written by: Carla Bynum
Jackson first debuted on the musical scene in 1968 with his brothers, the Jackson 5 but it wasn’t until 1971 until his solo career took off. He has become a global phenomenon with singles such as “Thriller,” “Bad” and “Billie Jean,” but his previously unreleased music is what Xscape is all about.
Xscape is the second posthumous album released to showcase Jackson’s unreleased tracks, succeeding 2010’s Michael. Epic Records Chairman and CEO L.A. Reid received assistant from mega-producer Timbaland to executively produce the album. Timbaland led a team of producers, including Rodney Jerkins, John McClain, Stargate and Jerome “J-Roc” Harmon to modernize eight tracks. The album was released on May 13th
Love Never Felt So Good
“Love Never Felt So Good” was announced as the official first single for the album and premiered during the IHeartRadio music awards on May 1st. Pop star Justin Timberlake joins Jackson on the official release, adding his subtle vocals to the feel good track. “Love Never Felt So Good” is the kind of track that makes you want to dance and sing at the top of your lungs. It is the oldest track on the album and was first recorded in 1983 along with singer-songwriter Paul Anka. The official video for the song was released on May 14th and pays tribute to Jackson’s legacy and musical influence on future generations. The video was directed by Timberlake and Rich Lee and features footage from some of Jackson’s most memorable videos and short films, such as, “Black and White,” “Bad,” “Remember the Time” and “Jam,” just to name a few.
“Loving You” is from the Bad era and has a nice old school feel. Jackson sings about how all he wants is to love this girl. “Chicago” is more modern and tells the story of how he met a girl who was seemingly out of his league on his way to Chicago. She tells him that she doesn’t have a man when she is in fact married. “She tried to live a double life/ Loving me while she was still your wife,” he croons.
Jackson sings about another poisonous relationship in “Blue Gangsta.” This track is a gritty and catchy tune that will have you tapping your feet and snapping your fingers. “Said you’d be my wife, nothing but lies…Things you’ve done to me, are coming back to you,” he promises on the hip-hop influence track.
While listening to the album, it is apparent early on why the album was named Xscape. Jackson sings about wanting to get away several times on the album.
“A Place With No Name” is an upbeat song produced by Norwegian producing duo Stargate where Jackson begs a woman he just met to take him to a place without a name so he can escape his pain.
Jackson sings about a woman trapped by her own life in “Slave to the Rhythm.” In 2009, gossip site TMZ leaked a version of the song featuring teen pop sensation Justin Bieber. Although the track wasn’t authorized for release, L.A. Reid recently noted that Justin Bieber will rerecord his vocals for the track.
“Do You Know Where Your Children Are” is a message song, reminiscent of those we’ve grown to love by Jackson. He tells the story of a 12-year-old girl trying to escape from sexual abuse. She ends up as a prostitute on the streets of Los Angeles. Although he was found “not guilty” on charges of child molestation, Jackson’s past makes it difficult to appreciate the message in the song.
Rodney Jerkins produced the title track “Xscape” for the album as well as the original during the Invincible days. Jackson sings about his desire to escape everything from toxic relationships to everything holding him back. “Why can’t I do what I want…I don’t live for you,” he sings on the track.
The album’s deluxe edition allows listeners to compare the modernize versions of the songs to the originals. Fans can also expect a bonus track and two videos on the deluxe album.
While Xscape doesn’t quite live up to its hype, it is a good album. With a leading single as highly acclaimed as “Love Never Felt So Good,” it’s difficult to keep up the momentum but the producers work hard to provide a solid album.
Recommended Tracks: “Love Never Felt So Good,” “Chicago,” “Loving You”
Overall, I give the album a B-.