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Thriller from beyond grave: new Jackson songs wow critics

  • This CD cover image released by Epic shows "Xscape," a release by Michael Jackson. (AP Photo/Epic)

LOS ANGELES: Self-styled King of Pop Michael Jackson returns from the grave again this week with a second posthumous album of songs recorded before his death in 2009.

"Xscape" goes on sale in the United States Tuesday, after being released in various European countries at the weekend and on Monday.

Critics have already hailed "Xscape" a clear improvement on 2010's "Michael," the first album released after Jackson died of a drug overdose at age 50, as part of a multi-record deal with label giant Sony.

"From the first, there was the voice .....Nearly five years after his death, that voice remains, and is at its most powerful on the new album," wrote the LA Times' reviewer.

'Dance floor defibrillators'

The new album "feels shockingly vital, as though the producers charged with re-imagining this work had harnessed dance floor defibrillators," he wrote.

Ironically, the new album's songs include one about child sex abuse, the issue which helped bring down the self-styled King of Pop, despite being acquitted of sexual molestation charges in 2005.

The singer's executors have worked hard to pay off the enormous debts left by the fallen star, with key projects including the "This is It" film of rehearsals for the doomed world tour he was planning before he died in 2009.

"Michael" has sold a relatively modest 540,000 copies, according to Billboard magazine, which noted that Jackson's overall record sales were less than both Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash last year.

"Xscape" comprises eight songs chosen from the vast catalogue which Jackson worked on over four decades but which did not make it into any of his iconic albums like 1982's "Thriller" or 1987's "Bad."

The songs are based on original vocals by Jackson, who often made multiple recordings of tunes he was working on, but with music "contemporized" by producers for a modern audience.

Child sex abuse song

While fans will have to wait until next week to hear all the songs, the titles have been released. They include "Xscape," first produced 15 years ago, and "Do You Know Where Your Children Are."

The song is about "kids being raised in a broken family where the father comes home drunk and the mother is out prostituting and the kids run away from home and they become the victims," according to the liner notes.

US rapper Timbaland, the executive producer on "Xscape," said they were keenly aware of the need for the new Jackson record to stand up against the best that current pop music has to offer.

"How would I hear this on the radio against Katy Perry? Would it sound old, would it sound new?" asked the producer, who works closely with Justin Timberlake and Beyonce.

He "had to make sure that it can compete with everything that is going on today in the pop world," Timbaland told Billboard.

 
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Summary

Self-styled King of Pop Michael Jackson returns from the grave again this week with a second posthumous album of songs recorded before his death in 2009 .

"Michael" has sold a relatively modest 540,000 copies, according to Billboard magazine, which noted that Jackson's overall record sales were less than both Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash last year.

"Xscape" comprises eight songs chosen from the vast catalogue which Jackson worked on over four decades but which did not make it into any of his iconic albums like 1982's "Thriller" or 1987's "Bad".

US rapper Timbaland, the executive producer on "Xscape," said they were keenly aware of the need for the new Jackson record to stand up against the best that current pop music has to offer.


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