on May 13, 2014
For Michael Jackson's second posthumous release, lessons appear to have been learned after "Michael" was heavily criticised. Songs have been picked which showcase his distinctive vocals, and an attempt has been made to make them sound like "Michael Jackson" songs. No rappers attached to songs thankfully.
8 songs have been picked (though ardent fans would have heard 6 of them in some form or the other) and sensitively and lovingly worked on by a team of producers including Darkchild, Timbaland and Stargate. One should ideally get the deluxe edition which comprises the 8 touched up songs, the 8 songs as they appeared originally, and a bonus track. This allows one to compare and also decide which version you prefer.
Opening is "Love Never Felt So Good", a bouncy retro Soul/Disco jam that sounds like it fell off the "Off The Wall" album, very "Rock With You". The original version is a lovely stripped ballad with just piano and finger snaps backing the exhilarating vocals. The bonus cut is yet another version which is a duet with Justin Timberlake and has a lovely beat box bridge and some extra harmonising. The album's highlight and already a top 20 hit on the Billboard hot 100, his first since "Butterflies".
"Chicago" is a midtempo groove with dramatic strings (the strings remind me of "Billie Jean"), while the original is a lilting string-swathed ballad that sounds like it could be from some movie soundtrack. "Loving You" is a sweet swaying ballad with hard hitting beats while the original has a soothing feel and softer beats.
Rhythmically "A Place With No Name" reminds one of "Leave Me Alone" or "The Way You Make Me Feel", with mysterious story-telling lyrics (borrowed from the America song "A Horse With No Name") set to a dark ominous riff and a swinging beat. The original is an acoustic bouncy ballad. "Slave To The Rhythm" sounds closer to his latter sound on albums like "Blood On The Dancefloor" or "Invincible", while the original sounds softer.
"Do You Know Where Your Children Are" is an ambitious piece with a deep distinctive riff, smidgens of electric guitar, lyrics about a sexually abused girl, (bound to be controversial) and some vocalising reminiscent of "Wanna Be Starting Something" as the song ends. The original isn't as rhythmic.
"Blue Gangsta" sounds sparer than the futuristic original which trumps the reworked version, in my opinion. Closing is the title track "Xscape", a funky horn-peppered joint reminiscent of songs like "Jam" or "Dangerous" with Jackson's vocals alternating between lower growl and upper register. Again, here I prefer the original which sounds uncluttered and smoother. This was apparently the most recent recording, recorded during the "Invincible" sessions.
I feel the producers largely captured Jackson's vision, but then that's just my opinion. What can't be denied is that I enjoy it and it makes me want to dance.
on May 13, 2014
First and foremost: Rest in peace, Michael Jackson.
I have to hand it to L.A. Reid and Timbaland, who executive-produced the album with Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins, Jerome Harmon, Stargate and John McClane... These musical archeologists unearthed some excellent material to modernize. They pay the utmost respect to Jackson in the way each track is produced. It sounds like a Jackson album... and that says a lot. You won't find weird remixes with the artist of the week making guest appearances here... just carefully excavated Michael Jackson.
Giving Justin Timberlake a chance to sing an alternate version of "Love Never Felt So Good" was also a stroke of genius. JT gets his chance to realize a missed opportunity and the track will surely introduce a new set of ears to Jackson's music along the way.
By including the original archival tracks on the deluxe edition, Timbaland and his team give validity to everything that was produced posthumously. Nothing is overproduced... just enhanced.
Finally, thanks to Michael Jackson for the source material and thank you to the producers of this album. The love and respect put into the production of this release has brought legitimacy back to the MJ franchise.
Somewhere Mike is tipping his hat...
Yup, I'm one of those lifelong fans that has heard a lot of these tunes online before. And I love finally having the official release of these unreleased songs. Michael is back, and I'm so excited to see a worthy release for him. The songs are bright, infectious and pure MJ. When you strip all else away, one thing remains evident: Michael was and still is a musical virtuoso.
The Voice is a TV show based solely on an artist's voice. Well, Michael isn't here to support or promote this album, so his voice alone is the driving force. It's shocking how alive he seems in these songs; as if he could reach out and touch you, and he does, with his vocals alone. The thought of songs this good being Michael's discards just makes me giggle.
Michael's vocals in Slave To The Rhythm are ferocious. Hearing him again is like a warm comfy blanket. He's back. He's as brilliant as ever. And he is missed, yet right here in my ears with a new beat once again. I don't mind that Michael's originals were remixed by producers today. Many of them worked with him on the originals, and they seemed to try and tie everything together with the right spirit.
