This will be the only Michael Jackson-related album I cover in this blog, as it's the only one I own at the moment. Like most people my age, I grew up with a copy of Thriller in the house, and oddly enough, I kept thinking a few months back that I should probably have one around. Now the prices are all jacked up (Everyday Music is selling used copies of the LP for 30 bucks, the assholes) and I'll just have to wait a year or two until the demand drops back to an acceptable level. Anyway.
The timing of this entry does strike me as a bit noteworthy. If I had knocked this one out before I took my break, I certainly wouldn't have had MJ on the brain in the same way that we've all been forced to since his death five weeks ago. More importantly, I wouldn't be able to mention that opportunists are trying to sell copies of this record for $1000 on eBay presently. (But, hey: free shipping!) I must have really lucked out when I paid a dollar for mine... Regardless, MJ's passing hasn't swayed my opinion of this record for better or for worse. I've always liked it, and I probably always will.
Without diving too deep into the discography of Michael Jackson, I do know that this was released between Thriller and Bad, and I recall it coinciding with a huge tour and a slew of Pepsi commercials. My parents bought this record because, like the rest of the world, they were jonesin' for some new Michael. What they got were a few tracks from MJ and some solo jams from the rest of the Jacksons. Calling this a group effort is slightly misleading, as a lot of the tracks come across as solo songs by one Jackson with the others adding backing tracks. However you want to look at it, this is a sweet pop album. Very 1984, very dated sounding now, and each song is a solid five minutes, which seems a bit much in a few cases. Who cares. It's the Jacksons for chrissake.
"Torture" is the first track, clearly the single, and it was written by Jackie but performed my Michael and Jermaine. This is really the only track on which you can distinctly hear Jermaine, though I think he does background vocals on a few others. A solid song that features some wild synth effects.
"Wait" is another Jackie-penned number, and this time he does the vocals. It's a bouncy pop number that is mad catchy and slick as all get-out. Michael ad-libbing at the end is awesome.
"One More Chance" is Randy's solo number, starting with a sweet synth groove that leads into some slightly standard soft rock. This one's for the ladies.
"Be Not Always" is pure Michael, and it's one of the most fragile and delicate songs in the history of the world. If you can stick with it and hold out while it builds, it pays off. This is the MJ I prefer to remember. No one ever questioned his singing ability, but if you need a reminder of his versatility, it's right here.
I still can't fathom why Michael and Mick Jagger didn't film a video for "State of Shock." The lyrics are flat-out terrible, but the song itself should have been a classic duet. Great guitar, great sound effects, it's all there. Apparently there's a version with Freddie Mercury floating around somewhere.
"We Can Change the World" is Tito's time to shine, and as usual, he blows it.
"The Hurt" was written by Randy & Michael and features Randy in falsetto mode, which mostly works. The verses aren't super strong, but the song builds nicely and gets shit going towards the end.
"Body" is a strange choice for the last song on the album, as it's one of the poppier cuts and stronger than the two songs that precede it. Not the most groundbreaking song in the world, but a guilty pleasure if there ever was one. Pure Marlon.
Another thing I came across while lazily researching this record: the original cover art features a white dove on Randy's shoulder, though it's removed from almost all of the covers that are out there. Wikipedia says that early copies feature the cover with the dove intact, but the only ones I can find that have it are the picture discs. Hmmm.
I will admit right now that this is one of my secret favorite albums of all time. I own this on CD, regular LP and picture disc LP (which I never noticed had a dove before). I have even got the wife to love it and we rock it pretty hard on road trips. Did I mention that we lead sad, pathetic lives?
I pretty much agree with your track by track analysis but I will comment anyhow. For me, "Wait" is really the highlight of the album. The song is insanely catchy and is everything that was right about cheesy 80s synth pop music. And as you said, MJ coming in at the end just throws it over the top. I have always found it ironic that my least favorite song then would be MJ's solo "Be Not Always." It has just never done it for me and maybe would be better placed at the end, especially after Randy's already pretty slow slow jam. "We Can Change The World" is corny but is still catchy for me. The wife and I love to sing along to this one. Ironically? Who can tell anymore?
I would be interested to know Michael's thinking process that lead him to release this group album after "Thriller." Is he throwing his brothers a bone? Was it a contract obligation? I have always found it a puzzling yet sweet move.
Oh, and could the album cover be any cooler? When I was a little kid I thought that they might be superheroes.
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