After writing about my initial encounters with the apocryphal Michael Jackson Cascio tracks and my subsequent, even more damning reassessment, I thought I should close out my epic trilogy by trying to explain exactly what I find so interesting about these songs, above and beyond the sordid theories surrounding their genesis. The twelve tracks run the gamut from desperate imitations of past Michael Jackson hits to bland early-2000s pop songs that don’t really fit anywhere into Jackson’s oeuvre. And in spite of the fact that they were clearly intended to sound plausibly like real Michael Jackson songs – whether to encourage Jackson to record them or to encourage us to accept their legitimacy – the number of jarring details and out-of-place touches must serve as either a sign of unabashed creativity or, much more likely, sheer incompetence.
Here now, in brief, are capsule reviews of a few of the more interesting Cascio tracks of the nine that were, we can only assume, deemed too obviously fake to receive any sort of commercial release. (And again, I can’t find these in any form other than the clunky Jungle Vibe links, so you’ll have to navigate through and select each one from a longer list of songs in order to bask in the warm glow of its implausibility.)
Black Widow (Listen)
This track was intended to fit into Jackson’s vast catalogue of songs within the “Misogynistic screed about opportunistic women who attempt to take advantage of our hero, serving as a distraction from much deeper issues with the artist’s sexuality” subgenre. And to be fair, although it’s pretty on the nose, it’s actually not a bad hommage to Jackson. The guitar has some punch, and faux-MJ proves that he can do a better Jackson imitation when yelling and grunting than when he attempts to duplicate Jackson’s inimitable dulcet tones. (Of course, it still doesn’t sound like Jackson, but you knew that.) But in spite of the songwriters’ efforts to make the song sound like a circa-1991 Michael Jackson B-side, they can’t resist throwing in a bizarre operatic interlude, helping to pad the song to its unjustifiable 4 minute and 50 second running time. The slowdown really brings out the jarring fakeness of the singer’s voice, too!
Ready 2 Win (Listen)
It’s tempting for me to focus solely on the Cascio tracks that are good or at least interesting, and it’s a weary obligation to ensure that I not neglect the most anodyne and useless of the set. “Ready 2 Win” definitely fits that description – the problem starts with the orthography of the title, and it doesn’t get any better from there. It’s so uninteresting that I can’t find much to say about it except for singling out the opening “Doo doo doo”s for special scorn. The song tries to build to a rousing Gospel choir-infused climax, as heard in authentic Michael Jackson songs like “Man in the Mirror” and “Keep the Faith”. But unfortunately, the choir in this case seems to be composed entirely of Jason Malachis, somewhat reducing the impact. Truly, a song that is not Ready 4 Primetime. (Heh, heh.)