Michael Jackson’s having his Tupac moment—despite having departed this mortal coil almost five years ago, he’s soon offering a new album, Xscape, due out May 13. And like Pac’s R U Still Down or Biggie’s Born Again, it’s completed by the magic of “duets” filled in posthumously by a cast of A-listers. Now, the first single, “Love Never Felt So Good,” is out, airing out for the first time during last night’s iHeartRadio Awards.
Obviously, there were two men for the job of slipping into Jackson’s now-empty glittery slippers, and they’ve been angling for the position for years. In an interesting little pop-culture truce, both have gotten to be part of the “Love Never Felt So Good" debut into popular culture. Usher's the one who busted out the song during the iHeartRadio Awards, but it's Justin Timberlake on the actual track.
Look, writing or talking about M.J. is probably the ultimate exercise in cognitive dissonance in separating the art from the artist. (Rehashing every abuse allegation, personal struggle, and moral failing would take an entire separate book-length write-up.)
So, uh, let’s talk about the SONG itself. This baby is a SPARKLING GEM. While most pop acts now are aping the dance music of the 2k10s, this one takes it back to the post-disco dance sounds of 30ish years ago.
In fact, the song itself dates from 1983—when Michael co-wrote it with Kathy Wakefield and Paul Anka!—and sounds every bit like it’s been in a vault since then. But with Top 40 sounding so heavily mechanized and over-compressed, the relatively open and analog feel of this number feels very, very fresh.
Timberlake’s solo verse about a minute in blends seamlessly into the whole affair, which is a testament to JT’s skill in knowing when to sit back and chill. Rather than steal the show, Justin lets this stay a Michael Jackson track, proper, just with some added extra flavor.
Yes, mainstream airwaves remain flooded for now with EDM-lite imitator backwash. But the mega-success of both Daft Punk’s and Pharrell’s recent efforts prove that pop audiences hunger for some delicious grooves rather than a constant four-four bludgeon to the ear drum. So voila, “Love Never Felt So Good”: the official song of the not-quite-yet summer.
Arielle Castillo is Fusion's culture editor, reporting on arts, music, culture, and subcultures from the streets on up. She's also a connoisseur of weird Florida, weightlifting, and cats.