It’s not surprising that posthumous albums are treated with doubt, suspicion and fear: some might even go as far as to claim they are fraudulent. In the case of another posthumous Michael Jackson album, these fears were no doubt aggrandised in the context of the artistic and financial debates at which he is still at the centre… Yet first impressions of “Xscape” brushed all apprehensions aside. The project, appearing nearly five years after the star’s death, is the compilation of unreleased studio material and recordings, carefully selected to catalogue key moments in the King of Pop’s expansive career. It is Timbaland to whom the reins for execution and arrangement have been handed, in an effort to “modernise” the previously unheard material: more precisely, all eight tracks that make up the album, collaborating on two of them with Stargate and Rodney Jerkins.
We haven’t underestimated Timbaland’s talents of course, but there’s no denying that he’s managed to give the album true artistic cohesion. The album manages to sound contemporary whilst being a ‘vintage’ throwback to the golden age of pop, and would have you believe that tracks such as its opener “Love Never Felt So Good” (co-written by Paul Anka) had been taken directly from the “Off The Wall” album! But let’s not neglect Jackson’s voice. His classical, superb vocal abilities are on show in each individual track, although “Chicago” and “Loving You” stand out in particular. There’s nothing contrived or gimmicky here - it’s the real deal. You’ll be able to make out 80’s synth sounds on “Do You Know Where Your Children Are” colliding with contemporary beats. The violins are intermingled with minimalist and urban rhythms on “Blue Gangsta”.
On the eponymous “Xscape” (curiously missing from the “Invincible” sessions) which impeccably concludes the album, all the King of Pop’s talents culminate in a stunning finale. There are a few hidden gems there too: “A Place With No Name”, a nod to the 1972 classic, America’s “A Horse With No Name”. Not to mention the signature ‘vocal hiccups’ which appear throughout the album. The deluxe version is enthralling as it gives us the opportunity to hear the original eight songs without Timbaland’s ‘modernisation’, providing us with a veritable archive. In short, this posthumous album not only meets but exceeds all expectations, and shows that Michael Jackson continues to live on for his fans… How did the producers go about the project? Take a look at the video below!