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Dissected: Michael Jackson

Before you Xscape, revisit the past conquests of the late King of Pop.

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dissected logo Dissected: Michael JacksonWelcome to Dissected, where we disassemble a band’s catalog, a director’s filmography, or some other critical pop-culture collection in the abstract. It’s exact science by way of a few beers. This time, we sort through the best and worst of the King of Pop.

I’ll always love Michael Jackson. It’s in my pop culture DNA. I blame my mother, who showed me “Billie Jean” at an age where the only music I knew was Carly Simon’s cover of the “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and Ray Parker Jr.’s “Ghostbusters”. It was a hard life of early bedtimes and chewed up Egon Spengler action figures. But when I saw my mother dancing to the video for “Billie Jean” one morning while doing her yoga, I was hooked — not on my mother, duh, but on good ol’ Jacko.

Who was this guy? That beat, the dancing, those shoes, the way the pavement lit up… where was everyone else? Why was the city so far away? Where did he get a jacket that cool? Would he save the homeless? I had a million questions but only one answer: I was obsessed. So much so that it became a little unhealthy; for years, he was the only thing I would want to listen to, something that drove my parents and my young peers nutso.

True story: In the second grade, roughly a month or two after the public scandals hit the papers, I tried roping together a few friends for the school talent show, where we’d reenact the whole video for “Smooth Criminal”. Or “Beat It”. I can’t remember, it was such a long time ago. Of course, their parents wouldn’t let them — neither would their egos — so it was just me, this portly, Cartman-like wonder, dancing in the worst way possible at the tryouts. Did I mention this was an Episcopal school?

moonwalker poster Dissected: Michael JacksonShortly after, my cousins showed me Nirvana, Wayne’s World gave me Aerosmith, MTV delivered Green Day, and that was that. But even then, I would always turn my head no matter what Michael was up to, somehow ignoring most of the legalities and jokes and whatever else surfaced in the tabloids and nightly news. I kept thinking of him circa Off the Wall, Thriller, or even his Moonwalker film, which I nearly destroyed due to constant play.

Because of this, I don’t think I properly got to know Michael at all. But I don’t think I’m alone. As Steven Hyden wrote in his exceptional review of this week’s Xscape, “Millions of Michael Jackson fans clearly preferred the abstraction to the actual man.” I know I certainly did, and still do, as exemplified by my recent obsession with his demo of “Love Never Felt So Good” and my urge to dust off my old Moonwalker Sega cartridge.

That’s why, oddly enough, I never shed too many tears for Jackson’s death in 2009; he’s never truly existed for me. He’s always been on the fringe of my imagination, a funky specter influencing a fictional world of possibilities, where robots and rabbits can dance alongside me, the dead are just a dance away from oblivion, and knives aren’t for violence but strictly couture. I love this fantasy, and it’s often a place I revisit. So, without sounding too sketch, come revisit this strange, surreal world with me once more.

I promise I won’t embarrass you with my dancing.

–Michael Roffman
Editor-in-Chief

Got to Be There (1972)

michaeljackson got to be Dissected: Michael Jackson

Producer(s): Hal Davis, Willie Hutch

“You Are Not Alone” (Guests): In 1972, when MJ’s debut was recorded, Michael was still part of the Jackson 5, and Got To Be There was a conscious effort to establish Mike as a talent in his own right, outside of the familial harmonies of the Motown group. None of the songs on Got To Be There are originals, so in that way the collaborators range from Bill Withers to Carole King, but sonically, Got To Be There is Jackson stepping out on his own for the first time.

Percentage of songs on the album that became Top 10 singles: 20%

“The Way You Make Me Feel” (Album’s Vibe): Like classic Motown. In fact, Michael’s debut would later be reissued as part of the 2009 compilation Hello World: The Motown Solo Collection. Even though Motown’s star was falling in ’72 in favor of disco, Got To Be There is as representative of the Detroit label’s sound as any, even if it is devoid of the personality that would make MJ the King of Pop.

“Who’s Bad?” (Public Image) Jackson was just 14 at the time of Got To Be There and was almost exclusively known as the youngest member of the Jackson 5. Nothing on Got To Be There suggests that MJ’s solo career would have any staying power whatsoever, but it’s such a good aping of what made the Jackson 5 popular that it did fairly well on the charts.

