XSCAPE: Reviewing The Reviews And Analysing The Clues Regarding The New Michael Jackson Album

Source: Damien Shields

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Reviews of the new Michael Jackson album ‘XSCAPE’ have begun emerging online today following a secret playback session hosted by BBC Radio DJ Trevor Nelson in the downstairs area of a posh west London hotel.

Although the album’s track list has not yet been officially announced by The Estate of Michael Jackson or Epic Records, music journalists who were privileged enough to have received L.A. Reid’s exclusive and mysterious email invitation to the event have since reviewed the set.

In these reviews, which I will touch on in my own review, eight song titles have been identified. However, some of the journalists who published reviews have caused a tad of confusion among fans. The track list I attempted to predict two days ago cites eight titles - see here. The titles revealed by journalists (who were asked not to reveal titles) were identical to my list. One problem; my list was not 100% correct. You’ll understand what I mean about “confusion” by the time you’ve finished reading.

As I have not yet heard all of the new album’s new remixes, I will draw on the comments of the journalists who have. I will also drawn on details featured in a series of articles previously published here at damienshields.com to give a little bit of background information on some of the tracks and their origins.

Additionally, I’ll give my two cents on the choice of cover-art used to promote the album, Sony’s marketing campaign, and the reception among Jackson’s loyal fan base.

I’ll kick it off with a song-by-song review in order of appearance, as best derived from the comments given by those who heard the album at the playback session. Trying to figure out the order was no mean feat; the journalists in attendance were not informed of the song titles, and as a result some contradictory recollections have occurred regarding the recordings. I’m still not 100% confident that I’ve got the order correct, but I’ve given it a decent crack.

1. Love Never Felt So Good

“Love Never Felt So Good” originates from collaborative sessions Jackson held with legendary songwriter, Paul Anka, in the early-80s.

Touted by Mirror reporter Kevin Hughes as “an amazing 1983 disco groove” with a “soulful vocal, infectious baseline and orchestral strings,” this track would apparently not sound out of place on a Pharrell album. Lewis Corner of Digital Spy says that the track comes complete with 1980s “disco beats and crisp finger clicks,” adding that “the groove of the track is soaked in nostalgia.” The finger snaps are all present on the original demo of the track, but a 1980s disco beat is not. In fact, the demo, which will appear in the Deluxe Edition of ‘XSCAPE’, has only one instrument; a piano.

This remix will certainly be an interesting listen.

2. She Was Lovin’ Me (aka Chicago)

“She Was Lovin’ Me” is an ‘Invincible’ era track written and produced by Cory Rooney. Jackson recorded his vocals at The Hit Factory in New York in late-March of 1999.

“The second song – possibly called Chicago and cited by Timbaland as a future single – falls into the former camp, with Jackson utilising a harder vocal delivery that’s encased in a big industrial melange of jackhammer beats,” recalls The Guardian journalist Michael Cragg. “Jackson practically gave birth to the genre ‘dirty-pop’, and track two throws back to that period when you wouldn’t see him on stage without bolshy bass and hip-pop beats, ‘She lied to you/ She lied to me,’ he proclaims in his trademark growl,” adds Lewis Corner.

Kevin Hughes reported that the: “RnB soaked ‘She Was Lovin Me’ (originally considered for the 2001 Invincible album) has echoes of  ’The Way You Make Me Feel’.” Hughes is not the only journalist to cite a similarity to Jackson’s 1987 hit, with The Telegraph’s Bernadette McNulty stating that: “When one of the songs directly recalls the bassline from The Way You Make Me Feel it seems like a step too far.” Whether McNulty is referring to “She Was Lovin’ Me” or another song altogether is not specified in her comment.

“She Was Lovin’ Me” is one of two tracks on the album that have not leaked publicly (the other title remains unknown) meaning, unlike the other six tracks on the album, fans have never heard it. I, however, was lucky enough to have listened to the track last year during preparations for an article I wrote and released for Michael’s fans on what would have been his 55th birthday (August 29, 2013). What I find interesting about the brief reviews of this track in particular, are the comparisons to “The Way You Make Me Feel”. I can tell you right now, the original version of “She Was Lovin Me” sounds absolutely nothing like “The Way You Make Me Feel”. If anything, it reminded me of elements present in “Morphine”, “D.S.” and “Another Day”. Rooney himself draws this comparison: “The song goes from him singing really low in the verses to singing really high in the choruses, so it’s two different types of vocals. It’s like Michael Jackson’s ‘Billie Jean’ voice and his ‘Dirty Diana’ voice in one record.”

Jackson delivers an emotionally powerful vocal on the track, packed with pain and frustration. The verses gently tell the intimate story of Jackson’s encounter with a woman whom he believes was attracted to him, before unleashing a rage of guitar-infused fury in the choruses.

“I met her on the way to Chicago, and she was all alone, and so was I so I asker her for her name. She smiled and looked at me, I was surprised to see, that a woman like that was really into me,” sings Jackson in the first verse, before things take a turn for the worse in the second.

