Sound — 4
Michael Jackson was a living legend in the pop music world, and could sell out concerts even after multiple accusations of child sexual abuse. There was a reason he was known as the King of Pop - he could seriously craft a pop song, or take a song and re-work it into a pop masterpiece. He passed away in 2009 and in the five years since this will mark the second posthumous release of his music. The "Deluxe Edition" of "Xscape" contains 17 tracks and clocks in at right under 75 minutes. The first 8 tracks are the actual heart of the release, with the next 8 tracks being the original versions before modern producers re-mixed them, and then the last song is a version of the single, "Love Never Felt So Good" that has Justin Timberlake providing additional vocals.
I've listened to this album a few times trying to get my head around what to write about this album, and all that has happened is I've lost more and more respect for everyone involved with the release of this compilation. I think there will be people who agree with me, then there will be some fans of Michael Jackson who are just excited to hear something new from him so they won't be able to immediately be honest with themselves. I'm not the hugest Michael Jackson fan in the world, but I love "Thriller," "Beat It," "Billie Jean," etc., and there is not a track on this compilation that passes muster. Songs like the single, "Love Never Felt So Good" are just incomplete and production wizardry don't fix that. Putting Justin Timberlake's vocals as guest vocals on the last track of the album not only doesn't fix it, but makes Justin Timberlake seem like a ghoul. Tracks like "A Place With No Name," which is just completely blatantly a rip off of "A Horse With No Name" by America - the same guitar and vocal melody pretty much throughout the whole track. I think that Michael probably recorded this as a goof or at least thought better of it after the fact and never released it. Then you have tracks like "Do You Know Where Your Children Are" which Michael would have been horrified to know was ever released, and wasn't recorded in good taste. The lyrics even talk about your children could be sexually abused and you wouldn't know it because you don't know where your children are. The song goes onto some kind of tangent about a 12 year old being turned into an underage prostitute on Sunset Blvd. "Blue Gangster" is another interesting track, and honestly the "original" version is probably better than the version produced by Timbaland and the army of producers. Every track on the album was produced by an army of modern producers with the exception of the title track, "Xscape," which was produced by the original producer, Rodney Jerkins.
Lyrics — 5
Yes, Michael Jackson is a great vocalist. The tracks they've used on this compilation are decent. What I don't appreciate is the "hee hees" and "whoos" that seem to just be copied and pasted throughout the compilation. It is taking probably the most stereotyped stuff from Michael Jackson's releases and trying to capitalize off of it, which cheapens the songs and cheapens the integrity of everyone who worked on this compilation. The backup vocals on a lot of these tracks seem rushed and just subpar. Justin Timberlake's version of "Love Never Felt So Good" is horrendous, there was no value added by his vocals being added onto that song.
Overall Impression — 4
I have a hard time believing the producers who worked on this left so much of the bad midi instruments and percussion on these songs. I can't believe in good conscious they would release this crap and call it a good release. If this stuff ever saw the light of day then it should have been as bonus material in some kind of boxed set. It definitely should never have seen the light of the day in the context of this compilation album. What this album tells me is that producers like Timbaland, J-Roc, and Stargate expect listeners to accept whatever trash they try to spoon-feed the public. Don't buy this album and provide validation to the ghouls behind this horrible project.