Year In Review: 2014 in the world of Michael Jackson

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2014 was yet another big year in the world of Michael Jackson, with Epic Records and The Estate putting his previously unreleased music on centre stage in the form of Xscape – a brand new compilation of vaulted tracks. Former Jackson collaborators also joined forces for a number of MJ-themed events, while Jackson’s fans, as they always do, continued to honor the superstar’s legacy with a variety of self-initiated projects.

And so, as we transition from 2014 into 2015, I thought it would be fitting to take a look back at the year that was, while also taking a look at what’s on the horizon to look forward to in the year ahead of us.

Looking back at 2014

Xscape

In May 2014 Epic Records, in conjunction with The Estate of Michael Jackson, released Xscape – a collection of eight previously unpublished songs recorded by the King of Pop, remixed by modern-day producers. A deluxe edition of the album includes all eight remixed tracks in their ‘original,’ unaltered form, plus a bonus track of the album’s lead single, “Love Never Felt So Good,” featuring Justin Timberlake. Click here to read my album review.

The album sold more than 1.5 million copies worldwide in 2014, making it the 14th biggest selling album of the year according to sales-tracking group MediaTraffic.de, while “Love Never Felt So Good” became Jackson’s most successful single in more than a decade, hitting #1 in five countries, peaking at #9 in the U.S., #8 in the U.K., and being viewed more than 82 million times on YouTube.

Above: Michael Jackson “Love Never Felt So Good” music video, featuring Justin Timberlake.

On top of the “Love Never Felt So Good” single and video, Epic Records arranged for a Jackson illusion (commonly referred to as a “hologram”) to appear at the 2014 Billboard Music Awards. The “hologram” – created by visually projecting ultra-HD footage of a pre-filmed Michael Jackson impersonator (not Jackson himself) – performed “Slave to the Rhythm,” sending the track into the U.S. Top 50. Click here to read my article on the “hologram performance”.

Epic Records also released “A Place With No Name” as a second single, using Twitter to exclusively launch the music video. The success (or lack thereof) was in stark contrast to that of “Love Never Felt So Good,” with “A Place With No Name” failing to make Top 200 entries on any significant chart. Click here to read my review of the single’s performance.

Additionally, Jackson Estate co-executor, John Branca, told fans he met in Las Vegas in late-June 2014 that the Xscape album would be re-issued with 4-6 new songs in the lead-up to Christmas. Click here to read the article I wrote about it shortly after the encounter. The Estate’s plans to re-issue the album, however, seem to have changed. The album was ultimately not re-issued, seemingly ending the Xscape campaign with the August release of the “A Place With No Name” single.

In The Studio With Michael Jackson

Brad Sundberg’s In The Studio With Michael Jackson seminars took the MJ fan community by storm in 2014.

Sundberg has crafted a series of very unique seminars, describing what it was like to have worked closely with the King of Pop. The seminar is very music-driven, with stories and little-known trivial facts shared about how the albums were recorded in the various studios.

Despite the fact that I’ve been writing about ITSWMJ since July 2013, and that Sundberg had been hosting seminars even prior to that, his presentations have really hit their stride over the last 12 months.

The seminars travelled to Orlando (with special guest Matt Forger), Amsterdam, Brussels, St. Petersburg, Los Angeles (with Steve Porcaro, Brian Vibberts, Brad Buxer, Michael Prince, and the Slam Dunk Sisters), London, Copenhagen, and Frankfurt, with much more on the horizon in 2015!

Visit inthestudiowithmj.com for more information.

Michael Jackson The Maestro – The Definitive A – Z, Volume 1: A-J

Written by Jackson historian and fan, Chris Cadman, Michael Jackson The Maestro is a book that chronicles his career with a thorough and well-researched collection of tidbits of info on all things “MJ”.

“Michael Jackson was no ordinary performer,” reads the book’s Amazon listing description. “From the moment he first moved to the rhythm of the Jackson family’s old creaky washing machine he was destined to do big things. No one back then however, could have possibly predicted what would happen over the next five decades when the name of Michael Jackson would be one of the most recognisable in the history of popular music the world over. Not only would he have four consecutive number one records with his brothers the Jackson 5, but he would go on to have the biggest album of all time with Thriller and be recognised as the number one charity donor.”

