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    New music Dec. 16, 2010: Michael Jackson, R. Kelly, Ryan Adams and the Cardinals, Duffy

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    starfish

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    New music Dec. 16, 2010: Michael Jackson, R. Kelly, Ryan Adams and the Cardinals, Duffy

    Post  starfish on Wed Dec 15, 2010 12:12 pm

    New music Dec. 16, 2010: Michael Jackson, R. Kelly, Ryan Adams and the Cardinals, Duffy

    Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/music+2010+Michael+Jackson+Kelly+Ryan+Adams+Cardinals+Duffy/3982575/story.html#ixzz18DH9wKWt

    MONTREAL - Michael Jackson's new album, Michael, leads the pack of new releases reviewed this week by Gazette critics.

    Michael Jackson

    Michael

    Epic/Sony

    There is little that’s more cringe-inducing than the posthumous release. When that release is by an artist as great, troubled and tragic as Michael Jackson, the cringe factor increases tenfold.

    So it’s no small feat that this first full-length album of original material since MJ’s death is even listenable. It doesn’t help shake the feeling you’re standing around gawking at the scene of a car accident – which is diametrically opposed to the feel-good nature of pop music – but it does make this release ever so slightly more palatable.

    Jackson’s posthumous concert film This Is It also pulled off the unlikely feat of avoiding bad taste while revealing glimpses of the singer’s genius, even in his fragile state. This is different; without the visuals, and with an array of producers putting their stamp on the album (and adding an arsenal of bells and whistles to every track), it’s often tough to tell where Jackson’s input ends and that of the hired hands begins.

    There is weight to the argument that the perfectionist King of Pop would not have wanted an album released without having the final say. And since he couldn’t, this can’t really be considered a Jackson album.

    But for what it is – a bunch of new-school producers and fading (or faded) guest musicians jamming with a departed icon – it’s not so bad.

    Opener Hold My Hand is a bumpin’, feel-good ballad with Akon that has “radio hit” written all over it. It also bears the oh-so-poignant opening line: “This life don’t last forever / so tell me what we’re waiting for.”

    Hollywood Tonight, next, finds Jackson beat-boxing over a funky Teddy Riley beat. The song actually taps into some of the singer’s old dance-floor sass. Keep Your Head Up is a syrupy ballad about persevering in hard times, told to a Tricky Stewart beat.

    (I Like) The Way You Love Me captures Jackson’s flair for a breezy melody. But Monster, featuring the redundant 50 Cent, is an ill-fated attempt to recapture Thriller glories of yore.

    Jackson’s quivering voice on the acoustic ballad Best of Joy is rather eerie. Intended to be youthful and innocent, it becomes too loaded in the face of the grim reality of his passing.

    “I am forever,” he sings. Well, no, Mike, actually you’re not.

    The theme repeats on Breaking News, another boogie-down drama on which his processed vocals become almost unrecognizable. The media-questioning lyrics (“Everybody wantin’ a piece of Michael Jackson”) have resonance, but are too morbid considering they’re being sung from the grave.

    Lenny Kravitz stops in for the overproduced bluesy rocker Another Day. But the best moment comes with the late-album disco-funk jam Behind the Mask, on which producer John McClain manages to achieve real synergy between Jackson’s voice and his beat. It’s a passionate soul shakedown that never lets up, and it’s exhilarating.

    Such moments of release are few and far between, but there are a couple. The rest of the time, well, it’s not nearly as bad as it could have been — which makes it almost pretty good.



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