Michael Jackson: Smile
Michael Jackson (vocals)
History: Past, Present, and Future Book 1 (Epic 47 47902)
Composed by Charlie Chaplin, Geoffrey Parsons, and John Turner.
Recorded: Los Angeles, September 1994-Early 1995
Rating: 92/100 (learn more)
Michael Jackson's version of "Smile" pays tribute to Charlie Chaplin's 1936 film Modern Times with surprising reverence. The vocalization is certainly intoned well, and, while syrupy strings and synthesizers dominate after awhile, Jackson's voice and the clear lyrics it presents are firmly positioned upfront (unlike those heard within many of his pop hits).
Describing Michael Jackson as a "jazz singer" is a stretch, but, here, he proves that he could have cut an album of standards, ala Rod Stewart, somewhere down the line. This cut is as powerful as anything on either volume of Stewart's Great American Songbook, and, fortunately, Jackson keeps the schmaltz to a bare minimum. He sounds comfortable on the track, and it does demand subsequent listens. Even after his untimely passing on June 25, 2009, recordings such as this are left behind as proof of his vocal prowess and nearly indescribable talents.
Dorian Holley, Jackson's vocal director, worked with the singer for decades and recently stated that, as far as the quality of Jackson's repertoire is concerned, "as people mine his works in years to come, they're going to discover how much is there," and he may be right.
Reviewer: Marcus Singletary
Michael Jackson: A View From the Jazz Camp by Ted Gioia