Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Magic of Michael is Back

A week ago, I decided to take a chance on the first of seven planned post-humous Michael Jackson albums. If he was still alive, I likely would not have bought it because I had a buying ban on Michael Jackson products since 1995 due to the devastating allegations that he molested a boy at his ranch. I didn't want to fund his lifestyle or give him a cent of my money. I would only buy used copies of his music. After his untimely demise last year, I lifted the buying ban. Of course now, his creditors, record company, and children will profit from the sales. Apparently, a lot of music fans had the same idea. Michael Jackson was the biggest selling music artist in 2009.

The first and subsequent listens of the new Michael album have been stunningly amazing! The thought that keeps coming to mind is: "Why didn't he release this album in 2008?" It might have well resurrected his career, negating the need for the crazy 50 concert dates at London's O2 Arena in 2009 through 2010. This CD has the freshest rhythms, thanks in part to collaborations with Akon, 50 Cent, and Lenny Kravitz, which is like the way Madonna colloborated with Justin Timberlake, Timbaland, and Kanye West on her 2008 album Hard Candy (which also had fresh beats). This album is Michael Jackson's equivalent of Hard Candy: a bid to make a musical icon relevant in today's urban, hip music market. And it succeeds in every way imagineable! His last release was Invincible in 2001, which I had borrowed from a co-worker to listen to and was not impressed. At that point, it seemed like his career was over. He was stuck in a 1980s time-warp, like he could not break free of his Bad days. Well, Michael is the comeback fans had been hoping for. Too bad Michael isn't around to enjoy what might have been one of the best comebacks in the history of popular music.

The lead song is also the lead single: "Hold My Hand" with Akon. When I first heard it, I thought it was merely okay. Better than last year's single "This Is It" but nothing to get excited about. However, it has grown on me and gives me chills when I listen to it. The official music video is a nice tribute to the King of Pop.

"Hollywood Tonight" is the second track on the CD and it has an urban beat. The song is about a 15 year old girl who hopes a Greyhound to Hollywood with dreams of becoming a star. It opens with an Enigma-like chanting monk sound before getting into a fresh rhythm. This song has great energy.

"Keeping Your Head Up" is an inspirational ballad along the lines of "Man in the Mirror" with a great message to go along with the melody. This song would be perfect for every job seeker needing a boost as they start their day. If the lyrics and melody doesn't fill you with inspiration and confidence, nothing will!

"(I Like) The Way You Love Me" has an old-fashioned doo-wop feel to it and sounds like it was a song that did not make the final cut on 1982's Thriller album. Doesn't matter, because its here now and its another feel good love song as only Michael Jackson can sing it.

"Monster" is my favourite song on an album without a single "throwaway." In fact, if Michael Jackson was still alive to put his input on this album, I think he probably would have called this release Monster. Some might think its a "sequel" to "Thriller", but its actually about the paparazzi (or as I like to call them: papanazis). This song has the bounciest beats of any song I've ever heard Michael Jackson sing. I could listen to this one over and over (and I actually have!). Try sitting still while this song plays on a stereo with great speakers. What can I say, other than THIS SONG GOT BOUNCE!!! If you notice Michael's pattern for naming his albums, after 1979's Off the Wall, he picked one name titles, with each also having a song by the same name: Thriller, Bad, Dangerous, HIStory, and Invincible. So, since this is the only one word song on the album and it has the coolest beat, and plays off of "Thriller", I have little doubt that Michael wanted his next album to have this as the title song.

"Best of Joy" is a beautiful ballad and also the saddest because of its chorus, which Michael says, "I am forever, we are forever" (saddest because it reminds the listener that Michael is no longer in our realm but in the transcendant, "forever realm"). The message and melody also makes this one a perfect wedding song.

"Breaking News" is yet another Michael Jackson's response to the critical media who he feels tried to ruin his career. He refers to himself by name and unlike previous rants about his critics, this one actually has an alluring melody. I love the line "Why is it strange that I would fall in love?" and the way he sings that line.

"(I Can't Make It) Another Day" features Lenny Kravitz, which you can recognize by the Kravitz sound. Its probably my least favourite song on the album. I'm all about the sound over the lyrics, and while Kravitz does have a few songs I like, there's a lot I don't like.

"Behind the Mask" starts with a beautiful saxophone, which is always a good thing in my opinion (its my favourite instrument). Then the song moves into an interesting melody and sound that just emits a positive energy vibration. This is probably my second favourite song on the album, after "Monster."

"Much Too Soon" closes the album. If Michael Jackson was still alive to put his input into the album, I'm certain that he would have at least six more songs on the album, as he seems to like offering more than 14 tracks on an album. However, part of what makes an album a great listening experience is when all the songs are strong and could all become hit singles played on the radio. By limiting it to ten, the Jackson Estate has created a perfect album. However, they also get to slowly milk out his recorded songs over more albums if they simply go with ten songs per album (for a planned seven to be released one per year). This closing song is yet another beautiful ballad. The lyrics are interesting: "I hope to make a change now for the better. Never letting fate control my soul." Yes, he should have made a change before it was too late.

So, if you're not impressed by most of the music out there, you need to go out and get this album. This is Michael Jackson at his very best. The comeback album we've waited a long time to hear. Its definitely better than Bad and perhaps as good, if not better, than Dangerous, and certainly better than anything else since then. It'll be interesting to see if the next albums will be as good, or if they only took the ten best songs Jackson left behind and put them all on this one to create the strongest album that they possibly could. Mission accomplished. I expect that this one will receive a heavy rotation in my CD player all year long.

With money my parents gave me for Christmas, I actually decided to buy the rather pricey 25th anniversary edition of Thriller, with the cool, special effects cover design (as seen above) and remakes of some of his hits with current popular artists, such as Fergie, Akon, will.i.am, and Kanye West. I have been wanting this one for a few years now, but because of my buying ban on Michael Jackson products before he died, I never could find a used copy. I did find a used copy of Invincible, though, so I bought that just to give it another listen after nearly a decade when I dismissed it as a "widget" (one fan had used that term on the news in describing his disappointment in the album).

If that weren't enough, Blockbusters was selling copies of the This Is It concert rehearsal DVD for only $9.99, so I had to buy a copy as well. I guess you could say that this year is my Michael Jackson Christmas! I can't help it though, because I did not listen to his music after 1995, so his death inspired a revisit of his music and I had forgotten how good it makes one feel when listening to it. The guy is a genius, the likes of which we will never see again in our lifetime. Now, if they will only release the 1988 film Moonwalker, then we can finally complete our Michael Jackson collection.

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