XSCAPE is a collection of discarded Michael Jackson tracks that never made the cut. There’s an immediate moral dilemma with an album like this. Would Michael really have wanted these tracks to be sieved out of the wastebin and served to the public? Isn’t there a reason why unreleased tracks go unreleased?
Most likely, this is not a caring final tribute to the King of Pop, but yet another chance for record companies, producers and other musical parasites to make money off his corpse. With this in mind, it’s easy to go into XSCAPE eagerly expecting to hate it. That’s kind of what I did.
Unless MJ comes back from the grave, we'll never know whether or not he'd be happy with this release (HANG ON A MOMENT! MICHAEL JACKSON? DEAD??? WHY WASN'T IT IN THE NEWS?????? #jk)
On the surface, it’s easy to see why some of the material on this record wasn’t deemed fit for public consumption. Given MJ’s past, a track entitled ‘Do you know where your children are’ might not have gone down all too well were it released whilst he was alive. The track ‘A Place with no Name’ meanwhile – a bizarre mutated version of America’s ‘A Horse with No Name’ with equally poor lyrics – simply lacks the novelty that we associate with MJ.
Saying that, I did enjoy this album overall and whilst some tracks don’t quite hit the mark, others remind me of just how bloody fantastic a vocal performer Michael was and what a shame it is that he’s no longer with us. Alternating between his soft whimper and snappy shouted delivery, each track showcases the fact that Michael never held back, that he put every bit of his heart and vocal ability into each song, even the ones that were never meant to be released.
Beefed up with 2014 production and 808 trap drums, the album does feel current although at times, to quote Richard Suchet from Sky news, the tracks do ‘sound like modern day remixes’ rather than actual MJ songs. Original versions of each track can be found on the deluxe version of this record, some of which sound instrumentally better, others of which sound instrumentally worse. In both cases, ‘Loving You’ succeeds at wowing. Take or leave ‘Slave to the Rhythm’ – it sounds like Enrique Iglesias wrote it, the modern version sporting k-pop synths, the original simply bland.