Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Michael (2010)

Yesterday, when I was looking to switch on my YouTube playlist, one of the recommendations grabbed my attention. It said something like: "Michael Jackson - Hold My Hand (Duet with Akon)." Now, I heard about this year's release of some posthumous material by the late King of Pop, Michael Jackson, through an album titled Michael. This is all part of the deal between Sony Entertainment/Epic and the Michael Jackson Estate to generate more income for the Estate to off-set the still massive debts incurred by his Michael-ness over the years.

I have to be honest, as a massive fan of the Great Man, I wasn't so thrilled to hear about a series of new releases, especially of musical material which Michael either rejected from release because they weren't good enough for his perfectionist-self, or they weren't finished. I just can't imagine MJ ever agreeing to this. Even if he was completely broke, he would never let loose something with his name on but wasn't the complete product to the world.

Out of curiosity, I played the song. The last proper MJ release was part of the Thriller 25 Anniversary edition. Incidentally, the only song he actually re-recorded was "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin' (2008 Remix with Akon)" because, apparently, he really appreciates Akon as an artist to be bothered with going into the studio to re-work on a classic. That version of the song was fantastic, it doesn't distract from the original, but gives it an amazing new dimension. I fully enjoyed it.

Well "Hold My Hand" is really quite something. I can't really think of an occasion when I listen to a new song and immediately think: "This song is great!" I don't even think most songs are in the "decent" category, especially on the first run. This one... it was different. Apart from thinking it is fantastic, I've keep it on loop for a number of times over the past two days now.

Do you know what? I haven't gotten sick of it at all. Most songs, especially the cheap, trashy, auto-tuned pop we have the great fortune of being doused with these days, get really boring if you loop it more than one or two individual plays. MJ's music has always had that something where I can keep them going for months and years, daily, and still think they're fresh. This song, strangely enough, falls into that category.

I know a lot of people are saying that this is not MJ himself. Apparently, his crazy father and one of the brothers has been quoted in saying that when they heard the mix the first time, they immediately "realised" it wasn't Michael Jackson singing. Others feel the same ways as I did (as expressed above) that they should never have released unfinished material not given His blessing.

You know what? That's a load of rubbish! I'll briefly analyse the song for you, the way I hear it. And since I have studied music, and have sung for several years in choir, I can safely say that I have somewhat of a good ear when it comes to things like this.

MJ's Voice

Granted, His voice sounds a bit different to what we have heard before. But to be very frank, when was the last time we heard his voice on an album? That would be "Invincible" in 2001. This would be something like six or seven years before this song was recorded. On that album already, MJ's voice sounded a lot deeper than his 90s stuff. He seems to have slightly changed his vocal range to protect his voice in general, plus age probably came to play as well.

Nasal Hints

If you listen carefully, MJ's projection feels a bit nasally as well. This really didn't come as too much of a surprise to me. In the movie "This is It" - which is the last time he has been recorded to be singing and talking - he sounded very nasally. We all know he has had numerous surgeries on his nasal cavities, and this is undoubtedly one of the side-effects. So be it...

If you listen closely, his vocals sound a lot less clear than that of Akon. My early impression was that it was indeed unfinished. Basically, MJ only did a few takes on the song and left it when they worked on it in a Las Vegas studio a few years ago. Akon, on the other hand, finished his bits in the studio this year.

Not Him singing? Yeah, right.... Whatever!

Let us just remember the Great Man instead of bickering over stupid things like that. Don't forget, we're all brothers and sisters on this fragile little Blue Marble in the Universe.

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