Posthumous albums can be largely unsatisfying because of the questions that come with them. You wonder whether or not the artist, if he or she were still alive, would approve of the release. Are the songs finished? And of course there’s the obvious question: Was this album rushed to stores just to cash in on the artist’s death?
Michael Jackson, the king of pop, probably wouldn’t have put out such a pointless set as his latest This Is It album. In fact, it’s a sure bet that this release wouldn’t have seen the light of day, because it was never supposed to be released in the first place.
The album is a two-disc companion to the documentary of the same name, which chronicles his last comeback to the stage. Since Jackson’s sudden death in June, Sony and Motown, the two labels for which the superstar recorded his classic hits, have released five posthumous albums. All are repackaged versions of his hits, newly remastered or remixed. And that’s not counting bestselling collections already out there such as the Essential Michael Jackson, Number Ones and a box set.
This Is It is more of the same – familiar hits spread over two discs. The track list, featuring such evergreens as “”Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’,” “Human Nature” and “Man in the Mirror,” follows the order of the film. The second disc is devoted mostly to demo versions of Jackson’s greatest hits, including an elegant acoustic take on the drippy “She’s Out of My Life” and a stripped down rendition of “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’” sans the horns.
The title track, a Paul Anka tune, is a holdover from the ‘80s and sounds like it. Mediocre and sap-encrusted, the song’s only saving grace is Jackson’s passionate vocal. Aside from the accompanying booklet of photos, the only cut that may make This Is It worth purchasing is the artist’s spoken-word rendition of “Planet Earth.” But everything else has been repackaged over and over again. Surely, you already have these songs on vinyl, cassette and CD, so this “new” release is redundant and ultimately a lazy rip-off.
Perhaps live versions of the songs taken directly from the documentary would have made This Is It worth owning. It certainly would have been a nice break from all the best-of collections flooding the market.
The truth is, Michael Jackson’s legacy deserves better.