Michael (album)

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Michael
Compilation album by Michael Jackson
Released December 10, 2010 (2010-12-10)
Recorded 1982–2010
Genre
Length 42:13
Label
Producer
Michael Jackson chronology
Michael Jackson's This Is It
(2009)
Michael
(2010)
Immortal
(2011)
Singles from Michael
  1. "Hold My Hand"
    Released: November 15, 2010 (2010-11-15)
  2. "Hollywood Tonight"
    Released: February 11, 2011 (2011-02-11)
  3. "Behind the Mask"
    Released: February 21, 2011 (2011-02-21)
  4. "(I Like) The Way You Love Me"
    Released: July 8, 2011 (2011-07-08)

Michael is the first posthumous compilation album of previously unreleased tracks by American recording artist Michael Jackson.[1][2] It was released on December 10, 2010 by Epic Records and Sony Music Entertainment.[3] Michael was the first release of all new Michael Jackson material in nine years since Invincible in 2001. Production of the album was handled by several producers such as Michael Jackson, Teddy Riley, Theron "Neff-U" Feemster, C. "Tricky" Stewart, Eddie Cascio, among others and features guest performances by Akon, 50 Cent and Lenny Kravitz. Michael is the seventh Jackson album to be released by Sony and Motown/Universal since Michael Jackson's death in June 2009.

The album produced four singles: "Hold My Hand", released on November 15, 2010, which reached number 39 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart, "Hollywood Tonight", released on February 11, 2011, and "Behind the Mask" released on February 21, 2011.[4][5] The music video for "Hold My Hand" was directed by Mark Pellington, and had its worldwide debut on December 9, 2010.[6] The music video for "Hollywood Tonight" was directed by Wayne Isham, who also directed the video for Michael Jackson's "You Are Not Alone" in 1995 at one of the very same locations where he filmed it—the Pantages Theatre near the famed corner of Hollywood and Vine. The video had its worldwide debut on March 10, 2011.[7] "(I Like) The Way You Love Me" released in South Korea as a digital single on January 18, 2011,[8] and released in Italian[9] and Chinese[10] radio stations in July 2011.

On Friday, December 10, 2010, a 29,070-square-foot (2,701 m2) poster depicting the Michael album artwork was also erected at the Rectory Farm in Middlesex, England, which broke a Guinness World Record for the largest poster in the world.[11]

Background[edit]

Officially announced on November 12, 2010, the album features 10 tracks.[12] "Breaking News" was the first song from the album to be released to the public and was available for radio airplay. According to Sony, the song was recorded in the Cascios' home studio in New Jersey in 2007 and was "recently brought to completion."[5][12] Along with two other songs, "Keep Your Head Up" and "Monster", these three tracks are credited to Jackson, Eddie Cascio, and James Porte. In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, the Cascios said that in 2007 Jackson lived in their home and recorded the three songs in their basement studio. They also said that Jackson considered them to be a second family. Other tracks were recorded at studios in Las Vegas and Los Angeles with various unidentified collaborators. In the years prior to his death, Jackson was reported to be working with contemporary hitmakers such as singer-songwriter Akon and producer RedOne.[13] The first official single, "Hold My Hand", is a duet with Akon recorded in Las Vegas in 2008.[14] Co-writer Claude Kelly told HitQuarters that it was the song's theme of friendship and togetherness that had struck a chord with Jackson.[14] A handwritten note from Michael belonging to his Estate indicated his desire that "Hold My Hand" be the first single on his next project. However, in its unfinished state, the song leaked out in July 2008.[3] Before the release, Akon stated that the final version would have more of Jackson's vocals. The song was released globally on Monday, November 15 at 12:01am EST.[4][15]

Composition[edit]

Michael is composed of R&B, pop, soul and rock songs. Eight out of the album's ten tracks were written by Michael Jackson. The album's full length is 42 minutes 13 seconds and it contains 10 songs. Michael opens with "Hold My Hand", the first line in the first verse recites the lyrics "This life don't last forever", and ends with "Much Too Soon", the last line in the last verse recites the lyrics "I guess I learned my lesson much too soon". The majority of the songs on the album are songs that were written and recorded or reworked from 2007 to 2009. The album contains two songs that were written during the Thriller era, "Behind the Mask"[16] and "Much Too Soon".[17] The song "(I Like) The Way You Love Me" previously appeared on The Ultimate Collection (2004) with the title "The Way You Love Me" as an unreleased track. For Michael, the song has been re-arranged and more vocals have been added.[18] The song "Best of Joy" is one of the last that Michael recorded during his lifetime, having written and recorded it in 2009, the year of his death.[19][20]

