Text and Meaning in Michael Jackson’s Xscape (part 1)

 

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“He talked always about giving love. It was never about how much love he got back.”––Antonio “L.A.” Reid discussing Michael Jackson, Xscape Documentary DVD

Any announcements of “new music” from Michael Jackson must necessarily and rightly be met with a healthy amount of skepticism.

Important questions have to be answered: Is this new music going to be something dug out of once-private vaults simply because of its guaranteed ability to stimulate cash-flow for all those who manage to attach their names to it?  Or will it emerge and stand as a true representation of Jackson’s certified brilliance and successfully extend the incandescent legacy of soul-nourishing rhythms and altruistic service he spent a lifetime creating?

The now much-discussed 17 tracks on the “deluxe edition” of the Xscape album allow listeners to consider such questions in depth. Eight “contemporized” versions of songs first recorded in the 1980s and 1990s are followed by original versions and a bonus track featuring Justin Timberlake. Critics have been close to unanimous in proclaiming the album’s musical excellence. How well does it serve the greater purposes established by Jackson himself in regard to his vision of his music and his life?

Visual Metaphors for the King of Pop

One thing was made very clear by early looks at the album’s cover image, by Mat Maitland of Big Active, and the poster, by Mr. Brainwash, that comes with some editions of the album. Both recognize Jackson in a way he often said he wished most to be remembered–– as a great artist. The poster by Mr. Brainwash (a.k.a. Thierry Guetta) gives us MJ rendered in a neo-expressionistic pop style reminiscent of works by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol, and Banksy all rolled into one. Surrounded by the titles of songs in different fonts against a seemingly shredded and splattered background, Jackson emerges as both a creator of enduring art and an indestructible force of it.

The ultra-modern image created by Mat Maitland for the cover drew boos and cheers when first revealed but it may in fact represent one of the better metaphors for the King of Pop ever offered. The upper portion of Jackson’s head extends out a slanted golden ellipse that could be a satellite dish, part of a speaker, a halo, or a portal.  To enjoy the complete post by Aberjhani please click this link: Text and Meaning in Michael Jackson’s Xscape (part 1) – National African-American Art | Examiner.com.

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