Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Xscape-A Critical Analysis


 Gathering big time producers who at least have tenuous connections with Michael Jackson, Sony has treated us with another compilation of outtakes from the King of Pop. And let me tell you. I am thoroughly astonished! Yes, the contemporized mixed are a bit overproduced. But when compared against Michael, The Estake has come along way in amending their shabby reputation.

 You will not find any hint of autotune, melodyne, nor any fake vocals on this record. You won't even find bells and whistles artificially stabled together into a jumbled mess! What you Will receive is an album full of Jackson's mind-crafted art. Ingeniously lared into 8 mind-blowing tracks that never made the cut(not because their bland). Plus 9 contemporary interpretations from the likes of Justin Timberlake(from NSYNC), Timbaland(Beyonce), Stargate(who worked with Lionel Richie), John McClain, J Roc, and Rodney Jerkins. At first you might feel it a bit bland or overproduced. But guys, just give it a few listens with your earphones and you'll see why I'm impressed. However, the originals will never be beat!

The Making of Escape

 I wasn't all that impressed with the documentary. I was hoping for a step-by-stem analysis on Mr. Jackson's material by Matt Forger, Robbie, and many others who actually helped in making these 8 demos(Now to be fair, Corey Rooney was there and he did discuss his involvement in the making of "Chicago"). Instead the video was more on how they modernized his classics with state-of-the-art soundboards and synthesized beats. The DVD was too short and needed more promotion material added. Like Maybe a grassroots music video of clamation to celebrate Michael's artistry.

Love Never Felt So Good

Original Version

 This is pretty much identical to the 8 year old leak(who's lyrics you can read Here). Only in better minted quality. Back in the early 80's Paul Anka and Kathy Wakefield each co-wrote this song and gave it to Mike-originally intending Anka to collaborate on piano. But since it did not conform to Michael's vision for his upcoming album "Bad". Jackson graciously handed the gem over to Mr. Mathis for his own album "A Special Part of Me"(Johnny's version can be heard Here).

 If you want to hear Michael's crisp vocals untouched over a Classical piano then the original just might suit you more. This is Jackson in the prime of his life! Click Here to have a listen!

Demo: 5/5 Stars!

Updated Solo Version and Justin Timberlake's Video

 John McClain(not McCain :)) has teamed up with Giorgio Tuinfort to produce a masterpiece-an actual improvement upon the demo. Adding some funky strings, a hard backbeat, and a Classical layout to the track! I firmly believe The Estate should keep these two guys in tabs as future references!

 Now as for Justin Timberlake's spin, Timbaland inducts a Xylophone throughout with allusions to Don't Stop Til' You Get Enough. Without overdoing it Justin attempts to duet with the pop star "Suit and Tie" style. Even respectfully cueing Mick to chime in on his lines.

 Although not another homemade fan collaboration, the music video does contain numerous stars paying tribute to MJ's legacy. Even Tia and Tamera Mowry are seen paying their respects[correction: on second thought, these twins are not from Sister Sister]! The video was alright but nothing "off the hook". For future projects, My opinion would be to veer more towards cartoons and storylines. Maybe even do something with The Muppets(hint hint). Something other than mere tributes. Well, here is the John McClain Mix. I'm not much of an Electro-Pop or Techno freak. But here's the Freddie Legrand Mix! It didn't impress me much.

New Solo Version: 5/5 Stars!

Timberlake's Edition: 4.5/5 Stars!

Freddie Legrand Remix 2/5 Stars!


Original Demo

 Now this one was never completely finished until after Jackson passed away. Taj Jackson(Michael's Nephew) and Cory Rooney finished it as a candidate for his first posthumous album. To be honest, I haven't listened to the unleaked version before that. Taj Jackson's take is great but for some reason it feels ever so slightly off on the electric keys and cymbal snare. As they don't fully jive with his vocals. But as you get used to it, you will appreciate how Michael writes stories with his tongue.

