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Posts Tagged ‘michael jackson’

Michael Jackson’s ‘Xscape’: Album Review

686958130d31714e9a89da9086b29bf4 Michael Jackson’s ‘Xscape’: Album Review

Xscape is a prickly proposition. On the one hand, it’s a rare treat to hear ‘new’ tunes from the greatest pop star of all time. On the other, the LP is comprised of material Michael Jackson deemed unworthy of release, and even the involvement of the hottest producers in the game can’t hide the fact that this is the musical equivalent of Frankenstein — a soulless hodgepodge of demos from different eras cobbled together to make an unnatural whole. But, like old Frank, it’s impossible to deny that an unexpected spark of life surges through this monster.

Let’s start with the good news. Xscape is a marked improvement on the King of Pop’s first posthumous release, 2010’s abysmal Michael. The songs have been curated with more care and the assorted producers treat the source material with a reverence that was lacking last time. Meaning there are no unwarranted verses from 50 Cent (or any other rapper, for that matter) or legacy-tarnishing filler.

The brief eight-song set also boasts the first true gem to be unearthed from MJ’s vault of unfinished demos. “Love Never Felt So Good” wouldn’t sound out of place on HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I. It benefits enormously from the current resurgence in early ‘80s disco, which results in the breezy mid-tempo jam being simultaneously on-trend and utterly authentic to its era.

Even the studio tinkering on the track is minimal. I can take or leave the version with Justin Timberlake (it’s more of a marketing tool than an artistic necessity) but the original is a fully-fledged disco delight that lilts along beautifully. And there’s a simple reason why “Love Never Felt So Good” stands out from the pack. Michael actually deemed the song worthy of release when he handed it over to Johnny Mathis in the early ‘80s. (His version appears on 1984 LP Special Part Of Me).

While nothing quite matches the quality of “Love Never Felt So Good”, there are a bunch of fascinating near-misses, mostly from the Bad era. “Loving You” is an achingly pretty ballad with a subtle, Motown-inspired production courtesy of Timbaland. He shows remarkable restraint – letting Michael’s soulful vocal run free over airy percussion and ragtime piano.

Another worthwhile Bad reject is the worryingly-titled “Do You Know Where Your Children Are”, which, at least initially, seemed like a genuinely tasteless inclusion. The finished product, however, is a surprising raw and powerful cut that also serves as a potent reminder that Michael was at his best when exploring serious issues in a pop framework.

While MJ had his fair share of love songs and dance floor anthems, nobody made gritty subject matter more palatable and catchy than the king of pop. “Billie Jean” (unwanted pregnancy), “Black Or White” (racial discrimination) and “Earth Song” (damage to the environment) were all packaged into pop hits. As such, an angry anthem about street kids (and the dangers they face) was well within his purview. The jittery synths and jagged guitar give the track a modern twist, while the vocal ticks are vintage Michael.

Another Timbaland production, “Chicago” has been doing the rounds for doing the rounds online for a couple of years under the title “She Was Loving Me”. The cleaned up version found on Xscape still seethes with anger and chugs along inoffensively enough. “Blue Gangsta” – a track Michael recorded in the late ‘90s – is an even more furious statement. It sounds like an unfinished “Scream” or undercooked “Smooth Criminal”. Like many of the tracks from that era, there are paranoid overtones and slightly unsettling lyrics (“look what you done to me, I can no longer smile”). It doesn’t sit well with the melodic jams on Xscape and the production is simply too busy for Michael’s fragile voice.

That leaves the title track (an engaging but undeniably dated-sounding Darkchild number about a bad relationship) and a duo of underwhelming cuts that really should have stayed locked away on Michael’s laptop. “Slave To The Rhythm” is a melody-free excursion in over-production, while the curious, America-sampling “A Place With No Name” is in desperate need of a chorus. So where does that leave you? With an album that will be a genuinely rewarding experience for super fans and a patchy but fascinating listen for everyone else.

Best Song That Wasn’t the Single: “Loving You” a sugary sweet radio hit.

Full Disclosure: As a life-long Michael Jackson fan, I desperately wanted Xscape to be worthy of his legacy. It comes fairly close.

