Questions arose about the authenticity of the recordings on Michael Jackson’s new album, after the teaser release of his new single, “Breaking News,” immediately after it was posted online on November 8th. Some fans didn’t think it sounded like Michael, and then even his kids and his own mother claimed some of the tracks were faked.
The official Sony music news release included this bit: “The creative process never stopped for the King of Pop who was always planning for his next album; unbeknownst to many fans around the world Michael Jackson was writing and recording songs continuously everywhere from a friend’s home in New Jersey…”
New Jersey? This only made people more suspicious. Then there’s the incredible album cover art by painter Kadir Nelson, which includes references, some obvious, some cryptic to just about everything Michael Jackson has been involved with over the course of his astonishing and totally bizarre life. But someone with a magnifying glass and loads of free time noticed a certain symbol disappear from the album art, as it was originally posted by Sony Music. When I came across that, I recalled downloading the press image of the album art a few days prior and had a look myself — Lo and behold, there was a blank bubble where once there had been the Artist formerly known as Prince symbol floating beside Siegfried & Roy’s tiger.
Original cover on the left, new cover on the right. Look closely at the bubble to the right of the tiger’s head.
Apparently, this was the work of a rogue artist and no official permission was given by Prince to use his symbol, so Sony removed it. So says Dr. Funkenberry anyway who received the response from Prince’s reps. Why the symbol was included in the first place remains unclear, though Michael Jackson and Prince were notable rivals in many ways, they never really collaborated on anything. Though they did play ping pong together at least once. Speculation that Prince had something to do with the new album is unfounded.
As for the authenticity of the recordings, it seems that they are indeed real. Joe Vogel writing for the Huffington Post has an exhaustive piece on why, who authenticated them and what this New Jersey home is all about. It’s the home/recording studio of Michael Jackson’s good friends, the Cascio family, which the tracks in question came from.
Sony and Jackson’s Estate invited a host engineers and producers who had worked with Jackson, some for over 30 years, to listen to the tracks along with a musician who had “worked with Michael over the years and who had also contributed to one of the Cascio tracks,” Vogel writes. “Each of them listened to the a cappella version of the vocals on the Cascio tracks without any musical accompaniment so that they could give an opinion as to whether or not the lead vocals on the Cascio tracks were sung by Jackson. To a person they all confirmed that the vocal was definitely Michael Jackson.”
That would still leave doubt in the minds of some, so then they brought in “one of the best known forensic musicologists in the nation” to compare the a cappella vocals with those from previously recorded Jackson vocals. Using waveform analysis, the forensic musicologist “found that all of the vocals were the voice of Michael Jackson.” Sony covered all bases as, “It was also specifically verified that the vocals did not belong to well-known Jackson impersonator, Jason Malachi.”
“Michael,” the album, is due out December 14th, lingering conspiracies included.