It has never been possible to separate the singer’s personal life from his undeniable mastery as a musician. In the same way, it is almost impossible to assess this album for its true musical worth because of all the controversy and tragic events surrounding the release and construction of _Michael_. Will.i.am even stated that the album release is ‘disrespectful’ as Michael was unable to give his full consent towards it. As there is no denying this statement, the only way to appreciate this album would be to strip away all the outside criticism and take the music as a standalone piece.

Unfortunately, with regards to much of the music, this album is an upsetting disappointment. The most overwhelming feature is the contradictory and confusing mix of dynamics that runs throughout. Normally musicians play with a range of moods and tones to create a musical journey; this album however lacks any sense of fluidity or logic. The tracks are either amazingly innovative and attention-grabbing or the complete opposite: bland, dull, and mediocre.
Most noticeably the lead single, ‘Hold My Hand’ featuring Akon is the biggest culprit. It is an easy listen, but the problem is that it’s too easy. Jackson is renowned for being able to create moving, sweeping ballads that intelligently capture raw emotions. In this regard ‘Hold My Hand’ is a huge let down. It is a melody-written by numbers where the vocal interplay merely adds to the dreary tone already set by the repetitive, simplistic drumbeat and synth background.
This dreary and simplistic mood regrettably filters into songs such as ‘Keep My Head Up’ and ‘Best of Joy’. They in no way measure up to the intelligent craftsmanship of songs such as ‘Man in the Mirror’ which truly exemplifies that Michael possesses true genius when writing ballads. As such one cannot help avoid the feeling that the tracks on _Michael_ were actually far from finished and had Michael lived on we would not be hearing them in this plain form but with a grandeur and beauty they were meant to have.

This brings up the overwhelming problem of this album; it is has not from the hands of Michael Jackson. Instead it is a group of producers trying to squeeze the last drop of the Jackson legacy into their pockets or reputations.

Amongst all this disappointment, however, there are several magnificent tracks where once again the musical ingenuity of Jackson shines through, and will provide a thrilling listen to Jackson fans. The prime example of this is ‘Hollywood Tonight’. It is the standout track of the album with a gritty, pumping guitar line and raw vocals that show Michael’s musical skills developing with the times. This track gives the sense that had Michael still been alive he could have made himself constantly relevant as this track completely echoes the current music scene. ‘Monster’ featuring 50 cent is an equally fantastic track that possesses the sound of a more menacing ‘Thriller’. The idea of Michael echoing the current music scene is again echoed in the futuristic sound of ‘(I Can’t Make It) Another Day’ where the interesting musical layers explode into a vibrant chorus.

The true beauty of the album, however, only really comes to life in album closer ‘Much Too Soon’ where we can truly see that Jackson was born to write songs. It is the perfect album closer which demonstrates that truly all you need is the vocals of Michael Jackson and a guitar to create a musical masterpiece, as the song does in its beautifully contsructed and revealing three-minutes.

Thus, ignoring all the elements where the producers have distorted Michael’s true intentions, _Michael_ does in some way serve as a reminder that when Michael is left to his own devices in song craftsmanship, he was indeed a musical genius of our time. The essence of tracks such as ‘Hollywood Tonight’ and ‘Monster’ demonstrate that Michael’s ability as an artist never dwindled. Not only is he capable to move with the ever-changing sound of the musical world, but he can do it in such a way where he sounds more modern than artists who have just emerged. Despite everything you have ever read or heard about Jackson, his reputation as a musical legend remains untouched and not even an album of highs and lows such as this will destroy it.


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