Album cover[edit]

The album cover artwork, a 2009 commissioned oil painting by African American artist Kadir Nelson, features two cherubs placing a crown on Jackson's head against a mural depicting the images of the singer at different stages in his career.[5] Nelson said that Jackson approached him several years ago to create a project detailing his life and career. The project stalled, but was revived in 2009 by one of the estate's executors, John McClain,[13] who has worked with Michael's sister Janet during her time at A&M. "Michael wears a golden suit of armor and stares at the viewer as he is crowned by cupids," Nelson said. "He places his hand over his heart and looks directly at the viewer, a symbol of Jackson's big heart and strong connection to his fans and music. A monarch butterfly sits on his shoulder, another symbol of Jackson's metamorphosis as a singer and entertainer, as well as a symbol of royalty. His musical history unfolds behind him."[13][21] The original Sony publicity release of the album cover featured the Prince symbol in a bubble next to the tiger's head. This sparked discussion on the internet as to whether Prince was involved on any of the new songs. The official response from Prince's camp was "No permission was granted"[22] and the symbol has since been removed from the cover on all official Sony websites.[22]

Promotion and singles[edit]

"Breaking News" was the first song from the album to be unveiled. On November 5, a video teaser for the song was released on Jackson's official website. It opens with a montage of various television journalists reporting breaking news about Jackson, followed by the musical introduction of a song.[23] The video refers to the tabloid stories and legal troubles that plagued Jackson in the years leading up to his death.[24] On November 8, 2010, the full length version of the song was released,[25] and made available on MichaelJackson.com for one week.[5] The album's first single, "Hold My Hand", was released on November 15, 2010.[4][5] The filming for the official video of "Hold My Hand" began on Saturday, November 20 in Tustin, California. There was a casting call posted up on Jackson's official website, saying that they were "looking for his fans of all ages who want to be a part of this iconic event."[26] On November 30, 2010, the final version of "Much Too Soon" was unveiled and announced that it would play on iTunes Ping for one week.[27] On December 3, 2010, talk show host and comedian Ellen DeGeneres premiered the song "Hollywood Tonight" on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.[28] On December 6, 2010, talk show host Oprah Winfrey premiered songs "Keep Your Head Up", and "Monster" during her talk show.[29] On December 7, 2010, the final version of "(I Can't Make It) Another Day" was unveiled on iTunes Ping for one week.[30]

On December 8, 2010, the entire Michael album was released on Jackson's official website for preview.[31] Sony Music had a listening party for the album at Roseland Ballroom on December 13.[32] On Friday, December 10, 2010, a 29,070-square-foot (2,701 m2) poster depicting the Michael album artwork was erected at the Rectory Farm in Middlesex, which broke a Guinness world record for the largest poster in the world, making it the 4th record Michael Jackson made in the Guinness Book of World Records, and the first record he broke posthumously. The poster, made of PVC and weighing one ton, took engineers three hours to install and is less than 3,000 meters from one of Heathrow airport's main runways, literally viewable by all planes arriving and departing. The poster stayed at that location until 23 December 2010, after which, it traveled via sea-container into continental Europe where it was toured and displayed.[11]

"Hollywood Tonight" was the second official single,[33] which was released in Italy on February 11, 2011,[34] and in Poland on February 14, 2011.[35] "Behind the Mask", the third single in this album, was released in France on February 21, 2011.[36] In a later announcement from Jackson' official website, "Behind the Mask" will be released as the radio single in countries including the United States, Canada, Japan and France. "Hollywood Tonight" will be the single released to radio in the rest of the world.[37] But actually, the song was released to US urban and urban AC radio stations on April 5, 2011.[38] "(I Like) The Way You Love Me", the fourth and final single released in South Korea as a digital single on January 18, 2011, and formally released in Italian[9] and Chinese[10] radio stations in July 2011.