UPDATE: This, indeed, is the track that Timbaland referred to as “Chicago” in an interview with Revolt TV last year. The title has caused some confusion among fans, including myself, which I will address further on in this article.

Click here to read my extensive article on “She Was Lovin Me”

3. “80s-tinged mid-tempo” (Title unknown)

This one is practically impossible for me to discuss because I was not in the playback session, and have never heard the song, therefore I cannot detail its origins with complete certainty. But here’s what we deduce from online reviews and comments from those in the know.

“The third song played is another Off the Wallesque, mid-paced love song with a youthful, almost naive-sounding vocal. It feels very much like a song that didn’t make it on to an old album, and while the production is good – there’s an amazing rolling beat throughout – it still feels slight,” reported Michael Cragg, while Lewis Corner described it as a flowing ’80s-tinged serenade with orchestral bursts and choral harmonies. Joseph Vogel, author of ’Man in the Music: The Creative Life and Work of Michael Jackson’, noted on Twitter that this track was a mid-tempo from the 1980s and not a song that people have heard.

Because this is the only track on the album that I have not heard, it’s naturally the one I’m most curious about.

4. A Place With No Name

“A Place With No Name” is a track written by Elliot Straite, aka Dr. Freeze. It is a lyrically re-written cover of the 1972 hit “A Horse With No Name” by the band America. Jackson recorded his vocals at Record Plant Recording Studios in September 1998.

“I challenge anyone not to experience goosebumps after hearing ‘A Place With No Name’,” reported Kevin Hughes, adding that the song deserves to played by radio stations worldwide.

One thing that can’t be denied about this track is Jackson’s vocal. “When he came into the studio to record, he stood before the microphone and set fire to the song,” recalls Dr. Freeze of the recording session. “As he left, the studio was in ashes and our jaws on the floor. It was really impressive to see.”

Click here to read my exclusive article; ‘Michael Jackson’s “A Place With No Name” – The Story Behind The Song’.

5. Do You Know Where Your Children Are (aka 12-O’Clock)

This track could be titled one of two things: a) “12 O’Clock” or b) “Do You Know Where Your Children Are”. The latter is the authentic title of the song, as cited by Jackson in a 1993 court deposition. The track was originally recorded during the ‘Dangerous’ album sessions.

All reports so far have cited this one at the album’s peak. “The fifth song we were played opens with computerized synths as the star’s iconic ad libs of ‘hee-hee’ and ‘aaaow’ smack you with excitement,” writes Lewis Corner, adding: “Echoed snare beats and a storming rawk guitar solo make it one of the stand-out tracks. It’s: ”One of the outstanding cuts on the ‘Xscape’ album,” agrees Kevin Hughes. “An emphatic Jackson discusses family values and child abuse over a pulsating bass line and guitar riff.” Michael Cragg called the track “a proper, undeniably amazing hit” before going into a little more detail. “Opening with a delicate flurry of cascading 80s synths, it feels like the perfect embodiment of the old and the new, with some vintage “hee hee” ad-libs peppering the sophisticated mesh of electronics. It also features a typical Jackson pre-chorus section that then opens out into the album’s best chorus, before a great false stop moment heralds an even more bonkers final third, with Jackson hee-heeing and ow-ing his head off.”

While I can deal with the possibility of Epic Records opting to change the actual title of this song from “Do You Know Where Your Children Are” to “12 O’Clock” for the sake of avoiding the potential criticism and narrow-minded controversy the lengthy original may cause, there is one thing I hope they don’t mess with; the lyrics Jackson delivers vocally on the track.

First of all, before I explain what I mean, let me put this into context: To me, Michael Jackson is a real life superhero. Not only did he moonwalk, morph into black panthers, zombies, robots and cars, and fly off the edge of the stage, out over the audience using a jetpack at the end of his ‘Dangerous World Tour’ concerts, but he, like all great superheroes, actually wanted to save the world and the people in it. This was just who he was. Katherine Jackson, Michael’s mother, remembers Michael as a little boy seeing the starving children in Africa on television with flies around their mouths. “One day I’m gonna do something about that,” he’d tell her. And he did. He raised hundreds of millions of dollars for dozens of charities around the world. Michael Jackson truly cared for humanity. He cared for people of all cultures, races, ages and walks of life. He cared for equality and human rights. This is evidenced in his songs, such as “Heal The World”, “Earth Song”, “Man In The Mirror” and “Why You Wanna Trip On Me”. He was so often the voice of the voiceless; take “The Lost Children” or “They Don’t Care About Us” for example.

Now, “Do You Know Where Your Children Are” discusses child abuse. In the song, Jackson sings about a girl who has run away from home, leaving behind a letter to her mother: “She wrote that she was tired of step-daddy using her. Saying that he’ll buy her things while sexually abusing her.” The song then follows the girl to Hollywood, where she winds up letting her hair down and “selling her body hard” under the guidance of a man she met at the train station. In the choruses, Jackson asks the listener: “Do do you know where your children are? Because it’s now twelve-o’clock, and they’re somewhere out on the streets. Just imagine how scared they are!” At the end of the third and final verse Jackson chillingly proceeds to put the entire debacle into perspective, revealing the girl’s doomed fate by singing that the police were: “Arresting this little girl that’s only twelve-years old!”

