Friday, December 17, 2010

Album Review: Michael Jackson - Invicible (2001, 3.5/5)

With the first posthumous Michael Jackson album, Michael out in stores this week, I thought I'd revisit the King of Pop's last proper release before his tragic death last year. 2001's Invincible arrived at one of the many low points for Jackson throughout his career. Whilst it was Jackson indulging heavily in new millennium R&B and pop, with the help of the appropriate producers such as Rodney Jerkins and Teddy Riley—It's primarily remembered for being the album that didn't deliver any hits or shift as many copies as Thriller.

Critics denounced the album for being monotonous, showcasing an apparent lack of charm and being ultimately underwhelming. I've never thought Invincible was that bad of an album—my biggest gripe with it is that it's way too bloated and with an extensive running time of 80 minutes, there's not enough solid tracks on here to back it up. I rarely listen to the whole album without getting bored halfway through (which is a shame as the album does have a couple belters towards its end).

The first three numbers are all similar heavy beat-driven R&B, laying on the musical antagonism a tad too thick. Maybe three tracks trailing the same sound was a bit much—but it's not a bad sound though and I thought suited him quite well. Out of the three, the cumbersome hammering of piano chords and rhythmic bass lines of “Unbreakable” work the best; employing his swagger and rage against surrounding scrutiny nicely.

We shift from beat-driven R&B to the laid back modern soul of “Break of Dawn” and “Heaven Can Wait.” Again both trailing similar sounds, exhibiting smooth, lustrous soul but both largely driven by heavy beats. I think “Heaven” does the job better; very sincere. The albums biggest hit, “You Rock My World,” cool piano-assisted slice of bass heavy swaggering R&B follows (I listened to this loads when I was a kid) this should have followed the first three tracks, the track listing would have made more sense as after this there's more downbeat mid-tempo's following, the plodding “Butterflies,” which is a fan favourite but just goes right through me, better is the gliding “Speechless” the shortest song on here and relies less on beats and more on gentle guitar and string arrangements.

The albums second half isn't necessarily weaker, but is quite patchy, there are some duds but among them are some of my favourites on here. The chugging beats of “2000 Watts” re-call that of the first three tracks at the beginning; it's a little worn, but what's interesting is how low the pitch on Jackson's vocals are. Again, this should be on the first half as from here on the last 7 tracks are all mid-tempo's or ballads.

My favourite track on the album is the dulcet lovelorn ballad “Don't Walk Away,” gentle restraint guitars, strings, gelatinous percussion and mood-fitting bursts of electronic guitar towards end just before its climax where its composition gets thicker. The swaying playschool balladry of “The Lost Children” sounds good too; even using kiddish murmurings to capitalize on that sound (I'm not implying anything), It also sounds like something that could have featured in 1990's kids television serious Rupert Bear. The western-styled, spanish-guitar driven mid-tempo “Whatever Happens,” is quite lovely too.

Apart from the aforementioned, there's nothing else that appealing on its second half. “Privacy” is very dry beat-heavy rock/pop, sounds like something George Michael recreated on “Freeek!” “You Are My Life” and “Cry” lay on the syrupy ballads a bit too thick and the inclusion of “Threatened” kind of takes the piss a bit, doesn't it? Is not the first three tracks, “You Rock My World,” “Privacy” and “2000 Watts” rolled into one? Invincible isn't a great album, but it's not a bad album either—there are handful of good tracks on here, you just have to dig through the duds to find them—in all it deserves a listen at least.

Best: Don't Walk Away, You Rock My World, Heaven Can Wait, Speechless, Unbreakable, The Lost Children, Whatever Happens

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