Controversy[edit]

Cascio Tracks[edit]

The authenticity of "Breaking News", "Keep Your Head Up", and "Monster", colloquially known as the Cascio tracks, has been an ongoing controversy among fans of Jackson. The three tracks, along with nine other unreleased songs, are attributed to Jackson, Eddie Cascio and James Porte and were recorded in the Cascios' basement in 2007.[39][40] Doubts over whether the vocals were actually by Jackson have been raised, reportedly by Katherine Jackson and Jackson's two eldest children Prince and Paris,[41] as well as Jackson's sister La Toya,[42] his nephews T.J., Taj, and Taryll,[43] will.i.am,[44] and many of his fans.[45] His brother Randy Jackson posted a series of messages about the album on his Twitter account stating that family members were not allowed at his studio where the album was being completed.[46] According to Randy, when engineer Teddy Riley played him some of the tracks, "I immediately said it wasn't his voice".[46] In a statement before the premiere of "Breaking News," Sony Music Group countered that it had "complete confidence in the results of our extensive research, as well as the accounts of those who were in the studio with Michael, that the vocals on the new album are his own".[47] Producer Teddy Riley, Frank DiLeo and Jackson's estate have since defended Sony's claims that the song is authentic.[48] On December 6, 2010, the Cascio family appeared on Oprah, where Eddie Cascio insisted the songs were sung by Jackson, and showed the studio where he had recorded the songs. Teddy Riley, who had worked on two of the Cascio tracks, "Monster" and "Breaking News", said that he had to do "more processing to the voice, which is why people were asking about the authenticity of his voice".[49] Riley also said that "With the Melodyne we actually move the stuff up which is the reason why some of the vibrato sounds a little off or processed, over-processed. We truly apologize for that happening, but you are still hearing the true Michael Jackson".[49]

Many of the fans who have questioned the authenticity of the Cascio tracks have suggested that Jason Malachi, an Italian-American R&B singer based in Maryland, is the possible vocalist on the Cascio tracks. However, the Jackson Estate has said that he was not involved in the recording of the Cascio tracks.[48] On January 16, 2011 a statement appeared on Malachi's Facebook page noting he was the vocalist of the songs in question, calling it his "confession".[50] He later said on MySpace that his Facebook and official website were hacked. Malachi's manager Thad Nauden later that day told TMZ saying that "someone created a phony Facebook page in Jason's name. Jason wants everyone to know beyond a shadow of a doubt, he did not sing a single note on the album".[51]

Dave Grohl album credit[edit]

Another controversy concerns the album credit of Dave Grohl, who is credited as having played drums on the track "(I Can't Make It) Another Day", Grohl himself claimed in the November 2011 issue of The Red Bulletin that he does not perform on the track. According to Grohl, Lenny Kravitz asked him to play on the song but neither Kravitz nor Michael Jackson contacted him after he had recorded his drums and the version of the song that appears on Michael does not feature his playing. Grohl called the fact that he was credited in the album notes despite not playing on the record "not cool".[52]

Release of material without Jackson's consent[edit]

Prior to the album's release, a lawyer for Jackson's father Joe stated that Jackson was a perfectionist and "would never have wanted his unfinished material to be released."[53] will.i.am, who collaborated with Jackson prior to his death,[54] also criticized the release, saying it was "disrespectful" to release the unfinished material because Jackson was not able to give it his blessing.[55]

Commercial performance[edit]

The album debuted at number one in Germany, selling 85,000 copies in its first week.[56] The album also debuted at number one in Austria, Italy, the Netherlands, and Sweden.[56] In the US, Michael debuted at number three on the Billboard 200 with first-week sales of 228,000 copies,[57] followed by 150,000 the next week, but in subsequent weeks, its total sales have shrunk to 27,000 units, 18,000 units and then 11,000 units for the week ending in January 16, 2011.[58] The album debuted at number five in France, with first-week sales of 26,689 copies.[59] In Denmark, the album debuted at number four selling 4,936 copies in its first week.[60] On December 19, 2010, the album opened in the UK at number four with sales of 113,000, which is Michael Jackson's biggest opening sales week in the UK since the release of Dangerous nearly 20 years before.[61] In its first five weeks the album sold over 434,000 copies in the United States, but failed to match This Is It, which sold 890,000 copies in five weeks.[62] In the same week the album was certified platinum by the RIAA for shipping over a million copies.[63]

The platinum status for album has now grown to 18 countries including the United Kingdom, Germany, France (2x), Italy (2x), Spain, Denmark, Poland, Russia (2x), Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic (5x), Canada, India (2x), China, Taiwan, South Korea and the Middle East. Michael is now Gold in 18 countries including Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Japan, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Portugal, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal and Sweden.[64] As of May 2014, the album has sold 540,000 copies in the United States.

