Is Michael Jackson's This Is It a fitting final curtain?

If you were hoping that the King of Pop would bow out with a song as good as Billie Jean, Scream or Smooth Criminal, then you may be in for a disappointment

You don't want to damn something before you've actually experienced it, but I don't hold out a great deal of hope for the forthcoming Michael Jackson film and CD, This Is It.

There's undoubtedly a fascinating documentary to made about Jackson's abortive comeback, but there's something about the words "with the full support of The Estate Of Michael Jackson" in the credits that suggests – ironically – this isn't going to be it: it's going to be a painful hagiography, suggesting that Jackson shuffled off this mortal coil at the top of his game, despite some pretty convincing evidence to the contrary – including, it has to be said, the fact that he dropped dead from a heart attack while full of benzodiazepines.

Meanwhile, the publicity for the accompanying This Is It album doesn't exactly make you scream with anticipation. It "features the music that inspired the film, demo recordings and two versions of a previously unreleased song": ie. a load of stuff you already own, outtakes that weren't good enough to make the expanded editions of his albums from a few years back, and one new song. They neglect to say if the album also features the sound of the bottom of a barrel being scraped, but that seems fairly likely.

The big draw is the title track, currently streaming at Jackson's website, and, depending on which source you believe, an outtake from either Off the Wall or Dangerous. It's certainly an outtake from somewhere, because the online version sounds weirdly unfinished, as if someone's slapped an orchestral arrangement and backing vocals over a piano demo. If you had your fingers crossed that Jacko would be able to bow out with a Billie Jean, Scream or Smooth Criminal – one of those songs so unequivocally incredible that they temporarily made you forget everything else about him beyond his staggering talent – you're in for a disappointment: it's a ballad, not bad, but not one of his best, decorated with odd lyrics. "This is it, here I stand, I'm the light of the world," it opens, proving, if nothing else, that the tendency towards a Messiah complex that so incensed Jarvis at the Brits was very much intact when he wrote it.

That said, it could have been much worse. It's certainly less unctuous and wrong-headed than some of the stuff with which he padded out his final album, Invincible: tacked on later or not, the harmonies are impressively sumptuous and creamy, and there's a nice guitar part that winds its way around the vocal. It's never going to cause anyone to reassess Jackson's greatest songs, but it's clearly the best that they've got to offer. At least that's what I think. And you? Fitting final curtain for the King of Pop, or shoddily cynical gesture?


Alexis Petridis

The GuardianTramp

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