Sound — 9
Invincible was Michael Jacksons first full length album in 6 years and hence can be considered a career comeback. His last couple of albums had seen his music become edgier, further removed from the feelgood pop that made his name and increasingly a reaction to his personal troubles and tabloid critics. Invincible continues in this vein, with "Unbreakable" being an explosive, hostile and radio-unfriendly opener reminiscent of "Scream" on the previous album. It is more of a hip-hop/rnb album than pop, and I think listeners will be most surprised by how contemporary it sounds; Jackson has continued to change and adapt, not simply rehashing his old cheesy pop and becoming a nostalgia artist like some other 80s popstars. Musically the album is quite eclectic, and one criticism could be the track order, as the similar tracks are sometimes grouped together; for example, "Unbreakable" and "Heartbreaker" are followed by the similarly abrasive hip-hop rhythms of the title track, which is not bad but is disadvantaged by following two similar but better tracks. Its the same story with the ballads that are grouped later in the album, and arguably become exhaustive. Sugar-coated, disney-esque tunes like "Speechless" and "Cry" show the opposite extreme of Jacksons sound: his most challenging material ever co-exists with his sappiest ever love songs on Invincible. The best part of the album for most is probably the middle, boasting the singles "Butterflies", "You rock my world", and should-have-been singles "Break of dawn" and "Heaven can wait". "Heaven can wait" has the kind of pulsating rnb beat that you'd expect Alli G to blast out of his car, but is smoothed over by beautiful, multi-layered soulful harmonies. Notable but contrasting highlights include the guitar-driven "2000 watts" and "Privacy", and pick of the airy ballads "You are my life". Jackson has continued his tradition of high-profile guitarists with Slash on "Privacy" and Carlos Santana(!) on "Whatever happens".
Lyrics — 7
Lyrically the album ranges from love songs to invasion of privacy and paranoia. R.Kelly-penned "Cry" is the token humanitarian ballad, whilst "Threatened" continues Jacksons tradition of paranormal-inspired funk. His vocals are nicest when he uses multiple layers to produce dreamy walls of harmonies. The lead vocals are open to debate, as he sounds nasal and strained compared to his Thriller-era peak. Although his passion is there it can be almost uncomfortable to listen to at is worst, but there is nothing as inappropriate on the ballads as the trademark hiccuping that blighted "You are not alone" and "Man in the mirror" previously.
Overall Impression — 9
Ultimately I feel this is a highly underrated comeback that suffered from lack of promotion due to a legal dispute with Sony, and his subsequent court cases, plus arguably wrong choice of singles. Although Jacksons output was limited in his final decade, his influence manifest itself in the newer rnb artists who came through, most of which sounded like poor imitators who would kill for an album as good as Invincible. By 2001 Jackson could do nothing right in the publics eyes, but I genuinely believe that if this record had been made by someone young and trendy like Justin Timberlake or Akon, it would be considered a modern classic by now.