Critical response[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic 54/100[65]
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 2.5/5 stars[66]
The Boston Globe (favorable)[67]
Chicago Tribune 2/4 stars[68]
Entertainment Weekly (B)[69]
The Guardian 2/5 stars[70]
Los Angeles Times 2.5/4 stars[71]
NME (5/10)[72]
Rolling Stone 3/5 stars[2]
Slant Magazine 3/5 stars[73]
Spin (6/10)[74]

Michael received mixed reviews from most music critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 54, based on 19 reviews, which indicates "mixed or average reviews".[65] Despite media skepticism and some dissent within Jackson family ranks, reviews largely found Michael better than expected.[75] Joe Vogel of Huffington Post stated that "the bottom line is this: Michael contains some very impressive new material" and "His habits, his obsessions, his versatility, and his genius are on display at every turn. Who else could move so seamlessly from social anthem to floor burner, fleet hip hop to cosmic rock, vintage funk to poignant folk ballad?"[76]

Dan Martin of NME called the album "kind of enjoyable" but commented that "if this decent-enough album is the best of the bunch, things are going to get ugly from here on in".[72] Neil McCormick of The Telegraph called the album "a fine album" and stated that "It is certainly a great deal better than anyone had any right to expect. Jackson is finally about to get the comeback he craved."[77] Jody Rosen of Rolling Stone thought the album was "not a Michael Jackson album", and Jackson "would not have released anything like this compilation, a grab bag of outtakes and outlines," but "it's a testament to the man's charisma that Michael can be compelling."[2] Leah Greenblatt of Entertainment Weekly called it "certainly no great affront to his name", while The New York Times said it was a "miscellany of familiar Jackson offerings: inspirational, loving, resentful and paranoid."[69][75]

Kitty Empire in The Observer said Jackson sounded "paler, more emaciated, more effects-laden" than on his classic songs such as 'Billie Jean'.[78] She characterized the album as a "hotchpotch of odds and sods that often make plain their co-authors" but singled out the "breezy" and "carefree" '(I Like) The Way That You Love Me' and the "pugnacious" 'Hollywood Tonight' for praise.[78] The Reno Gazette-Journal gave the album 3 stars out of 4.[79] Nima Baniamer of Contactmusic.com gave the album 4/5 and stated that Jackson still seems to hold the capability to effortlessly transgress music genres. Baniamer also commented, "It wouldn't be a decent Jackson record if it wasn't surrounded by controversy. 'Breaking News' is a great track that touches upon the media's obsession with the pop icon; ironically a track further surrounded by dispute as fans have claimed that it may not even be Jackson's own voice on the track."[80]

Track listing[edit]

No. Title Writer(s) Producer(s) Length
1. "Hold My Hand" (duet with Akon)
3:32
2. "Hollywood Tonight"  
4:30
3. "Keep Your Head Up"  
  • Jackson
  • Eddie Cascio
  • James Porte
4:49
4. "(I Like) The Way You Love Me"   Jackson
  • Jackson
  • Feemster
4:33
5. "Monster" (featuring 50 Cent)
  • Jackson
  • Riley
  • Angelikson
5:04
6. "Best of Joy"   Jackson
  • Jackson
  • Feemster
  • Buxer (co.)
3:02
7. "Breaking News"  
  • Jackson
  • Cascio
  • Porte
  • Jackson
  • Riley
  • Angelikson
4:14
8. "(I Can't Make It) Another Day" (featuring Lenny Kravitz) Kravitz
  • Kravitz
  • Jackson (co.)
3:54
9. "Behind the Mask"  
  • Jackson
  • John McClain
5:01
10. "Much Too Soon"   Jackson
  • Jackson
  • McClain
2:48
Total length:
42:13

Personnel[edit]

Credits adapted from Michael album liner notes.[81]

Charts and certifications[edit]

Release history[edit]

List of release dates, showing country, record label, and format
Region Date Label Format
Australia[138] December 10, 2010 Sony Music Entertainment CD
Austria
Belgium[139]
Argentina[140]
Sweden[141]
United Kingdom[142] December 13, 2010
Philippines[143] December 14, 2010
Taiwan[144]
United States[145] Epic Records CD, digital download
Colombia[146] Sony Music Entertainment CD
Brazil[147]
Japan[148] December 15, 2010 Sony Music Japan
China December 24, 2010[149] Sony Music China
January 14, 2011[150] Digital download

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]