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Released in 2001, Invincible was the seventh adult, solo studio album from Michael Jackson. Having released HIStory and Blood on the Dance Floor in uncharacteristically quick succession, Jackson had then largely retreated from the limelight for four years, appearing only at a handful of awards ceremonies and benefit concerts between 1998 and 2001.
Anticipation in the fan community was high. Appearing at the World Music Awards in 2000, to be honoured for his unparalleled success in the music industry, Jackson had teased in his acceptance speech: “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.” But whether the eventual album lived up to Jackson’s hype has split fans for the past two decades.
Invincible would be released in 2001 to a lukewarm critical reception, with many reviewers saying the man dubbed the King of Pop for his trendsetting career was now reduced to following trends instead, bringing in younger artists and lending his vocals to their work. With just two entirely self-penned songs on the 16-track album, Jackson seemed to be something of a passenger on his own album.
With his physical appearance attracting more interest than his art, and coverage of the album’s release unfortunately coinciding with the biggest news event of the century – the 9/11 terror attacks – the album charted well upon release but quickly sank, receiving little promotion from either Jackson or his record label.
By summer 2002, artist and label were locked in a vicious battle, with Jackson accusing Sony of sabotaging the project as part of a racist conspiracy, and the label countering that Jackson’s career had been killed by allegations of child molestation.
So what is Invincible’s true place in Jackson’s legacy? Did it deserve the critical pasting it received? Have the songs aged well? Would they have fared better if they had been released at a different time? In what is bound to be one of the most controversial episodes in this podcast’s history, our panellists (Jamon Bull, Shawn Shackelford, James Alay, John Cameron and Charles Thomson) ask and answer these questions, and many more.
This episode was edited by Jamon Bull.
• Jamon Bull
• Shawn Shackelford
• James Alay
• John Cameron
• Charles Thomson
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I’d been hoping for an Invincible special and LOVED it. Great to hear such diverse opinions, it was a bit surreal to hear my own being voiced over and over 😁
A couple of points / questions:
· loved how Jamon must have tried 4 times at the beginning to get the conversation to veer into the music
· Feud with Sony: Charlie mentioned something about Sony being involved in re-editing Ghosts, was it the inclusion of Is it Scary and Ghosts or did he mean soemthing else?
· YRMW promo: I remember it felt weird that the single would come out in August 2001 and, while in Europe we could buy the vinyls, CDs and cassette single, we’d hear how in the US it was only released for radios, meaning the public had no means at all to get their hands on it until the album came out more than two months later
· YRMW video: No one mentioned how the role of the young girl might have been that of a prostitute, 1st time I saw the video it struck me that she n·e·v·e·r smiles, like she’s on duty or she’d rather be somewhere else
· Michael’s mood and face: I remember on the forums at the time, there were lots of talks about botox trying to explain the stiff upper lip. Then it seemed like he never smiled any more. I remember at the Virgin autograph event, you see him smile outside and it almost looks painful; then for months and months, there was this hunt amongst fans online to try to find a photo where he smiled. Not even at Liza Minnelli & David Guest’s wedding was he seen smiling. Then one day in 2002 someone posted a new thread on a forum titled “NEW PHOTO: YOU CAN SEE HIS UPPER TEETH!!” because at last we could see him smile
· Invincible coming in 5 different colours to milk the fans: I really felt it when In The Closet came out and to get all the different mixes, I ended up buying ELEVEN different items, and we didn’t even have an a cappella nor an instrumental
· Sony sabotaging the sales: a full week before the album came out, Sony streamed it online, in full, and it was on Napster in full before it had even come out
· Invincible song: some non-fan friends of mine like it, I was suprised. It was in Spain, they referred to the “chippy-chippy like me” song 😁 I quite like its slow, strong groove with heavy bass.
· Shout: even though the songs are not great, I think sonically it would have made sense to have Shout between 2000 Watts and Privacy, it was another set of tracks with a progression, from electronic (2000 Watts), via eletro-rock (Shout), to rock (Privacy).
· Michael suffering from depression: completely agree with Charlie. The change in attitude was pretty flagrant, he seemed to have zero motivation, he started complaining a lot, making excuses, blaming others, like with the 2003 arrest when he said “it’s because I have a new record out”.
I always thought Heartbreaker was terrible but after hearing others who like it, I might give it another chance.
Absolutely loved the discussion, I know Jason tried to wrap it up but I could have listened to it for longer.
Sorry for the misspeiing at the very end, I meant Jamon, not “Jason” 😁
Hi there merry Christmas and a happy new to all of you.Today I found some time to listen your episode about the invisible album but after listening for about one and a half hour I turned it off because I didn’t want to hear about Michaels appearance anymore I got really upset listening to Charles talking like that, I respect him and his honesty and everything he does but that was too much for me,it came across hateful ,we all saw how Michael change we all seen the short film you rock my world and we loved him for whom he was what he stood for and he said it himself it did like the way he looked (that he looked like a lizard)but nobody talks about how he was filling.He is not with us anymore and we can picture him how we want too.Am sorry but I could handle it and it’s not that I can’t handle the truth but talking for someone’s appearance I don’t think it’s right, its cheap and it’s gossip and it’s wrong,it was his body and let’s leave it at that ,lucky he survived as long as he did.
When you find the statement of pertinent facts ‘hateful’, it is perhaps time to re-evaluate your own mindset.
This was a good discussion and to be honest I agree with a lot of Charlie has said.
This was a very a difficult period in MJ’s life and one can’t help wonder where is mindset was. If MJ wasn’t that interested in the Invincible project and/or just wanted to produce something to get out of his contract, I don’t understand why he just didn’t record 12 or 13 songs from his bank with a proper band. He had hundreds of songs in his bank and it wouldn’t have taken much to make them half decent and nor would it have taken much to record with proper live instruments.
He could have easily recorded 12 or 13 half decent songs with a live band and done it all for 5 million dollars. This way if it sells then great but if it doesn’t then at least he’s out of his contract with Sony and he’s not made Sony any money from it. But at least this way he would have had a product out there more worthy of his name instead of something that is “sub-par”.
If he wasn’t that interested in the project and if he felt Sony were not going to promote it I don’t understand why he spent years on the project and 30 million dollars to make. It just doesn’t make sense which makes me think he wasn’t in the right frame of mind for the most part in this period.
I do disagree with some of what was said in this discussion. The album especially by Charlie has been criticized for being “too long”. The days of listening to songs chronologically were even at that time long gone. This was not the 1970’s listening to songs on Vinyl. In 2001 you would listen to each song whenever you want. Think of Spotify today, no one would say your song collection is too big.
I also somewhat disagree with what was said about the production of the album. Yes I do feel in many areas it was over produced and a bit messy but actually this album was recorded for a Hi – Fi listening experience. Many people now listen to music in their cars or on their phones or on their laptops. The sound is quite different when you listen to this album on a Hi-Fi system. I have heard this album on a Hi-FI system and actually it sounds much better than through earphones or headphones.
Regarding his vocals, there is some disagreement in this discussion with how well his vocals were on some songs. I have listened to Heaven Can Wait a few times and I can’t see how you can identify from that that he has a cold or a flu. You must have extremely good ears.
This notion of Michael not being his vocal best because he’s bringing up children at the time I can’t find the link to be honest. Many singers out there record great vocals and they bring up children.
I for one am glad he moved on from songs like Thriller. Thriller is a kind of song kids will play at a Halloween party and hardly a song you play on a Marantz hi-fi system. Songs like Invincible and Butterflies on the other hand are more adult songs and sound well on good sound systems.