Michael Jackson : ‘Invincible’

What's 'Invincible' [I]really[/I] like then?...

It’s finally here, six years and 21 million dollars later. And while the production is never less than sumptuous, does it really contain six years’ worth of great tune? NME heard it once in a room full of liggers, so our remarks should be understood with that proviso. But it didn’t sound all that to us…

1. Unbreakable

Dramatic, machine-tooled opener operating at producer Rodney Jerkins’ slightly-slower-than-you’d-expect patent tempo, this is the only tune that really stuck in NME’s head the morning after hearing it. Featuring a rap by Notorious BIG, it’s lyrically defiant and the longest track at nearly six and a half minutes.

2. Heartbreaker

A busy, percussive groove with a compulsive repetitive chorus but a classic soaring Jacko middle eight. The words excoriate some girl who’s, yes, broken Michael’s heart.

3. Invincible

The riff is slightly reminiscent of Sly & The Family Stone’s ‘Thank You (Falletin Me Be Mice Elf Again)’ (which Jackson used on his remix of ‘Scream’). The lyrics describe Jacko competing for the affections of a girl with another bloke who buys her [I]”diamonds and pearls”[/I]. Jacko isn’t getting anywhere because she’s, yes, invincible. It’s a good, hard R&B record, but on first listen not really much of a song.

4. Break Of Dawn

The first ballad and a typical mid-paced R&B production (by Teddy Riley) with bells and strings a-go-go. Features excellent Jackson vocals and even tweeting birds but it’s hardly cutting edge.

5. Heaven Can Wait

Around this point you realise that Jackson is no longer pioneering – this would be a good Usher ballad. It has classic [I]”if I should die tonight”[/I] love lyrics and swelling chords, but doesn’t add up to all that much.

6. You Rock My World

Since this sounds unremarkable the first 16 times but suddenly turns mysteriously great on the 17th, it serves as a warning not to judge the rest of the album prematurely. It’s the full version, including the annoying intro.

7. Butterflies

Slow, dragging funk with Fender Rhodes piano and huge harmonies, it’s Michael talking about some girl who gives him [I]”butterflies inside”[/I]. It finishes with the lyrics [I]”I wish I could be in you tonight”[/I]. Oo-er!

8. Speechless

Written and produced by Jacko alone, this is the first really soaring tune on the album. Possibly a tad sugary for some tastes, it at least has an indubitably strong chorus. It’s also beautifully sung, with a good chord change at the end. A glimpse of what could have been before the production armies marched in?

9. 2000 Watts

Hard, hammering and chant-like, this is a definite highlight. With minimal, industrial production, it’s a rough equivalent to ‘They Don’t Care About Us’ on ‘HIStory’. The tribal feel underlines that this album is really good at rhythm, but unfortunately less so at tune.

10. You Are My Life

A Carpenters-style ballad with a soppy key change, this is neither here nor there.

11. Privacy

Very slow funk, with the tempo (and tune) of Jacko’s old cover of The Beatles’ ‘Come Together’. It also sounds a bit like Bobby Brown’s ‘My Prerogative’, before turning into Whitney Houston’s ‘Queen Of The Night’. Lyrically, the title says it all – but at least it has balls.

12. Don’t Walk Away

Despite the title, this passed NME by. It’s a ballad.

13. Cry

The first single in the US, this is an R Kelly-penned belter adorned with a massive gospel choir. It’ll be released as the Christmas single over here. A proper song, it’s about the death of a loved one and should strike a chord with the latent Jacko massive.

14. The Lost Children

It’s a waltz, with interesting chord changes and – yup! – a children’s choir. Has refreshingly light production compared to the sonic assault of the rest of the album, but it’s a bit wishy-washy

15. Whatever Happens

Bossa nova bollocks featuring Carlos Santana, this is like a lo-cal version of Terence Trent D’Arby’s ‘Sign Your Name’

16. Threatened

More Rodney Jerkins funk, this has a compulsive upward chord sequence and good drum rolls. Sporting a ‘Thriller’-style rap, it’s an emphatic end to a less than convincing album.

And that’s it. On first listen, ‘Invincible’ is a good R&B record, but certainly not pioneering – and there’s a question mark over too many of the melodies. It doesn’t sound like the album that will save Jacko’s US career, and why it’s taken so long remains a mystery.