Michael Jackson’s “new” single, called “This Is It,” isn’t really his. And it’s a PR nightmare.

The song is registered with BMI Music Licensing to Michael Joe Jackson and to Paul Anka. They wrote it together in 1983 and called it “I Never Heard.” It was released in 1991 by a singer named Safire.

Anka has settled for 50% of everything, according to published reports, which is common in these situations. It most recently happened when John Legend nicked the famous song “Stormy” for his “Save Me” single. The writer, Buddy Buie, became Legend’s partner. It’s also happened to Mariah Carey (”Emotions” was a rewrite of Maurice White’s “Best of My Love”) and to many other stars.

It was only before Michael died that he dusted off the old track. It’s unclear whether or not he told producer’John McClain that the song dated back so far. It seems likely he didn’t.

Maybe Michael got “Anka” mixed up with “Branca,” the name of his lawyer. They do rhyme.

The song was constructed and inserted into “This Is It” “very secretly,” says a source. “No one had heard of it.”

And here’s a thought: The new song sounds a lot like one that appeared two years later, on the 1985 “Bad” album, called “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You.” That song, which was a hit, sounds nothing like a Michael Jackson song and is one of his few duets.Years later, a similar melody turned up in “What More Can I Give?”

What a mess! But it’s important to remember a couple of things. Michael’s very longtime sound engineer Bruce Swedien told this column right after Michael died that he didn’t think there were a lot of unreleased songs just lying around. He thought there were possibly 10. Possibly. Michael’s fans should not get their expectations up for lots and lots of posthumous releases a la Jimi Hendrix.

But this does make sense concerning “This Is It.” Michael must have been shocked when he realized, going through old demos, that he’d collaborated on a song that started with the words “This Is It.”


Paul Anka, by the way, is a very famous songwriter besides being a performer. He wrote “My Way,” Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show” theme music, “Diana,” “One Man Woman,” “Having My Baby,” and dozens of other hits.

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Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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