As a first generation fan of the late Michael Jackson, my position on his body of work has been that many of his strongest songs are on the Off the Wall and Thriller albums. For this reason I’ve been pretty disinterested in web buzz during the year after his death about his new album to be released on December 14, 2010, titled simply “Michael.” I wasn’t fired up about hearing old songs rescued from Michael’s reject pile and slapped together as a posthumous offering. Thankfully it looks like there is more to the “Michael” album than meets the eye.
The Michael album is the first release by Michael Jackson in nine years. The first single, a duet recorded with Senegalese-American pop artist Akon, Hold My Hand, was recorded in 2007. Although Michael’s vocals lack the fire power of his earlier years, Hold My Hand is a very pretty mid-tempo song with a pleasant melody, and consistent with the quality that made Michael Jackson the King of Pop.
Taj Jackson, Michael’s nephew shared on twitter that this was the last song that his uncle played for him in person. Taj tweeted “I told him it was a worldwide number one song and that it was going to be a huge. He was so happy to hear that. I did give the song one slight criticism though. I told my uncle that he needed to be singing more in the chorus and at the end of the song… lol. I said that we (the fans) would want to hear his voice more. :-).”
If Michael planned to step up his vocals, unfortunately it wasn’t done before his untimely demise in June 2009. Akon’s voice is the more prominent one on the track, but Michael Jackson’s signature vocals are distinctive throughout. The symbolism is that of transition as Michael Jackson, the older master, hands the torch to a new generation pop artist. I agree with Taj that this melody will resonate with and appeal to listeners worldwide.
The Michael album has 10 tracks and is not being released without some controversy. Taj, his brothers Taryll and T.J. Jackson, also known as the 1990s pop group 3T, and other members of the Jackson family have all tweeted that a Michael Jackson impersonator sings the vocals on three of the Michael album tracks, including the song titled, Breaking News. The Jackson family however, supports the other 7 album tracks. Use of an impersonator makes little sense because millions of fans know Michael Jackson’s voice well and won’t be fooled. Sony and the album producers, could have simply skipped the tracks where they didn’t have enough of Michael’s voice to make a song and released only the authentic vocals. At any rate, if the seven authentic tracks are the same quality as Hold My Hand, Michael Jackson fans will enjoy a nice selection of auditory treats this holiday season.