Friday, April 12, 2024

Not to Be There: Michael Jackson Posthumous Single, Even with Justin Timberlake, is a Flop


The buzz didn’t last long. Michael Jackson‘s newest posthumous single, “Love Never Felt So Good,” is a flop. Tonight the single, released on May 1st, is at number 21 on iTunes. It got as high as number 4 and then dropped quickly. The single was supposed to be the signal charge for a marketing plan that launches the “Xscape” album on May 9th. It even featured a vocal by Justin Timberlake recorded 31 years after Jackson made the original demo with Paul Anka.

This could be a problem.

The “new” album consists of 8 tracks that Jackson never finished and never intended to be released. His estate took the tracks, and instead of going back to Quincy Jones and Bruce Swedien, Jackson’s producer and engineer during his period of greatest success, they turned to a bunch of contemporary producers and artists. They also let John McClain, co-executor of the Jackson estate, have a hand in the production as well.

The result was a blip on the pop scene over the last four days. Most estates do not let their artist’s unreleased work be completed by anyone. Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison– none of them have been subjected to that.We never had disco versions of their unreleased material. There was never John Mayer on tracks with Hendrix.

I can think of two instances where work was complemented or realized. One was the Beatles, with Yoko Ono’s permission, enhancing “Free as A Bird” and “Real Love” with the remaining Beatles. The other was Natalie Cole adding her voice and making a duet with her father, Nat King Cole, on “Unforgettable.”

If the Jackson estate had just released the demos as they were, it might have been interesting for an archive. Even if Paul Anka had been involved, since wrote the song with Jackson in 1983, that might have worked.

Instead, outside of the hard core fanatic Jackson fans, buyers didn’t flock to iTunes. They smelled something was up.

It’s interesting because a couple of years ago, the “Michael” album featured unreleased songs. Some of them were written and produced by Eddie Cascio. The fans refused to believe it was Michael’s voice. They killed the project even though it was their hero actually singing. There are other Cascio songs, and we may never hear them.

There were also legit unreleased tracks from the “Bad” anniversary album. They were terrific, and could have been promoted. They weren’t.

Three years ago, the Jackson estate announced a $200 million deal with Sony for Jackson records. So they’ve got to come up with something. But as I wrote in 2009, and still stands now, there isn’t that much in the vault. So “Xscape” was cooked up. With the single more or less rejected, it remains to be seen how the album– with its re-do of America’s “A Horse with No Name”– will be received.

Stand by.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
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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