http://assets-s3.rollingstone.com/assets/images/album_review/1a317722232d3ecdae8838bd70939d1f7b5d315a.jpg Invincible

Michael Jackson


Rolling Stone: star rating
Community: star rating
5 3 0
December 6, 2001

Near the end of michael Jackson's first album of new material since 1995 is an exceptional song titled "Whatever Happens." Jackson, singing in the third person with a jagged intensity, narrates the story of a couple trapped in an unnamed threatening situation: "Whatever happens," they tell each other, "don't let go of my hand." The music is Latin-based, a deep brew of Jeremy Lubbock's strings and Carlos Santana's guitar. Jackson and producer Teddy Riley make something really handsome and smart: They allow you to concentrate on the track's momentous rhythms, Santana's passionate interjections and Lubbock's wonderfully arranged symphonic sweeps.

Unfortunately, "Whatever Happens" is not the rule on Invincible. There's little story-telling or transforming music on frantic songs such as "Threatened," in which Jackson assigns supernatural powers to himself, and "Privacy," where he's a besieged celebrity battling media invasions and inaccuracies, and "The Lost Children," a theater piece in which Jackson insists on singing about imperiled kids. Instead, we're placed squarely in Michael Jacksonland, a bizarre place where every sparkling street is computer-generated, every edifice is larger than life and every song is full of grandiose desperation. It's an excruciatingly self-referential place, worsened further by its namesake's unmatched controversies and weirdnesses, plus the inevitable march of pop time.

"With all that I've been through," he swears at the beginning of "Unbreakable," "I'm still around." The track's title may be unconvincing, but producer Rodney Jerkins does give six of the album's sixteen tracks a fleet, durable R&B minimalism. On "You Rock My World," Jackson and Jerkins recall the singer's work with Quincy Jones by way of finely sculpted and exquisitely voiced rhythm tracks and vibrating vocal harmonies. But Jackson is merely treading water on generic tracks such as "Heartbreaker" and "2000 Watts" (co-produced by Riley).

Invincible lavishes time on ballads. They range from Los Angeles smooth ("You Are My Life," done with a terribly off Babyface) to the odd ("Butterflies"). Best of the bunch are "Don't Walk Away," uncut Riley-produced heartbreak soul, and "Cry," where co-producer R. Kelly more or less succeeds with the kind of life-affirming number Jackson will never (and should never) quite desert. But he does need to leave Michael Jacksonland, that place where every sign points back to the spectacle of himself. Whether he will remains unclear.

Album Review Main Next


Community Guidelines »
loading comments

loading comments...


Sort by:
    Read More
    Daily Newsletter

    Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

    Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
    marketing partners.


    We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

    Song Stories

    “Stillness Is the Move”

    Dirty Projectors | 2009

    A Wim Wenders film and a rapper inspired the Dirty Projectors duo David Longstreth and Amber Coffmanto write "sort of a love song." "We rented the movie Wings of Desire from Dave's brother's recommendation, and he had me go through it and just write down some things that I found interesting, and they made it into the song," Coffman said. As for the hip-hop connection, Longstreth explained, "The beat is based on T-Pain. We commissioned a radio mix of the song by the guy who mixes all of Timbaland's records, but the mix we made sounded way better, so we didn't use it."

    More Song Stories entries »