Michael Jackson's "Xscape"

Updated: Sep 19, 2021

Michael Jackson, The truth about these posthumous editions?


@ Mr Brainwash, Xscape, digital art work

Which truth(s)?

Because it seems to me, from the outset, that it is in the plural that the thing should be conjugated... His "truths"? His "truths"? Which are more "realities" than anything else...

If it were necessary to announce a general, incontestable Reality, this one would consist in saying that these demos, whatever they are, he chose not to

edit them. This is a fact. Indisputable. A historical truth as we call it.

This Reality could then be declined in two realities…

1) Michael Jackson the artist, the creative... The one who, eternally dissatisfied, perfectionist with a demanding ear, chose not to publish because there were (often many) other first choices, more satisfying and efficient

2) That of Michael Jackson the businessman, who left for his posterity financial publishing opportunities in safes, to allow him to ensure a certain pecuniary survival.

Another (sub)reality, more subtle, would be in the definition of studio work, team work, sharing, emulation of talents and skills (when intellectual and financial conditions allow it - which is far from being a general truth - but it was, nobody doubts it, in his case). This reality would consist in admitting that he always opened his door to new talents, let his creations bloom in the fertile grounds of those (producers, arrangers, musicians) whom they joined and from whom he had the art to sense and extract the creative nectars most necessary to the refinement of his work and his ideas.

So I believe that there are these facts, on the one hand.

And I think the rest is just sharing, important and necessary of course, of personal views, opinions and tastes.

What Michael Jackson would have done with these demos (he didn't do anything with them, let's remember) will never be what we hear, no matter how coherent, pleasant or, on the contrary, irritating and off-putting the proposed result is.

Because there is another reality, and I would like to say that today there is only this one, it is the one of the "necessity" and of the commercial "reality" - without questioning the respect or the "fidelity" that some producers have tried to put into practice.

Business is business. Everybody wants to taste his voice again, and for a long time... The publishing conditions are today more than ever to his creative subtlety what fashion is to the beauty of an aesthete's body: accessory... of good taste or bad... an enhancement or a banality sometimes even, at worst, distressing...

I heard this morning unfortunatly in my car (unfortunatly because I'm still waiting to have the right support and the right tools to listen to music in an optimal way) "Love Never Felt So Good"...

I have the mistake of having my ear hooked on the demo.

But the arrangements are nice, the string counterpoints well chiseled, with a counterpoint that gives a nice, toned melodic-rhythmic change to his voice. The drums are not overwhelming. This is good disco music...

My personal opinion (that's all) is to have only a few regrets (a few because in the end it's not so much as on other occasions. . .) :

_ his voice is smothered in the sound architecture, crushed, breaking the subtle intimacy that the dosages of yesteryear knew how to keep it. Because it is not enough to keep his vocal backgrounds and his percussions, noises and body impacts in the sound field to create a subtle closeness with the listener... And there, everything is there, but put in mass and thus we lose in precision, in finesse. One clearly feels that the music is an addition. The game of vocal interweaving that he knew so well how to create and lead with the instruments, obviously, is not there...

_ obviously again, with a disco aesthetic like this, I immediately think of Off the Wall... anachronism... it made me smile... but that's okay... the music is good, overall...

_ and of course always, when thinking Off the Wall, I expect a "sound" Off the Wall....Follow my eyes ..or rather my ear... And there... The meticulously carved goldsmith architecture looks like a box of semi-precious stones that would not have finished being cut.

As for the string bridge that spreads and modulates a bit sadly in the last part (I'll avoid too technical terms so as not to bore), it made me think of what Bill Bottrell once told me: "the problem with working with Michael is that you tend, after a while, to want to do too much, you want to show him that you're up to it, and so, if you're not careful, you'd almost end up distorting the original ideas, when you should just keep it simple, be yourself, without surfing." That's it...

I didn't rush into leaks because it's not my style, for the reasons mentioned above and because I like to listen to things when I'm ready to do so and when I decide to... so I don't have anything else to add...

I would say finally that this first track, with Michael's respected voice, made me think that the fans' exasperation about the previous posthumous album was heard. And that a certain awareness of the need not to make people take bladders for lanterns has, a priori, taken place...

As a matter of fact, one should never despair, exchanges are still possible, upstream as well as downstream... To be continued, perhaps.


Post-Scriptum....

It is clear that one is not obliged to be offended by the fact that money is made with all this, and to console oneself by saying that a part (too small) benefits Michael's children.

The record industry, as its name indicates, is, since the beginning of the 20th century and especially since the 1930s, an industry [Let's not be mistaken, the record crisis for which the artists fought in the early 2000s, on the background of illegal downloading, was not aimed at bringing back the wallet of those who we believe, which was worth to many of these artists, once they understood that they were taken for marbles, to retract].

Anyway... Michael defined himself as a businessman, and, according to many, he was rather formidable in this field.