 The tale is about a seductress(what else is new :)) who plays the part of an innocent widow looking for the man of her dreams. Turns out she was married and those children were her husband's. Jackson caught on thin ice, passionately explained the whole ordeal to her jealous husband.

Originally, the song was called by Jackson "She Was Loving Me". The track can be found Here.

Original Take: 4.5/5 Stars!

New Take Plus Paperchaser

 At first I felt the Harmon take was a bit jumbled and quirky but as I listened it eventually grew on me. They even add a few ab libs from him not found on the original. The quacking ducks weren't all that necessary(more like rubberduck :)). But they don't take anything away from the groove. Over all I feel they did a fine job tweaking his sound for a different generation! Go Here to have a listen.

New Version: 4/5 Stars!

 Now as you're well aware, I'm not much into remixes and this one is no exception. I thought it was slightly too fast for my taste. But unlike other Michael Jackson remixes, Techno beats are not prominent throughout(thank goodness). I like how Papercha$er emphasises his vocals at certain times. Otherwise it's just another bland mix. But here you be the judge: Paperchaser!

Paperchaser Remix: 2.5/5 Stars!

Loving You

The Demo

 The scene is from the mid 80's. Michael seems to have caught himself a little cold. On a dreary muggy night, Mr. Jackson relished the thought of giving his wife a fine-dining experience. But rather opts to spend the night under the covers as they've both come down with the flu. It's at this point they experience each other like never before.

 You will adore his fresh and crisp vocals. Yes the tape is not in perfect condition. Yet that will not take away from the magic of this gem. And if one had to guess, this did not mix well with the Bad Sessions. So the song was in limbo until now. Test it out Right Here!

Original Recording: 4.5/5 Stars!

New Edition

 Tim and Harmon give it a more uptempo beat with an R&B vibe written all over it! This sounds soo early 90's. Especially with the acappella outro for the finale. I can just hear the radio host chiming in right after that line. I could see Michael might've worked on it again during the Dangerous Era(of course with new vocals). But no such evidence exists as of yet.

 The only quirk from me is it needs live instrumentation as mere synthesizers gives it a plastic cover. Everything else about the new take is just superb! Hear it for yourselves!

Timba Version: 4/5 Stars!

A Place With No Name

Original Mix

 Derived from the tune "A Horse With No Name(listen Here) by America, Michael gives it a whole new spin with his signature ab libs and distinct drumline. The song tells a tale of an enchanted oasis. When Michael's jeep breaks down in the middle of nowhere(with a thousand suns blazing upon your back), a mysterious electrical fog beckens on the horizon. Dieing of thirst, these three men inch closer to find a highly attractive innocent woman calling on them to follow her through the mist. With little thought, Michael took her hand and was instantly transported unto a utopian landscape. Full of laughter and happiness. A place without a care in the world. Not named by any king, prince, nor prefect. Just beyond that fog.

 His loved-one's had recently passed away. So you can tell how much this spring uplifts Michael's spirits. But pardon me for spoiling you with the whole storyline. I'll let you be the judge over Here!

Michael's Version: 5/5 Stars!

Stargate Edition

 When I first heard the opening electric keys, my fears of another slop-fest production started surfacing. But after I purchased the CD I gave it a listen under the earphones. What can I tell you. I am ecstatic!! The electric keys and drum snare give it a melody dance beat like no other! No this is not Techno, Hip Hop, nor some bland club hit. This is Stargate in which The Estate will do good not to overlook on their next project!

 I believe this should've been the lead single with an official video. I think dance floors would be demand it from coast to coast! Just imagine a claymation motion picture over a desert with MJ as a clayman acting out the scenes. Now that would be awesome! Or even something colorful like what Madonna's record label did when she was busy touring. Anyways, here's the New Take.

Stargate's Version: 5/5 Stars!


Stay tuned for part 2 of my review of Michael Jackson's Xscape![Part 2 is now up.]

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