The reason I am concerned about the censoring of Jackson’s lyrics stems from the last posthumous album Epic Records and The Estate released – 2010′s ‘Michael’ album. On that album there is a song called “Hollywood Tonight” – a similar theme to “Do You Know Where Your Children Are” – about a girl who has left home and gone to Hollywood. Jackson had been working on “Hollywood Tonight” for a decade, carefully tweaking and perfecting the music while working on the lyrics. He had laid down vocals for two verses and the choruses prior to his death, with a sketch of the bridge and partial third verse as well. One thing is clear; he had a specific vision to tell the untold, tragic story of childhood runaways. In the second verse, Jackson sings: “Westbound Greyhound to Tinsel Town just to pursue her moviestar dreams. She’s giving hot tricks to men, just to get in. She’s taught that that’s not clean, because she’s only fifteen.” However, the words: “because she’s only fifteen” were removed by producer Teddy Riley and replaced with a line from the first verse: “She’s headed for the big sign that means.” This takes the context away from the song completely. This is the moment the seriousness of the matter becomes apparent.

So, back to the positives. The journalists who heard “Do You Know Where Your Children Are” have called it the album’s highlight and a potential radio hit. I hope the song, which is one of my all-time favourite Jackson tracks, is released as a single. I also hope that the remix stays true to Jackson’s vision and message.

6. Slave To The Rhythm

“Slave To The Rhythm” was written by L.A. Reid and Babyface and recorded by Jackson during the ‘Dangerous’ album sessions. The track has since appeared online in a number of forms; once in 2010 – remixed by Tricky Stewart, once in 2013 – remixed by Max Methods and featuring Justin Bieber, and now as part of the Sony Xperia Z2 / ‘XSCAPE’ album cross-promotional commercial series – remixed by Timbaland.

“Track number six – which we identified as ‘Slave to the Rhythm’ – begins with a massive string-led swoosh of scenic proportions, before it completely drops into glitchy electronics and rattling beats. Its shuffling groove marks it as classic MJ, making it yet another highlight,” wrote Lewis Corner. Michael Cragg reported that the Timbaland remix features: “Lashings of beatboxing in the intro, loads of vocal tics throughout, big spidery bassline,” adding that, “as with some of his other songs on Xscape, barely any space for the song to breathe. Thankfully Slave to the Rhythm is strong enough to fight its way through the clutter.” Kevin Hughes labeled the track as a potential single and “floor-filler for a new generation.” All journalists were pleased to announce that Justin Bieber does not feature on this version.

To hear a 30-second sample of Timbaland’s brand new remix of “Slave To The Rhythm” and see L.A. Reid in the studio, bopping along while pimping the new Sony Xperia Z2 mobile phone, check out the below video:

Some background info on how Justin Bieber came to be on the track back in 2013: Tricky Stewart, who had previously remixed the track in 2010 to be considered for the ‘Michael’ album, got Justin Bieber to record the track. Stewart was, at the time, the President of A&R at Epic Records, working under L.A. Reid (who wrote the track). He then gave Jackson’s existing vocal and Bieber’s brand new vocal to a DJ signed to his Red Zone Ent record label, Max Methods, and asked him to re-produce the track. On August 16, 2013 it leaked via SoundCloud and YouTube. Click here to read more about that fiasco.

7. Blue Gangster

“Blue Gangster” is another track written by Dr. Freeze. The track was recorded during the same sessions as Freeze’s other track – “A Place With No Name” – in late 1998.

Reviews of this track have been mixed. “Song number seven – which might be called ‘Blue Gangsta’ – opens with Bond Theme-styled strings and tinned beats, before hearing Michael complain: ‘Look what you’ve done to me/ I can no longer smile’” writes Lewis Corner, adding that the album’s “overarching narrative is what we’ve always loved about Jackson; the superstar who is unlucky in love, but never doubts its power.” As cited in my “Chicago” segment, Kevin Hughes reported that ”Blue Gangster” (and “Chicago”) will: “Remind you of previous Jackson offerings but both tracks benefit from newly enhanced production and remind us of the fact that Michael was keen to remain relevant to the emerging hip-hop generation.” Michael Cragg was less than impressed with the song, stating that it was: “The album’s only true lowpoint,” that “feels like about three different songs fighting for attention.”

“For ‘Blue Gangsta’ I wanted to make a new ‘Smooth Criminal’,” recalls Dr. Freeze of his inspiration when writing the track. “Something more modern and rooted in the 2000s.” The track was considered for the 2010 ‘Michael’ album but was ultimately not selected. Freeze stated that the version that leaked online is not the newest version he has. “I’ve updated it a bit, the song is completed, ready to go. It will be completely different from the version leaked on the net. It is perfectly calibrated to enter a nightclub. It sounds very European in style productions Kraftwerk.”

The version that will appear on ‘XSCAPE’ will be different yet again. Freeze was not involved in the production of the new remix.

