XSCAPE: The Chicago Debate – Are “She Was Lovin’ Me” and “Chicago” one and the same?

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I want to address the issue that seems to have become The Chicago Debate, with fans going back and forth as to whether “She Was Lovin Me” and “Chicago” are one and the same.

Many fans, myself included, try to predict certain things before they happen. For example: “How many songs will be on the album?” or “What will the lead single be?” or “What is your ideal track list?” It’s a bit of fun and adds to the excitement of anticipating a new Michael Jackson release. Fans did the same thing when he was alive and they’ll continue to do it forever and a day.

The foundations of this debate actually date back to August 2013, when Timbaland revealed that he had been invited by the head of Epic Records, L.A. Reid, to work on a new album of unreleased Michael Jackson material.

“LA Reid came to me like, to my house, like, ‘I got something big I wanna do … How would you feel about doing Michael Jackson?’”

Timbaland, who never had the chance to work with Jackson during his life, said: “Of course I’ll do it,” while acknowledging that re-producing and releasing the music of deceased artists is not an easy thing to do: “It’s hard to bring anything out because now you’re just going to hear my music with his voice over it.”

The producer also announced the title of his preference for the project’s lead single: “I can tell you the first single is gonna be the song ‘Chicago’ … I think it should be, because ‘Chicago’ sounds like today.”

Most fans immediately began speculating that “Chicago” might be “Chicago 1945”. Meanwhile, a minority of fans thought that maybe, just maybe, Timbaland meant “She Was Lovin Me” based on lyrics I published online as part of this article: Exclusive Story: Michael Jackson’s “She Was Lovin’ Me”

Are you with me? Yes! Okay, good.

Yesterday, Joseph Vogel, author of ‘Man in the Music: The Creative Life and Work of Michael Jackson’, tweeted that the song “Chicago” was, indeed, Cory Rooney’s 1999 track “She Was Lovin Me”. As in, the song goes by both titles.

“I will say: I listened to “Chicago (She Was Lovin’ Me)” twice and couldn’t get it out of my head for days,” read the tweet, which certainly got Jackson fans talking.

And so began the debate re-ignited.

After a series of questions directed at Vogel, he re-confirmed his earlier statement, tweeting: “For those asking: Chicago and She Was Lovin’ Me are the same song. Recorded in 1999. Produced for the new MJ album by Timbaland… Chicago 1945 is from the 1980s (early Bad sessions); Chicago (She Was Lovin’ Me) is from 1999 (early Invincible sessions)… It goes by both names. There’s a lyric in it about Chicago. This is the song Timbaland referred to months ago.”

Vogel is 100% correct in stating that “She Was Lovin Me” has the lyric “Chicago” in the song. As detailed in my “She Was Lovin Me” article the opening lyrics to the songs are as follows:

“I met her on the way to Chicago, and she was all alone, and so was I so I asked her for her name. She smiled and looked at me, I was surprised to see, that a woman like that was really into me.”

However, fans became engulfed in a debate over whether Vogel was right or not after journalists who had attended an album playback session started publishing reviews online.

When reviewing the album, some journalists listed song titles. Kevin Hughes, well-known as a major Jackson enthusiast, recalled eight individual titles, including both “She Was Lovin Me” and “Chicago” – separately – as two unique songs. If they were, in fact, the same song, that would mean either: a) The journalists in the playback session only heard seven songs, not eight; or b) There is an 8th track that was incorrectly identified by name as “Chicago” due to the assumption that “She Was Lovin Me” was to be called “She Was Lovin Me”.

About the songs: “She Was Lovin Me”, although it makes mention of “Chicago” once in the opening line of lyrics, has absolutely nothing to do with Chicago. The location itself, Chicago, is of absolutely no relevance throughout the song. The lyrics: “She was lovin me” do, however, make repeated appearances in the choruses. Therefore it would make sense, in my opinion, to call the song “She Was Lovin Me” – as Cory Rooney did when he wrote it for Jackson in 1999.

The song “Chicago 1945″, on the other hand, makes a number of significant Chicago-related citations. The World’s Fair (which visited Chicago), The Chicago Tribune (local newspaper), Al Capone (of ‘The Chicago Outfit’ fame), and so on. While making these citations it tells the story of a mysterious disappearance in the area. “Three girls disappeared on a cold windy night, never to be found again, never to be found again!” sings Jackson in the first verse. “Who solved the mystery late Chicago night? Ya can’t hide the truth so won’t ya turn on the light,” he continues in the choruses, before launching into a flurry of high-pitched “hoo-hoo” and “hee-hee” ad libs. The track finishes with Jackson chanting “Chicago! Chicago!” over and over in his trademark, gritty (slightly angry) vocal-style. The track was constantly on Jackson’s mind over the course of his career, and was worked on during the ‘Invincible’ sessions and again at Neverland in 2004.

So which is it?

a) “She Was Lovin Me” really does also go by the title “Chicago” and there is one song on the album that has yet-to-be identified.
b) “Chicago” is “Chicago 1945” as recorded in the mid-1980s. Or;
c) “Chicago” is neither “She Was Lovin Me” nor “Chicago 1945” and is actually a completely different track, coincidentally called “Chicago”.

The answer is…

a) “She Was Lovin Me” really does also go by the title “Chicago” and there is one song on the album that has yet-to-be identified.

“They have always called it by that title (Chicago),” Cory Rooney explained to me about L.A. Reid and Timbaland, adding that he doesn’t know if they’ll actually use the “Chicago” title or stick with the authentic “She Was Lovin Me” when the album comes out. Rooney also told me he hasn’t heard Timbaland’s remix yet.

That does however beg the (now irrelevant) question of why Kevin Hughes, an MJ fan, cited “Chicago” in his review right after citing “She Was Lovin Me” separately, in the previous paragraph? Hughes was there, in the room, listening, after all. Perhaps he identified “She Was Lovin Me” upon hearing it, and identified six of the seven other songs by their distinct, previously-leaked titles, concluding that perhaps “Chicago” was the title of the one track he had not yet identified?

Hughes has since edited his review, removing all citations of song titles – something Sony requested of all journalists present at the playback session to begin with.

I also spoke to someone who attended a private playback session in France. They made the same assumption that Hughes appears to have after identifying the other seven tracks by name (including “She Was Lovin Me”) – concluding that the eighth (unidentified) track must be “Chicago” as referred to by Timbaland last year.

I asked them if they recall Jackson singing the word “Chicago” in the unidentified track they’d deemed to be “Chicago”. They said no, and that they’d just assumed it was the track being touted as “Chicago”.

I then asked them to describe the track. They said it was a mid-tempo song about a girl and had an RnB feel. This matches with the comments made by Michael Cragg, Lewis Corner and Joseph Vogel regarding the only-remaining unidentified song on the album:

“The third song played is another Off the Wallesque, mid-paced love song with a youthful, almost naive-sounding vocal. It feels very much like a song that didn’t make it on to an old album, and while the production is good – there’s an amazing rolling beat throughout – it still feels slight,” reported Michael Cragg, while Lewis Corner described it as a flowing ’80s-tinged serenade with orchestral bursts and choral harmonies. Joseph Vogel, author of ’Man in the Music: The Creative Life and Work of Michael Jackson’, noted on Twitter that this track was a mid-tempo from the 1980s and not a song that people have heard.

So I guess that’s that? I hope that this article has helped answer the questions some of you had regarding the issue.

To reiterate: “She Was Lovin Me” and “Chicago” are one and the same.

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