"This Is It"

by Michael Jackson


"I'm the light of the world, I feel grand," "I feel as if I've seen your face a thousand times"—this song couldn't have telegraphed its aim for a full-on comeback more clearly, and while Jackson's greatest gift as a vocalist was his sheer guile, his sincerity and believability and emotional transparency, putting it to the service of a song as slight as this one seems like a waste. Musically, it's as if the first single chosen from Off the Wall had been "It's the Falling in Love"; at least putting "The Girl Is Mine" out in front of Thriller had the advantage of commercial expediency (get that adult-contemporary play, the first domino to fall in hopes of world domination). But this just seems like begging. He'd have been better off covering the Kenny Loggins/Michael McDonald song of the same name—and besides, since much of Thriller was played by members of Toto anyway, it would have been a fit conceptually. This is not terrible—just sad.


by Joss Stone feat. Nas


Really nice retro-soul track here—no horns, just flickering guitar riding a supple groove. Just about anything would sound good on it. Unfortunately, "just about anything" does not mean a 22-year-old Englishwoman who, smoky voice or no smoky voice, doesn't know what the hell she's talking about, taking shots at the government of a foreign country, most awkwardly with the high dudgeon of, "If in God you trust/Can't you hear him still?/I ain't no preacher/But thou shalt not kill." You got that, civilized humanity? Still, the line that tells us everything she has to say is this one: "I hope you're happy and you sleep so great at night." Oh, do get over yourself. As for the guest rapper, he's all over the damn place, from lamenting genetically modified food to suggesting that Stone has some claim on the truth. Guess he must have recorded his part first.

"My Boys"

by Taken by Trees

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(Rough Trade)

Victoria Bergsman, who sang along with Peter Bjorn and John on "Young Folks," covers and gender-switches Animal Collective over some thumb pianos. Primary advantage: It no longer sounds like a bunch of broheems high-fiving for six minutes. Primary disadvantage: Now it sounds merely cutesy rather than headlong, actively instead of vaguely annoying.