On May 13, Epic Records, in conjunction with the Estate of Michael Jackson, released “XSCAPE,” new album featuring eight never-before-heard tracks by the late artist.
“XSCAPE” is executive produced by Epic Records Chairman and CEO L.A. Reid, who was granted unlimited access to four decades of material on which the singer had completed his vocals.
Reid curated the final list of recordings to deliver to the producers, who retooled the production in a process he calls “contemporizing.” The album’s lead producer, Timbaland is joined by global hitmakers Rodney Jerkins, Stargate, Jerome “Jroc” Harmon and John McClain.
Many are speculating if this new album is a chance for fans to relive the musical genius of MJ or if it’s it just a money-grabbing scheme? Let’s break down the cons and pros of the album:
This simply means that Reid and his team of producers took the original versions and made them into what they believe would sell today. Listening to the remastered tracks in comparison to the originals it’s clear that in most of them MJ becomes merely a second thought as the instrumental aggressively takes over.
Although most of the album falls short bringing the late artist back to his peak, there are some gems that both respect the original sound, and manage to give an insight into what MJ could have sounded in 2014 and on, as he, after all, was an artist that thrived on innovation. “Love Never Felt So Good,” “Loving You” and “XSCAPE” are easy to embrace because they feel genuine and at the same time contemporary.
According to the Huffington Post, back in the late 90s the pop star shared his thoughts on remixes. During a chat with Black and White Magazine, the interviewer asked the artist: “What do you think of the remixes [Sony did for ‘Blood On The Dance Floor’?]
“The least I can say is that I don’t like them,” he responded. “I don’t like it that they come in and change my songs completely,” he said. “But Sony says that the kids love remixes…”
“That is not true!” said interviewer. “The kids don’t love the remixes that much, especially those on BOTDF!”
“I knew it! I was sure!” MJ said while throwing a fist in the air and shaking his head.
Although MJ was not fond of remixes, we also have to understand that once an artist reaches international icon status, his image will and must surpass his death through his music. Of course this will include remixes, and re-releases of old songs through new albums, which will therefore allow the musical legacy to live on.
According to The Examiner, back in 2002 the singer was in a public disagreement with Sony “over the lack of promotion of his ‘Invincible’ album.” The Huffington Post adds that in 2009, a note found after his death revealed that the artist was looking to work with Universal or Warner.
The Wall Street Journal reported that in 2010, Sony paid the Jackson Estate $250 million, which “guarantees the estate at least $200 million. With 10 albums over seven years, the deal will involve a mix of previously unreleased songs and new packages of familiar ones.” Meaning that we shouldn’t be shocked that this album is coming out, in fact, “the deal should give Mr. Jackson’s heirs plenty of breathing room with respect to the crushing debt load he had built up in his final years. With his album sales dwindling and concert touring ground to a halt, Mr. Jackson borrowed heavily to finance his lavish lifestyle,” the publication added.
This deal, apparently also allows Sony to use his music to promote the company’s new Xperia smartphones, coincidently close in name to the album.
The fact is that Michael Jackson is long gone and as previously stated: we will always want his music. At the same time, we are bound to be disappointed with most new releases because in the end they aren’t coming from the artist himself whose musical journey was marked by perfectionism, as he himself said during the Black and White interview: “I’m never satisfied with anything, if it was for me, no album would ever come out.”
It is my conclusion that the music corporation is of course monetizing of the singer’s legacy, but rightfully so and it’s no secret as they have paid the estate for such rights. In the end, we can only hope that the music giant at least try its best to honor the singer by releasing more of his original/slightly enhanced sounds rather than completely change them.