November 29, 2001

The King of Pop: Still Invincible

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At first glance, this week’s Billboard Chart of best selling albums could be a reprint from the height of the 1980s, when one white glove was in, a dance move known as the Moonwalk was cool, and Michael Jackson was still the self-proclaimed, but internationally renowned, “King of Pop.” This week’s chart places Madonna’s best-of album at number seven and Jackson’s Invincible at number four. Like the effect of seeing the name of this icon in print, Jackson’s latest will take you back.

After starting to produce albums apart from the Jackson 5, Jackson’s second solo effort, the 1982 Thriller , became the best selling album of all time. Bad (1984) provided similar success for the artist. His latest is not as groundbreaking as either of these albums, or even as successful as his 1991 effort Dangerous. However, this album does provide a new dose reminiscent of old school Jackson for fans of the singer’s good ol’ days.

The album’s dramatic first track, “Unbreakable,” joins Jackson’s deep dance beats and straining, high singing voice with the rapping of Notorious B.I.G. The song is reminiscent of “Thriller” and other greats, but with the rapping twist. “Unbreakable” also approaches a very appropriate subject matter, Jackson as an untouchable, unbreakable icon, which this 16-track album does not fail to disprove. It is modern, upbeat, convincing, and sets the tone for a very successful album. “Heartbreaker” and “Invincible” continue this upbeat tone through the beginning of the album. They also provide convincing beats and lyrics mixed with rap.

After these songs, the album slows down a bit. “Break of Dawn,” “Heaven Can Wait,” “Butterflies,” “Speechless,” and “Don’t Walk Away” are all slow, rock love songs. The lyrics in these songs are fairly simple, and the success of the tracks is present more in his performance than in substance.

On “Whatever Happens,” also a love song, Jackson attempts a narrative with great success. Jackson also brought in some celebs for three other slower songs, “You Rock My World,” “You Are My Life,” and “Cry.”

“You Rock My World” includes a conversation between Chris Tucker and Jackson as an introduction, and “You Are My Life,” also a slow love song, is performed in collaboration with Babyface.

Following in the footsteps of “Heal the World,” “Cry,” written by R. Kelly, is performed with a choir. This is a hopeful song with a positive message: “You can change the world (I can’t do it by myself)/ You can touch the sky (Gonna take somebody’s help).” With all of these added names, one has to wonder if, at 42, Jackson is getting too old to stand on his own?

“2000 Watts” and “Threatened” are both futuristic and technical sounding songs, which break up the slower songs in the middle of the album and end the album with a bang, respectively. “2000 Watts” starts off with the spoken words “You may now apply your 3-D glasses as we proceed.” While Jackson seems to be modernizing with his techno beats, evidently he is still stuck in the Captain E.O. 80s. The remainder of the lyrics are also redundant and uninteresting. However, the effects are able to compensate for this, and it does not significantly hurt the album.

“Threatened” is interspersed with tracks of Rod Serling’s (Twighlight Zone) voice. Both of these songs are full of special effects. The result of these effects for “Threatened” is that it feels more like an event than a mere song. It is upbeat and energetic, and ends with the words, “What you have just witnessed could be the end of a particularly terrifying nightmare. / It isn’t. It’s the beginning.” Even though they are spoken by Rod Serling, they are most definitely over-optimistic words to put at the end of an album for Jackson, who is past his prime.

“Privacy” also serves to break up the milieu of love songs. It is upbeat and angry, but the subject matter is a little off base. He sings, “I need my privacy, I need my privacy / So paparazzi, get away from me.” This may have been a problem for Jackson in the 80s, when he was idolized by teens around the world, and the early 90s, when he was surrounded by accusations of child molestation, or shortly after that when he wed Lisa Marie. But it is difficult to remember reading about Jackson in the past decade. I just assumed he’s been in the hospital trying to prevent his plastic surgery-laden face from falling off.

The one weak link in an otherwise solid album is the song “The Lost Children.” While children have always been a philanthropic interest of Jackson’s, his suggested history of child molestation makes this song an uncomfortable topic. Jackson should have stuck with the good memories of his stardom and forgotten about the bad ones in order to remain invincible to his throngs of adoring fans.

Archived article by Sara Katz