Can he rock our world?


August 27, 2001



Optimistically titled "Invincible," the would-be comeback album by the former King of Pop isn't due to arrive in record stores until Oct. 30. But in an effort to prime the pump, Michael Jackson has leaked the first single to radio stations and is previewing it for fans for free on the Internet.

"You Rock My World" can be heard via several computer audio formats at Jackson's official Web site, www. Intended to build anticipation for an album that is being trumpeted as "classic Michael Jackson," it's a bouncy but slight piece of dance-pop product--catchy, but ultimately forgettable.

Jackson has wisely abandoned the faux hip-hop anger that characterized his last attempt at a comeback, 1995's "HIStory." Instead, he tries to update his more traditional pop sound by working with the red-hot R&B songwriter and producer Rodney Jerkins. (Other tracks on the album were written and produced by Chicagoan R. Kelly.)

"It's like Michael [is] back to the melodies," Jerkins told the Reuters news service. "It makes you want to dance. It's a feel-good song."

The four-minute tune is also a more or less conventional love song with a hint of the risque bawdiness that pop audiences demand circa 2001. "My life will never be the same/Girl you came and changed/The way I fuh, the way I fuh," Jackson sings in the opening lines, with a question lingering over whether "fuh" is a stuttered attempt at "feel" or self-censorship of a much nastier verb that cannot be printed in the newspaper.

The track is preceded by a brief skit in which Jackson playfully indulges in some sexist banter with comedian Chris Tucker. "She is bangin'. She looks good," Jackson says of a passing girl he calls a "dark child."

Tucker dares the singer to make a pass ("I'll bet you Never-Neverland you can't get her"), and Jackson accepts, saying, "Watch" as he launches into the song.

The truth is, Jacko's new tune is unlikely to seduce anyone who isn't already a fan. The mechanical drum beat, hammering piano, and synthesized strings create a familiar and somewhat stale groove--even beyond the title, the track is resonant of Jackson's earlier hit "Rock With You."

The singer is in much stronger vocal form than he was on his last outing. But whether those famously high vocals will be enough to regain the public's affections after years of eccentric and alienating behavior remains a major question.

Jackson is hoping that it will--and toward that end, he has reportedly spent $30 million crafting this new album.