easily been written back in the late 1970’s by Michael. Think ‘Destiny’ album. Whilst it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, in the time that we are now living in, hearing Michael sing “I am forever” puts a smile on my face.
Again, we’ve all heard this. The most controversial song on this album regarding those who want to believe that this album maybe a conspiracy. One thing is for certain, it’s not the best song on the album…especially when it’s up against so many other great upbeat songs. It doesn’t make it a bad song when listened to in isolation, but doesn’t seem to have a needed place on this album.
(I Can’t Make It) Another Day
For those who heard the snippet leak of this a while back, this doesn’t actually provide much more. The song is fairly repetitive, however, has an awesome guitar solo from Lenny Kravitz and for those who adore the angry Michael, similar to the Michael we hear on ‘We’ve Had Enough,’ then you’re going to love this!
Behind The Mask
Firstly, not many people know this but Michael actually co-wrote this long before we all got to hear the Eric Clapton version. So taking this into account, consider how Michael would present this? Okay…now think again! Up there as one of the best tracks on the album, this spells FUNK over and over again! Opening to cheers like in a live concert and a saxophone solo that could put Gerry Rafferty’s ‘Baker Street’ to shame, this is an amazing dance tune that you can’t help but move your head to, with great supporting vocals from Shanice and the Yellow Magic Orchestra.
Much Too Soon
I could not think of a more perfect way to end this album than with this song. Its pureness is blinding and gently ends the ten tracks. It reminds you what is so wonderful and magical about his voice and makes you fall in love with this album, making it a complete rounded presentation of everything that’s been flying around in Michael’s creative mind for many years.