A friend of mine, Chris Kohler, passed along this fantastic review of Michael Jackson’s Invincible album. I thought I would feature it here on my blog to generate some discussion since a) the ten-year anniversary is approaching, and b) I will be discussing the album on BlogTalkRadio with Reverend Gross this Sunday, September 25 at 12:00pm. Is Invincible MJ’s best album? Feel free to chime in on the comments below.
Have been soaking in the waters of Invincible again, such a wonderful place to be – and so many new things pop into my ears when I leave an album for a while and return to it again, the moth after the flame…
I’m actually going to go against the Maestro Michael Jackson on something in reference to this album though…
I know there’s good science behind the order of the tracks on any album, and that issue is decided after lengthy consideration and taken very seriously. Indeed it’s more art than science.
Curiously, I find that I prefer listening to Invincible on “random” or “shuffle” if you will, rather than in the order it was originally released in.
The first three tracks (Unbreakable/Heartbreaker/Invincible), all co-produced by Rodney Jerkins and co-written by MJ and members of the Jerkins team, are all very strong songs – not much time gap in between – sympathetic rhythms/tempos – sharing an almost monotonic sound in the verses not heard since In The Closet – sometimes it feels like they can be strung together as a unit, a megamix, experienced as all one song. It works.
But – I find them to be even more interesting individually.
So I now break them up whenever I listen to this album and I like it better.
Hope the Master doesn’t mind.
Look at how many people co-wrote songs with MJ on this album!
The order of the names indicates the importance in the contribution to the song.
Some of the lyrics that give me goosepimples from Invincible: (italics mine)
You can try to stop me, but it won’t do a thing
No matter what you do, I’m still gonna be here
Through all your lies and silly games
I’m a still remain the same, I’m unbreakable
Now many times I’ve told you of all the things I would do
But I can’t seem to get through no matter how I try to
So tell me how does it seem that you ain’t checking for me
When I know that I could be more than you could ever dream
The entire song of “Heaven Can Wait” gives me goosepimples.
Extraordinary song. Starts out like an R&Bish love song, then goes so much deeper, can’t box it in genres, MJ is shoutin’ the blues on the chorus, getting into spirit, from that point on (“You’re beautiful”) it is a song that ONLY Michael Jackson could do and his delivery and personal vocal touches are –well– heavenly. He just owns it.
I’d hate to see anyone else try this song.
“You Rock My World” – probably the most potential of wide appeal chart-topper on this album – I don’t recall its highest chart position but I bet somebody does – wonderful hoppin’ song, irresistible really, can’t understand why the fans didn’t choose it for TII…
I caress you, let you taste us, just so blissful… listen
I would give you anything baby, just to make my dreams come true
Oh baby you give me butterflies
I know he didn’t write those lyrics but his delivery of them is so intense (let you taste us, an unusual lyric in the first place, becomes palpable) that as usual he just owns it…
You gave me hope when all hope is lost
You opened my eyes when I couldn’t see
Love was always here waiting for me
(You Are My Life)
That last line a triumphant release vocally – this one’s for his kids – great significance here in the discovery of where he could concentrate all that love he’d been carrying around for so long, without worrying about the agendas of others…
“Don’t Walk Away” – oh my – could anyone else do better at verbalizing the end of a deep love?
This may be my favorite MJ ballad.
The agonizing conflict here between “When there’s nothing left to do but walk away” and “Can’t you see, I don’t wanna walk away”, which are rendered differently in musical terms too, perhaps hinting that his strongest emotion lay in the latter sentiment.
This one seems straight from his heart.
The final phrase “Don’t walk away”, unembellished, echoing, abruptly ending the song…
You hang there as he does. Nothing left to say. Done.
Nothing in the liner notes about the band or orchestration on this track but the guitar work is excellent.
But again he had co-writers. Teddy Riley, your contributions to MJ’s art probably can’t be quantified or diminished.
Whatever happens, don’t let go of my hand
Again collaboration with Teddy Riley and several others, and again a feeling I get that this came straight out of MJ’s life and I get a vivid mental picture of the time period and person involved.
To suddenly drop the listener immediately into his story, literally mid-conversation, and vividly share a moment in time, just a small moment that made a big impact on him and triggered a song… that’s the mark of a great storyteller. One of his many cinematic songs. With goosepimples… and premonitions.
Every time your lady speaks she speaks to ME, threatened
Half of me you’ll never be, so you should be threatened by me
A more delightful bit of musical testosterone and bravado, I have yet to hear!
