The Hidden Messages of Michael Jackson’s Xscape

Kevin Cole

Prior to its release, many Michael Jackson fans were skeptical about the decision to take the King of Pop’s old demo tapes and remaster them. “He didn’t want them to be released for a reason” we all said. “If it ain’t good enough for Thriller the first time, it ain’t good enough for me!” Shouted one man who saw this coming during an early screening of Michael Jackson’s This Is It. However, after spending hours upon hours listening to the late king’s new album it has become clear the Jackson actually wanted us to hear these demos after his death. Michael Jackson’s Xscape is veritable tell-all album, which pop star uses to give fans the final word on a variety of topics. Instead of releasing these songs during his lifetime he held off and slowly compiled the greatest compilation of hidden messages since The Beatles White Album. All of which can be found below:

1: Love Never Felt So Good

Recently, Justin Timberlake revealed that it was Michael Jackson who convinced him to quit ‘N Sync and pursue a solo career. The truth is that Jackson never directly spoke to Timberlake about going solo, as the King of Pop was also the king of backmasking (the art of recording messages backwards). You can hear it in Jackson’s vocal stings, the way his words often pop at the end are actually the start of a new word when played in reverse. In 2002, Michael Jackson sent the original recording of Love Never Felt So Good to Justin Timberlake with the note “Thinking of including in my next album, but I wanted your thoughts. I have a great respect for your music, particularly your hit Pop of which I am the King.” When played backwards you can Jackson softly croon to Timberlake “When you’re one of five/you won’t always jive/JT are you okay?/Are you okay JT?” Within a year, ‘N Sync would disband and Timberlake would begin his quest to bring sexy back.

2: Chicago

Many songs posthumously released by Tupac Shakur have led to questions as to whether or not the rapper is still alive, this is one of those songs. Chicago tells the story of young man struggling to live in Chicago’s South Side, or as Jackson topically calls it, Chiraq. It’s a song about violence and gun control, perhaps the oddest part is when Michael says “Christ came back on Easter morning/But what of the families of nine in mourning.” The supposed to allusion to the nine killed over Easter weekend in Chicago is nothing more than coincidental, but his stance of guns remains strong. As for rhyming morning with mourning, no one said the unreleased demos were his best work.

3: Loving You

When Jackson sings “I’ll hold you over a mountain top/ you’re my world and I’ll never stop loving you” he’s making a clear allusion to his son Blanket. It’s an unapologetic statement of a father’s love for his son. Stating clearly that he doesn’t regret presenting his son from a third story window and if given the opportunity would dangle his son from the top of Everest just to share him with the world.

4: A Place With No Name

Another track that is heavily laden with backmasking. This time, Jackson definitely answers the rumors that bought The Elephant Man’s bones. When played backwards you can hear him make the following statement “I never bought Joseph Merrick’s bones. But if you’re searching for The Elephant Man, there’s a back alley in Whitechapel where a man waits every April Eleventh. He will take you to a place with no name [a phrase that surprisingly sounds the same forwards and backwards] and sell the bones for $10,000 a piece. It was a bit much for me at the time, but the right price for the right billionaire.”

5: Slave to the Rhythm

[The white writer of this article is "not even going to touch this one"]

6: Do You Know Where Your Children Are?

The best made plans of Oompa Loompas often go awry, a statement that is exponentially true in this track. Jackson lays out his Willy Wonka-esque plan to leave Neverland Ranch to the most deserving child. He describes the multitude of 90’s child stars who visited the ranch and the reasons they were kicked out. Macaulay Culkin made it further than any child but was ultimately removed from the premises when Jackson realized that he too would grow old like the other stars and that Neverland Ranch did not hold the same magical powers as the fictional land invented by J.M. Barrie.

7: Blue Gangsta

It’s common knowledge the Michael Jackson bought the rights to numerous Beatles songs from beneath Paul McCartney. His reasoning is backmasked in a hip-hop homage to the Beatles’ film Yellow Submarine. He alleges that today’s Paul McCartney is a two-timing gangster from the fifties named Billy Shears who killed the original Paul in a car crash in 1965 and then assumed his identity. Jackson states that a criminal of that degree did not deserve the rights to Yesterday.

8: Xscape

This uplifting title track subtly explains how Michael’s father turned him and the rest of the Jackson 5 into Rhythm Slaves. Making them work for long hours, harmonizing for no pay. It’s no secret that the Jacksons had a contentious relationship with their father, but this song proves that he was a real slave driver. It’s a dark theme, but Jackson Xplains how he was able to Xscape from the chains of his father and become his own man, how he was able to redefine himself and genre and encourages others to do so for themselves. We can all Xscape the metaphorical slavery that is holding us down, if we just look within ourselves.

To date there are over 100 unreleased Jackson tracks that one could easily predict future remastering following the success of Xscape. Could these be filled with even more of revelations to Jackson’s life story, or is this it?

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