Wednesday, October 31, 2001 Volume 67, Issue 50


 
 









 
Jackson's 'dangerous' 'history' doesn't leave 'bad' mark on 'invincibility'

By Jason Caesar Consolacion
Contributing Writer

Michael Jackson seems to have mastered the art of re-creating himself, both physically and musically.


Kevin Mazur/Epic Records

The self-proclaimed "King of Pop," Michael Jackson, performs one of his signature dance moves at the benefit show "United We Stand -- What
More Can I Give" on Oct. 21.


On his first album in six years, the self-proclaimed King of Pop has done just that, recording a CD that not only re-establishes his reign as the
greatest pop artist since the early 1980s but also introduces his music to a brand-new generation of fans.

Invincible contains 16 new songs. All but one are written or co-written by Jackson, and six are co-produced by Darkchild Entertainment's Rodney
Jerkins.

The first single off the album, the Jerkins-produced "You Rock My World," has already received major airplay on radio, and the video has garnered
a healthy share of requests on MTV's Total Request Live.

Jackson's long hiatus was due to a combination of things -- the birth of his two children and various legal issues being the most popular ones.

But perhaps the best reason for his absence from the music world was timing, and what better time for Jackson to return then now, when pop
sensations rule the charts?

Returning with a bang has always been Jackson's style. After all, he is the artist who recorded the most successful pop album of all time with 1982's
Thriller.

Its follow-up, 1987's Bad, was the most anticipated album of the decade.

In 1991, Jackson accompanied the release of his fourth album, Dangerous, with the world premiere of a 13-minute video for the single "Black or
White" that was simultaneously broadcast on no less than five separate television stations. Finally, in 1995, the artist released a double album
entitled HIStory, which contained a CD of greatest hits and a separate CD of new material.

Invincible arrives at the shelves with a little less bang, but the same anticipation. The star is now 43 years old, and the question has been brought
forth: Can Michael Jackson adjust, and fit in, with the music of today? No one is expecting him to re-create an album as solid as 1978's Off The
Wall or as groundbreaking as Thriller, but can the King of Pop hold his own alongside today's pop, hip-hop, r&b, rock and rap?

The answer is yes.

Invincible is Jackson's greatest achievement since Thriller. Working with producers Jerkins, Teddy Riley, R. Kelly, Babyface and Andre Harris,
Jackson has recorded a very good album. It's not as great as Off The Wall or as solid as Bad, but it is definitely Jackson's best post-Quincy Jones
record.

Jackson recorded his first three albums with Jones, but after turning to other producers such as Riley, Glen Ballard, and the team of Jimmy Jam and
Terry Lewis, he never really matched the magic of Jones' touch.

Finally, the combination of Jackson's songwriting and the production team he has chosen to include on Invincible has produced a product that far
surpasses the work on Dangerous and HIStory.

The new album opens with a hard-hitting pop cut called "Unbreakable." Complete with striking keyboard licks and Jackson's signature vocals, the
track lets the listener know right away that the phenomenon of Michael Jackson is back. There is also a sound bite featuring the late Notorious
B.I.G. on a rap solo.

The title track is catchy and includes Darkchild rap artist Fats. The chorus is laced with an infectious pop melody, and the track is sure to make a
solid single off the album. Also, "Break of Dawn," "You Rock My World" and "Butterflies" are strong tracks, containing danceable beats, clever
harmonies and great instrumentation.

Invincible's true strength, however, lies in three of the album's ballads. The first is "Heaven Can Wait," a sweet love song co-written by Jackson and
produced by Riley. Featuring a sexy r&b feel reminiscent of the work Riley has done with Jackson's sister Janet, "Heaven Can Wait" is unlike
anything Jackson has done before.

Babyface co-writes, plays guitar and sings background vocals on the ballad "You Are My Life." Not very lyrically impressive, the ballad relies on
Jackson's unique style of singing, especially near the song's end when the King of Pop takes off on his trademark ad-libs.

Finally, "Don't Walk Away," another Riley production, is reminiscent of HIStory's "You Are Not Alone." It's a great pop ballad and would make for a
great single off the album.

Ironically, the writer of "You Are Not Alone," R. Kelly, makes a lackluster contribution to Invincible with the inspirational song "Cry." The song
attempts to mimic the classic Jackson track "Man in the Mirror," but doesn't really get to that point.

Perhaps the biggest weaknesses of Invincible, which keep it from actually being better than Jackson's earlier material, are its longevity and the
inclusion of unnecessary tracks.

With 16 songs, it is Jackson's longest album -- close to 80 minutes in length. Jackson's best albums never included more than 11 tracks. The
infamous Thriller contained only nine songs, while Dangerous featured 14 songs and HIStory included 15 cuts on its CD of new material.

It is more than clear that today's consumer has a very short attention span. Furthermore, artists continue to take advantage of the technology of the
compact disc; the industry has made it a point to fit as much as possible onto one album.

This is what has kept today's artists from producing the next classic album, like The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper, The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds or even
Jackson's Thriller. Overloading an album has proved to be too much -- more quantity, less quality. Artists like U2, Lauryn Hill, Dave Matthews Band
and Lenny Kravitz understand this. Their albums are short and sweet, lasting just long enough to make the listener want more.

Invincible drags, especially with songs like "Cry," "The Lost Children," "Whatever Happens" and "Threatened," which are actually the last four
songs on the album. Sadly enough, Jackson's extraneous material keeps the album from soaring as a classic record, but with 12 solid tracks, it's the
best comeback material someone of Jackson's stature could have come up with.

So attention all boy bands and pop starlets, please kneel before your king. He may be the self-proclaimed King of Pop, but Jackson sure lives up to
his own label. It's official: Michael Jackson is back.

Invincible

Michael Jackson

*** 1/2 (out of five stars)

Sony/Epic Records
 
 
 
 
 

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