Oh my gosh.
Sardonic, sarcastic, caustic, powerful. Unique and breathtaking.
This, the most unusual in the “Michael as Monster” series begun with “Is It Scary”.
Every line is satiric and MJ almost spits them out, he feels the truth behind what he says and yet he makes it art instead of insult and delight wrapped inside defiance.
He flings his omnipresent/outcast status in your face, firing in staccato bursts.
It thrills me to hear what he can create out of the irony of his life and the ignorance embedded in human nature.
His personal torture becomes an inside joke, an intimate moment he can share with you the listener who is privy to the point he’s making because you’ve read the headlines…
The concept is amazing – and to top it off, who else would invest in a “rapped” intro and outro by Rod Serling??
What other performer had more time spent in the Twilight Zone and knew it?
(Remember the infamous Twilight Zone episode where a woman is having her face surgically altered to fit into the general population, who find her horrifying to gaze upon? The denouement that shows you that the crowd of doctors around her, unwrapping their latest attempt and again failing to change her to their satisfaction, are themselves incredibly ugly and she is beautiful? I’m certain that its message about being different and what constitutes beauty to the mass mind was not missed by the ravenous mind of Michael Jackson.)
Goosebumps in that song from the first note to the last.
The other Invincible tracks I don’t quote here are also top-notch and cover an interesting emotional and creative spectrum:
- • “Break of Dawn”, a gorgeous song brought to MJ by Dr. Freeze and I suspect totally Michaelized and energized by the singer, will make the sweat run down your body in anticipation…
- • “Speechless” has the courage and simplicity of acapella bookends to balance the artist as he takes a broad brush to some complex emotional lyrics…
- • “2000 Watts” has cheeky symbolism that may be an ode to electronics, a “guy song” like “Speed Demon” – or a hidden user’s manual for sexual satisfaction! Was that a wink between Jackson and Riley? Was that synthesized MJ or his real voice? (I think the latter)
- • “Privacy”, with a sinister whisper perhaps belying the scream of frustration the artist truly felt at his lifelong disrespectful treatment and intrusion by media, a continuation of the wonderful and sassy “Tabloid Junkie” but now quietly more angry…
- • “Cry” and “The Lost Children”: every Jackson album needs an anthem and these are them. Both are lovely. R. Kelly at his most obtuse, perhaps deliberately, but touching lightly upon the artist’s controversial hot buttons (“You can change the world…” “You’re the chosen one…” ) I visualize MJ reading a “Have You Seen Me” advert at his breakfast table, on a milk carton or cereal box, trying to explain the concept to one of his little ones and comfort them that children get lost.
What does Invincible feel like compared to its siblings?
Off the Wall was the “coming-of-age” album. Bright sunlight, springtime colors, hormones, first loves… I’m here, pay attention!
Thriller was the “In case you somehow missed Off The Wall, helloww, I really mean it this time, POW!” album. Think I’m just R&B? Think again.
Bad was the “Flexing my muscles, warming up the legs, testing the bars of my cell…” album.
Revving the engine. The buckles and belts are tight, the ‘tude is ready. Is the world?
Dangerous was the “Get-out-of-jail-free” album. The clutch pops. BAM – I’m jet-propelled.
Pick a single, any single, it’s all good. I can drive you wild just by standing here.
History was the “up yours, there’s a lot more to me, catch it if you’re capable of it” album. Think I’m just Top 40? Think yet again! I have shades and hues!
Blood On The Dance Floor was the down-shift, somewhat distracted album. Life was getting in the way of art. More art to give you though, and in ways you may not have heard me before. Remixes make the big-time – and the Ghosts soundtrack (almost invisible to American audiences, unfortunately) casts a small spell. Was it as scary as “Morphine”?
But then, in 2001, a quiet miracle emerges, in confident stride and five different collectible colors.
Invincible is the goosebumps album.
The colors of the artist’s palette become so much more complex, the images less distinct but more meaningful. Shadows appear and are embraced. Life has cuts and bruises and broken bones.
It might have been subtitled “Irresistible” because in it the artist once again showed his innate ability to combine joy and sorrow, fear and courage, humor and truth, passion and loathing — all the emotion and pain of his life into something that we can all share with him, at whatever level we choose.
Invincible, I love you so dearly.
You are the brilliant last child who somehow went wrong but oh… so right.
Happy Tenth Anniversary, Invincible!