It’s no secret that Epic Records, spearheaded by its CEO, LA Reid, is putting together a new album of unreleased Michael Jackson material. Super-producer Timbaland spoke about it. Former Jackson collaborator Fred Jerkins spoke about it. It’s happening.
One thing that has not been made clear is exactly when the album is scheduled for release.
Despite the fact that a host of music industry people have spoken publicly about their contributions, Epic Records and the Estate of Michael Jackson have remained quiet about the whole thing, leaving Jackson enthusiasts to wonder about the finer details – until now!
Dr. Freeze, the man responsible for writing and producing “Break Of Dawn,” from Jackson’s 2001 Invincible album, was kind enough to share exclusive new insights regarding the direction of the upcoming album.
“It seems to be coming out in the Spring of 2014,” Freeze told me.
It has been speculated that the new project – like 2010’s controversial Michael album – may be rushed out to capitalise on inflated sales during the 2013 Christmas period.
But timing doesn’t appear to be a priority with this project.
Instead, the focus is on delivering a quality album that all factions of the Michael Jackson fan community can enjoy and appreciate in one way or another.
The record company recognises that delivering an album which will satisfy the subjective desires of Jackson’s entire fan base is an impossible task. And so, in an effort to at least partially satisfy most of the fans, Epic Records’ CEO LA Reid is taking a much different approach.
The new album, at this stage, will have a ‘then and now / past and present’ theme, featuring both new remixes and the unadulterated original versions of unreleased Jackson recordings.
“I’m not [producing] the album,” says Freeze, whose unreleased Jackson tracks “A Place With No Name” and “Blue Gangsta” – originally recorded by the King of Pop in 1998 – will be freshly remixed for the album by other producers.
“Both old and new versions of both songs are on the album to satisfy both sides of the fan community,” Freeze revealed.
When I asked Freeze which producers were remixing his songs, he told me that he wasn’t sure yet.
“It’s still up in the air right now.”
Super-producer Timbaland, best known for his work with Missy Elliot and Justin Timberlake, believes he’ll wrap up his part of production by the end of the year.
And he’s already hedging his bets that the lead single will be a song he remixed, called “Chicago.”
“I can tell you the first single is gonna be the song ‘Chicago’ … I think it should be, because ‘Chicago’ sounds like today,” said the producer.
Also weighing in with his opinion was Timbaland’s official DJ, Freestyle Steve.
“So last night I heard some of the new tracks Timbaland is doing for the King of Pop… WOW!” tweeted the DJ after a private listening session.
“To all the Timbaland & Michael Jackson fans, just know Tim did an amazing job with Mike’s vocals. The world will love it!”
With songs like “Slave to the Rhythm” and “Do You Know Where Your Children Are” being remixed to feature alongside the previously mentioned Invincible outtakes “A Place With No Name” and “Blue Gangsta,” fans should be in for a treat.
Additional Invincible outtakes could also be used to round out the project, including “Escape” and “Get Your Weight Off Of Me” – originally produced by Rodney Jerkins and his Darkchild production team – and “She Was Loving Me” by former Sony Vice President Cory Rooney.
The recently leaked “I Am A Loser” – co-written by Jackson with collaborative partner Brad Buxer – is also in the conversation.
But like Dr Freeze said: “It’s still up in the air right now.”
Songs that will not be included: the infamous Cascio tracks – three of which have already been released, and nine of which remain unreleased.
The Estate confirmed in a written statement to one of my co-researchers that no further Cascio tracks will be included on any future projects by Sony or the Estate. This decision came on the back of the uproar they caused in 2010, when questions over the authenticity of the vocals were raised by Jackson’s family, former producers and fans around the world.
Although “Slave to the Rhythm” is one of the tracks being considered for release, it’s unlikely to appear in the form of a duet with Justin Bieber.
A work-in-progress mix of the posthumous duet, produced by Max Methods, was leaked online in August to the displeasure of many MJ fans.
Max Methods works for producer Christopher “Tricky” Stewart, who is currently the President of A&R at Epic Records, under CEO LA Reid.
To clear things up the Jackson Estate issued the following statement via their mouthpiece, The MJ Online Team:
For those who have been asking about the recently posted recording of ‘Slave 2 The Rhythm’ by Michael and Justin Bieber, this recording was not authorized and has been taken down… It is unauthorized and therefore there is no intention to release it.
