This is Michael Jackson’s sixth album since kick-starting his solo career on Epic Records, but there’s a problem at the start. The first song, Unbreakable, which would be a less cheesy album title than Invincible, is, well, broken. It has punchy hip-hop drums going for it and not much else. The concept is appropriate, but the vocals are surprisingly hackneyed. Invincible is the first Michael Jackson album that, as hard as it tries, doesn’t start with an aesthetic bang. The next two songs, also laced with faulty beats by Rodney Jerkins and both featuring a rapper who should’ve been limited to one song or the other, do better, but only because MJ’s signature ad-libs are still vigorous enough to lift them up from mediocrity. That’s the case with about half the album. The other half are songs that were much better in the first place. But they’re scattered about. So if Threatened is the new Thriller, Invincible is a mixed Halloween candy bag.
The best songs are nearly on par with the Michael Jackson classics we know and love. Banal lyrics plague the entire album, especially compared to the poetic depth of his previous two, but the vocal melodies on romantic candle burners like Break Of Dawn and Heaven Can Wait reign supreme with sweet beats to match. You Rock My World is an all-out classic without the tacky Chris Tucker intro and Butterflies sounds gorgeous. Though I generally prefer a more uptempo and less pussy-whipped Michael Jackson, I kind of wish the whole album sounded like these songs. But the Michael Jackson brand, which started in Motown, expanded beyond the confines of soulful groove music a long time ago, so here we have The King Of Pop trying to please the masses; the youngsters sending imitators up the Billboard charts he once ruled; by dumbing down, chasing trends and potentially losing long-time fans in the process.
2000 Watts, the missing title cut from Tyrese’s newest album, is a prime example. The beat, a Teddy Riley production designed to be played in a flashy vehicle at a very high volume, goes hard, but the vocals, sang with a digital deepening effect; probably the album’s biggest artistic blunder; are stuck in second gear until Michael Jackson finally starts finessing the track with ad-libs near the end. You Are My Life is enhanced in the same way, but Babyface’s dated croon music sticks out like a sore heart on an album that’s supposed to be new. Privacy, a paparazzi plea in which it is mistakenly implied that Princess Diana died in the winter as opposed to the summer; another major blunder; sounds fresher, but it’s Michael Jackson’s weakest album rocker yet. Don’t Walk Away, a solemn heartbreak ballad, and Cry, Invincible’s version of Man In The Mirror, are a lot better. Then comes The Lost Children, a lament that is both schmaltzy and soothing.
The agitated outcast who dominated the History era with clenched teeth rarely shows up here. When he’s not making desolate mood music; even Whatever Happens tells the story of two protagonists facing what seems to be some sort of impending doom; the Motown sensation who sang I Want You Back is back to being a tenderhearted romantic. That’s a disappointment for me. I prefer the Michael Jackson who grunts, sighs and makes weird hiccup noises; à la Is It Scary, arguably the best song he’s ever made; over the one who simply sings. But this isn’t a negative review. Invincible is his worst album, yes, at least since he’s been on Epic Records. It lacks the majestic vibe and overall cohesiveness of Off The Wall, Thriller, Bad, Dangerous and History; even Blood On The Dance Floor; but most of its songs are good, if barely so. I think that says something in regard to his inferred claim of pop music invincibility.
my rating : 4 of 5