This reviewer is always wary of posthumous music albums. There are questions that must be asked. Is it a mere cash-grab? Who is making money off this album? The general public doesn’t want to see artists they have enjoyed in life being taken advantage of in death. A few weeks back, “Xscape” was released by Michael Jackson. Putting such question aside for the review, new questions were raised – do the tracks hold up, and, more importantly, does it work?
“Xscape” is a compilation of songs that have been recorded by Jackson since 1983 that just never made it onto an album, though it honestly doesn’t feel like a “best of” or “collection” album. It has a natural flow, and each track sounds like it received a new coat of production polish.
The first track, “Love Never Felt So Good,” was co-written by Paul Anka, a singer/songwriter from the late ‘50s through the ‘70s. The song has an old-fashioned sound that fits Jackson’s roots in the music industry. For the single, Justin Timberlake lent his vocals to the track, creating a great duet with Jackson. The song “A Place with No Name” actually parallels America’s (the British band from the ‘70s) “A Horse with No Name.” It is an instant earworm, and you won’t want to forget it anytime soon.
The only complaint here is that a few tracks seem overproduced, with too much synth and drum machine. However, for the purists, a deluxe edition was released that includes the eight tracks in their original glory. They don’t have the sheen that these versions have, especially the older tracks, but they don’t really need it. Jackson didn’t need all that; he was a great artist in his time, and “Xscape” shows just how good he was. Even Jackson’s unreleased material can create a stellar album.