There are still doubts as to whether Jackson’s fans will ever hear the unreleased music produced during his later collaborative ventures, including a three-year period in which he worked sporadically with Black Eyed Peas frontman will.i.am.
Jackson is said to have worked on just a few ideas with will.i.am, including titles “I’m Dreamin’,” “The Future” and “I Will Miss You,” as previously cited by the producer. It is also unclear what state of completion these ideas are in.
Will.i.am has been outspoken about releasing and/or finishing Jackson’s incomplete work.
In July 2009, he said he had hoped the world would one day hear what they’d been working on.
However, by the time Sony and the Estate started working on 2010’s Michael album, the producer had flipped the script, taking the position that it was disrespectful to release Jackson’s unfinished work while calling those involved with the project “freaking parasites” and accusing them of sucking from Jackson’s energy.
Regardless, based on the aforementioned titles alone, Epic Records has more than enough unreleased material at their disposal to get the job done.
“I always want to do music that inspires or influences another generation. You want what you create to live, be it sculpture or painting or music. Like Michelangelo, he said, ‘I know the creator will go, but his work survives. That is why to escape death, I attempt to bind my soul to my work.’ And that’s how I feel. I give my all to my work. I want it to just live.” – Michael Jackson
Supreme Court Judge Grills Sony Lawyer Over ‘Contradictory’ Arguments in Alleged Michael Jackson Fraud
A lawyer defending Sony Music and the Estate of Michael Jackson in a consumer fraud lawsuit has today argued that the billion-dollar corporations should be able to sell forgeries to unwitting consumers – without being held liable for doing so.
During the California Supreme Court hearing, which was streamed live around the world, Sony attorney Zia Modabber was pulled up for presenting contradictory arguments when attempting to justify the record company’s false attribution of three songs to Jackson on the 2010 Michael album.
The hearing centred around a class action lawsuit filed by Californian consumer Vera Serova – a Michael Jackson fan who purchased the Michael album under the premise that it was a collection of unreleased songs performed by the King of Pop.
In her lawsuit, Serova contends that three of the songs on Michael – “Breaking News,” “Monster” and “Keep Your Head Up” – are forgeries, and that Jackson’s estate and Sony misled her and millions of consumers around the world by falsely representing those forgeries as authentic Jackson material.
Today’s Supreme Court hearing focused specifically on Sony and the Estate’s culpability in the matter.
The corporations argue that the First Amendment (free speech) gives them the constitutional right to lie to consumers without remedy, and that they should be removed from the lawsuit because of this.
In fact, Sony and the Estate have been petitioning to be removed from this case for 6 years, alleging that plaintiff Serova strategically filed her lawsuit to prevent the record company from exercising their First Amendment rights by participating in the public dialogue regarding the authenticity of the songs.
The dialogue in question is the wording on the reverse side of the album cover, which stipulates that the vocals on the album were “performed by Michael Jackson” (see below).
In a 2016 hearing regarding this matter, attorney Zia Modabber argued on behalf of Sony and the Estate that if anyone were to be held liable for the fraud it should be the original producers of the songs – Eddie Cascio and James Porte – because they provided them under the false pretence that they were authentic.
Today, in front of seven Supreme Court Justices, Mr. Modabber made the same argument on behalf of Sony and the Estate.
In what was a rollercoaster hearing, Modabber told the court that Sony and the Estate were “100%” certain that the vocals on the songs in question were authentic based on an investigation conducted by former Estate attorney Howard Weitzman in November 2010.
A few minutes later, in a complete about-face, Modabber claimed that neither Sony nor the Estate were in a position to know who sang the vocals – a backflip which Justice Groban took issue with:
“How can it be both? Why is Sony saying with 100% certainty that Michael is the singer if you weren’t certain? Which is essentially what I hear you saying now.”
Mr. Modabber also made a number of arguments throughout his 30-minute presentation which seemed only to benefit plaintiff Serova’s side.
At one point, Modabber explained the identity of the artist is what gives art its meaning and value. In other words, if Michael Jackson wasn’t singing on the songs in question, they’d be irrelevant and worthless:
“The identity of the artist is part and parcel of the art. It imparts meaning to the art.”
