Robbie Fulks had Happy in the can over eight years ago. But the Michael Jackson and Jackson 5 tribute album wasn't ready to see the light of day considering Jackson's little boy scandals at the time. Its recent release—years after the scandals and following Jackson's death—makes it feel more in the context of the music itself and not as much clouded by the personal debacles of "the man in the mirror."
Fulks can be a tough singer-songwriter to wrap your head around. He's got an exuberant sharp wit that sometimes comes off as sarcastic and, other times, scarily manic. For that reason it's easy to mistake this album for irony. It's not. Even when he's joking around, Fulks doesn't take covering MJ lightly.
Fulks plays with Motown motifs and dabbles in extremely experimental, avant garde realms—not the most fun tracks to listen to, but intriguing nonetheless. "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" is disguised in plucky bluegrass. "The Girl Is Mine" serves as a modern day duet between Fulks and singer Nora O'Connor.
But it's in songs like "Man in the Mirror"—a gorgeous folk rock interpretation—when Fulks pairs his signature folk oddities with MJ's laid-bare honesty that Happy really soars.