Yet so... At the same time, I think we should always be offended by people making money on the backs of others, especially when we see how the dividends are distributed in this field, between the artist and/or the composer/songwriter, the musicians (who only share 12% of the turnover) and all the pie necks or wrinkled shirts around (who share the rest) and, at the same time, I'm just stating a fact, a truism, with no offence taken, since it's part of the "game". But it is important to keep this point in mind. Because art, in all this... unfortunately... as a program says: "no need to dream"...

Still, we live in a somewhat artificial world, or, at least, unnatural, which consists in labelling under the name of Michael Jackson productions that he did not validate. Should we be offended by this?

To make a slightly caricatured comparison, a big time gap, but not that big in terms of talent (and character)... I often think of Mozart's time. I often think, to be precise, of the emblematic example of Mozart's Requiem. Mozart's Requiem, which just about everyone knows or has heard (and which Michael liked very much and on which he even did a moonwalk... I would have paid a lot of money to see that!!), this Requiem is well identified as such. However, about 25% were written by Mozart's hand, because he died before finishing, and the rest were finished by two of his students. Yes, but....For most ears, it sounds like Mozart. It is important to know that not everything is his... and it is even difficult to guess what he would have really written, in the blanks that were filled in by other hands. Should we be offended by this?

But it is also important to know that his students knew very well the Mozartian writing, his way of structuring the phrases, the carrures, the inflections and modulations, all this writing, very stereotyped, of the classicism (that Mozart, following the example of Michael for the pop, canonized, by adding his touch of inimitable genius to it).what has value, in the music known as classical, or the great music, since the Renaissance and especially the Baroque time, it is the score. When one plays Mozart and all this repertoire today, it is the respect of the score that is important. Whoever makes a false accent, a counter nuance, is struck off the list of good musicians. This is a crime of lèse-majesté. One does not trample the score, one does not outrage. Certainly, a certain amount of interpretation is tolerated, because we have no recordings of Mozart, to know how he would have played. But one must not border on the limits and be educated enough not to play Mozart as one plays Haydn or Beethoven. Everything is pretty much set in stone.

So, precisely... Today, what is a pop music score (or a rock or funk score) if not... a recording. We are in the era of "sound". The Rolling Stones "sound", the Beatles sound, the Hendrix sound, the Supertramp sound, the Peter Gabriel sound... The sound is the identity. The reference point that freezes and fixes, in our time, the work. The "sound" Jackson is the "sound-Jackson". A whole. And even if, for some, this sound is emblematic of a single album (Thriller or Bad or others) or of a studio team (Swedien-Jones vs. Riley or Bottrell), this sound remains marked by the seal and the living and evolving identity of Michael Jackson (Mozart didn't compose at 12 or 18 like he did at 34). But a "sound" and an "identity" somewhat fused, heard and validated by him.

For my part, I find a very positive point in this new edition. It is the addition of the demos to the worked versions. Everyone is free to listen and choose what he likes, according to the wind, free to those who wish to imagine, starting from the demos only, unpolished diamonds, the field of the vast Jacksonian possibilities, and not to lock their imagination in a single final version which, as interesting as it may be, has nothing "official".

Having had the chance to hear a demo - a first draft of the song "Off the Wall" recorded by Michael with bass, piano, drums, and guitar, if memory serves, in an excellent jazz version far from the final version of the album - I am also fully aware of the path that Michael can take from an excellent or even deliriously interesting demo (one could directly make a "masterpiece" out of this one demo) to an extraordinary final disco-rock version. Two lives. Thousands of possible lives. Which abounded in his head and in that of his teams.

To give life, it is necessary to be several. To give life to "sound" Michael Jackson, you need Michael Jackson. At all stages of the process, because he didn't leave after the laying of the eggs to come back and pick up the chick when it hatched. To have the choice. It is very good, beyond the lucrative considerations, that Michael's music lives, that it lives again. Whether it is adapted to jazz, samba, calypso, traditional African music, polyphonic a cappella, heavy metal, whatever... Music, like all fields of creation, is an open field, non-discriminatory...

The music must live, be restored with fidelity, be reinterpreted, be caricatured with humor even, but that one announces the color. Let us know what we are talking about...

The name of Michael Jackson is, certainly, labelled. Carrier...

But, are we talking about the music "of" Michael Jackson, or about music "in memory" and/or "in the spirit" of Michael Jackson? The question is there, it seems to me, and all the ambiguity of the debates.

Many have found "Immortal" to be respectful and interesting. But "Immortal" is based on a well-founded and coherent artistic project, independent and parallel, which is perhaps what is missing here, in the way the Jacksonian legacy is delivered. In the communication, in the definition of the relay that is passed, between the productions that he validated and those that are signed in his place or, in any case, in his name, and that, presented as such, will provoke eternal discussions.

As I have often said, it seems to me that we are the still shocked and regularly shaken witnesses of an ambiguous, ambivalent, artificial, or in any case, unnatural era, an era where, by the force of things, we find ourselves sitting on two chairs at the same time...

And it is difficult...

difficult not to sit...

difficult to choose your chair...

difficult, while sitting, not to end up hurting somewhere rather quickly…


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