“From the author of the best selling book Michael Jackson For The Record, Chris Cadman brings you Michael Jackson’s remarkable ‘Life & Times’ through his music, his performances, his interviews his achievements and his charity endeavours. Read about the significant people in his life and the many film offers that came his way that sadly never came to fruition. Plus discover his never ending devotion to children’s charities and the less unfortunate around the world. This is Michael Jackson The Maestro – The Definitive A – Z, Volume 1: A-J.”

“I’ve found researching the history of Michael Jackson both fascinating and rewarding,” Cadman tells me. “So much of his life and work is still yet to come to the forefront from people that worked with him that research will be ongoing for years to come. The fans and the general public are fed so much tripe about his life and personal appearance that his achievements and charitable endeavours are pushed way too far in to the background. Michael Jackson The Maestro proves that Michael is up there among the greats like Sinatra, Presley and The Beatles, despite the media trying to ignore the fact.”

Click here to order your copy of Michael Jackson The Maestro – The Definitive A – Z, Volume 1: A-J today. Additionally, Volume 2: K-Z will be available soon!

Remember the Time: Protecting Michael Jackson in His Final Days

Bill Whitfield and Javon Beard are two men who were entrusted with duty of protecting the privacy and wellbeing of a single father and his three children. That single father just so happened to be the most famous human being on planet Earth and the greatest entertainer to ever live – none other than the King of Pop, Michael Jackson.

Five years after Jackson’s passing Whitfield and Beard, in conjunction with author Tanner Colby, have released a book – Remember the Time: Protecting Michael Jackson In His Final Days – that delivers a previously-untold behind-the-scenes blow-by-blow of what the final years of Jackson’s life were really like.

As a fan, the first things I look for when reading about Michael Jackson are fascinating insights and new information. On most occasions I end up feeling like my time has been wasted. “Tell me something I didn’t already know!” is a comment I commonly utter to myself after reading something Jackson-related. This book, however, delivers incredible insights and new information in abundance from beginning to end.

Click here to read my full review of Remember the Time: Protecting Michael Jackson In His Final Days.

MJ101 – The Short Films & The Remixes

This year saw the expansion of the MJ101 series from the original 101 Greatest Songs eBook to a selection of supplements focusing on Michael’s 20 Greatest Short Films and 20 Greatest Remixes. Each provides an in depth analysis of the artistry involved.

“The MJ101 series is intended to be a resource for all fans, old and new, and puts the focus back on the music and artistry of Michael,” says the author of the series. “It’s by a fan, for the fans and the intent is to be a starting point, a conversation springboard, that makes all of us re-look at Michael’s work in a new way and perhaps inspire critical discussion and debate over the wealth of material Michael created.”

The MJ101 publications are spectacularly presented, jam-packed with gorgeous images of the King of Pop. And I can tell you, from personal experience reading it, that the intended purpose of starting a conversation and inspiring critical discussion about Jackson’s art is achieved to perfection. During a six-hour plane flight a friend (also a big MJ fan) and I read, marvelled at, and debated over the author’s opinions, while discussing how we would have order Jackson’s 101 greatest songs.

“As for 2015, I have plans for a few more supplements,” reveals the author. “MJ101 The Performances – exploring Michael’s 20 Greatest Performances; and MJ101 The Lyrics – a unique take on Michael’s songwriting. There are also plans for a second edition of 101 Greatest Songs to include works from the Bad25 and Xscape (demo selections) releases.”

Visit mj101.squarespace.com to download your FREE copy of the MJ101 series.

Michael Jackson: Innocent – 28 February 2005: Book 1 (Volume 1)

D Francis has produced a book about Michael Jackson like no other. It is based on the premise that because the trial of the artist on numerous child abuse charges in 2005 was not televised, the only facts in the public domain have been filtered through the sieve of incomplete and prejudiced reporting in the media.

So D Francis has gone to great lengths to acquire the actual trial transcripts, a volume running to over 14,000 pages to write a series of books straight from source. In Michael Jackson: Innocent she concentrates on the trial testimony and adds her commentary; in the process revealing exactly why Michael Jackson was acquitted on all charges.