The attorney, on behalf of Sony and the Estate, went on to give an example:
“There’s a song that Michael wrote called ‘Leave Me Alone‘, and it’s about being persecuted by the press. When Michael Jackson sings that song – because it’s Michael Jackson singing it – it gives a certain meaning to that song. If I sang that song – nobody cares about me – it doesn’t have the same meaning as if Michael Jackson sings that song. And that’s why authors and the source of the art are part of – and intimately connected to – the art itself… It undeniably adds to the meaning of the art.”
Without Michael Jackson’s name on the songs in question, they couldn’t commercially exploit them.
Therefore, according to Sony’s logic, the company had no choice other than to falsely attribute the authorship to Jackson in order to give them meaning and value in the eyes of consumers.
In what can only be described and an own goal, Modabber continued by asserting that the consumers of art want to know who the artist is, and that he cannot think of a scenario in which the identity of the artist doesn’t matter:
“Imagine art, out in the world, with no attribution of authorship. Imagine you just didn’t know who it came from or what the source was. It’s not the same. There is a character and a quality and an impact and a curiosity by those who consume the art about where it came from and what the source was. It adds meaning to it. We want to know who it is. We want to know where it came from. We want to know what inspired it. And part of that is the identity of the artist. And so I can’t think of a situation where the identity of the artist doesn’t matter.”
More to come when the California Supreme Court hands down their ruling on this matter.
For those of you who are interested, a podcast series detailing my investigation of this case, called Faking Michael, is currently in production. Subscribe to Faking Michael on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or YouTube to be notified when episodes are released.
Court Date Set in Supreme Court Battle Over Legal Right to Sell Alleged Michael Jackson Forgeries
Sony Music and the Estate of Michael Jackson will again fight for their right to sell alleged forgeries as authentic Jackson songs in an oral argument set to be heard by the Supreme Court of California on Tuesday, May 24, 2022.
The hearing centres around a class action lawsuit filed by Californian consumer Vera Serova, who purchased the Michael album – released by Sony and Jackson’s estate in 2010 – under the premise that it was a collection of unreleased songs recorded by pop star Michael Jackson.
In her lawsuit, Serova alleges that three of the songs on Michael are forgeries – sung by an impostor vocalist – and that she, along with millions of fans around the world, were misled when the pop star’s estate and record company falsely represented the tracks as authentic Jackson material in the album’s product labelling and advertising.
The three songs in question – “Breaking News,” “Monster” and “Keep Your Head Up” – were produced by Jackson associates Eddie Cascio and James Porte and are known as the ‘Cascio tracks’.
Cascio, Porte and their production company are also included in the lawsuit – sued by Serova for fraud. The May 24 hearing will not deal with their culpability.
The lawsuit has been in the California court system for almost eight years, since June 2014. For six of those years, Sony and the Estate have argued that it is their constitutional right to sell forgeries under the First Amendment – the right to free speech – and they should therefore not be liable in this case.
In a 2016 hearing, Sony lawyer Zia Modabber argued that if anyone were to be held liable, it should be Cascio and Porte, because they sold the songs to Sony and the Estate under the premise that they were authentic.
After several rulings and subsequent appeals from both sides in the lower courts, the Supreme Court of California will finally decide whether Sony and the Estate should face the music in this case.
If Sony and the Estate can successfully convince the Supreme Court that they should indeed be able to sell forgeries as authentic Jackson material, they will be removed from the case – once and for all.
And if plaintiff Serova prevails, the corporations may be forced to decide between settling the case – which would involve dissociating Jackson from the songs and removing them from record stores and streaming platforms around the world – or defending their actions at trial.
Serova’s position is supported by several consumer advocacy groups and government branches, including the California Attorney General.
In a press release issued on January 29, 2021, the AG said:
“Products must deliver on their claims. If someone buys an album from a recording artist, they should expect that the songs on the album were made by that artist unless noted otherwise… We must hold companies accountable to stand by their products. Companies have a First Amendment right to communicate, but their claims must be informed and accurate.”
Sony is supported by the First Amendment Coalition.
Counsel for both sides will present their oral arguments remotely via video link, while the public will be able to stream the hearing live via the judicial branch website.
