Michael Jackson always looked ahead

Michael Jackson always looked ahead

The King of Pop, Michael Jackson, he left us on June 25, 2009, he had 51 years to go. Since then, two posthumous albums have been released under her name: “Michael” (read the review here) in 2010 and “Xscape” on May 9, 2014, ten years ago. We take the opportunity to celebrate this anniversary to republish our review of the album he wrote Alfredo Martian.

Epic boss Antonio “LA” Reid and the administrator of Michael Jackson's immense estate John Branca agreed one day over lunch in a restaurant in West Hollywood. As true businessmen they did things seriously and wasted no time: just under a year has passed and today the second posthumous and “unreleased” album of the needy King of Pop arrives in stores – underlines Billboard with pragmatism which is also all-American – of a commercial relaunch after that in the last year his back catalogue, 584 thousand copies sold, had significantly less turnover than that of Elvis Presley (1.1 million copies) and that of Johnny Cash (969 thousand copies), while keeping other legendary deceased loved ones such as Whitney Houston and Jimi Hendrix at a distance.

To transform a collection of
and of “scraps” found between 1983 (immediately after “Thriller”) and 1999 (shortly before “Invincible”) the big names of black music moved into a solid, convincing, dignified and as homogeneous album as possible and the mixer, led by Reid (who also wrote a piece together with

Babyface, “Slave to the rhythm, a techno funk worked at the time of “Bad” and then revived during the sessions of “Dangerous”) and led on the field by Timbaland, eager to test himself in a challenge that is no laughing matter. The deluxe edition of the album also offers the original versions recovered from Jackson's immense archives and gives an account of the work carried out: the super team almost erased the old bases, which were often already quite refined and elaborate, to build around Jackson's voice – strong, ringing, always in a front and central position – sparkling, chrome and modern arrangements which (declared intention) would like to pay homage to his restless and pioneering spirit, his perfectionism and his desire to always look ahead. The counter-evidence (from “control freak” such as.) is missing Was he ever going to print these pieces?) and we have to be satisfied.

The already well-known single “Love never felt so good”, written by Jackson together with the evergreen Paul Anka

, published in 1984 by Johnny Mathis and reinforced, in one of the two new versions, by a small cameo by Justin Timberlake, is the perfect paradigm of the operation (because this, after all, is what it is about): a pop soul dance with strong echoes of the '80s, with strings and melodic, bubbly and summery bass: just what is needed, as Reid wanted, to compete on the radio as equals with Katy Perry's latest single. Proceeding by subtraction and then by addition, Timbaland (assisted by the faithful Jerome Harmon alias J-Roc) and the others continue determined in that direction also in the rest of the repertoire, practically all of which is known – because it has surfaced in various forms online – to the most enterprising fans : their “Chicago”, very electronic and driven by a synth bass riff, is less dark than the original, “Blue gangsta”, developed on a breakbeat rhythm and a symphony of gothic cathedral voices, renounces the “roots” touch of the accordion, while in “A place with no name” reworked by the Norwegians Stargaze, much admired by Jackson, the explicit references to America's “A horse with no name” survive especially in the final chorus. The rhythms, rhythms, melodies and sobs are unmistakable and Jacko, it must be said, does not come out distorted and indeed the absolute protagonist also because Reid used the few clues available to build his project with virtual respect for the liturgy: choosing only songs “important” and presumably loved by the artist who had returned several times, recording multiple tracks and naming the work after a song “Xscape”, in homage to another consolidated tradition (in this case on the repainting of the hypnotic soul funk is the original co-author, Rodney Jerkins, also spoke).

It remains to say about the two perhaps best titles, a soft and dreamy piano soul ballad entitled “Loving you” (“I Boyz II Men who meet today”: so Timbaland) and a pressing, almost angry “Do you know where your children are”, where in a sea of ​​echoes and synthetic riffs closed by a distorted electric guitar solo, a Jackson not yet overwhelmed by the infamous scandals of Neverland tackles the topic, already hotly topical at the time, of sexual abuse of adolescents with crude language and compassionate. The only real emotional shock that gives an even mocking thrill to a hyper-professional record that works if understood as a “reinvention” (declared, moreover) of Jackson's music for the ears, the palate and the market of 2014.