8. Xscape

“Xscape” is a track co-written by Fred Jerkins III, Rodney Jerkins, and LaShawn Daniels, produced by Rodney Jerkins, and recorded by Michael Jackson during the ‘Invincible’ sessions.

“It’s the only track which has been re-worked by its original producer, and hears turn-of-the-millennium Jackson snarl over a mix of ’70s disco and ’90s R&B. Its potential for some other-worldly choreography is palpable, which provokes a sad tinge of what could’ve been,” reports Lewis Corner, while Michael Cragg states that: “The only song that sounds like a bit of a struggle vocally, with Jackson’s various vocal tics becoming a bit of a hindrance rather than something more carefree.” Kevin Hughes deduces: ”As the album concludes with title track ‘Xscape’ a sonic slice of noughties electro-pop, I’m left satisfied that Michael’s legacy will endure…”

Check out a 15-second snippet of the brand new Rodney Jerkins remix of “Xscape” below:

Many of Jackson’s collaborators believed that “Xscape” was one of the strongest tracks on offer during the ‘Invincible’ sessions. Few could believe that it was never released, along with another Jerkins production called “We’ve Had Enough” (which eventually came out on 2004′s ‘The Ultimate Collection’). Unfortunately, in early 2003 “Xscape” leaked on the internet. Although Jackson, at that time, still had plans to utilize the track, the leak caused the cancellation of those plans. Still, those involved have fond memories of the creative process. “God is good,” said LaShawn Daniels. “I had the opportunity to work with and befriend the greatest artist of all time MICHAEL JACKSON … on the last studio album he recorded while he was alive. I wrote the title track ‘INVINCIBLE’, which became the album title, as well as ‘You Rock My World’ which was his first single ALONG WITH 6 other songs on that album. Now years after his death I am fortunate enough to be apart of another one of his albums with an original song never heard before that I co-wrote. This song serves as the album title as well as first single; XSCAPE. Although I’m sad because he’s not here to see the world respond to this great song and body of work, I am extremely proud to be apart of his legacy and record shattering career,” continues Daniels. “I remember singing on the demo for ‘Xscape’ after writing it,” recalls Fred Jerkins III. Now, finally, “Xscape” will have it’s moment to shine – more than a decade after fans heard it for the first time – with this commanding new remix. “What a blessing to have the title track,” adds Fred.

The-bes-youve-never-heard1-e1396452026828

One of the slogans being used to promote the new album is “The best you’ve never heard”. This refers, obviously, to the album including the best songs that the public has not yet heard. While many of Jackson’s most dedicated fans have heard up to six of the eight tracks on this album, they must consider that the ”best you’ve never heard” slogan is not targeted at them.

The real target audience here are the millions of casual MJ fans around the world. People who like his work and will take an interest if the music sounds good. Hence L.A. Reid’s wise decision to use the BEST they’ve never heard, as opposed to the “rarest MJ’s very small, hardcore, online fan base has never heard” (which would, at this point, comprise of mostly incomplete demos and sketches due to the lack of complete, unleaked resources).

Judging by the general consensus of the journalists who attended the exclusive playback session yesterday, this decision has paid off. Many of the reviews feature overwhelming praise of the compilation.

“Xscape feels like an album created to showcase a handful of Jackson songs that on the whole deserve to be heard,” writes Michael Cragg. “You get the immediate sense that a lot of time (and money) has been spent on these songs and that care’s been taken to show the songs off in the best light possible. While some of them are very obviously album tracks at best, there are flashes of genius that haven’t been diluted or watered down. In fact, Xscape manages to bring most of them to life.”

Xscape at least sounds more like a labour of love and with only eight songs, a judiciously edited and cohesive album rather than an endless memory-stick jumble of offcuts. Former US X Factor judge LA Reid has overseen the process, working his way through four decades of unused recordings that Jackson has left behind. Employing a premier league team of top name pop producers, Reid has called the reboot ‘contemporizing’ Jackson’s songs,” writes Bernadette McNulty. “But the balance often feels quite subtle and even-handed between the original song and the new styles of orchestration and production.”

“From fashionable-again orchestral disco and propulsively lithe electro to Rodney Jerkin’s trademark militarised beats, you can still hear fully-formed Jackson songs there – even more striking in an age where RnB and pop has largely become a collage of chants and breakdowns. I just haven’t hadn’t heard this many words in a pop song for ages, let alone proper verses, bridges and choruses.”

“I’m left satisfied that Michael’s legacy will endure thanks to a collection of carefully selected material, lovingly re-engineered for millions of fans and new fans alike,” concludes Kevin Hughes. “There’s a reason he was called The King of Pop after all.”

He’s certainly the King of Pop, but also the King of Hype. Sony Music plans on honoring Jackson with an all-out marketing blitz that will ensure no eardrum goes without hearing their latest Jackson offering – be it voluntarily or forcefully.

