Earlier today, two songs from the posthumous Michael Jackson album Xscape were released. “Slave to the Rhythm,” is a dance track on the album, and “Blue Gangsta,” which was produced by Timbaland, hit the charts with an enthusiastic reception. Both of the tracks were originally recorded in 1991, with L.A. Reid and Babyface when he was putting together the Dangerous album. Several of the tracks featured on the new album are from archived material dating as far back as the early ’80s. The tracks have been remastered, with modern beats added in for extra flare, but all the vocals are purely MJ.
My guideline was Michael. It was a self-imposed rule that if Michael sang the song from beginning to end, many times, it was my indication that he loved the record. There was no electronically or digitally recreating the magic. There was none of that.
When it came to putting the album together, there was no shortage of material to work with. The original track listing included 24 tracks but the team behind the album had the painstaking task of whittling the number down to eight. However, some of the additional tracks will be added to a deluxe edition. This collection of Michael Jackson tunes is an album for the true MJ fan and promises to deliver. So far the critical reviews have been positive.
In a feature spread in Billboard, L.A. Reid spoke fondly of Michael’s dedication to perfection while in the studio:
During the original sessions for “Slave to the Rhythm” in 1989, Jackson recorded the vocal 24 times. “And it was not once and fix the bad note,” says Reid, who worked on the base track with Babyface. “No, he sang the song from top to bottom 24 times without a bathroom break, without a water break, without a ‘Give me a moment.’ He would sing the song and say, ‘OK, give me another track, I can do it better,’ and he’d do it again. ‘I can nail this. Give me another track,’ and he’d do it again.
Thanks to the Michael Jackson estate, the album became a reality. Thanks to MJ’s tireless work ethic, he left behind a robust collection of music to be used in the making of Xscape. Soon after Reid secured the rights to create the album, he put a call into Timbaland, saying that ‘he’s my favorite producer alive.’
Soon thereafter, collaborations came out of the woodwork. What musician in their right mind wouldn’t want to take part in the creation of a Michael Jackson piece? On the disco-soul track “Love Never Felt So Good” Justin Timberlake lent his vocals in an alliance with MJ that has been called ‘shimmering’ by L.A. Times. Another music great had his own hand in paying tribute to the late MJ. While Usher would have jumped at the chance to join in on the fun, he was not able to do so. Even still, he paid tribute to the King of Pop last week when he danced along to the track “Love Never Felt So Good”.
‘I wish I would have been able to contribute, but no artist is actually singing along with Michael, its all his original recordings. This is an authentic album, even though it is reproduced in some type of way… they respected him [MJ] and his brand. I’ve always been a fan of Michael, he has always been an inspiration, he was a friend of mine … We miss and love his music and we love everything that he did then and now,’ said Usher in an emotional statement to BET magazine.
Xscape will be available for digital download and in hard copy format officially on May 13, 2014.