Zachary Cole Smith has overcome a multitude of problems to make this intensely powerful album
Michael Jackson - 'Xscape'
Finally, a posthumous Jacko album that's not a waste of time
Surprisingly, this second stab at looting the tomb fares far better. Under the guidance of Epic CEO L.A. Reid, the Bieber/Rihanna/Timberlake/Beyonce/Jay-Z axis of producers – Stargate, Rodney Jerkins, J-Roc, Timbaland – have uncovered the most vital of Jacko’s unreleased tracks from throughout his career and given them a sprightly “contemporizing”. The result is a freshly cast career retrospective very nearly worthy of the legend. Jacko’s plonked right back in his disco heyday on lead track ‘Love Never Felt So Good’ and ‘Loving You’, while ‘Chicago’ and ‘Slave To The Rhythm’ sound ultra-modern. There's even room for a classic Jacko fantasy piece: the ‘Horse With No Name’ in space that is ‘A Place With No Name’, in which he’s guided to a mystical sci-fi free-love utopia shrouded in mist. So one for anyone who’s ever shagged against the bins round the back of Dundee Costcutter on Burns Night, there.
There are still signs of Jacko’s swift decay towards his final state as a disintegrating fifty-year-old plastic carcass tottering towards tragedy – the lisping R&B emoting of ‘Blue Gangsta’, for instance, has him sounding 157 years old and singing through troublesome dentures. But the record’s largely bereft of the mawkishness that made ‘Invincible’’s 77 minutes feel like a decade trapped in a new age Psychic Serenity seminar run by some nutter obsessed with ‘saving the children’. That guy gets an “ee-hee!” heavy slot on ‘Do You Know Where Your Children Are?’ but even this portrait of underage Hollywood prostitutes and their anxious parents sizzles with modern pop glitz.
‘Xscape’ is a relentlessly upbeat rebirth; only the title track hints at Jacko’s personal discontent, a breathless catalogue of the career pressures, gold-diggers and fan intrusions that built him a sarcophagus of prescriptions. Jacko xscaped in a faulty pod, but now at least we’ve a worthy tribute.
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