Music Review - Xscape (Michael Jackson)

Xscape is an album that is comprised of eight songs that the late King of Pop rejected or prevented from being released for one reason or another. The sad reality is that the one reason or another might have been that the songs were simply not that good.

Jackson of course has a great voice. He could sing the phone book and it would be worth listening. He's a great songwriter and he surrounded himself with really good producers, but they're not perfect. Not everything they produce is gold. Not everything they produce is even silver or bronze.

The last album that Jackson released while he was alive was Invincible, which contained 16 full songs. That's double what this album has, and most of the songs on Xscape are aborted tracks from the recording sessions for Invincible. Therefore, some could argue that the reason the songs were rejected was because Invincible was too hefty for more songs.

I doubt that reason, however, because one song on Xscape is the second track called "Chicago." From what I've read, "Chicago" was originally recorded in 1985. The song could have been included on Bad (1987), which wasn't stuffed with 16 tracks. Jackson released two albums since, which also overlooked "Chicago." Reportedly, Jackson re-recorded "Chicago" in 1999, again intending to include it in Invincible, but then dropped it again. How many times must a song be dropped before we accept it's not good?

The songs on Xscape that were intended for Invincible sound like the other songs on that album but only lesser or derivative of songs Jackson has done before. "Blue Gangsta" feels derivative of "Smooth Criminal." Invincible is considered the least of Jackson's albums, but the songs on Invincible far eclipse and are far stronger than the songs on Xscape.

The only exception is the album's first single "Love Never Felt So Good." It's the exception because unlike all the other seven tracks, "Love Never Felt So Good" was written and recorded back in 1983, which makes it the oldest song here. It was made during what was Jackson's heyday, during the release of Thriller (1983).

I think I like "Love Never Felt So Good" the most because it doesn't feel like all those other Invincible-like songs. It feels like vintage Michael Jackson, a purer, more innocent Michael Jackson before he was changed by so many incidents in his life, like drug addiction and a child molestation trial.

Speaking of which, there is a song here called "Do You Know Where Your Children Are." It's a catchy song with a good message about an important social issue that Jackson excels in creating, but it was recorded prior to the child molestation trial. Releasing it now is weird because the song is about child molestation. Obviously, the song is a precautionary tale, but it's just weird to hear it in the wake of all that, even though Jackson was acquitted.

Two Stars out of Five.
Running Time: 34 mins.


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