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.