There's a great article in Billboard called Bringing Michael Back that tells a very clear back-story on how this album came together. And there's some great videos on YouTube, one with Paul Anka telling a great story about how he worked with Michael. I believe these videos are all part of a behind the scenes documentary that is available. Those clips aren't on the Deluxe version I got. But I wanted to buy direct from Michael's website because they let you have the album a day before everyone else. I'll get those videos another way; probably YouTube.
I liked the last posthumous album, Michael. Yes it was a little juvenile and not as sophisticated as A side Michael, but it was a great album and Michael's vocals are always stellar. But Xscape is head and shoulders above that album. The songs are so strong, and I personally am jumping back and forth between Michel's originals and the new mixes. These are no B side tracks. These are great songs by an artist that was so good, he had the luxury of shelving them because everything he does is so strong.
Masterful. I hope it wins awards and goes number #1 and all that good stuff. Not out of sentiment, but because this is worthy material. Only a true great can come back after 5 years and still stir the air and uplift one's spirit in an instant. Xscape does just that for me. Love it. A more than worthy posthumous album.
on May 13, 2014
Before I even start this, allow me to say this: GET. THIS. NOW! Especially, the Deluxe Edition. When you open it, the CD feels like a throwback to the days of Thriller, with the words included in the middle portion of the case. I did not realize the lyrics were there until I tilted the case to remove the CD out. Each song sounds really, really good, but I think many will prefer the original version of A Place with No Name over the main version.
Love Never Felt So Good is the initial release from Xscape, and of course Michael puts it down, giving us his ability to reach all who listen to him, no matter where you are. Love is the sholl'nuff theme here, hence the title. Surely most have heard this by now. Chicago is a mid~tempo groove that is written quite cleverly about love that should have never been. Loving You starts with strikes of the piano, breaking into an infectious boom! boom! boom! that will surely become a favorite to many. Slave to the Rhythm is a definite dance track, sounding almost robotic at early places, with snippets taken from other previously released music. And the original version sounds more like what MJ prefers, which is exactly why these versions needed to be released as they show him in the light of his genius & mastery. Do You Know Where Your Children Are-the 2 versions are very, very different in sound, and with the question being asked, both productions are a toss up as to which one you'll enjoy more.
Blue Gangsta, I have to give the nod to the original version, and while many of the elements are present in the main version, again, the original feels like Michael and what we expect from him. It seems to be a ode to the gangster, maybe in movies, maybe in real life. His creativity continues to be boundless and once you hear it, you'll wonder just how did he write a song about a gangster and did not include such visual languages of violence normally associated with such thought. Xscape continues the thematic sense MJ brought from his years of experience in making short movies from much of his music, and the original version is one minute and thirty seconds longer. Both sound very good, and Xscape follows such tracks like Leave Me Alone, Scream and Tabloid Junkie-music that made it clear Mike longed for a simpler life than he was accustomed to. I was very, veeeeerrrrry sloooooow to do the pre-order when I learned about it, thinking it would honestly be garbage. I was proven wrong when some of the tracks were leaked on YouTube and after listening, I was all smiles for miles!
Michael is still running the show. When I thought Sony was the entity against Mike, I was absolutely wrong; it was certain people from within. The visuals the cover provides seem cryptic, but a few videos I have seen provided some clarity on it, especially in light of other album covers from him. So in the meantime, Pay & Press Play, enjoy the sounds of MJ and Xscape while you enjoy the rest of your day. ~K.I.S.S'E.S.S~
on May 15, 2014
When Michael gets into your soul with all those melodic tones and delicious lyrics there's nothing and no one else better. When I first listened to the previews on iTunes the few minutes of music didn't do the album justice. After I listened to the album full out with the dynamic sound system features of my new blu-ray player and TV, all the juiciness of Michael's voice reminded me of what his life and talent meant and how much I STILL LOVE him and how much I truly MISS him.
I watched the Xscape DVD and got such warm feelings from hearing the producers/ collaborators talk about their excitement while working with Michael's vocals and doing the album just right...with Michael overseeing their work. This is what I love to hear about. Positive experiences and testimonies of how dynamic a man Michael was (still is) with his effect on the musical world and as the most interesting individual in the industry...my belief...and as well as a beautiful man with a beautiful personality inside and out. I really enjoyed the DVD. I truly believe that Michael was present in those studios, whenever he wasn't sitting in the tallest trees; harmonizing with the singing birds; floating on puffy clouds; watching beautiful waterfalls and sending lovely experiences to all his adoring fans...YES...this is what I feel about Michael along with my undying LOVE for him. Can't stop wanting to hear his voice singing, because he left it all for his legacy and what a legacy it is...HIS MUSIC is HIS LOVE.
