With the release of Michael Jackson’s Xscape this week comes the usual discourse about releasing music once the artist has died. Is the new material any good, or is it all designed to make money out of one of the most lucrative ‘brands’ the music industry has ever seen?
It would be easy to be cynical about Xscape, because it isn’t the first posthumous record released under Jackson’s name. 2010’s Michael was a flat record; exhausted, emaciated, conceptually weak and without a shred of Jackson’s soul to be found.
But it was a huge success, being certified platinum status in 18 countries, which tells you everything you need to know about how these kinds of decisions are made.
Thankfully Xscape is a return to form; the production can feel overwhelming in places, but it’s an incredibly refined body of work, one that reflects and celebrates periods of Jackson’s work without simply pandering to his legacy as an icon.
In honour of Michael Jackson’s return, leave your corporate cynicism aside and check out our round-up of the best posthumous records around.
1 | Otis Redding - Dock Of The Bay
An album that was supposed to mark a new era in Redding’s career, the title track of Redding’s first posthumous release was his only single to reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100, and the first album released by a deceased artist to reach the top spot on the UK albums chart.
2 | Johnny Cash – American VI: Ain’t No Grave
Recorded in the period between the death of Cash’s wife, June, and his own four months later, American VI is a somber record, carrying the numb, morose atmosphere of a séance in places. Produced, surprisingly, by hip-hop mogul Rick Rubin.
3 | John Lennon and Yoko Ono – Milk and Honey
Intended as a follow-up to Double Fantasy, Milk and Honey took three years to complete following Lennon’s death, carrying with it a compelling contrast between Ono’s new recordings and Lennon’s old demos.
4 | Makaveli (aka Tupac) – The Don Killuminati: The 7-Day Theory
Tupac’s legacy has been augmented by the conspiracy theories, hidden messages and speculation that permeated the rapper’s murder in 1996. Killuminati is Tupac at the peak of his own paranoia, an eerie record that is arguably one of his most honest pieces of work.
5 | Amy Winehouse – Lioness: Hidden Treasures
A record criticized for it’s frail attempts to capture and curb Amy’s inner lioness following her tragic death, Hidden Treasures still has rare moments that sparkle. It features the original recording of ‘Tears Dry’, a song that was jazzed up for her second album, here revealed to be an tender torch ballad.