Disturbing, long Wikipedia article found when researching this album: “Joe Jackson (manager)”

“Man in the Mirror” (Michael in the Moment):

lil michael Dissected: Michael Jackson

“Don’t Bark Til You Get Enough” (Top Dog Impersonator):

afro dog s Dissected: Michael Jackson

–Chris Bosman

Ben (1972)

michael jackson ben Dissected: Michael Jackson

Producer(s): Hal Davis, The Corporation, Byhal Davis, Berry Gordy, Jr., Mel Larson, Jerry Marcellino, Bobby Taylor

“You Are Not Alone”: Jackson is the only vocal performer on Ben, but songwriting collaborators include Smokey Robinson and Motown songwriting/producing team The Corporation.

Thoughts on listening to this album for the first time while researching this piece: “The kid’s got some pipes, but these lyrics are terrible. …This cover of ‘My Girl’ is pretty solid, though.”

Percentage of songs on the album that became Top 10 singles: 10%

“The Way You Make Me Feel”: Ben is innocence embodied, a moment of Jackson’s youth distilled. The quaint soul stylings and his crystal-clear voice speak for themselves; this is what Jackson’s (probably much shorter-lived) career would have sounded like if he had never taken control of his own brand.

“Who’s Bad?” Released when Jackson was still a member of the Jackson 5, Ben found Motown executives trying their darndest to promote the baby-faced Jackson as a solo artist. Not much changed between Gotta Be There and Ben, which were released in the same year.

“Who’s… Ben?” A telepathic pet rat and the title character of the 1972 film of the same name, which featured Jackson’s recording as its theme song.

Disturbing, long Wikipedia article found when researching this album: Not an article in sight, but hey, how about this alternate album cover? Sheesh.

“Man in the Mirror”: 

michael jackson ben

“Don’t Bark ‘Til You Get Enough”:

jacko dog Dissected: Michael Jackson

–Katherine Flynn

Music & Me (1973)

music and me

Producer(s): Hal Davis

“You Are Not Alone”: No guests, but my god did he have a lot of writers in the liner notes, namely because they’re mostly covers. Music & Me is sort of a tragic period for Jackson, who not only was forced to use a photo of him slinging a six-string (despite him not playing any instruments on the album) but was also being denied by Motown to use any of his own compositions (what idiots, am I right?). Twenty writers in all, including Stevie Wonder’s Sylvia Moy and Henry Cosby, disco goldmine Freddie Perren, Smokey Robinson, legends Oscar Hammerstein II and Jerome Kern, and many more.

Percentage of songs on the album that became Top 10 singles: Nada, but the title track found life in Holland.

“The Way You Make Me Feel”: It’s slightly forgettable in that it’s all Motown staples (“With a Child’s Heart”), pop classics (“Too Young”), theatrical compositions (“All the Things You Are”), and only a few originals for Jackson (“Music and Me”). Although there’s a nice, weird, space-folk vibe to “Happy”, penned by Robinson, who later re-recorded it himself for his solo album, A Quiet Storm. Given that Jackson was touring heavily alongside the Jackson 5 upon its recording and release, that group’s vibe is palpable here.

Yes, I still tear up when I hear… “Music and Me”, especially when you remember its random appearance in Moonwalker.

“Who’s Bad?” Nobody yet. Jackson was almost 15 here, but was struggling with puberty and his vocals changing. What’s more, disco was becoming ever present and popular, thwarting the Motown label and its sound. A transitive period for sure, which explains why it would take two years to follow this one up.

Disturbing, long Wikipedia article found when researching this album: “Martin Bashir”, specifically regarding his journalistic integrity.

“Man in the Mirror”:

young michael under a tree Dissected: Michael Jackson

“Don’t Bark ‘Til You Get Enough”:

mini afro pooch

–Michael Roffman

Forever, Michael (1975)

Michael_Jackson-Forever_Michael

Producer(s): Edward Holland, Jr., Brian Holland, Hal Davis, Freddie Perren, and Sam Brown III

“You Are Not Alone”: Actually Michael was alone on this one – at least vocally. While he did all the singing, he owes much of the album’s success to the Holland brothers, the Motown songwriting gods who also wrote for The Temptations, The Supremes, and Marvin Gaye to name a few. Michael can attribute his return to the top 40 to Holland-written singles, “We’re Almost There” and “Just a Little Bit of You”.