“In conjunction with the release of XSCAPE, Epic / Sony Music will launch an unprecedented global campaign with the One Sony sister companies, Sony Corporation, Sony Mobile Communications, and Sony Network Entertainment International drawing from all of Sony’s strengths and consumer reach,” reads the official announcement on michaeljackson.com

We’ve already seen traces of their marketing, from the Sony Xperia Z2 (look at me continually promoting it without meaning/wanting to) mobile phone which will come equipped for a FREE download of the full ‘XSCAPE’ album, stickers and posters around major cities, and now even giant billboards (see below).

Its-an-adventure

While we’re looking at the billboard, I’ll quickly make a comment on Epic’s choice of album cover-art (see top of article). I like it, but I can see why others don’t. Art, like music, is based on personal taste. Some will like it and some won’t. It’s impossible to please everyone and that’s just the way it is.

The Chicago Debate

I want to address the issue that seems to have become The Chicago Debate, with fans going back and forth as to whether “She Was Lovin Me” and “Chicago” are one and the same.

Many fans, myself included, try to predict certain things before they happen. For example: “How many songs will be on the album?” or “What will the lead single be?” or “What is your ideal track list?” It’s a bit of fun and adds to the excitement of anticipating a new Michael Jackson release. Fans did the same thing when he was alive and they’ll continue to do it forever and a day.

The foundations of this debate actually date back to August 2013, when Timbaland revealed that he had been invited by the head of Epic Records, L.A. Reid, to work on a new album of unreleased Michael Jackson material.

“LA Reid came to me like, to my house, like, ‘I got something big I wanna do … How would you feel about doing Michael Jackson?’”

Timbaland, who never had the chance to work with Jackson during his life, said: “Of course I’ll do it,” while acknowledging that re-producing and releasing the music of deceased artists is not an easy thing to do: “It’s hard to bring anything out because now you’re just going to hear my music with his voice over it.”

The producer also announced the title of his preference for the project’s lead single: “I can tell you the first single is gonna be the song ‘Chicago’ … I think it should be, because ‘Chicago’ sounds like today.”

Most fans immediately began speculating that “Chicago” might be “Chicago 1945″. Meanwhile, a minority of fans thought that maybe, just maybe, Timbaland meant “She Was Lovin Me” based on lyrics I published online as part of this article: Exclusive Story: Michael Jackson’s “She Was Lovin’ Me”

Are you with me? Yes! Okay, good.

Yesterday, Joseph Vogel, author of ‘Man in the Music: The Creative Life and Work of Michael Jackson’, tweeted that the song “Chicago” was, indeed, Cory Rooney’s 1999 track “She Was Lovin Me”. As in, the song goes by both titles.

“I will say: I listened to “Chicago (She Was Lovin’ Me)” twice and couldn’t get it out of my head for days,” read the tweet, which certainly got Jackson fans talking.

And so began the debate re-ignited.

After a series of questions directed at Vogel, he re-confirmed his earlier statement, tweeting: “For those asking: Chicago and She Was Lovin’ Me are the same song. Recorded in 1999. Produced for the new MJ album by Timbaland… Chicago 1945 is from the 1980s (early Bad sessions); Chicago (She Was Lovin’ Me) is from 1999 (early Invincible sessions)… It goes by both names. There’s a lyric in it about Chicago. This is the song Timbaland referred to months ago.”

Vogel is 100% correct in stating that “She Was Lovin Me” has the lyric “Chicago” in the song. As detailed in my “She Was Lovin Me” article the opening lyrics to the songs are as follows:

“I met her on the way to Chicago, and she was all alone, and so was I so I asked her for her name. She smiled and looked at me, I was surprised to see, that a woman like that was really into me.”

However, fans became engulfed in a debate over whether Vogel was right or not after journalists who had attended an album playback session started publishing reviews online.

When reviewing the album, some journalists listed song titles. Kevin Hughes, well-known as a major Jackson enthusiast, recalled eight individual titles, including both “She Was Lovin Me” and “Chicago” – separately – as two unique songs. If they were, in fact, the same song, that would mean either: a) The journalists in the playback session only heard seven songs, not eight; or b) There is an 8th track that was incorrectly identified by name as “Chicago” due to the assumption that “She Was Lovin Me” was to be called “She Was Lovin Me”.

About the songs: “She Was Lovin Me”, although it makes mention of “Chicago” once in the opening line of lyrics, has absolutely nothing to do with Chicago. The location itself, Chicago, is of absolutely no relevance throughout the song. The lyrics: “She was lovin me” do, however, make repeated appearances in the choruses. Therefore it would make sense, in my opinion, to call the song “She Was Lovin Me” – as Cory Rooney did when he wrote it for Jackson in 1999.

The song “Chicago 1945″, on the other hand, which was often referred to by Michael Jackson simply as “Chicago”, is about Chicago – the location. The entire song tells the story of Chicago. The World’s Fair (which visited Chicago), The Chicago Tribune (local newspaper), Al Capone (of ‘The Chicago Outfit’ fame), and so on. “Who solved the mystery late Chicago night? Ya can’t hide the truth so won’t ya turn on the light,” sings Jackson in the chorus, before launching into a flurry of high-pitched “hoo-hoo” and “hee-hee” ad libs. The track then finishes with Jackson chanting “Chicago! Chicago!” over and over in his trademark, gritty (slightly angry) vocal-style. The track was constantly on Jackson’s mind over the course of his career, and was worked on during the ‘Invincible’ sessions and again at Neverland in 2004.