The CD's original versions, to me, are just so real and genuine and I can picture him recording them with that blinding bright smile and his finger snaps and pops while dancing to the beats. The contemporized updated versions give good body to Michael's voice and do not detract from his true essence. I love how Michael's voice cuts straight through like you are sitting somewhere watching him sing LIVE on stage. It's truly MAGICAL!
I do love each song and can't say exactly which is my favorite. I'm just in bliss listening to NEW music from my man, the man, and all his sweetness. I suppose I can elaborate a bit on how they drive me...I get sexy smoothness from "Loving You" and sexy fun from "Love Never Felt So Good". "Xscape" gives me that dance feel and tells about what I would love to do every day, if I could only make it happen. "Chicago" grabs with a ripping story of deceit and adultery with a good beat. "Slave To The Rhythm" is hard-hitting on the message of hard work to survive. The story-telling of "A Place With No Name" is splendid in expressing a need to be outside of yourself (like a stress reliever); his voice is silky and I would love to have gone to that place with him. "Do You Know Where Your Children Are" is another one of his songs of support and love and it's always relevant no matter how much time passes by. Now, "Blue Gangsta" is one of those songs that changes the pace and tells of heartache and disappointment and I can't vibe with it because I've gotten over all those bad romances of my earlier life...but hey, I love the beat, haha. I watched the video for it with the Immortal Tour dancers portraying "Blue Gangstas" and the music and the dancers jived well together. I enjoyed watching it.
I wish Michael didn't have to leave, though hearing his voice makes it feel sometimes like he's still here. He'll always be missed and adored and loved by me and many others who truly wanted his brilliance and his presence and wonderful soul.
I feel he's happy with the finished product and how much his fans still want to hear his music. I LOVE IT!!!
on May 13, 2014
Having been a veteran, long-time fan of Jackson-- dating back to when I was 7 in 1969, the truly last time I can recall being excited about a Jackson release was when 'BAD' was released, and before that, 'Thriller.' I thought Jackson was ripped off w/ 'BAD' but I remember how hard it was for stores to keep 'Thriller' in stock. Many of my friends waited MONTHS to own their copies of it. Well, now you can understand why for me at least, it's been a VERY long time in coming in being excited over a Jackson release. "Xscape" has generated the what I feared was long gone excitement, and I for one am thrilled beyond measure to see this sort of thing happening again. I own a copy of the Deluxe edition of "Xscape" and in my honest opinion, it is a true treasure and my money has been well-spent on this release. I enjoy hearing both the "Original" and the "Updated" versions of these recordings. It appeals to the curiosity within me, which enjoys hearing Jackson perfecting his artistry. Yes, with "Xscape" Michael himself is no longer here to have achieved that any longer, and such breaks my heart. But, in spite of his absence, this release appears to have been "blessed" in some way by Michael guiding the mixers and producers from beyond the veil. Anyone with a keen ear can detect Jackson's presence clearly. There is not a single "awful" song on this release anywhere. Each one is a potential Top 40 hit. I'm thankful to own a copy of this release. RIP MJ! Your music indeed lives...
on May 22, 2014
I had some reservations about this cd being that the first posthumous cd contained a few songs that were found to be fraudulent. However after reading reviews & personally hoping for some piece of tangible memorabilia for fans leading up to the 5th anniversary of our beloved's death, I stepped out on faith & purchased Xscape. So glad I did. It's awesome. I am so happy with the finished product & it is destined to become one of my most cherished possessions. Michael Jackson left us too soon, but he left behind a treasure trove of unfinished work that are reflective of just how gifted he was. This cd contains some of those works; remixed, remastered, remarkable! It's number 1 in 50 countries and receiving rave reviews everywhere. That many happy buyers can't be wrong...He's back and it's magic to my ears. I love it.
on May 13, 2014
I have always loved Michael Jacksons music. His unique vocals that could go low, go high or just go fast. I also always admired his dancing abilities. But I will honestly say I've never purchased one of his albums for myself. There is a copy of Thriller in my household of course though. Well when I first heard that Michael Jackson had a new posthumous album coming out soon I wasn't that excited at first. I had heard many slightly negative things about his first posthumous album. I found out that the lead single was a post collaboration with Justin Timberlake, a man, who many will disagree, is starting to show signs of a career similar to MJ himself. Well, I loved the song. I loved the solo version and the Timberlake version. So, I took a chance, and purchased the Deluxe album the day it came out! Boy was I not disappointed one bit! Here is a track by track overview.
