“Love Never Felt So Good” set to be the first single released from the new Michael Jackson album?

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“Love Never Felt So Good” – one of eight unreleased tracks on the upcoming Michael Jackson album, ‘XSCAPE’ – will seemingly serve as the project’s lead single.

Speculation regarding the lead single has been fever-pitched in the Jackson fan community since the day ‘XSCAPE’ was announced, with at least five of the album’s tracks being touted as potential singles among a range of parties close to the album. However, it now seems that the debate may be over, and that “Love Never Felt So Good” will be the first cab off the rank.

“Love Never Felt So Good” – a track Jackson co-wrote and recorded with Paul Anka and Kathy Wakefield during the early 80s – has not always been the front-runner for the role of lead single. Far from it, in fact! Back in August 2013, super-producer Timbaland revealed that he was working on a brand new Michael Jackson album. During an interview with Revolt TV, in which he discussed how L.A. Reid had invited him to come on board the project, the producer said: “I can tell you the first single is gonna be the song ‘Chicago’… I think it should be, because ‘Chicago’ sounds like today.”

For those not familiar with the situation: “Chicago” is actually a song that was originally called “She Was Lovin Me” – as written by Cory Rooney. Michael Jackson recorded the Rooney-written track in 1999 at the Hit Factory in New York City during the early ‘Invincible’ sessions. Fans only discovered that “Chicago” and “She Was Lovin Me” are one and the same a week ago. Read about that here.

For a six-month period following Timbaland’s initial revelations, information regarding the new album was hard to come by. So when Sony Mobile and The Estate of Michael Jackson announced, in late-February 2014, that the King of Pop’s unreleased track “Slave To The Rhythm” would serve as the commercial theme for Sony’s new Xperia Z2 mobile phone, talk of the new album sparked back up. The theory that “Slave To The Rhythm” would not only be the Xperia theme, but Jackson’s new single too, quickly became popular belief, with speculation that footage from the commercials (see below) would double as the short film to the track.

However, as time following the Xperia announcement passed, and days turned into weeks, the probability that “Slave To The Rhythm” would be the lead single began to diminish.

The day the ‘XSCAPE’ album was announced, a 15-second teaser was released to the public featuring the brand new remix of the song “Xscape” – produced by Rodney Jerkins. Attention quickly turned to “Xscape” as the potential lead single when the track’s co-writer, LaShawn Daniels, uploaded a snippet of the track to his Instagram account, stating: “This song serves as the album title as well as first single; XSCAPE.”

When radio broadcasters, journalists and music critics finally heard the album during private listening sessions last week, the song “Do You Know Where Your Children Are” was frequently cited as being an album standout and possible hit.

But, as stated at the beginning of this article, it was “Love Never Felt So Good” that seems to have got the winning vote.

As far as Epic Records and The Estate of Michael Jackson are concerned, the lead single is possibly the most crucial decision to be made in this entire campaign. Picking a track that gels well with radio audiences around the world is essential. If the track does not take off in the world of radio, the single will not succeed as charts are impacted by airplay. And if the lead single does not succeed, radio stations are not likely to accept a second, third and forth single – which is currently part of the plan.

Fans who have not yet heard the new version of “Love Never Felt So Good” have questioned the concept of using it as the lead single based on how the demo sounds. But those who have heard the new version insist the track is a worthy, radio-friendly single with major hit potential.

“Love Never Felt So Good” was touted by reporter Kevin Hughes as: “An amazing 1983 disco groove,” with “a soulful vocal, infectious baseline and orchestral strings,” in his review for The Mirror. The track – which has been likened to 2013 Daft Punk mega-hit “Get Lucky” and Jackson’s own 1979 classic “Rock With You” – would apparently not sound out of place on a Pharrell album. A French review hyped “Love Never Felt So Good” as: “A power track completely calibrated for your summer,” adding that the track was: “Big disco funk,” with a galactic groove spirit. Lewis Corner of Digital Spy says that the track comes complete with: “1980s disco beats and crisp finger clicks,” adding that “the groove of the track is soaked in nostalgia.”

The finger snaps are all present on the original demo of the track, but a 1980s disco beat is not. Neither is an infectious bassline or orchestral strings. In fact, the demo – which will appear in the Deluxe Edition of ‘XSCAPE’ – has only one instrument; a piano. It will certainly be fascinating to hear this track loaded with new sounds designed to create a fresh, danceable vibe.

“Love Never Felt So Good” should serve as an easy track for the general public to swallow and digest. The harsh reality of mainstream radio these days is that the majority of the music you hear on it is dumbed down and targeted at lazy listeners who aren’t interested in anything other than a simple, fluffy throw-away chorus to sing along to on their way to work – as opposed to the complex and intellectual songwriting that exists on the majority of the tracks on ‘XSCAPE’. If “Love Never Felt So Good” can get its foot in the radio door to great effect, subsequent singles should be a less daunting prospect for both the radio station and record label.

As well as track selection, timing is very important. Right now ‘XSCAPE’ is just over a month from worldwide released. Dropping a single now could be a great thing for the album if the single continued to progress up the charts week-by-week. However if the single was to peak early, in the first week or two, and fade away, the results come album release day could be disastrous.

In this case, from what I’ve been able to gather, it seems that Epic Records are planning to launch their radio campaign fairly close to the release of the album. I personally think this would be a good move on their part.

Skip Dillard, a New York-based radio broadcaster who attended to Epic Records listening session at Top of the Rock on April 8, told me that the plan is for the single to hit radio in early May. Assuming the track launches on a Tuesday, that would be May 6. That would give the track one week of solid airplay before the album, and accompanying short film, is released on May 13.

Remember, the Deluxe Edition of the ‘XSCAPE’ album comes bundled with two videos. According to a contact of mine who works in the film industry in Los Angeles; one of those videos is set to be the short film for the lead single, and the other a “making of” documentary about the album. A  worldwide, big-budget, multi-faceted marketing campaign will accompany the release of the album.

As for the documentary, this could be the opportunity Rodney Jerkins has been waiting years for, providing the perfect platform to release some of never-before seen footage he captured of Michael Jackson recording the ‘Invincible’ album. “I’ll just say Michael asked me to document everything; and I did,” revealed Jerkins in an interview shortly after Michael’s passing. “And I’m sure one day it’ll see the light of day. I got to make sure it’s made in the way Michael would want to see it.”

‘XSCAPE’ is released worldwide on May 13, 2014.

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