Xscape Review

artist: Michael Jackson date: 05/26/2014 category: compact discs
Michael Jackson: Xscape
Released: May 13, 2014
Genre: Pop, Soul, Funk
Label: MJJ, Epic
Number Of Tracks: 9
This is a compilation of unreleased material... but maybe there was a good reason the songs on this compilation were previously unreleased.
 Sound: 4.5
 Lyrics: 5
 Overall Impression: 4
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reviews (2) pictures (1) 20 comments vote for this album:
overall: 4.3
Xscape Featured review by: UG Team, on may 16, 2014
1 of 3 people found this review helpful

Sound: 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. // 4

Lyrics: 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. // 5

Overall Impression: 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. // 4

- Brandon East (c) 2014

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overall: 4.7
Xscape Reviewed by: benthegrunge, on may 26, 2014
0 of 2 people found this review helpful

Sound: Sony seem to believe that an MJ album released today can't stand on its own two feet without big name collaborators, citing the artist's "perfectionist" nature as the reason he wouldn't want unedited demos leaked from the vault. The latest Michael Jackson grave robbery would have suffered the same ills as his first posthumous album, "Michael," if it weren't for the deluxe edition. This extra disc showcases the eight tracks as they originally were, without tinkering from modern producers attempting to "contemporize" the sound. In this state they are generally decent ideas, albeit unfinished. 

Allegedly, the producers were given acapella vocal tracks and challenged to make the beats from scratch. This explains why the instrumentals and vocals feel mismatched. My exceptions are Timbaland's "Chicago" and particularly "Love Never Felt So Good," the latter fitting the recent revival of the disco/soul era with Pharell William's hits. Elsewhere, the producers have butchered the original ideas by taking out the hooks and playing "look what I can do" rather than serving the tracks, with over-complication on "Blue Gangsta" and the modern day plague of low frequency bass and 808 obsession infecting "Xscape" and "Slave to the Rhythm." // 5

Lyrics: "Xscape" performs well in terms of scope, perhaps due to the tracks coming from different times in the singer's career. Album opener "Love Never Felt So Good" is blatantly from early Jackson, oozing of the fun and breeziness of his older records, same with "Loving You," whereas the vocals on "Chicago" and "Blue Gangsta" use the tense, unhinged style prevalent in his later work. You can trace this change in his voice from soft and ideal for pop and ballads, to a more strained, aggressive tone that proves fine on rock tracks but is an undeniable decline on the kind of songs that made his name. The lyrics are mostly simplistic but "Do You Know Where Your Children Are" is a good bit of storytelling, and "Chicago" is notable for returning to soft-spoken verses as he did successfully on songs like "Billie Jean." The verses of "Slave to the Rhythm" and "Do You Know Where Your Children Are" have awkward, unappealing melodies in the verses, and most of the album isn't melodically his best. Bieber and Timberlake are as negligible as Akon was on his Michael Jackson duets. // 5

Overall Impression: As much as the original versions of the tough, Mafioso "Blue Gangsta" and stadium-rock "Do You Know Where Your Children Are" reinforce Jackson's musical genius, underneath the music you can see why the eight songs were rejected, feeling slight compared to his best. As for the remakes, they are largely unsavoury; sticking to the original hooks with slight tweaks would've been far better. I appreciate that all these artists owe a lot to Jackson and could be called an extension of his legacy, but the apprentices have little to give back to their tutor and in my opinion it is cheapening to think that he needs their leg-up to sell. This leg-up would've been appreciated if he were alive, but in death any fan in their right mind wants a throwback to vintage Jackson with these posthumous projects, or an indication that he had visualized a new direction for pop to guide us out of this uninspired drudge. What we get instead is too little of Michael and too much of other artist's ego-trips. // 4

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