Though Michael Jackson died unexpectedly in 2009, the King of Pop is set to rule the airwaves again with an album of brand-new music, "Xscape," released on Tuesday.
The eight songs on the album (a deluxe edition has nine more) are a mix of old and new: The vocal tracks are pure Jackson, laid down in the years before his death. The music, on the other hand, is a contemporary concoction put together by a team of producers led by Timbaland, under the aegis of Epic Records chairman and CEO L.A. Reid.
Songs include "Love Never Felt So Good," a dance tune first heard on the iHeartRadio Music Awards earlier this month; a remake of America's "Horse With No Name," renamed "A Place With No Name" on the album; and the romantic "Loving You."
As Reid explained on TODAY Tuesday, he had hundreds of unreleased songs to choose from. He said he looked for vocals "that had great melodies that would still stand up today," adding that he was more likely to select songs with multiple takes from Jackson.
"If he recorded it over and over, then I knew that he loved it," Reid said. "I worked with Michael, and I knew that he wouldn't record it over and over unless he really loved it."
Timbaland also visited TODAY Tuesday, and in a separate interview explained that he tried to channel Jackson when approaching the tracks. "I couldn't touch (the music) right away," he said. "I had to let him speak through me, to guide me. ... It felt like he was kind of directing the ship, so it wasn't me battling him."
"Xscape" is the second album of previously unreleased tracks from Jackson; "Michael," released in 2010, was the first posthumous album of all-new Jackson material. That album generated four singles and some controversy over whether all the vocals were, in fact, Jackson's.
Such issues have not been raised thus far regarding "Xscape."
Reid said he wouldn't consider himself Jackson's friend, but he knew Jackson as an artist and a human being: "Michael was a man of love; he was completely about love. ... Very dedicated to himself, very dedicated to music and being great and really doing something great for the world."
"Xscape" is now available for purchase and download.