Nearly a year and half after his death, Michael Jackson has a new album out this week. The record, simply titled "Michael," is a collection of previously unreleased material, unfinished tracks, and B-sides, mostly from the latter stages of the megastar's career. But "Michael" has stirred considerable controversy, with critics saying the vocals have been manipulated so much that it's not clear it's actually Jackson singing, and fans and celebrities have expressed outrage that the material is even seeing the light of day. Is "Michael" any good — and would the superstar have approved of it?
It is not bad, but leaves you wondering: "Michael" is "arguably stronger" than Jackson's 2001 release, Invincible, says Leah Greenblatt at Entertainment Weekly. It's a "solid" effort "as far as musical epitaphs go" — the "airy, danceable" track "Monster" is a highlight. But Jackson was famously a perfectionist in the studio, and listening to the album, "it's hard not to not wonder what he would have done differently — or if he would have wanted us to hear it at all."
This should not be part of Jackson's legacy: There isn't much reason to pick up this "10-track batch of Jackson leftovers," says Chris Richards at The Washington Post. Obviously, the King of Pop couldn't personally approve the album, but "many of these tunes are bland enough to make you wonder if he had any hand in it at all." To pass off these pale imitations as real Michael Jackson songs is "sickening stuff."
"Album review: Michael Jackson, 'Michael'"
It underscores the mystery surrounding Michael: The album "can't help but feel like the work of zombie hands," says Margaret Wappler at the Los Angeles Times. The posthumous production process, which involves "many different creators," raises "as many questions as it answers." It's anyone's guess what Jackson would have done with the songs, and that unknowability reminds listeners that he's "still a mystery, the ultimate phantasmagoria of pop music."
"Album review: Michael Jackson's 'Michael'"