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Friday, 26 October, 2001, 15:23 GMT 16:23 UK
Invincible dents Jackson's crown
Michael Jackson performing during a benefit concert in America for victims of the terrorist attacks
Invincible is Jackson's first proper album since 1991
By BBC News Online's Ian Youngs

Michael Jackson has become more of a celebrity oddity than a serious artist over the last 10 years and has not released a proper album since 1991.

Mention Michael Jackson's music, and most people will hark back to Billie Jean or Thriller, not more recent offerings like Blood on the Dance Floor or You Are Not Alone.

After many well-publicised personal traumas, and many years since his peak, how could he possibly come back with an album befitting a man they used to call the king of pop?

The answer is - he could not. It all seems so obvious now.

Cover of Invincible
Invincible is rumoured to have cost $30m (21m)
But before Invincible was unveiled, there was always a chance, a slim hope, that the man would pull it out of the bag.

Almost everybody who has ever danced to Rock With You secretly wanted some more ground-breaking, mind-blowing tunes that would re-align the musical planets.

It had been rumoured that Invincible cost $30m (21m) to make, and Jackson enlisted a string of writers and producers to help make it modern, fresh and popular.

Unfortunately, the result is ruined by an over-inflated ego, a fragile grip on reality, too many cooks and expectations that were far too high.

About half the album is produced by R&B wunderkid Rodney Jerkins, who stamps his crunching urban beats and bleeps onto Jackson's frameworks.

Michael Jackson
Jackson reveals his hazy view of the outside world
The end products sometimes turn out funky, with hooks that get under the skin, but they sometimes sound as though Jerkins has smothered the songs in a vain attempt to make them interesting.

That is the good half.

Several of the other songs are schmaltzy, cheesy ballads of the worst degree, making Earth Song or We Are the World sound tasteful.

Those that are written and produced solely by Jackson are the worst offenders, and reveal his very hazy view of the outside world.

Even if he could change the world and have a perfect, sickeningly happy relationship, that does not mean we want to hear him sing about it and hear sound effects of children playing in the background.

There are a few worthwhile tracks that buck the trends - but their quality seems to be down to other peoples' contributions.

Carlos Santana, seen here playing in Switzerland, contributes to Michael Jackson's track, Whatever Happens
Santana's guitar licks are a refreshing change
The best song on the album is the soaring Cry, written and produced by R Kelly.

Heaven Can Wait is a light R&B ballad made with Teddy Riley, with a female chorus that carries the song on a gust of warm air, but which varies too little and becomes boring.

And Carlos Santana's latin guitar licks on Whatever Happens are a smooth, refreshing change - even if Jackson's spoken, cringe-worthy "Thank you, Carlos" at the end ruins it all.

But throughout the album, there is one thing glaringly missing - the tunes.

Some people wondered why he released such a weak tune as You Rock My World as the first single - but the truth is that it is one of the strongest tracks on here.

Everyone compares his work to what he has come up with before, which is grossly unfair because the standards are so high.

But if Michael Jackson still wants to be the King of Pop, we need tracks with the killer punch - not just songs that are destined only to hang around in the top 10 for a couple of weeks.

And there are no killer punches on Invincible.

Invincible is released by Epic records on 29 October.

See also:

26 Oct 01 | Reviews
Michael Jackson: Your views
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