Idolator Score: 3.5/5

Mike Wass



 

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The Standard Hotel Addresses The Leak Of Solange And Jay Z’s Fight Footage: Morning Mix

66cdac7c8642d6392cb1e4b28c1d47fe The Standard Hotel Addresses The Leak Of Solange And Jay Z’s Fight Footage: Morning Mix

:: Solange Knowleselevator brawl with Jay Z became instant headline news when it leaked yesterday (May 12). The hotel where the footage was filmed has addressed the situation, expressing their outrage at the breach of privacy. They have launched an immediate investigation into the matter. [Vibe]

:: The fallout from the above story was great enough to divert attention away from Miley Cyrus‘ latest fiasco. The Bangerz diva has been chastised for making (bad) jokes about date rape during a nightclub performance in London over the weekend. [The Guardian]

:: Pitbull is a one-man party machine, so he’s the perfect choice to host Fox’s New Year’s Eve special. Mr. Worldwide will also perform at the extravaganza and he has already promised to bring along some of his famous friends. [Billboard]

:: It’s a big day for Michael Jackson fans with the much-anticipated release of Xscape. Check out an intriguing mini-documentary about a cover that was commissioned but ultimately not used for the album. [Vibe]

After the jump, find out what music you can catch on TV today. 

:: The Colbert Report (Comedy Central) — The Black Keys
:: Late Show with David Letterman (CBS) — Hozier
:: The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon (NBC) — Dolly Parton
:: Last Call With Carson Daly (NBC) — Night Terrors Of 1927
:: The Arsenio Hall Show (syndicated) — Jermaine Dupri
:: The Talk (CBS) — Dolly Parton



 

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Jermaine Jackson Wishes He Was Involved In Michael Jackson’s ‘Xscape’: Morning Mix

77f6bf9fe2f2a0f3ee35708d57057072 Jermaine Jackson Wishes He Was Involved In Michael Jackson’s ‘Xscape’: Morning Mix

:: Jermaine Jackson has admitted that Timbaland‘s role as lead producer of Michael Jackson‘s Xscape (out May 13) hasn’t sat well with him. “Original Jackson 5, back together, on record. What’s wrong with that?” Jackson said. “I love Timbaland, by the way, but that could have been us.” [TMZ]

:: Usher‘s “Good Kisser” will make its live debut on the May 12 episode of The Voice. The song is the first from his next album, due out this fall. [Facebook]

:: Sara Bareilles recently covered Jackie Wilson‘s 1967 classic “Higher And Higher.” This version will appear on OWN to help promote the channel’s summer line-up. [Rolling Stone]

:: After all that, Lily Allen‘s Sheezus has debuted at No. 1 in her native UK, her second album to top the charts. [Billboard]

After the jump, find out what music you can catch on TV today. 

:: The Ellen DeGeneres Show (syndicated) — Ludacris
:: Late Show with David Letterman (CBS) — The Black Keys
:: The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon (NBC) — Neil Young
:: Jimmy Kimmel Live (ABC) — Franz Ferdinand
:: The Arsenio Hall Show (syndicated) — Jermaine Dupri



 

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Michael Jackson’s “Do You Know Where Your Children Are?”: Listen

ea2a8c97cfe6291879077ea30e27c292 Michael Jackson’s “Do You Know Where Your Children Are?”: Listen

The moment every Michael Jackson fan/critic has been dreading/waiting for: the infamous “song about sexual abuse” is here. Luckily, upon first listen, “Do You Know Where Your Children Are?” is not cloying or patronizing or off-putting, and is quite good! It turns out the song was written and produced by Jackson before he faced all those sexual abuse claims, and was recorded during the Bad sessions before being reworked during early Dangerous sessions and leaked in 2012.

Its title derives from a popular PSA that preceded nightly news broadcasts for a couple decades starting in the ’60s, and in a note made public by Jackson’s estate, MJ explained America’s problem with runaways inspired the song. “[It] is about kids being raised in a broken family where the father comes home drunk and the mother is out prostituting and the kids run away from home and they become victims of rape, prostitution and the hunter becomes the hunted,” he wrote. “Do you know where your children are? It’s twelve o’clock. They are somewhere out on the street. Just imagine how scared they are,” he added, which also serves as the chorus.

