Michael Jackson's "Xscape", Save yourself!

Post of (very very bad) mood…


That was the day. I was motivated... you'll laugh... to what? to listen to Xscape... Yes, there are things like that, that don't pass easily... You need "moments"... I wanted to discover. It was there, it was the right one, an hour ago... In my living room... Despite the sun, the pool, my son's birthday, the desire to write... All that.... All of a sudden, Xscape came first. You know, it was sincere and positive, open to all possibilities.... I was hoping for some good surprises, not everywhere, but still some…


When I heard "Love Never Felt so Good" it was on the radio, in my car. So, there I was expecting the usual real sound from my speakers, not to mention MJ because, well, Swedien is not at the console, but still...


My God.... Sorry, eh... Considering the vocal tracks which are what they are, that is, unlike some "Michael" tracks, preserved, pretty well, pretty much intact, true to him...

But... you know what? You will laugh (or not) but I promise it's true... I went around the speakers 3 times... I thought they were broken...

I went downstairs, after 3 tracks, to look for other CDs in my car to check if they had taken a blow or not (with the children you never know...) Nope... Phil Spector is back.... The era in less... The innovation and the taste, too.... Do you know the "wall of sound"? The one you get in the face, not "Off the Wall"... in full force, in one go, not brick by brick... What's all this???? I felt like crying... It's saturated everywhere, everything is in one block, when there is no breath behind it... I'm not talking about the arrangements, no. Not yet... I don't even want to talk about it. I'm talking about the sound. Just the sound... This air that vibrates and moves from a living, emotional, even bloody source to a vibrating, living, also sensitive receptacle... I'm sorry, but I can't. I'll force myself, eh, try to get over it... But me, when I listen and listened to Jackson, it was for the sound (not that, certainly, but damn, it was that!!!, the sound!!!). The SOUND... This purity, this transparency, these pearls, this three-dimensional field.

As I once said to Bruce at the back of his couch, you don't make a "wall" of sound (Spector is his friend), you make a sound "space". Yes, as Q says, like a painter, like an architect. I had said to him, and I wrote it, it is published somewhere, for me, he and MJ were ecologists of the sound. Respectful of the nature of each plant... of the soil of each one, of its environment, the quality of its water, of its air, arranging the structures, the contrapuntal lines like the alleys of a garden, taking care and mixing at the same time the colors, the varieties, so that the one protects and/or pollinates the other, naturally, without artifice, without fertilizer... They caressed each leaf, gleaned the earth, flushed it, watched each plant grow, worried about its proper place, its well-being... pruned, like Lenôtre... French style or not... but with class, taste, talent, respect for them and the public... us... the garden visitors...


Well then, here it is... I don't adhere, not at all, to this massive sound, sometimes clustering, sometimes saturating... I like organic, but I know that organic is more expensive than discount. Only Michael is a luxury product. For me, he has nothing to do in this cheap supermarket... No more than one serves a choice dish in the middle of greasy fries...

Even "Invincible" sounds better. Of course Swedien intervened. Certainly, all the tracks are not urban electro... "Chicago"? I expected some subtlety... I thought I was in the mood for a sunset hit, lights on the hoods of sedans... Just missing Justin Bieber... The same salad... Interchangeable. Disappointingly banal. "Slave to the Rhythm"? "Do You Know Where Your Children Are?" Even the Youtube amateur versions are better, more subtle, more balanced, is that normal?

But damn, even "A Place Without no Name" they made a soup of it! You can't tell a bean from a pumpkin, it's fast food! Same color, same texture in the mouth, same non taste... "Blue Gangsta", I had hope on the first measures... It faded away... "Xscape"... No I won't say anything about it, you understood... Everything is of the same order... I'm sorry really... Sorry in every sense of the word.... Sorry for you who are reading this and maybe or maybe not enjoying this record. I kind of envy you. I would like so much to like it...

Sorry for the music, sorry for him, sorry for me because I got nauseous. I really am. Everything is interchangeable... Commercial to death... Big stuff... Low cost... Big money... Yes, we are surfing on the grief, on the legitimate and powerful desire we all can have to hear him, to discover his voice, his unreleased works.... But damn, at what price??? at this one??? I am furious. I'm angry. Dead sad... Once again, I stomped my feet waiting for it to end, track after track...

Oh no, please... Not this... Everything but this... Let's stop, I beg you... Let's sell the demos, let's all put our hands in our pockets to pay the "old-timers" who knew and would know what to do, with dignity... If only I won the lottery. Let's stop promoting new (or not) trendy (or not) producers on this. Let them go after Madonna, Prince, whoever they want. Not MJ. But let's stop shooting at the ambulance!!!!.... The one of grief, of loss... There are times like now, I feel like a Believer.... Damn, if he could come back... If all this was just a huge joke... Don't kid yourself Michael... Your humor yes, but not in this register... that's for sure.... That's why.... I don't believe it. I'm sorry, I was hoping to have some good surprises, to be able to make a paper that is also balanced... to say some positive things.... Because God knows it costs me to write so much darkness...