“The Way You Make Me Feel”: This one is a mixture of the sugary Jackson 5 vibe with a dash of the cool Michael swagger everyone came to know and love. “Dapper Dan” showcases Michael’s newly acquired adult sound, but the rest of the album is pretty cloying with too many saccharine melodies and love clichés, namely, “I will plant you a garden/ Of laughter and tears/ With rain and sunshine/ Love will grow through the years” on “We’ve Got Forever”.

Percentage of songs on the album that became Top 10 singles: 20% if you can count the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs. 30% if you count the charts overseas, where “One Day in Your Life” did very, very well — just ask the Australians, the Dutch, the Irish, and the Brits.

It should be noted that… this is the only one of Jackson’s studio albums that doesn’t include a title track.

“Who’s Bad?”: Not sweet, little Michael! At 16 years old, he was transitioning from the Jackson 5 to a solo career, from Motown to CBS Records, and from innocence to more mature R&B vocals. Michael lacked worldwide global success with the album, but he was still received positively by the public. They definitely didn’t anticipate the super stardom that was about to take the world by storm.

Number of cheesy love ballads: Eight. Yup, in eight of the album’s 10 tracks, Michael sings about his “baby” or “darlin’.” Hey, at least he’s consistent.

Disturbing, long Wikipedia article found when researching this album: Nope. Nothing to see here. Move along.

“Man in the Mirror”:

forevermichaelmirror Dissected: Michael Jackson

“Don’t Bark Til You Get Enough”:

forevermichaeldog Dissected: Michael Jackson

–Danielle Janota

Off the Wall (1979)

Off-the-Wall-album-cover

Producer(s): Quincy Jones, Michael Jackson

“You Are Not Alone”: Looking for a different sound than Jackson 5 material, Michael enlisted the help of Stevie Wonder (“I Can’t Help It”), Paul McCartney (“Girlfriend”), and Rod Temperton of Heatwave (“Rock with You,” “Off the Wall,” and “Burn This Disco Out”) to write songs for the album.

“The Way You Make Me Feel”: Exuberant, groovy, and ahead of its time, Off the Wall found Michael spreading his glitter-encrusted wings into the pop spotlight. Not only did he release his first music video with “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough”, he also introduced the world to his signature hiccups and falsetto. Upon the album’s 1979 release, fans and critics claimed they hadn’t heard Michael sing with such “joy and abandon” since the Jackson 5 days.

Percentage of songs on the album that became Top 10 singles: 40%. If only the McCartney-assisted “Girlfriend” was released as a single here.

“Burn This Disco Out”: It’s unlikely Jackson had the foresight to know that disco would close up shop in the early ’80s, but he sure as hell carved out the proper epilogue for it with Off the Wall. In hindsight, “Rock with You” is one of the final hits of the era — after all, it charted as the fourth biggest single of 1980 — and lyrically it brings the age of bell-bottoms to a dizzying finale: “And when the groove is dead and gone/ You know that love survives/ So we can rock forever on.”

Those weird chirps 2:17 into “Rock with You”, though… are like brilliant messages from an extraterrestrial, huh? Maybe this one.

“Who’s Bad?” Critics and audiences praised Michael’s funky, new identity. He received Billboard and American Music Awards and the Best Male R&B Vocal Performance Grammy for “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough”.

I Want My MTV! “Rock with You”. I don’t know which I like better: the sparkly jumpsuit or the laser lights. At least we know Usher was probably inspired by the latter.

Disturbing, long Wikipedia article found when researching this Album: I’ll ask you this: “Did you know that Willennium is somehow linked to this album?” Neither did I.

“Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough”: Like a true tortured genius (or a musical Tim Tebow), Michael was unpleased with the commercial success and the fact that it only won a single Grammy, stating: “It was totally unfair that it didn’t get Record of the Year and it can never happen again”. You know what comes next…

“Man in the Mirror”:

offthewallmirror Dissected: Michael Jackson

“Don’t Bark Til You Get Enough”:

offthewalldog Dissected: Michael Jackson

–Danielle Janota

Thriller (1982)

MICHAEL-JACKSON-Thriller

Producer(s): Quincy Jones, Michael Jackson

“You Are Not Alone”: On the song’s titular centerpiece, the perpetually creepy Vincent Price lends his Edgar Allen Poe voice to the song’s narration. Later, Eddie Van Halen shows up to finger tap his way through “Beat It”‘s guitar solo, which encapsulates the entirety of ’80s pop culture in just a few moments. Oh, and in one of the least believable music moments of all time, Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson are not only both attracted to the same woman, but they fight over her, too. Hear: “The Girl Is Mine”

Percentage of songs on the album that became Top 10 singles: 78% (!!!)

Here’s a funny joke: “The Girl Is Mine” was the album’s lead single. Can you even?

“The Way You Make Me Feel”: Like a blast of Miami Vice suits, cheeseball synths, and moonwalks, all taking place inside the birth of MTV. It’ll make you want to dance, make love, buy things, drive fast cars, watch ’80s films, or even cuddle with a tiger cub.

“Who’s Bad?”: Thriller is Jackson at the height of his powers. He would never be more successful than he was in the aftermath of this record. It still stands as the top-selling record of all time, and many of its videos are permanently stamped on the pop culture consciousness.

On the other hand… Prior the album’s release, Michael was a total downer, moping around amidst his post-Off the Wall success. As he explained, “Even at home, I’m lonely. I sit in my room sometimes and cry. It’s so hard to make friends … I sometimes walk around the neighborhood at night, just hoping to find someone to talk to. But I just end up coming home.” Sort of gives another meaning to “Beat It”, huh? Or how about that desolate landscape in the “Billie Jean” video?

Sixty-Five Million: This is how many copies of Thriller have been sold the world over.

SIXTY-FIVE MILLION: LOOK AT THAT AGAIN.

Did your album get you an invitation to the White House? Um, because this one did.

Disturbing, long Wikipedia article found when researching this album: “Personal Relationships of Michael Jackson”

I Want My MTV! “Thriller”’s zombie dance sequence is still one of the most famous music videos ever. And to think, its competition is also: “Beat It”, “Billie Jean”, and “Human Nature”. Christ.

If the world turns to shit, just remember: Both the album and the titular video are currently safe and sound in Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry and National Film Preservation Board’s National Film Registry, respectively.

“Man in the Mirror”: 

Michael-THE-THRILLER

“Don’t Bark Til You Get Enough”:

mj dog Dissected: Michael Jackson

–Chris Bosman

Bad (1987)

michael jackson bad Dissected: Michael Jackson

Producer(s): Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones (This album marked their last collaboration.)

“You Are Not Alone”: While it was rumored that Bad would feature collaborations with Prince, Barbra Streisand, and others, the only guests who actually appeared on the final cut of Bad were Stevie Wonder (“Just Good Friends”) and songwriter and vocalist Siedah Garret (“I Just Can’t Stop Loving You”).

“The Way You Make Me Feel”: Like the late ‘80s distilled into one towering musical work: add one part schmaltz to two parts infectious, pulsing dance numbers, and you’ve got Bad.

The first album to have five of its singles peak at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 consecutively?: This one. (That’s right. FIVE. One right after the other.)

Didn’t Katy Perry do the same thing? …yeah. But they’re the only two!

Percentage of songs on the album that became Top 10 singles: 62%, if only “Speed Demon”, “Liberian Girl”, and “Leave Me Alone” were proper US singles. Still, they did just fine overseas, too, which would bring this to about, um, 90%.

“Who’s Bad?” Sensational reports and media speculation swirled around Jackson immediately before, during, and after his release of Bad, centered around his changing skin tone and bone structure. The monumental success of the album, however, coupled with Jackson’s continued domination of the music video medium, drowned out the buzz for a time.

Do you still wish you could dance as good as the Jackson Rabbit at the end of the video for “Speed Demon”? If only we could get a hold of that rabbit helmet-mask-thingy.

Say, isn’t it weird Michael never performed the song on the album’s respective tours? Very. It’s one of the best deep cuts off of any album of his, and the song begs for a dance interlude or two or three. Maybe they just couldn’t find someone to ace that bassline.