The Author believes that international media coverage at the time focused far too heavily and uncritically on the prosecution case, which is why so many believed the Michael Jackson was guilty, despite the verdict. So, centring mainly on the defence case and the various legal arguments, she shows precisely how we were all misinformed by a media whose main interest was always in boosting the titillation count rather than giving us a true picture of events.

Michael Jackson: Innocent 28 February 2005 is in fact the first in a series of mini-books, each of which narrates a day in the trial. It is a mammoth project. When it is complete, it will comprise a must-have archive both for the general interest reader, students of journalism and the US criminal justice system. Michael Jackson: Innocent will thus be a unique series of books, which will stand as a legitimate and factual account of Michael Jackson’s vindication.

This book highlights the cracks in the prosecution case, the shifting timeline of allegations, and inconsistencies in the prosecution Opening Statement. You will be left wondering how this case ever made it to trial. The first book in the series, Michael Jackson: Innocent 28 February 2005, has been on the Amazon Best Seller’s Kindle list, frequently reaching #1 or within the top #100 in the book category of Biographies & Memoirs for Michael Jackson.

Purchasing a new book you will help the continuance of this project. It is important that the general public are informed of what actually happened at court. Between 2003 to 2005 the media misrepresented the position. It is time that those myths, and mistruths are addressed and the truth is made visible and available. By purchasing a new book you support this project. The project seeks to look behind the media misrepresentations that has cast doubt on Michael Jackson’s reputation for over 20 years.

Click here to get your physical copy of Michael Jackson: Innocent – 28 February 2005: Book 1 (Volume 1) today.

33 1/3 DangerousMichael Jackson’s Dangerous (33 1/3)

Dangerous is Michael Jackson’s coming of age album. Granted, that’s a bold claim to make given that many think his best work lay behind him by the time this record was made. It offers Jackson on a threshold, at long last embracing adulthood-politically questioning, sexually charged-yet unable to convince a skeptical public who had, by this time, been wholly indoctrinated by a vicious media. Even though the record sold well, few understood or were willing to accept the depth and breadth of Jackson’s vision; and then before it could be fully grasped, it was eclipsed by a shifting pop music landscape and personal scandal-the latter perhaps linked to his assertive new politics.

Written by Susan Fast as the 100th volume of the highly-acclaimed 33 1/3 series, this book tries to cut through the din of dominant narratives about Jackson, taking up the mature, nuanced artistic statement he offered on Dangerous in all its complexity. It is read here as a concept album, one that offers a compelling narrative arc of postmodern angst, love, lust, seduction, betrayal, damnation, and above all else racial politics, in ways heretofore unseen in his music. This record offered a Michael Jackson that was mystifying for a world that had accepted him as a child and as childlike and, hence, as safe; this Michael Jackson was, indeed, dangerous.

Click here to order a copy of Michael Jackson’s Dangerous (33 1/3).

Jackson Magazine, 2014

Jackson Magazine is a full-colour annual publication by Jackson Source. The magazine offers an overview of the highlights of Jackson-related events and happenings over the previous year in the form of articles, reports and news categories, along with exclusive contributions, interviews and photos by Jackson family members.

The 2014 edition is 8.625 x 11.25 inches, has 52 pages (the biggest edition to date) and is published in English. It features articles such as Xscape in Review (by yours truly), 25th anniversary Rhythm Nation, The first book About Michael (by Syl Mortilla), Story behind a photo, Jermaine’s entertainment and hospitality projects, and An Introduction to Coffee Bean by Taj Jackson, as well as updates about The Jacksons, Dealz, Jaafar, Austin, Genevieve, Jermaine, Janet and Wissam and much, much more!

You can order your copy by visiting the Blurb Bookstore.

Invincible magazine

Invincible is a professionally published magazine that features interviews, reviews, and discussion on a variety of Michael Jackson-related subjects.

The first of its three issues to date was released on June 25, 2014 by Sunset Publishing, with a follow-up in September and its latest offering in December.

Published in French, Invincible is a “brand new Michael Jackson magazine designed to appeal to both old and new fans worldwide,” according to editor in chief, Richard Lecocq, who was commissioned to create the magazine for Sunset Publishing.