So which is it?

a) ”She Was Lovin Me” really does also go by the title “Chicago” and there is one song on the album that has yet-to-to identified.
b) ”Chicago” is “Chicago 1945″ as recorded in the mid-1980s. Or;
c) ”Chicago” is neither “She Was Lovin Me” nor “Chicago 1945″ and is actually a completely different track, coincidentally called “Chicago”.

The answer is… a) “She Was Lovin Me” really does also go by the title “Chicago” and there is one song on the album that has yet-to-to identified.

“They have always called it by that title (Chicago),” Cory Rooney explained to me about L.A. Reid and Timbaland, adding that he doesn’t know if they’ll actually use the “Chicago” title or stick with the authentic “She Was Lovin Me” when the album comes out. Rooney also told me he hasn’t heard Timbaland’s remix yet.

That does however beg the (now irrelevant) question of why Kevin Hughes, an MJ fan, cited “Chicago” in his review right after citing “She Was Lovin Me” separately, in the previous paragraph? Hughes was there, in the room, listening, after all. Perhaps he identified “She Was Lovin Me” upon hearing it, and identified six of the seven other songs by their distinct, previously-leaked titles, concluding that perhaps “Chicago” was the title of the one track he had not yet identified? That’s what I did when trying to guess the track list earlier this week. The only difference is that I hadn’t just listened to the album when making my predictions.

Hughes has since edited his review, removing all citations of song titles – something Sony requested of all journalists present at the playback session to begin with.

I also spoke to a couple of fans who attended a private playback session in France. Both made the same assumption that Hughes appears to have after identifying the other seven tracks by name (including “She Was Lovin Me”) - concluding that the eighth (unidentified) track must be “Chicago” as referred to by Timbaland last year.

I asked both fans if they recall Jackson singing the word “Chicago” in the unidentified track they’d deemed to be “Chicago”. Both said no, and that they’d just assumed it was the track being touted as “Chicago”.

I then asked them to describe the track. Both said it was a mid-tempo song about a girl. This matches with the comments made by Michael Cragg, Lewis Corner and Joseph Vogel regarding the only-remaining unidentified song on the album:

“The third song played is another Off the Wallesque, mid-paced love song with a youthful, almost naive-sounding vocal. It feels very much like a song that didn’t make it on to an old album, and while the production is good – there’s an amazing rolling beat throughout – it still feels slight,” reported Michael Cragg, while Lewis Corner described it as a flowing ’80s-tinged serenade with orchestral bursts and choral harmonies. Joseph Vogel, author of ’Man in the Music: The Creative Life and Work of Michael Jackson’, noted on Twitter that this track was a mid-tempo from the 1980s and not a song that people have heard.

So I guess that’s that? Whatever the reason for the initial title confusion, and subsequent debate among fans, I hope that this article has helped answer the questions some of you had regarding the issue.

“She Was Lovin Me” and “Chicago” are one and the same, and there’s an eighth track on the ‘XSCAPE’ album that has yet-to-be identified. The fun continues!

Is “Hot Fun” the bonus track?

Finally, let’s get to the issue of that sneaky bonus track The Estate and Epic Records seem to have sprung on fans. When viewing the ‘XSCAPE’ Deluxe Edition on iTunes, now available for pre-order, you can see that there are 17 tracks listed. Assuming that the eight remixes detailed above are the eight tracks that make up the Standard Edition, and the Deluxe Edition will include the original, unedited Jackson recording for each of those as well. Eight plus eight equals 16 tracks. Some more simple math will reveal that if you have 17 Michael Jackson songs and you subtract 16 Michael Jackson songs, you’ll be left with one Michael Jackson song. So there is one yet-to-be-announced Michael Jackson track – or is there?

Today, Jesse Johnson, a prolific guitarist/producer, announced via Facebook that he is part of an all-star lineup of artists, producers and musicians who are set to feature on a new track with Michael Jackson.

Johnson’s announcement was somewhat cryptic. The headline reads: “Michael Jackson & D’Angelo + Mary J Blige” with a sub heading that makes you guess what many believe will be the title of the song. The clue: ”H** ** *** *********e”.

The track has been produced by D’Angelo and features Michael Jackson, D’Angelo and Mary J. Blige on vocals. If THAT is not vocal heaven then I don’t know what is!

But the stars don’t stop at the vocals. D’Angelo has contributed the keys, Johnson the guitars, Questlove is on drums, Pino Palladino on bass Eric Leeds on horns. Are you still with me? Good! The track has been engineered by Russ Elevado and Ben Kane, with John McClain serving as Executive Producer.

So the big question is, what does the above clue tell us? I can only come up with one viable possibility: “Hot Fun In The Summertime” (with the three asterisks representing the word “fun” accidentally left out?)

