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Michael Jackson's 'Xscape': What's the verdict?

By Breeanna Hare, CNN
May 13, 2014 -- Updated 2209 GMT (0609 HKT)
The death in 2009 of superstar Michael Jackson, who died of cardiac arrest at the age of 50, sent shockwaves around the world. The death in 2009 of superstar Michael Jackson, who died of cardiac arrest at the age of 50, sent shockwaves around the world.
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Michael Jackson, King of Pop
Michael Jackson, King of Pop
Michael Jackson, King of Pop
Michael Jackson, King of Pop
Michael Jackson, King of Pop
Michael Jackson, King of Pop
Michael Jackson, King of Pop
Michael Jackson, King of Pop
Michael Jackson, King of Pop
Michael Jackson, King of Pop
Michael Jackson, King of Pop
Michael Jackson, King of Pop
Michael Jackson, King of Pop
Michael Jackson, King of Pop
Michael Jackson, King of Pop
Photos: Michael Jackson, King of Pop
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Michael Jackson's posthumous album "Xscape" arrived Tuesday
  • Fans have been anticipating the disc, which features eight never-before-heard songs
  • Critics have been generally pleased with the material
  • The main drawback has been the subject matter and lack of coherence

(CNN) -- If you're a Michael Jackson fan, chances are you spent May 13 escaping with some of his new music.

The King of Pop's posthumous album, "Xscape," officially landed Tuesday after weeks of anticipation, and critics have been generally pleased.

The disc features eight never-before-heard Jackson songs that have been finished by a crew of producers led by the prolific Timbaland. Using an array of tracks that were worked on from 1983 to 1999, "Xscape" digs into Jackson's archives and updates the music to make it sound like a contemporary release.

In a review, Billboard reassures the curious that the album is worth a listen, adding that "it's better than you think," primarily because Jackson's vocal talents are "front and center."

Rolling Stone gives the record a more reserved three and a half stars, calling the track "Loving You" a standout. "(The song) follows the wonderful, breezy legacy of 'Rock With You' and 'The Way You Make Me Feel,' but it's an exception: Most of these songs rot and sway with fear," the review says. "Even with such dark subject matter, though, it's a joy to hear the joy in Jackson's voice."

The artist died at 50 in 2009 and, as The New York Times points out in its review, a "contemporized" album such as "Xscape" can only do so much to sate a fan's desire to hear new music.

While " 'Xscape' does polish up these old songs," the Times observes, it's also "clear why Jackson shelved (them). They're near misses, either not quite as striking as what he released or lesser examples of ideas he exploited better elsewhere."

The U.K.'s Guardian found the effort to be lacking in coherence, but does believe it's a sound reminder of why "Jackson was once pop's premier genius, still cited by the likes of Pharrell Williams and Justin Timberlake," the review notes. "You could even say it's a fitting bookend to the man's career."

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