Nearly five years after his death, Michael Jackson lives on with his second posthumous album Xscape. The eight unreleased tracks, originally recorded between 1983 and 1999, have been “contemporized” by executive producer L.A. Reid and hitmakers including Timbaland, Stargate, and Rodney Jerkins.
Justin Timberlake duets with the late legend on the Off the Wall outtake “Love Never Felt So Good,” the Timbaland-assisted “Blue Gangsta” evokes a “Smooth Criminal” vibe, and the Darkchild-produced title track recalls latter-day MJ.
Is the King of Pop still able to win over critics? Read the reviews and stream Xscape below.
Los Angeles Times: Xscape offers a chance to once again be whisked back to his creative prime and recall the man before his flaws felled him, when he was untouchable. 3.5/4
Rolling Stone: “Loving You” (recorded during sessions for 1987’s Bad) follows the wonderful, breezy legacy of “Rock With You” and “The Way You Make Me Feel.” But it’s an exception: Most of these songs rot and sway with fear. 3.5/5
TIME: For the first time in posthumous MJ history, the music can speak for itself.
Chicago Tribune: Though Jackson’s original vocals are generally strong, and the producers try mightily to refresh the mostly stale beats, the songs still fall short of the artist’s peak moments when he was alive. 2.5/4
The New York Times: Some Michael Jackson rejects would do other musicians proud. But Jackson was competing with himself, and his estate’s projects so far suggest that his best music was released during his lifetime.
USA Today: Timbaland’s “Loving You” and “Slave to the Rhythm,” a Reid/Babyface winner he revisits with J-Roc Harmon, are high points, providing flashes of the sublime sweetness and eerie ferocity Jackson was capable of—and could inspire in his collaborators. 3/4
Rap-Up’s Favorite Tracks: “Love Never Felt So Good,” “Loving You,” “Xscape”