The previous posthumous Michael was good and bad, according to the tracks... but at least there were corners, cubbyholes where you could fall back, console yourself... There, fortunately, there are demos... For the rest... Sorry...


Definitely, a big part of popular music died on June 25, 2009, and with it a big part of music history. That's how I felt at the dawn of June 26 when I shed my first tears. That's what I feel today, while shedding more tears. I didn't think it was possible to continue to massacre a body that was supposed to live by its music. For me, these "musical" sounds are to Michael Jackson what Monsanto is to Ducasse and Loiseau, and what Rondo Veneziano is to Mozart and Beethoven.

At a time of "meat preparations" in hamburgers, of horse in lasagna, of generics in pharmacies, what could be more "in the wind" than this type of production... Ah, if it was about soccer, we would talk about ethics, yes... not about "The Feet" to get into the OM or "Foot Academy" to run the world championships... What a scandal that would be, my friends... But for the music... This so superficial "activity" of extracurricular club and hobby in the common transport, common traffic jams, common elevators, common supermarket aisles, music shows by the mile bellowed to the one who will put the loudest.... Phew!...


Sorry for this decidedly scathing post, but it's taken on by my bleeding ears and all the musical values I've always believed in and which - in my opinion - have made Michael Jackson what he is, what he has put into his work, what makes him so special. This is not a case of perfectionism to the extreme. No. But just, barely, in the right direction... I'm sorry again for this email. But it was a medical emergency. Vital. Mood at half-mast... Stomach in knots... Ball in the throat...


(The next day...)

Escape? at least the title is appropriate... I tried again this morning in the cool of the day, to listen... I promise... I said to myself that it was not possible, that I had perhaps been a little fast... But no... I thought again while listening... This wall behind him... It seems to me that he is cornered there. That at any moment, the scenery will fall on him. Heavy, fragile... Out of proportion... Badly tied. We see the wires, the tapes, the connections... We hear, at least...

I was thinking again.... The microphone... This faithful ally, this friend of the shade, invisible... Accomplice of the vocal intimacy which unites the singer to his listener... Which does not disturb, which is forgotten, which fades away in front of the voice, withdraws on the point of the ribbon or the reel, with good taste and natural respect, leaving alone the voice and the loving ear, the curious ear... That erases the temporal border, the mileage distance... That makes us forget the rest, that we believe we are two, the voice and us... Important... Fundamental... in the history of sound... the technique of close-miking, as they say... initiated with Bing Cosby... Massenburg's transparency... Roland Barthes's vocal grain... Bah... Microphone so fundamental, shining through its virtual absence, in the intimate relationship that necessarily attaches two humans.... In the very substance of the emotion carried by this voice and transmitted to the other, shared, entrusted, without detectable and parasite intermediary...


The music... Let's talk about it... It has always been for this voice like a festive costume, the icing on the cake. A ceremonial outfit. Made to measure... An added value. The counterpart to Michael photographed in the garb of a king, an emperor, a reborn prince... A plus, an embellishment... Which we could certainly do without, as his voice says it all. So much he is as well in jeans and tank top. But here is... An added value. Everything is there. Not a scuba diver, not a chain mail. Not a cumbersome intermediary, which hides the subject, crushes it...

Never in his albums did I feel like asking the music to shut up and let him speak. The music, with Michael Jackson, has this particularity to function in an exchange... Music, sounds, instruments, timbres answer, support, share permanently with him. Each sound is in balance with this voice which itself becomes an instrument, a timbre, an alter-ego sometimes with the percussions, sometimes with the flute, with the distorted and trashy grain of Slash's guitar... It is a whole. A theater scene, with characters who interact within a three-dimensional decor, a cathedral of spatialized sounds that respond to each other, balancing each other with the work. A sound work. Where everything is thought out, without "too much" or "not enough", without overzealousness or, conversely, castrating and sterilizing timidity. Here, the problem is that the music is made for itself. Not with him. There is no interaction. Of necessity... No orchestral work, between him and them. Each one spreads his own thing, as if to justify himself, to congratulate himself for being there to play his music. And so much the worse for the rest.

Michael is all alone. He sings with his back to the wall. Yes, a wall. Vertical, in one block. Without depth, without sound spatialization. Something flat, linear, rough. That he does not control and for good reason... A veneer on the one hand. Without the subtlety that characterizes the signature "Michael Jackson", on the other hand. That's why I don't adhere to the concept of the new album "of" Michael Jackson. It's three times, one hundred times not him, but of course, for the rights... What is the weight of the ethics, of the art, in front of the greenback...


So yes, I've always said it's like that. The Michael Jackson era is over, nothing can be expected from it (except the demos, and even then, what would he have said...), nothing that resembles what defined the sound, the Jackson music. The only thing is, if it's going to hurt like that, to be reminded of it every time you play it again... It's like, every time, having to see your coffin again, open or closed, being violently reminded that it's there, that it's over. Last option... maybe if I listen to this music in the background, while doing something else, it will pass... But is this what an opus published under Michael's name deserves... Is this what his voice deserves? I think I'll stick to the demos. Waiting for other people who really have interesting things to stop waiting for opportunities by sitting on their trunk…



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