An album that sounds at the same time poignantly familiar and curiously new, Michael is the first posthumous album to be released by the estate of the King of Pop. Just like with every great musical artist – Tupac and Elvis being the two that come immediately to mind – there are bound to be hot debates surrounding the release of this album, all the more because some of the songs it features lack the polish typical of a Michael Jackson track, which just might infuriate his fans all the more.
Featuring ten new songs – one of which had a working version previously leaked almost two years ago, i.e. the Akon collaboration “Hold my Hand” – the album hits stores on Tuesday, 14 December 2010, just in time for the holiday season.
As a longtime Michael Jackson fan, I honestly don’t know what to think. On the one hand, these are Michael Jackson songs, and I couldn’t wait to hear them; even if they were finished by others, they were each in some stage of production when Michael Jackson died; they were each one of his "babies." On the other hand, there is the very well known fact that Michael Jackson was a perfectionist, which raises the obvious question: can an album he didn’t micro-manage until the release date be called a real Michael Jackson album? Or is this album more like the movie This Is It, i.e. a hint of what could have been?
If this is the case, the hint is strong that this could have been an incredible album. And, as it stands, it’s pretty amazing already. It includes some of Michael’s best sounds, particularly those on his Dangerous album; the soaring choir in “Keep Your Head Up” is reminiscent of “Keep the Faith” and “Will You Be There.” Another sound that makes a comeback of sorts is from his song “Ben,” here reprised in the opening notes to the song “Much Too Soon.”
The mixture of themes the songs touch upon is also very recognizable. Some of the songs are pure joy – obviously enough, in the song “Best of Joy” – while others are pure love and hope: the abovementioned “Keep Your Head Up” is a hug to those feeling hopeless while “(I Like) The Way You Love Me” is a lover’s joyful laugh on a beautiful sunny day. In sharp contrast, some are pure anger, a mixture of emotions typical of the life of Michael Jackson; “Monster,” featuring 50 Cent, is reminiscent of “Why You Wanna Trip on Me,” while “Breaking News” is yet another song angrily lashing out at the tabloids that helped make him so famous and, later, infamous.