Now, I wouldn’t come up with this possibility without having some information to back it up. So here’s what we know:

“Michael Jackson had favorite songs, or songs that were works-in-progress,” revealed Michael Prince in a conversation I had with him a few months ago. “Once Neff-U took over from Brad Buxer (when Brad started flying again in 2008), Michael brought out some songs, including “A Place With No Name”, and said, ‘Here, work with this song. See what you can come up with for this song.’ So the vocals were always pretty much the same, but Neff-U would put new music on them.”

How is this relevant to “Hot Fun In The Summertime”? Read on…

“Neff-U had originally worked with Michael, Brad Buxer and I long before 2008,” continued Prince. “He originally came to Brad’s house years earlier and worked on some stuff that never came out, like ‘Hot Fun In The Summertime’ – the 1969 Sly Stone song. I think MJ only sang a tiny bit on that one, but they were trying a bunch of stuff. Neff-U is very talented.”

This, by the way, is not the first time fans had learned that Jackson had recorded “Hot Fun In The Summertime”. In July 2010 CNN put together one of the best-sourced articles of that time available regarding Jackson’s unreleased music. The article talks about hard drives packed with unreleased music being discovered after Michael’s death. The article reads as follows:

“A producer told CNN that he was surprised to find a large cache of forgotten Michael Jackson music files stored on a hard drive at a Hollywood studio in the months after Jackson’s June 25, 2009, death.”

“When he turned the recording device on to start a session, he heard Jackson singing ‘Hot Fun in the Summertime’. The 1969 hit by Sly & the Family Stone is part of an extensive music catalogue that Jackson bought.”

So this confirms, through multiple sources that a) Jackson recorded “Hot Fun In The Summertime” and b) that Jackson’s estate was given a copy. Not-so-coincidentally, John McClain, who serves as Executive Producer on the new all-star remix, is also a co-Executor of The Estate of Michael Jackson. Fancy that! All the dots seem have been connected. Oh, I forgot one more important piece of info: Jesse Johnson commented on his Facebook announcement/status stating that the song in question would be released on May 13th – the same day Jackson’s ‘XSCAPE’ comes out! There are too many facts piling up for them all to be coincidences, surely?

Also, the fact that Michael Prince only recalls Jackson singing a little bit of the song might also explain why McClain has brought in D’Angelo and Mary J. Blige to contribute additional vocals. This is in the style of the “duets” concept that Teddy Riley discussed back in late-2010 – where singers would come in and complete tracks on which Jackson had only recorded portions – a verse and a chorus but no second verse or bridge, for example. Whatever the reason for D’Angelo and Mary J’s presence, I’m not complaining. On paper it has the makings of a worldwide smash hit!

Now the only question is this: Will this be the 17th bonus track? Or were “Chicago” and “She Was Lovin Me” really the same song, meaning “Hot Fun In The Summertime” could actually be part of the eight foundation tracks. “Hot Fun” was not played for journalists at the playback session, so you’d think it’s an outsider. If it’s an outsider, perhaps its only shot at glory is that currently-vacant bonus track slot.

Time will tell one way or the other!

Read more: http://www.damienshields.com/xscape-reviewing-the-reviews-and-analysing-the-clues-regarding-the-new-michael-jackson-album/

Exclusive New Details About Upcoming Work-In-Progress Michael Jackson Album Revealed!

Source: Damien Shields

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It’s no secret that Epic Records, spearheaded by its CEO, LA Reid, is putting together a new album of unreleased Michael Jackson material. Timbaland spoke about it. Fred Jerkins spoke about it. It’s happening.

One thing that has not been made clear is exactly when the album is scheduled for release. Despite a host of producers, musicians and DJs speaking publicly about their contributions, Epic Records and The Michael Jackson Estate have remained quiet about the whole thing, leaving Jackson enthusiasts to wonder about the finer details – until now!

Dr. Freeze, the man responsible for writing and producing “Break Of Dawn”, a song from Jackson’s ‘Invincible’ album, was kind enough to give me some fascinating insight into the direction of the upcoming work-in-progress project.

“It seems to be coming out in the Spring of 2014,” Freeze told me exclusively.

Many fans had speculated that the new album, like 2010′s controversial ‘Michael’ album, would be rushed out to capitalise on holiday season sales during the 2013 Christmas period.

However, timing doesn’t appear to be the focus with this project. Instead, the focus is on delivering a quality product that all sectors of the Michael Jackson fan community can enjoy and appreciate in one way or another.

The label recognises that delivering a product which will satisfy the appetite and taste buds of Jackson’s entire fan base is likely an impossible task. So, in an effort to at least partially please most of the fans, they’re taking a much different approach; an approach most fans would have liked to have seen taken back in 2010 with the ‘Michael’ album.

The new album, at this stage, will go with a “then and now” / “past and present” type theme, featuring both new remixes and original versions of unreleased Michael Jackson recordings.

“I’m not on the album; just my songs,” explained Freeze, whose unreleased tracks “A Place With No Name” and “Blue Gangsta”, originally recorded by the King of Pop in 1998, will be freshly remixed by new producers for the album.