Disturbing, long Wikipedia article found when researching this album: “Joseph Merrick”

Remember that time The Weeknd floored everyone with that cover of “Dirty Diana”? Oh, yeah.

I Want My MTV! “The Way You Make Me Feel” – strangers meeting in a dark alley, fire hydrants spraying water, Michael Jackson seducing a girl with gyrating hip motions. There’s nothing not to like about this video. Though, who could forget Martin Scorcese’s video for the title track, featuring a then up-and-coming, pre-Major League Wesley Snipes? Or, ugh, “Speed Demon”, “Man in the Mirror”, and “Smooth Criminal”. This is too hard… leave me alone. Ah, forgot that one, too.

“Man in the Mirror”:

jackson bad

“Don’t Bark ‘Til You Get Enough”:

dog bad

–Katherine Flynn

Dangerous (1991)

michael jackson dangerous Dissected: Michael Jackson

Producer(s):  Michael Jackson, Teddy Riley, Bruce Swedien, and Bill Bottrell

“You Are Not Alone”: Where do we start? Heavy D contributes to “Jam”, Guns N’ Roses’ Slash worked on “Give in to Me” and the opening skit for “Black or White” (not the whole song as many tend to believe), Princess Stéphanie of Monaco (lol) stepped in for Madonna on “In the Closet”, Wreckx-n-Effect assisted “She Drives Me Wild”, L.T.B. rapped on “Black or White” (even though everyone remembers Macauley Culkin mouthing the words), and that’s not even including the multiple collaborators on film.

Percentage of songs on the album that became Top 10 singles: 30%.

“The Way You Make Me Feel”: New jack swing, baby. Breaking off with longtime producer Quincy Jones (at the producer’s own request, mind you), Jackson headed for the hot new genre rightfully credited to Teddy Riley, who came in to produce half of the album, especially key tracks “Jam”, In the Closet”, “Remember the Time”, and “Dangerous”. It’s arguably Jackson’s most commercialized album and represented a major shift in his key demographic, as he focused towards hip-hop and R&B. Lyrically, Jackson ditches the moonwalkin’ for straight-up real talk, drilling into themes of racism, poverty, Hollywood paranoia, and inner city life.

“Who’s Bad?” Jackson’s very bad. Does anyone remember the ending of “Black or White” when it premiered, basically, everywhere? The last four minutes find him strolling into an abandoned alley as a black jaguar, only to morph into the King of Pop we all know and love. But wait, why does he start destroying a car, and why is he grabbing his crotch in sexually suggestive ways, and why…is…he…zipping his pants up? Wait, are you a terrorist now, Michael? Does that explain why you blew up that inn? Try to imagine and Internet-less era, where several questions were left unanswered on millions of living room floors. There was confusion, sure, but man did that give Jackson the edge he needed given the album’s themes.

I could really do without… “Heal the World” or “Will You Be There”, two over-the-top ballads that did nothing but chip away at the bad boy image he’d created on the previous album and with “Jam” or “Black or White”.

Disturbing, long Wikipedia article found when researching this album: “1993 child sexual abuse accusations against Michael Jackson”

I Want My MTV! Most would be quick to name “Black or White” feat. George Wendt, Culkin, and a young Tyra Banks, but really, each of the album’s videos had its share of highlights. That backward shot in “Jam” alongside Jordan, the cameos by Eddie Murphy and Magic Johnson in “Remember the Time”, and Naomi Campbell filling in for the Princess on “In the Closet”… all memorable must-sees. Still, you’d be right to go with “Black or White”.

That time I convinced my dad to let me buy the full album vs. the “Black or White”/”Remember the Time” single at Peaches: Priceless.

“Man in the Mirror”:

mj world tour

“Don’t Bark ‘Til You Get Enough”:

jacko dog1 Dissected: Michael Jackson

–Michael Roffman

HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I (1995)

 Dissected: Michael Jackson

Producer(s): Michael Jackson, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Dallas Austin, Bruce Swedien, René Moore, David Foster, Bill Bottrell, and R. Kelly

“You Are Not Alone”: Outside of the album’s first disc, which was really just a greatest hits collection for Jackson, Janet Jackson kicks down the door of the buzzing, abrasive album-proper opener, “Scream”. Later, the Notorious B.I.G. hands in one of his most inessential verses on the forgettable “This Time Around”.

