Like most right-thinking people, we were disappointed when producers decided to capitalize on unreleased Michael Jackson material with the album Michael just one year after the King of Pop passed away. It was a crass, money-making maneuver, and the album showed it.
They’re doing it again this year with a new record called Xscape, produced by a collaborative team headed up by Timbaland and due in May. The saddest part of the whole deal is that Michael probably did leave behind some worthy scraps for producers to craft into a new record, but the people in charge of that unreleased material are picking the wrong producers to work with. We could actually experience a legitimately great posthumous work by Jackson if it were in the right hands. These five producers, for example, might actually do something cool with those tracks now in the MJ vault.
See also: In Defense of Michael Jackson’s Magic
Is there any producer today with a better understanding of Michael Jackson’s appeal? There is not. Were MJ still alive, we’re sure he would be jumping at the chance to work with the Weeknd, especially after hearing the young R&B producer’s cover of “Dirty Diana.”
Now, obviously the material on Xscape wouldn’t have been the same as working with a living King of Pop, but one can only dream of what the Weeknd could do with it, given free rein over the existing tracks. And speaking of dreaming…
The-Dream just has a knack for pop hits in the modern era, with anything he touches turning to gold. You can turn to his work with Beyoncé, Justin Bieber and even solo, but nothing shows off his chops like his recent effort with Jay Z and Justin Timberlake: the massive “Holy Grail.”
That song is just an immaculate piece of production work. After hearing it, you can never really doubt The-Dream’s abilities ever again; not to mention JT’s performance sounds like a loving tribute to Jackson himself. Were he to work with the real deal’s leftover material, he’d churn out hit after hit.
Odd Future’s collaborative group of producers makes an odd brand of trip-hop and instrumental funk and soul. Their records are some of the most interesting in that style that we’ve heard in years. Unfortunately, they’re underrated within the group compared to superstar rappers like Earl Sweatshirt and Tyler, the Creator.
Even though they’re relatively untested, this could be an experiment gone terribly right. Though we’re sure those in charge of MJ’s music would never give a young group like this — which has never produced a mainstream hit — a chance to work with his unreleased tracks, The Internet could be the spark behind one of the most interesting Jackson albums ever made.
OK, what the hell? Was Kanye not even asked, or was he just busy? We can’t imagine a scenario where he wouldn’t be the first person to come to mind to, at the very least, executive-produce this thing. We’re also fairly sure he would jump at the opportunity to do it, as he’s one of the biggest Michael Jackson fans in the world.
Ideally, he would bring along his entire crew and do it by committee as on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. With Kanye at the head and a whole Justice League of the greatest producers on earth, this is an idea that almost could not fail.
Quincy Jones, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis
By far the three most successful producers ever to collaborate with Michael Jackson were Quincy Jones, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. We know it’s all about “modern producers,” “fresh ideas” and “new blood,” but seriously, have you listened to MJ’s old albums?
Go pick up HIStory again. It seriously still sounds vital and relevant. “Scream” alone, produced by Jam and Lewis, could be a hit for Katy Perry today. You just can’t argue with results. If there’s anyone to handle MJ’s unreleased records, it should be the same people who made his records great when he was alive.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 17, 2014