The song finds MJ in prime “hee-hee” mode over a vibrant yet slightly ominous synth rattle, and it’s certainly the most fully-formed and true-to-its-era composition of all the Xscape cuts we’ve heard. Stream it over at Radio.com.

For more on Xscape, watch LA Reid talk about the making of the album:

Get an eyeful of even more pop music coverage, from artist interviews to exclusive performances, on Idolator’s YouTube channel.



 

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Lily Allen Was Hospitalized For Projectile Vomiting: Morning Mix

68954e8c958fd43af160d7b4757f4847 Lily Allen Was Hospitalized For Projectile Vomiting: Morning Mix

Did You Hear?

:: Lily Allen was taken to hospital yesterday (May 8) for projectile vomiting. The Sheezus diva was still well enough to share her plight with fans. She kept them informed with graphic tweets and a picture from her sick bed. [Billboard]

:: The first billionaire rapper? Put your money on Dr. Dre. He is in talks to sell the Beats Electronic empire to Apple for a whopping $3.2 billion dollars. The MC started the company with Jimmy Iovine, so he’s expected to walk away with a large chunk of that cash. Well played. [TMZ]

:: Harry Styles was almost snapped with his pants down while lounging by the pool in Brazil. His swimmers slipped and photographers were there to capture the moment. Happily, his pants stayed up. [Just Jared]

:: The list of A-Listers performing at the upcoming Billboard Music Awards continues to grow with news that Michael Jackson will make an appearance from beyond the grave via a hologram. No word yet what he/his projected image is performing. [The Hollywood Reporter]

After the jump, find out what music you can catch on TV today.

:: Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson (CBS) — A Great Big World
:: The Arsenio Hall Show (syndicated) — IamSu! featuring Sage the Gemini
:: The View (ABC) — Bette Midler
:: Late Show With David Letterman (CBS) — Hunter Hayes
:: The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon (NBC) — tUnE-yArDs
:: The Ellen Degeneres Show (syndicated) — Keith Urban



 

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Michael Jackson Gets Angry On “Blue Gangsta”: Listen

d845537dc23ea7336026ee6f9321b6aa Michael Jackson Gets Angry On “Blue Gangsta”: Listen

We’re still digesting the recently released, placid Michael Jackson song “Loving You,” and now “Blue Gangsta” has premiered — and it comes from the other side of the MJ spectrum. While “Chicago” had a hint of MJ’s more aggressive side, for the most part, the songs we’ve heard off Xscape showcase the King of Pop’s soft side. But “Blue Gangsta” goes all-in on the “Smooth Criminal”/”Scream” persona, featuring Jackson’s trademark pained yelp.

It all starts with strings swelling up as a multi-tracked MJ sings ”Whatcha gonna do/ You ain’t the friend of mine/ Look what you’ve put me through/ Now that I’m the blue gangsta.” Then shards of Timbaland‘s metallic production slice through, and MJ digs his heels in to wail about being wronged.

The song was recorded in 1998 and originally leaked in 2010. Hear the official Xscape version below.

Watch Akon talk about his time spent working with Michael Jackson below:



 

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Michael Jackson’s “Loving You”: Listen

d845537dc23ea7336026ee6f9321b6aa Michael Jackson’s “Loving You”: Listen

Another “new” Michael Jackson song from Xscape has premiered ahead of his posthumous album’s May 13 release. “Loving You,” as you might guess, is a playful paean to MJ’s lover, wherein the King of Pop coos about retreating to his home to get away from the world with the object of his affection.

Unlike the spare and synthetic “Chicago,” this song is more in line with the retro-flavored “Love Never Felt So Good,” boasting a thick and snappy bassline and some airy production flourishes giving it a modern Motown vibe. The track was originally recorded in 1987 during the Bad sessions, and was written and produced by Jackson himself. The Xscape version was updated with production from Timbaland and J-Roc.

Hear the song below.