Percentage of songs on the album that became Top 10 singles: 20%

“The Way You Make Me Feel”: Jackson was beginning to feel turned upon by the public at large and less and less in touch with what musically connected with that public. Except for “Childhood”, which was the theme from Free Willy 2 and just makes you feel bad about whales.

“Who’s Bad?” HIStory marked the beginning of the end for Jackson being taken seriously by the culture at large. It was during the album cycle for HIStory that the most notorious of Jackson’s odd behaviors and child abuse scandals were brought to the public consciousness for the first time.

I could have done without… that outdated and unnecessary cover of The Beatles’ “Come Together”. It appeared at the end of Moonwalker years back, and would be covered AGAIN by Aerosmith three years later for Michael Bay’s Armageddon. Enough is enough.

Disturbing, long Wikipedia article found when researching this album: “Keiko (orca)”

Number of whales harmed during the making of HIStory: 0, even by association. According to Wikipedia, “Willy is played by a robotic double.”

I Want My MTV! While Jackson made a name for himself with mind-bending video excellence, the accompanying visual for HIStory’s most successful track, R&B smash “You Are Not Alone”, is one of the most basic videos that has ever been made, with tons of green screen, a shirtless Jackson in an empty theater, and shots of Jackson and then-wife Lisa Marie Presley in a ostensibly sensual situation that actually reads as very uncanny valley.

How could you not include “Scream”, dude? Oh, you mean Mark Romanek’s $7 million dollar video? Maybe we’re just fans of less is more. To be fair, the video was pretty mind-blowing.

“Man in the Mirror”: 

michaelhistory Dissected: Michael Jackson

“Don’t Bark Til You Get Enough”:

dog halloween costume 2 Dissected: Michael Jackson

–Chris Bosman

Invincible (2001)

michael jackson invincible Dissected: Michael Jackson

Producer(s):  Michael Jackson, Rodney Jerkins, Teddy Riley, Andre Harris, Andreao “Fanatic” Heard, Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, R. Kelly, and Dr. Freeze

“You Are Not Alone”: Notorious B.I.G., Fats, Slash, and Carlos Santana are the only pals he brought on board here, and that’s if you can really count Biggie. Actually, you shouldn’t. His verse on the rather awesome “Unbreakable” was stripped from the song, “You Can’t Stop the Reign”.

Wait, wait, isn’t that a Shaquille O’Neal song?: Yes.

Percentage of songs on the album that became Top 10 singles: 6%.

“The Way You Make Me Feel”: The theme should have been “comeback,” but instead it was labeled as “forgettable.” Thanks to conflicts with his record company, Invincible received little to no promotion, even if 25 million was allegedly set aside. Not counting 1997’s remix album Blood on the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix, which you’ll notice is absent in this Dissected, this album was the true follow-up to 1995’s HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I. Themes of love, romance, isolation, media criticism, and social issues continued to proliferate Michael’s lyricism spaced over 77 minutes (!) of R&B, hip-hop, dance-pop, adult contemporary, and urban songs. It’s more or less Dangerous for the year 2001.

“Who’s Bad?” It’s 2001, a month after 9/11, and while the world’s in crisis mode, Jackson drops his most expensive album to date, also his first in over half a decade. Given that the allegations and countless parodies have almost trumped his lore, Jackson’s days of being bad are long gone, almost to the point of non-existence. Instead, he’s a passing thought to most and a shrugged off influence to young artists. “Oh, hey, I don’t care much for him as a person, but I still listen to Thriller and Bad.” This ideology doesn’t explain the initial success — No. 1 in the U.S. with over 363,000 units sold in its first week — but does factor into the album’s drop-off and longevity, despite its odd knack for re-entering the charts throughout the decade.

This Jackson “superfan” first heard about the album… a week after it was released, thanks to a Forensics trip to Gainesville, FL, and the rather jovial Michael Manzella attempting to convince his fellow theater pals in the motel that Jackson was truly back.