Lecocq, whose website mjdatabank.com was approved by Michael Jackson and his close entourage, has a history as a consultant on Michael Jackson-related projects since the mid 2000’s (he was consultant, among other projects, on Thriller 25, and worked for Jackson’s merchandise company that help to reintroduce the artist’s image in retail stores). In 2011, he published Michael Jackson: KING, a book that focuses on Michael’s solo career. It is the sole French book that documents Michael Jackson’s work (studio albums, short films, singles, performances, tours and more) from 1979 to 2009.

More about Invincible magazine: “This quarterly magazine will take you on an epic journey with stories about Michael Jackson’s iconic years, exclusive interviews with his closest and dearest collaborators, and a look at the world of Michael Jackson memorabilia. All this, plus rare photographs and four A2 posters. Invincible is a true tribute to Michael Jackson’s legacy and a true tribute to his life and times.”

Click here to order your copy directly from the publisher.

Things to look forward to in 2015

The First Book of Michael

One of my favourite Michael Jackson writers, Syl Mortilla, is coming out with a biography on the King of Pop called The First Book of Michael.

Mortilla has been writing a Jackson-related blog for quite some time now and has developed a following. Click here to visit sylmortilla.com

“My ambition as a writer is to help enrich the lives of children,” said Mortilla in a recently published article. “As well as my writings on Michael, I am also a children’s author. I have written a biography on Michael Jackson, and my hope is that I can utilise the success of the book to generate publicity for my children’s books. They are all written in the spirit of Michael, and as such, I will be donating a percentage of all sales to the non-profit organisation, Michael Jackson’s Legacy (see: michaeljacksonslegacy.org)

The foreword in The First Book of Michael was written by one of Jackson’s closest and most-trusted associates, makeup artist Karen Faye, while the beautiful cover image was generously provided by Jackson’s longtime photographer and friend, Harrison Funk.

Stay tuned for information on how to order your copy of The First Book of Michael. I’m personally looking forward to reading this one!

More In The Studio With Michael Jackson

2014 might have been the biggest year yet for Brad Sundberg and his In The Studio With Michael Jackson seminars, but 2015 promises to be just as big, if not bigger!

Sundberg will again take his highly-acclaimed studio seminar on the road, visiting a host of locations including Cologne, New York, Toronto, Las Vegas, Rio De Janeiro, Seattle, Chicago, and more!

“In just over a week we launch the 2015 series in Japan,” said Sundberg in a recent statement via his Facebook page. “I am excited, nervous and anxious to get there. Another amazing team, more new faces, hopefully many new friends!”

“There is no ‘grand plan’ in all of this. I worked with a cool, incredibly talented man for many years, and I do everything I can to share the stories, music and genius that I witnessed and was a small part of. I really had no idea my seminars would be so warmly received, and I am continually humbled at their success.”

Click here to book tickets to In The Studio With Michael Jackson’s upcoming Japanese and New York engagements.

Other upcoming items of interest

In 2011, the official 2012 Michael Jackson calendar was released. The theme: The 25th anniversary of Jackson’s 1987 Bad album. Fast-forward to the second half of 2012: Epic Records and The Estate of Michael Jackson release a commemorative box set called Bad 25.

As of the second half of 2014, the official 2015 Michael Jackson calendar has been on sale. The theme: The 20th anniversary of Jackson’s 1995 HIStory album. This, combined with John Branca’s 2012 revelation that The Estate were planning on releasing Jackson’s HIStory world tour performance in cinemas worldwide in 3D at some stage, has led fans to believe that 2015 will be the year HIStory is revisited. According to Sony, however, it will not be.

So if 2015 isn’t the year of HIStory, could The Estate and Epic Records be planning something around 1979’s Off The Wall? Film director Spike Lee recently stated that his next project would be creating a documentary about Jackson’s Off The Wall album. This news comes out of nowhere, really, with no hints of an Off The Wall re-issue leaking among fans, nor any significant anniversary approaching in 2015. But given the Estate and Epic’s track record or aimlessly landing on their next project/product, there may be no reason for revisiting Off The Wall other than just ’cause.

What about the “Thriller” short film in 3D? If you ask John Landis, the films director, that is happening. But is it really? I don’t think so. But we’ll have to wait and see.

Follow Damien Shields on Facebook and Twitter to stay up-to-date with Michael Jackson-related news.

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