And for more insight on what it was like working with MJ, check out our recent interview with Akon:

[via Singers Room]



 

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John Legend’s “All Of Me,” Not Ariana Grande’s “Problem,” Unseats “Happy” On The Hot 100

c3b3c316222bfee842b2c05bb5cfb2ab John Legend’s “All Of Me,” Not Ariana Grande’s “Problem,” Unseats “Happy” On The Hot 100

“Happy” days are over, as Pharrell Williams‘ 10-week reign atop the Billboard Hot 100 finally comes to an end. But surprisingly, it’s not Ariana Grande‘s completely inescapable, thoroughly sax-filled “Problem” that takes its place, despite said single posting the eighth-largest debut ever for a download (buyers clicked for 438,000 purchases of the song in its first week). Grande instead debuts at #3, while John Legend‘s piano ballad “All Of Me” leaves the runner-up position and replaces “Happy” at the top. “All Of Me” has been on the Hot 100 for a grand total of 30 weeks now.

Meanwhile, the Michael Jackson‘s unearthed feel-good jam “Love Never Felt So Good,” now repurposed as a Justin Timberlake duet, debuts at #20 after selling 80,000 downloads in just the three days it was on sale before chart cut-off time. (The song was made available for purchase at midnight last Thursday.)

Over on the Billboard 200 album chart, the Frozen soundtrack is in its 133rd week at the top. Oops, added an extra “3″ there…not that anyone would know at this point.

The Top 10 Of The Billboard 200 Chart

1. Soundtrack, Frozen *13 weeks*
2. Lindsy Stirling, Shatter Me *new*
3. Ray LaMontagne, Supernova *new*
4. Passion, Take It All *new*
5. Iggy Azalea, The New Classic
6. Pharrell, G I R L
7. Future, Honest
8. Timeflies, After Hours *new*
9. Luke Bryan, Crash My Party
10. Whitechapel, Endless War *new*

Get more of an Ariana fix via our interview with the young chanteuse:

Get an eyeful of even more pop music coverage, from artist interviews to exclusive performances, on Idolator’s YouTube channel.



 

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Pharrell Performs “Come Get It Bae” On ‘Kimmel,’ Talks Michael Jackson

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Pharrell‘s reign will. Not. End. Not. Ever. For his latest appearance, he performed “Come Get It Bae” on Jimmy Kimmel Live, and also sat in for an interview with the host. There’s not much more we can say to describe a Pharrell TV performance — he wore a new hat this time, that’s about all I can manage to say at this point. So let’s focus on the interview!

The pop superstar talked about having several meetings in order to work with Michael Jackson in the late ’90s/early ’00s (beginning around the time of “Superthug”), and relayed a story about the time he was in the studio with Justin Timberlake and he was told MJ was on the phone. Pharrell, thinking it was a prank, hung up a few times, before realizing it really was the King of Pop — and he knew it was him because during the conversation, Jackson was chomping on popcorn in his ear.

Check out the interview below.



 

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Michael Jackson & Justin Timberlake’s “Love Never Felt So Good”: Listen

896d7c6aa821e6883ae7e8f96df2272e Michael Jackson & Justin Timberlake’s “Love Never Felt So Good”: Listen

At last night’s truly abysmal iHeartRadio Music Awards, we heard part of Michael Jackson‘s previously unreleased and now updated song “Love Never Felt So Good” as Usher danced to it during an MJ tribute. Shortly after the show, the studio version of the Xscape single featuring Justin Timberlake was released. And fans of the King of Pop can rest easy, because it’s very solid!

The duet has a soulful disco feel, which makes sense since Jackson wrote the song with Paul Anka back in 1983. This final version was produced by John McClain, and one of the highlights of the resuscitated track is hearing MJ and JT join up on the chorus, where their voices make for an uncannily natural combination (which may have more to do with how it was mixed to bolster MJ’s unfinished vocal track, but still, well done everyone). The other great thing is that it’s not trying to be an Event, it’s just a breezy dance floor strut that wouldn’t feel out of place on Off The Wall or The 20/20 Experience.

Hear the song below, along with the more orchestral MJ-only version.

Xscape is out May 13.

Get an eyeful of even more pop music coverage, from artist interviews to exclusive performances, on Idolator’s YouTube channel.



 

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