1. Love Never Felt So Good (Solo): I must have listened to this song 20 times before the albums release. The orchestral intro is similar to the intro to Aerosmiths "I Don't Want To Miss a Thing". Michaels voice then takes over as the song turns into a dance club anthem with a chorus that will get anyone anywhere to sing along, in their heads at least. I love Justin Timberlake, but this solo version of the song is much better for me! The song repeats itself a lot, but I couldn't ask for a catchier song to do such a thing. This will be stuck in your head before the end I promise. 10/10
2. Chicago: This one starts off quick to showcase Michaels mesmerizing vocals. The chorus reminds me of the style of "Billie Jean" just a bit, but more aggressive. The production is perfect. The synths and beats sound like the 80s and future combined. Did I mention the chorus is amazing? 10/10
3. Loving You: Many will hate me for this, but the beginning piano and most of the track sounds like it was produced by Kanye West, early Kanye that is. The song shows off some of Michaels more playful singalong vocals especially during the chorus of course. This will surely become a favorite for many. 9.5/10
4. A Place With No Name: This is my personal favorite. This definitely sounds like it was taken from one of Michaels 80s albums. The beat is pulsing and the vocals march through while the synths glide in the background slightly. The chorus is one of the best from MJ ever in my opinion. I cannot stop replaying the track. Toward the end things get even more amazing as MJ sings along in an interpolation of the classic song "A Horse With No Name"! Perfect song. 10/10
5. Slave To The Rhythm: The song starts out sounding like a score to an epic movie before it turns into an all out modern dance track. You'll be hearing this one at the club most likely. The chorus isn't the most amazing thing, but the verses is where Michael shines the most in this song. He hits some of his angriest notes during the verses. 9/10
6. Do You Know Where Your Children Are?: The production style of this one sounds similar to some Depeche Mode. There are some of MJs signature 'he-hes'. The chorus gets better and better, especially when you hear the background vocals singing "Save me". There is a nice guitar moment toward the end as well. The lyrics also tell a good story. 9/10
7. Blue Gangsta: I honestly didn't expect anything great from this song mostly because of the title. But I was wrong. There are again more of Michaels great angry vocals. 8.5/10
8. Xscape: A good way to close this album with the title track. The song sounds similar in style to "Bad" and at times "Don't Stop Till You Get Enough". This is a great club track definitely. 9.5/10
(Deluxe Edition tracks)
9. Love Never Felt So Good (Original): This is the original version, but it sounds like an unplugged version. Amazing too. Really shows off more of his vocals compared to the new version.
10. Chicago (Original): Wow the sexiness of this song really showcases itself in this original version. I feel like I'm in a James Bond film going after a beautiful woman every time I hear this. Its hard to choose between this one and the new version.
11. Loving You (Original): Another great original version. The vocals are more stripped down and the production is simpler. You can really hear the sound of the 80s in this potential contemporary classic.
12. A Place With No Name (Original): Wow. This is the best original version. Not only does this one interpolate the classic "A Horse With No Name", but this one even samples the song throughout. I'm speechless at how great this is.
13. Slave To The Rhythm (Original): The production on this original is definitely better than the slightly overproduced newer one. I feel like I'm listening to a lost 80s hit.
14. Do You Know Where Your Children Are (Original): I said the newer one had Depeche Mode production style. Well I take that back. This original one REALLY sounds like it. There's also a great guitar solo.
15. Blue Gangsta (Original): Not much different than the new version except some production differences.
16. Xscape (Original): Another one where I prefer the production of this original to the new version.
17. Love Never Felt So Good (Remix with Justin Timberlake): The more popular version of the song. I wonder why they only included this on the deluxe edition. Most people who still buy music don't go for the deluxe. So many will buy the standard and wonder where this version is. Great version with great guest vocals from Justin Timberlake in the mix. Not as good as the solo version, but still great, and a great single choice.
