7.5 out of 10: Even though it’s the King of Pop and three excellent demos are included, there are better best-ofs around
I wouldn’t be surprised if in every neighbourhood in the world there’s at least one copy of a Michael Jackson record stashed away somewhere; I wouldn’t be surprised if by 2020 there’s at least one other posthumously released Michael Jackson record along with it.
This Is It is pretty much just another Michael Jackson best-of collection. Don’t be fooled by the promotion or packaging – there’s really no significant connection between the film and the music. And as a best-of collection, it’s reasonable even though others released before Jackson’s unfortunate death contain a better selection of songs.
The main gripe: This Is It focusses too much on Jackson’s lesser later works. Regrettably, the glory of Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough, Rock With You and Bad is overlooked for the ordinary to execrable Earth Song, Man in the Mirror and I Just Can’t Stop Loving You.
Nevertheless, This Is It does set itself apart from other best-of collections by including six previously-unavailable tracks: two versions of the same unreleased song, three demos of previously-released classics and an awful spoken-word piece masquerading as poetry. The spoken-word is laughable, the two versions of the same unreleased song pleasant if not brilliant. The three demos, though, are awesome.
The first of the three, She’s Out of My Life, features nothing more than Michael Jackson accompanied by a guitar, is surprisingly affecting and far better than the syrupy version from Off the Wall. The multi-layered vocal-only demo of Beat It is a sensation even if it is a curio and only two minutes in length, while the stripped back Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ makes it easier to notice what often goes unappreciated: how plain funky Jackson’s voice was.
Off the Wall and Thriller are still the best Michael Jackson albums going round; The Essential Michael Jackson a better best-of collection. But if you do want those few extra tracks worth listening to, head on over to iTunes — it was made for the very purpose of singling out the wheat from the chaff.