Regardless of the Supreme Court’s ruling regarding Sony and the Estate’s liability, the fraud component of Serova’s lawsuit against Cascio, Porte and their production company will move forward.
At that time, Serova will finally be able to add the alleged singer of the forgeries, Jason Cupeta, as a defendant to her lawsuit.
Cupeta is Deputy Sheriff at the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office who goes by the artistic pseudonym Jason Malachi.
Serova first informed the court of her intention to add Cupeta in a March 2018 filing, but has been unable to complete this process due to the case being stayed pending the outcome of the oral arguments set to be heard by the Supreme Court on May 24.
A podcast series detailing my investigation of this case, called Faking Michael, is currently in production. Subscribe to Faking Michael on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or YouTube to be notified when episodes are released.
First Amendment Coalition to Support Sony and the Jackson Estate in Fake Songs Lawsuit
There has been yet another twist in the class action lawsuit filed by Californian consumer Vera Serova against Sony Music and the Estate of Michael Jackson regarding three allegedly fake songs commercially released on the 2010 Michael album.
In documents filed with the California Supreme Court yesterday, an organisation called The First Amendment Coalition has requested permission to file an amicus brief in support of Sony and the Estate’s purported constitutional right to sell fake songs as authentic Michael Jackson material.
FAC’s request comes after four separate amici were filed in support of plaintiff Serova by several consumer protection groups along with the California Attorney General’s Office.
All previously filed briefs support Serova’s assertion that this is a straightforward case of false advertising, and that billion-dollar corporations should not be able to commercially label fake art as authentic.
They also assert that by filing an anti-SLAPP motion against Serova, Sony and the Estate misappropriated a statute which is supposed to protect the general public against the limitless resources of wealthy corporations, and to prevent those corporations from intimidating the public into abandoning legal action against them.
Nine consumer protection organisations stated in a joint filing that Sony and the Estate have misused the anti-SLAPP statute to achieve the exact opposite of its intended purpose.
But according to documents filed yesterday, The First Amendment Coalition believes that if the Supreme Court rules in plaintiff Serova’s favour, and if a precedent is set that Sony and the Estate cannot sell fake songs as authentic Jackson material, it could have “significant implications for many different First Amendment contexts beyond the particular circumstances of this case.”
In this case, Sony asserts that they should not be held accountable for the statements made on the Michael album cover and in their television commercial, because those statements were “noncommercial” in nature. Rather, they argue, those statements are merely their contribution to the ongoing public debate about whether the vocals on three of the songs were authentic or fake, and that this makes it free speech under the First Amendment.
FAC has indicated that they will stand with Sony on this matter.
According to the mission statement published on their website, FAC is a nonprofit public interest organisation dedicated to “advancing free speech” and “public participation in civic affairs.”
By definition, public participation in civic affairs is a process in which members of society take collective action to address issues of public concern.
This begs the question: Is the definition of FAC’s mission more appropriately applied to a multi-billion dollar corporation’s purported right to claim that a commercial product is legit, when in fact it is fake? Or to a member of the public who seeks to take collective action to address the issue of that multi-billion dollar corporation falsely advertising that same product to millions of unwitting consumers?
Despite Sony and the Estate’s best efforts to stop her, the plaintiff in this case (Miss Serova) is a member of society who is attempting to take collective action (by filing a class action lawsuit) to address an issue of public concern (that a corporation may be defrauding consumers).
Moreover, FAC’s mission statement also claims to advocate for a “more open and accountable government” and “the people’s right to know”.
It should be noted that the Californian government is in fact advocating for openness and accountability and for the public’s right to know in this case – on behalf of the plaintiff, against the billion-dollar corporation that has conceded in its legal arguments to have ripped her off.
For the purposes of this proceeding, defendants Sony and the Estate have stipulated that the songs in question are indeed fake. And while their exact arguments aren’t due to be filed with the court until March 10, 2021, in the context of the defendants’ concessions, FAC could, in theory, be perceived to be advocating in favour of fraudulent representation of forged art, rather than for openness and accountability and the people’s right to know.
In a press release issued on January 29, 2021, the California Attorney General said:
More to come when FAC files their amicus brief.
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