So this was a pleasant surprise. This didn't feel like a posthumous release. It didn't feel like a compilation album. It felt like a legit Michael Jackson album. The songs really make it feel and sound like MJ is still alive! Michaels vocals are as great and powerful as ever. I predict great success commercially and critically for this. As many are saying, I do recommend getting the Deluxe version, especially if you want the Justin Timberlake guest vocal. The original versions of the song are worth the extra few bucks as well. This is worth a purchase whether you're a longtime MJ fan or a newcomer!
on May 24, 2014
I MISS MICHAEL!!! LET ME START BY SAYING THAT I AM A CAUCASIAN MAN FIXIN' TO TURN 61 ... I HAVE BEEN A FAN OF MICHAEL SINCE I WAS AROUND 14 OR 15 ... MY BUDDIES NICK-NAMED ME 'JACKSON' IN A TEASING SORT OF WAY, WHICH I DID NOT MIND AT ALL, AND IT SEEMED TO STICK FOR YEARS TO COME. THIS BEING BECAUSE THEY WERE ALL MORE INTO THE MUSIC OF THE BEATLES AND THE ROLLING STONES, ETC. AT THAT TIME IN MY LIFE I WAS ENJOYING ALOT OF MOTOWN SINGERS/GROUPS, BUT I AM BASICALLY A 'CLASSIC ROCK-N-ROLLER', NEVERTHELESS, I ALWAYS FELT THAT MICHAEL WAS SO VERY, VERY TALENTED AND ONE OF THE GREATEST PERFORMERS OF ALL TIME!!!!! SO OFTEN WHEN I BRING HIM UP I HERE NEGATIVE THINGS SAID ABOUT HIM AND THE ACCUSATIONS RELATIVE TO THE KIDS HE SO INNOCENTLY LOVED TO BE AROUND AND ENJOY... I PERSONALLY DO NOT BELIEVE ANY OF THAT 'CRAP' ... HIS HORRIBLE FATHER STOLED HIS CHILDHOOD FROM HIM AND I FEEL THAT MICHAEL WAS JUST TRYING TO ENJOY THE CHILDHOOD COMRADERY THAT HE SO SADLY MISSED OUT ON WHEN HE WAS YOUNG ... HE LOVED THE FUN OF BEING WITH INNOCENT,UNCORRUPT YOUNGSTERS, THAT'S ALL THERE WAS TO IT!!! THIS IS NOT THE 'HIGH-ENERGY' MICHAEL THAT YOU MIGHT BE ANTICIPATING, I.E. "THRILLER" /"BAD", ETC. BUT, IF YOU ARE A TRUE FAN I BELIEVE THAT YOU'LL FIND IT TO BE A REALLY GREAT ALBUM OF SONGS AND LYRICS THAT WERE, SO TO SPEAK, LOST UNTIL NOW ... AND, AT A VERY GOOD PRICE!
GO FOR IT, I TRULY BELIEVE THAT YOU'LL HAVE NO REGRETS!!!
on June 9, 2014
Good lord, I SO miss Michael Jackson! Admittedly, I did NOT buy the first album released after he passed away. It was impossible for me to listen to it, knowing that MJ himself had not finished it, but rather, it was "finished" by musicians enhancing some basic tracks that he left behind in his vaults of music that were unpublished/unrecorded. MJ was the ultimate genius and perfectionist, and I shuddered to think of what he would think of those songs, not completed or done exactly as he would have demanded. I want to hear that perfection, nothing less, that Michael demanded of himself. I don't want to hear someone else filling in the gaps or giving you what they think is an acceptable version of his work. To me, that's sacrilege. With this CD, "Xscape", you have both the "enhanced" versions of the songs, plus the actual tracks that MJ left behind, giving you the opportunity to hear them exactly as MJ made them, exactly as he was working on them. For that reason only, I purchased the CD. I skipped past all of the first songs on this album, and went directly to the "original" versions of the songs, to hear them exactly as MJ envisioned, wrote, and performed them. I was pleasantly surprised to find that they were quite album ready, not rough versions or sketchy, unfinished pieces. I honestly don't feel the songs needed "enhancing". Possibly the most amazing track is the original (unenhanced) version of "Love Never Felt So Good", with Michael singing, snapping his fingers, clapping his hands, with only a simple piano track and one backup vocal he had laid down for it. It is positively MJ at his finest. "Slave to the Rhythm" and "Xscape" both have a catchy, danceable beat and are two more songs that I think needed no "enhancement". As someone else noted, it's unbelievable that MJ considered these either "throwaway" songs, or perhaps just unfinished. When I'm listening to the original cuts of these songs, I know I'm listening to a song that MJ put together himself, untouched by other people, namely people that are trying to complete a project he started just for the sake of making a buck. The original cuts are simply priceless, and just for a moment, just for a few minutes...I felt like he was still with us. Long live the King.