For this week’s Second Listen Sunday, I decided to visit the Buckeye State and pay homage to The Rude Boys. The Cleveland-based quartet consisted of Larry Marcus, Melvin Sephus, Edward Lee “Buddy” Banks, and Joe Little III. Initially breaking onto the scene in 1990 with the hits “Written All Over Your Face” and “Are You Lonely For Me” from their debut, they wasted no time returning to the studio.
Second Listen Sunday: Michael Jackson, Invincible
As a music enthusiast, I will never forget June 25, 2009. That day, a fellow passenger on the shuttle bus informed me of Michael Jackson’s passing. It is a moment that will always stay with me. The King of Pop’s influence lives on through deluxe album editions, Vegas-style shows, and a 2025 biopic directed by Antoine Fuqua, with Mike’s nephew Jaafar Jackson portraying him.
For this week’s Second Listen Sunday, I revisited Jackson’s tenth and final studio album, Invincible. It’s common knowledge that Jackson faced legal issues in 1993, which affected his career. However, his fifth album, HIStory: Past, Present, and Future, Book I, still achieved multiplatinum success. Although the follow-up EP, a remix album called Blood On The Dance Floor, did not perform well initially, it eventually became the top-selling remix album ever.
By 2001 despite all of his accolades and achievements, some folks in the industry hadn’t written Jackson off. Thus Invincible was billed as his comeback album. The album had a talented lineup of producers, including Dre & Vidal R. Kelly, Teddy Riley, Babyface, and The Neptunes. Primarily though, Jackson worked with producer Rodney Jerkins who had six production credits on the album, including the lead single “You Rock My World.
Hitting airwaves on May 24, 2001, “You Rock My World” was a classic bop reminiscent of “The Way You Make Me Feel,” focusing on Jackson trying to get the attention of a young lady. Jerkins and Jackson’s chemistry allowed the song to stay true to Jackson’s signature sound while still sounding modern.
Michael Jackson knocked it out of the park with the second single, “Butterflies, ” a beautiful ballad about being drawn to someone but feeling tongue-tied. It’s one of his best solo slow jams and the one song from his catalog I wish he shot a video for. Eve’s Hot 16 on the Trackmasters remix is also worth mentioning.
Never one to shy away from his feelings on the environment, Jackson linked up with the Pied Piper for the third single, “Cry,” which only saw an official release in Europe. While I get the intent Jackson was going for, the song was always one of the weaker ones from the album. I was not too fond of it in 2001; after twenty-two years, it still doesn’t hit me.
The last single released from the album was the promo single “Speechless.” It is a romantic song that correlates to a love interest or a higher power and is considered one of Jackson’s best works. He wrote and produced the song himself, and the way he begins with an acapella crooning of “Your Love Is Magical” is still as elegant as when I first heard it at age 20.
Aside from the smooth and mellow tracks “Break of Dawn” and “Heaven Can Wait,” the rest of Invincible is typical MJ. He collaborates with previous partners, sings about love, romance, and even touches on the media’s vulture-like behavior. However, with 16 tracks, the album feels excessive to me. I can’t help but wonder why Jackson didn’t stick to a tight nine or ten songs and save the others for a promotional mix tape or deluxe edition.
Jackson was already a King who could sing a Fast Food Jingle, and it would sell. Nevertheless, even when he’s clichéd, MJ can shell out a better album than some singers’ entire catalogs combined.
Final Grade: B
Invincible is available on all streaming platforms
More reviews to explorer
Valentine’s Day 2024 may have come and gone, but I still plan to use highlight songs with the V-word for February’s Slow Jam Saturday. The artist I chose is a southern gentleman by the name of Lloyd. Initially breaking onto the scene as a member of the preteen-boy band N-Toon, Lloyd’s solo career kicked off in 2004 with the hit “Southside.”
As we continue to celebrate the month of love, I chose “Valentine by Ryan Leslie as the second song with the word valentine for February’s Slow Jam Saturday. Leslie broke into the music industry in 2003, writing hits for Beyoncé and New Edition. Leslie released the singles “The Way That U Move Girl” and “Used 2 Be” featuring Fabolous. However, his debut album was never officially released due to creative differences with his record label. In late 2007, Leslie finally broke through with the bop “Diamond Girl,” and his self-titled album would finally hit record stores on February 10, 2009. Leslie also succeeded with the follow-up singles “Addiction” and “How It Was Supposed to Be.” Surprisingly, though, Leslie didn’t drop “Valentine” as the fourth single, which would have timed perfectly with the album release date.