I have mixed feelings regarding the latest Michael Jackson’s posthumous album Xscape, I know this is a mutual feeling that most diehard MJ’s fans share. I experienced its release seeing promos everywhere: billboards in the tube stations, itunes, Twitter, Facebook, name it, it was there too. I bought the deluxe edition, listened to it, and watched MJ’s hologram performed at the Billboards Music Awards earlier this week. My first immediate response? Happiness, excitement, curiosity, an assurance that MJ is and will always be the one and only King of Pop. I deeply admire his talent, his work ethic, his concern and commitment to the wellbeing of our planet, his positive messages towards humanity and love, even though he always received nothing but hard criticisms about every single aspect of his life.
But this time is different. MJ is not longer here. He’s not making decisions. Yes, the album is a compilation of 8 demos he recorded in the past, but those demos were never released before. Why? Is it because MJ thought they weren’t good enough? Because it wasn’t the right time? Is it because they didn’t go well with the overall feel/theme of his previous albums? And the answer is that WE WILL NEVER KNOW. And that’s the reason every time I listen to his new album, at some point guilt pokes me on the shoulder. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy his “new” 8 songs, both versions, original demos and the contemporised ones. I appreciate the fact that LA Reid and his team decided to release both, but again, I can’t stop feeling like a voyeur from time to time, like I’m listening to something I shouldn’t be listening to. We will never know if MJ would have been thrilled with it. I reckon he would, because it was handled by people who worked with him in the past, and you would expect that they would know MJ’s music preferences, taste and techniques, but still, he didn’t have the ‘final cut’, did he?
I had lunch with my best friend a couple of days ago, we were talking about MJ and these mixed feelings of mine. She’s not a diehard fan at all, but she does appreciate his music and enjoys dancing to it as well. We were discussing about why did MJ struggle at the end to keep up with the outstanding work he made over the years, and why is it now that we have Timbaland, Cory Rooney, Stargate, among others to “contemporise” his music? I mentioned Madonna. Madonna who’s been around since the 80’s and still battles in the charts with wins and fails; she embraced change, Michael was a bit reluctant to change in my opinion. Again, most of his music I think is timeless, but towards the end, after “Dangerous” it was the same 90’s pop sound, the same dance moves, there wasn’t much of a real evolution. I mean, don’t get me wrong, he is a classic. That’s a fact. But, in order to survive you have to adapt to change, or even better, create the change, innovate, become a chameleon, where experimentation is key. And I think he struggled with that at the end due to his perfectionism. Nevertheless, I do enjoy the modern versions, you could see me dancing around and bouncing my head, you can’t help it, it’s MJ… it’s his voice, amazing rhythms flow naturally out of him. I think that the new versions are quite good, but the MJ ones, are just classic, they have that touch, you discover all these amazing ingredients (voice-wise, instrument-wise, etc) that make the songs so rich and well-thought, classic MJ!
So the music video “Love never felt so good” with JT, I saw it. It makes happy and it makes me sad. I don’t dislike JT, I’m not a fan either. But he has charisma, and I love that MJ’s talent and image is being honoured. A lot of people love the music video, but there is also a lot of criticism. Firstly, it’s not a short film, as MJ had us used to. To some this is just an average music video with strangers dancing, where JT is trying to imitate MJ, and with all the new technology the producers could have done better than just projecting images of him on a screen. In my opinion, the music video does pay tribute to MJ in a respectful way, and it makes me so happy to see a new generation enjoying and dancing to MJ’s music. And it makes me sad that he’s not around to see and feel the love, and a little bit of guilt again… Would he had been ok with it?
The hologram. Oh my god, the hologram. I read it on twitter. The Billboards Music Awards started on Sunday at 8pm in America, that was 2am UK time on Monday. I tried to stay awake with no success. First thing I do on Monday morning is grab the Ipad and look for it, and Oh My God. I loved it. I played it again and realised that there are not many shots of the crowd, there is a version when you see a woman next to, I believe is LA Reid, tearing up. This makes me think, is it because they are trying to focus on the performance or is it maybe that people don’t know how to react to what they are witnessing.
On one hand I think, in a very selfish way, that what they did was amazing, because they let me see him perform again. There are rumours that it has been done by an impersonator by motion capturing his movements and that later MJ’s face was put on top. Obviously this is not the real MJ because: One, he is dead. Two, to my knowledge there is no visual record of him signing ‘Slave to the Rhythm’. Either way, I don’t care. MJ liked to create illusion, he was an entertainer. It was an illusion, I wanted to believe it so bad and I was in awe for most of the time.
On the other hand, MJ is not longer here. Is this right? I mean, morally, ethically right? Is it ok to use his image for entertainment purposes? What does the family think? Were they ok with it? For instance, Jermaine Jackson wasn’t included in the production of Xscape and he wasn’t happy about his family not having any input on it. What’s going to happen next? Are we having Nirvana, Queen, The Beatles, Hendrix, Marley’s gigs in the future? Is the “Obi Wan Kenobi you’re my only hope” Star Wars hologram a reality now? Well, it obviously is, but where is this taking us? What would MJ have said about this? They don’t leave him alone even in his own grave. Kurt Cobain would have never accepted anything like this. It’s tricky, it’s so tricky. Now that I see MJ’s hologram in the newspapers and social media, I can’t help but asking all these questions again and again. I want his memory to be always honoured, not exploited. How far can entertainment go? I did enjoy it at first, now I have mixed feelings about it all.
One thing won’t change though, I love Michael’s music, and I’ll share his legacy with the new generations, that’s how I have Nirvana, and thanks to my dad, The Who, The Beatles, among many others, as my favourite music bands and artists of all times. We people come and go, but music stays and lives an endless life.