In the press release announcing "Michael," the Jackson estate says the songs on the disc were recorded during the last years of the star's life "everywhere from a friend's home in New Jersey to studios in Las Vegas and Los Angeles with a small group of handpicked collaborators." Jackson laid down tracks with Will.i.am, Akon, and Ne-Yo that have yet to surface, but there's already controversy surrounding the five "Michael" tracks that were
recorded during a four-month stretch where Jackson and his three children stayed at the New Jersey home of producer Eddie Cascio. Jackson's own children reportedly claim a sound-alike who likely laid down vocals for demos is actually the singer on the final album. Sony reps maintain that "sound experts" confirm that the singing on "Michael" is Jackson.
But why would the estate even need to include these disputed new tracks when there's a treasure trove of music from Jackson's "Thriller" and "Bad" peak just sitting in the singer's vaults? "There are a couple of songs we recorded for the 'Bad' album that we had to cut that are just sensational," Jackson's manager Frank DiLeo told Rolling Stone last year. "The releases could go on for years and years -- even more than Elvis," Tommy Mottola told the AP. So why did John Branca and John McClain, the co-executors of the Jackson estate, opt to use these questionable sessions for Jackson's first posthumous compilation as opposed to those golden era sessions that remain unheard and are unequivocally Jackson singing?
The Jackson estate has been on a winning streak in the past year: "This Is It" shattered all concert film box office records and was a fitting farewell to the King of Pop, the three-DVD "Vision of Michael Jackson" set due November 22 does an excellent job of compiling his music videos and short films and, even though the "Michael Jackson: The Experience" video game hasn't been released yet, those people in the commercial really seem to be enjoying themselves. So it's unclear why they'd go an jeopardize the run with a collection of Michael Jackson songs that might not even feature Michael Jackson on them.
We have other concerns about "Michael," too. If the set does indeed include songs from Jackson's final sessions with Will.i.am and Akon, watch out: Jackson previously collaborated with those two on the "Thriller 25" set, and the results were disastrous. The remixes the pair delivered were more along the lines of dragging Crayolas over the "Mona Lisa" as opposed to restoring it. Plus, Jackson's final studio album "Invincible" got way more mileage out of being simply a Michael Jackson album than it did on its mediocre-at-best music.
"Michael" will probably still sell a ton of copies to fans craving new Jackson material, but the best unheard MJ songs are likely still sitting in a box somewhere. Maybe we'll get to hear those tracks down the line, but for now we'll hope the "Michael" controversies don't trample on the King of Pop's legacy.
- Michael Jackson