“Both old and new versions of both songs are on the album to satisfy both sides of the fans,” Freeze revealed.

“Which producers are remixing your songs for the album?” I asked.

“Not sure yet. It’s still up in the air right now,” he responded.

Super-producer Timbaland, most famous for his work with Missy Elliot and Justin Timberlake, believes he’ll wrap up his part of production by the end of the year; and he’s already predicted (prematurely, perhaps) that the lead single will be a song he remixed, called “Chicago”.

“I can tell you the first single is gonna be the song ‘Chicago’ … I think it should be, because ‘Chicago’ sounds like today,” said the producer.

“So last night I heard some of the new tracks Timbaland is doing for the King of Pop… WOW!” tweeted DJ Freestyle Steve, Timbaland’s official DJ, after a private listening session.

“To all the Timbaland & Michael Jackson fans; just know Tim did an amazing job with Mike’s vocals. The world will love it,” he added.

With songs like “Slave To The Rhythm” and “Do You Know Where Your Children Are” being remixed and considered to feature alongside the previously mentioned Freeze tracks “A Place With No Name” and “Blue Gangsta” fans should be in for a treat.

The recently leaked “I Am A Loser“, written by Brad Buxer and Jackson in 2003 (or “I Was The Loser” as its 2008 version is called), could come into consideration, as could tracks such as “Escape”, “She Was Lovin’ Me” and “Can’t Get Your Weight Off Of Me” from the 1999-2001 ‘Invincible’ sessions.

But like Dr. Freeze said; “It’s still up in the air right now.”

Songs you can count on not being included; the infamous ‘Cascio tracks’ – three of which have already been released and nine of which remain unreleased.

The Estate have communicated to fans that no more Cascio tracks will be included on any future Michael Jackson releases following the uproar they caused in 2010 when questions over the authenticity and origins of their dubious vocals were raised by Jackson’s family and fans around the world.

Although “Slave To The Rhythm” is one of the tracks being considered for release, it’s unlikely to appear in the form of a duet with Justin Bieber. An incomplete mix of the posthumous duet, produced by Max Methods as requested by Tricky Stewart (who is currently the president of A&R at Epic Records – under LA Reid) was leaked online in August to the displeasure of many MJ fans.

To clear things up The Michael Jackson Estate, via their mouthpiece ‘The MJ Online Team’, issued the following statement:

“For those who have been asking about the recently posted recording of ‘Slave 2 The Rhythm’ by Michael and Justin Bieber, this recording was not authorized and has been taken down,” later adding, “It is unauthorized and therefore there is no intention to release it.”

There are still major doubts as to whether Jackson’s fans will ever hear the unreleased music that originates from some of his later collaborative ventures, including a three-year period in which he worked sporadically with Black Eyed Peas frontman will.i.am.

Jackson is said to have recorded just a few songs during his time in the studio with will.i.am, including titles “I’m Dreamin”, “The Future” and “I Will Miss You” as previously cited by the producer.

However, will.i.am has been very vocal about putting out and/or finishing Jackson’s incomplete work. He deems it disrespectful, calling The Estate “parasites” and accusing them of not honoring the King of Pop back when the first posthumous album was being put together.

As a fan, I would personally love Epic Records to release the original, untouched demo of “Hollywood Tonight” – perhaps as a bonus track or iTunes exclusive on the upcoming album. Although a remix of the track features on the 2010 ‘Michael’ album, I feel that the demo version - written and produced by Jackson and Brad Buxer - is so good that fans need to hear it.

Based on the above-mentioned titles alone there is enough material available for Epic Records to release an extremely strong album featuring several hit singles.

Just for fun, I’ve listed my fantasy track list below. The album would be two discs, each with the same songs. Disc one would have the new versions and disc two would consist of the original versions. “Hollywood Tonight” (Original) is a ‘Bonus track’ and would feature on disc two. The “Then, Now” portion of the title is a literal interpretation of the album’s content. “Forever” represents how Jackson wanted to be remembered. As one of music’s few immortals.

Michael Jackson: Then, Now, Forever

1. Escape (New version / Original)
2. She Was Lovin’ Me (New version / Original)
3. Do You Know Where Your Children Are (New version / Original)
4. Slave To The Rhythm (New version / Original)
5. A Place With No Name (New version / Original)
6. Blue Gangsta (New version / Original)
7. I Was The Loser (New version / Original)
8. Can’t Get Your Weight Off Of Me (New version / Original)
9. Chicago (New version / Original)

BONUS TRACK: Hollywood Tonight (Original) 

“I always want to do music that inspires or influences another generation. You want what you create to live, be it sculpture or painting or music. Like Michelangelo, he said, ‘I know the creator will go, but his work survives. That is why to escape death, I attempt to bind my soul to my work.’ And that’s how I feel. I give my all to my work. I want it to just live.” – Michael Jackson

Thoughts? What are YOU hoping for from the upcoming new Michael Jackson album?

http://www.damienshields.com/exclusive-new-details-about-upcoming-work-in-progress-michael-jackson-album-revealed/