Disturbing, long Wikipedia article found when researching this album: Murder of Benjamin Hermansen

I Want My MTV! I’d love to spend three or four grafs discussing the ludicrous amounts of money and talent wasted on “Rock My World”‘s boisterous video. But Justin Gerber beat me to it by about four years. He aptly sums up the video when he says, “What happens next makes little to no sense.” Spoiler alert: None of it does. But Chris Tucker had fun.

“Rock My World” is still a great song. No doubt, and it’d do gangbusters now in the Return to R&B, but younger audiences at the time were far more pre-occupied with whatever MTV’s Carson Daly was trying to shill. To Michael’s credit, the album came out amidst the boiling point of one of the worst eras for popular music ever. No argument there.

And let’s not forget about Jackson’s decision to pen and include the worst song of all time: “The Lost Children”

“Man in the Mirror”: 

Michael-Jackson-Invincible-Era-invincible

“Don’t Bark Til You Get Enough”:

MJ Dog Spanky

–Michael Roffman

Michael (2010)

Michael-Jackson-Michael

Producer(s):  Akon, Brad Buxer, Eddie “Angelikson” Cascio, Theron “Neff-U” Feemster, Michael Jackson, Lenny Kravitz, John McClain, Teddy Riley, C. “Tricky” Stewart, and Giorgio Tuinfort

“You Are Not Alone”: Yes and no. I mean, it’s his first posthumous album, so he’s dead here, and it’s hard to tell where his writing begins and ends on Michael. The controversial allegations that those aren’t his vocals on “Breaking News”, “Keep Your Head Up”, and “Monster”, colloquially known as the Eddie Cascio tracks, don’t make matters easier either. Regardless, the album’s overstuffed with collaborators, namely producers, and is weakened by its insufferable guests, specifically Akon’s over-jubilant single “Hold My Hand”, 50 Cent’s underwhelming “Monster”, and Lenny Kravitz’s abysmal “(I Can’t Make It) Another Day”.

Does anything work? Somewhat. “(I Like) The Way You Love Me” recalls ’70s-era Michael, a sunny flirtation that should bring a smile or two. “Best of Joy” is the definition of a B-side, but it feels authentic enough to call it “new Michael.” Otherwise, no.

Percentage of songs on the album that became Top 10 singles: 0%

“The Way You Make Me Feel”: Icky. It had been only a little over a year since his death, and the subsequent retrospectives were still fresh in mind. So, seeing the crazy promotion behind this album — not-so-fun fact: a promotional poster erected at a Rectory Farm in Middlesex, UK, broke a Guinness world record for the largest poster in the world — coupled with the money handling going on within his estate, it just left a foul taste. The album’s also off-target conceptually, shifting incongruently between R&B, pop, soul, and rock songs. It ends with a great summary: “Much Too Soon”.

“Who’s Bad?” Everyone involved. Not Michael, of course.

Even Dave Grohl!? Okay, he wasn’t on the album. That was a mistake on the label’s part and a great example on how this was a crazy rush job. He’s since called the credit in the liner notes “not cool.” We agree.

Disturbing, long Wikipedia article found when researching this album: Michael (album)

I Want My MTV! You mean, YouTube? That video for “Breaking News” was clever in the same way Nirvana’s “You Know You’re Right” was back in 2002. Do we remember it? Not really. (And we can’t find it, either.) “Hollywood Tonight”, however, “re-teamed” Michael with Wayne Isham, who helmed the video for “Remember the Time”, but the retrospective clip felt so much like a commercial it was equally dissatisfying.

What I said back in 2010: “While nothing on this record comes close to rivaling any of his past material, you can’t deny the urge to indulge yourself in something labeled “new Michael Jackson,” and that’s where Michael succeeds. In terms of lasting power, however, you’ll probably forget about it in a matter of weeks, but who knows?”

What I say now: Apparently, I was right, as I’ve yet to listen to it again until now. While it has its moments, Michael is a terrifying teaser at more posthumous drudgery we’ll soon have to discuss and/or ignore. Although Xscape is a far better release by comparison, and actually has a legitimate single to root for in “Love Never Felt So Good”.

“Man in the Mirror”: 

michael jackson funeral Dissected: Michael Jackson

“Remember the Time”:

bieber.jackson

–Michael Roffman

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