Michael Jackson - Michael (2010)

Michael Jackson
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Michael Jackson was always "The One." Even when he was a sweet-faced, golden-throated pre-teen, his talents were so luminous and pure that they set him apart from his brothers, his peers and later, every other performer in the world. The music he made over the years had frequently scratched the surface of his brilliance, but no release had highlighted it all in one place like the album Thriller, which, unfortunately, few ever let the man forget. No matter how innovative and compelling his subsequent recordings were, in the eyes of some, they had to be Thriller-worthy, Thriller-esque and Thriller-minded, or to the critics, they simply weren't worth the effort.

Michael Jackson was always "The One." Even when he was a sweet-faced, golden-throated pre-teen, his talents were so luminous and pure that they set him apart from his brothers, his peers and later, every other performer in the world. The music he made over the years had frequently scratched the surface of his brilliance, but no release had highlighted it all in one place like the album Thriller, which, unfortunately, few ever let the man forget. No matter how innovative and compelling his subsequent recordings were, in the eyes of some, they had to be Thriller-worthy, Thriller-esque and Thriller-minded, or to the critics, they simply weren't worth the effort.

Such relentless criticism dogged Michael throughout his otherwise illustrious career, and led to a hyper-sensitive perfectionist streak that made the superstar shelve material that could've otherwise passed muster, which is what the majority of the CD Michael is. Because of their varying degrees of completion, a few of the cuts do sound truncated, but others are well worth the listen -- such as the sugary-sweet "(I Like) The Way That You Love Me," which features a spoken memo from MJ about the anatomy of the groove,  the anthem-like and heartwarming "Keep Your Head Up" and the fiercely-delivered, yet vulnerable rock-out, "I Can't Make It) Another Day," which was penned and produced by Lenny Kravitz: "At night I pray before I sleep in hope of finding you/I've opened my heart, I want you to come through/I've closed my eyes, I'm searching for your love...."

As for the claim that some of the vocals not being his, this life-long MJ loyalist didn't hear anything that set off alarms. His signature ‘beat box' anchors "Hollywood Tonight" and the tangy jam "Behind The Mask," which rails against an unfaithful girlfriend who refuses to offer closure in the aftermath: "I sit around and I watch your face/I try to find the truth, but that's your hiding place/You say you love me, but it's hard to see/'cause when he's in your arms, you're throwing rocks at me."

Two songs, both about his twisted relationship with the media, are at opposite ends of the spectrum in style and quality: "Breaking News" reveals how infuriated he was with being seen as a subject instead of a human being, but its delivery rings hollow compared to the galvanizing throwdown, "Monster," with a taut rhyme from 50 Cent that reinforces his venom against those who make a living trying to track his every move: "You look at them coming out the walls, you can look at them climbing out the bushes/You can find them when the letter's bout to fall, he be waiting with his camera on focus."

Other than stating the obvious---meaning, if you weren't a fan before his sudden passing, this CD likely won't convert you--- it is true that not everything on this collection needed to leave the vault. As beautiful as MJ's vocals are, "Much Too Soon" has too many raw edges, and "Best of Joy" sounds like a tender lullaby that was probably meant for his children's ears alone.  Still, most of Michael Jackson's throwaways sound better than most of what's topping the charts right now, and for those who miss and still champion this superstar, there's no reason to sleep on this lesser-known side of Michael. Mildly Recommended.

By Melody Charles

 
Video of the Month - Kea Michaels - "Not My Friend"
Choice Cut - Chris Jasper - "Have I Told You Lately"
Song of the Month - Tracy Cruz - "Your Love's Everything"

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