Today’s POP RESCUE from an unimaginable fate, is the 2001 album Invincible by the King Of Pop, Michael Jackson. Was this album really that strong, or just a withering weed? Read on…
This 16 track album opens with the low-level rumbling of Unbreakable before switching over to a hard electronic beat with stabbing piano and warm synth strings. This sound dominates the song, even thwarting Michael’s vocals a bit. This song is clearly a lyrical attack and a show of strength, at times reminding me in tone and musically of some of his Dangerous album songs. Michael is joined by rapper The Notorious B.I.G and on backing vocals by Brandy, both of whom compliment Jackson’s vocals well.
This is followed by Heartbreaker, which is faster, with frantic percussive sampled beats and a far more electronic sound. Whilst the song isn’t ever-so far from the previous track in the verses, the chorus is the high-point with Michael getting vocal harmonies, and the mid section where the vocals reach a peak. Rapper Fats throws in some well placed words before Michael takes over again. This is quite a nice song over all, even it doesn’t stray too far.
Title track Invincible is up next and this feels like a much more bouncy track courtesy of its beats and ‘hitting some bottles’ clinking rhythmic sounds. Again, the song sounds as if it’s been lifted straight off of his Dangerous album.
Break Of Dawn follows, opening with gentle birdsong, a synthscape and a smooth slow RnB beat. This slower song gives Michael plenty of opportunity to show off his warmer, softer, vocals – and he does this perfectly. The song builds nicely with a flittering of flutes, and really should have made it as a single.
Up next is another slow RnB number – Heaven Can Wait – but this one is laden with vocal harmonies of a slinky beat and bassline. The song even feels quite luxurious with layers of strings that soar and swell throughout the song.
Lead single You Rock My World begins with a conversation about ‘getting that girl‘, before a wonderful bassline comes in – sounding like it’s been borrowed from a disco funk great. This song really is a great piece of work, and it shows Michael off wonderfully. Musically there’s plenty of space in this song, and Michael’s signature vocal motifs get plenty of opportunities to join in. Sadly, the song missed the top spot, but did at least give him a #2 UK hit single.
This is followed by third single Butterflies, which is a really nice song that sadly only made it to promo stage in the US, and therefore never it’s a big shame that it never had the chance to be released here in the UK. There’s some tinkling keyboards, gentle backing vocals over a simple beat, chimes and a little vintage vinyl crackle thrown in for good measure. Michael’s vocals feel somewhat raw here, yet perfectly controlled. He’s joined by some simple string and brass sections that help build the song up in the chorus. Wonderful.
Up next is Speechless, which gives Michael an opportunity to sing a cappella at the beginning – once again showing off his rich voice before strings and acoustic guitar join him as the song builds. This song is all about MJ’s vocal range, and it really shines here. The song has a false ending, with Michael coming back for a few seconds of ‘I love you’ towards the end.
The tempo raises for 2000 Watts, which is laden with electronic beats, electric guitar, and beeps, and a load of vocal samples. Michael gets some some low-register vocals here – almost not sounding like him at all. It’s a bit of an odd song really, and feels a bit like an upbeat filler that gives Dolby® a namecheck.
You Are My Life returns us back to ballad territory, with a simple rim-shot looped beat, and acoustic guitars as Michael’s soft higher vocals sing this almost-lullaby. Unsurprisingly Babyface is a co-writer, backing singer and co-producer of this song – which undoubtedly makes its mark on the track. The melody and lyrics are fairly catchy though, making it an easy sing-along song.
This is followed by one of Michael’s favourite topics – Privacy, a topic he has constantly battled with. The lyrics leave little to the imagination: ‘Ain’t the pictures enough, why do you go through so much to get the story you need, so you can bury me’. The shutter-release sound actually makes up part of the beat as Jacko snarls his way through this angry attack on the media.
Next up is Don’t Walk Away – which feels a bit dated, and somewhat like a Toni Braxton plodder. I got bored.
Second single Cry is up next, starting with a simple beat, bassline, and Michael’s vocals before some complimentary male backing vocalists join in. This is an R. Kelly collaboration (he’d previously worked with MJ on his hit You Are Not Alone), and to some degree, knowing that R Kelly had a track on here, I managed to spot it before checking. At about the 3m 20s point the pace picks up with choir and rock drums and guitar lifting the song for a familiar R Kelly finale.
Next song The Lost Children sounds like some weird Michael Jackson does a gaelic/folk song… maybe even what happens when he tries to be Sinead O’Connor. It’s musically intricate with lots of acoustic guitar that delicately tinkle along, and it all sounds somewhat childlike. This fits perfectly with the song’s subject and the samples of children playing in the background.
Whatever Happens is up next, and is broody, with layers of swooping and plucked strings, over a hard percussive beat and bass line. At some points, this song sounds almost cinematic – as if it could have been an opening song for a James Bond movie (but with different vocals). This feels quite downbeat in tone, even though the acoustic guitar and bright sounding lyrics pick the song up. There’s a nice electric guitar and whistle segment courtesy of Carlos Santana.
The album closes with Threatened, loaded with spoken word narration from Rod Serling (Twilight Zone) and vocal effects, over a hard stabbing beat and synth that would make the Backstreet Boys proud. Michael sounds in his element here in this song – and his vocals get to show off their range and capacity as they duel with an almost growling bassline. Rod even gets his own verse, and as the song closes, Rod tells us that this was not the end of a terrifying nightmare – it’s only the beginning.
Over all, this album was apparently in production from 1997 until just weeks before its release in 2001. At times, this shows, with some songs taking on a clear 90’s feel that isn’t too far from his 1991 album Dangerous. Slick production and gentle uses of collaborators helps to add freshness to the MJ formula, resulting in a nice, but fairly long album. Highs like Butterflies and You Rock My World shine here with great ease, amongst some pretty middle-of-the-road tracks – none of which are bad (no pun intended!), but are just ‘okay’ due to their number. I’m not sure this album is Invincible, I think there’s plenty of cracks.
Where is Michael Jackson now?
Michael died in June 2009, in the run up to a large tour. Upon his death, many of his previous songs returned to the charts.
Michael’s first post-humous studio album Michael was released in 2010, giving him a #4 UK chart hit. This was followed by his most recent post-humous studio album Xscape in 2014, giving him his first UK #1 studio album since this album, Invincible in 2001. Since his death, there have been countless career retrospective albums featuring remixes and early recordings from his vast back catalogue.
His most recent charting UK single was Slave To The Rhythm, which reached #98 in 2014, but featuring Michael digitally inserted in the video, once again showing him as a creative innovator that even death cannot stop.
His sister, LaToya Jackson later revealed that many songs (many previously unheard) had been found on a number of hard-drives. It’s inevitable that Jackson’s musical career is far from over.
POP RESCUE ‘INVINCIBLE’ RATING:
- POP RESCUE 2016 RATING: 3 / 5
- 2001 UK CHART PEAK: #1, certified Platinum.
- POP RESCUE COST: £1.99 from MusicMagpie.