EXCLUSIVE: The Origins of ‘I Am A Loser’ by Michael Jackson

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The mystique that surrounded Michael Jackson’s unreleased song “I Am A Loser” was finally put to rest today after a fan leaked the full track online. However, although fans can now enjoy the track in all its glory, there is still much confusion regarding the true origins of the song. 

Michael Jackson fans have long speculated that the track was written and recorded in the late 90s – prior to the release of Jackson’s 2001 ‘Invincible’ album. However, this information has proven to be inaccurate.

“I Am A Loser” was first conceived more than a year after the release of ‘Invincible’, in January of 2003, shortly after wrapping up the last of a series of interviews for Martin Bashir’s ill-fated “Living With Michael Jackson” documentary.

Jackson and his long-time collaborator Brad Buxer, who is responsible for contributions towards a plethora of tracks including “Who Is It” and “Stranger In Moscow”, were staying in adjoining hotel rooms at the time while working on music together.

Buxer, who was going through a breakup at the time, was awake late one night. Upset about the breakup, he was pacing around his room repeating, “I’m a loser! I’m just a loser!”

Before long Jackson, who could hear Buxer through the wall, knocked on his door and came in and asked, “What’s the problem?”

“Oh I’m a loser…” answered Buxer, before explaining his situation.

“Let’s write a song about it,” suggested Jackson.

And so Jackson and Buxer got to work, co-writing and composing the track “I Am A Loser” into the early hours of the morning.

“We had our typical recording setup,” explains the pair’s engineer/producer, Michael Prince. “ProTools, keyboards, a microphone set up with headphones – the whole thing. So it’s basically a mini recording studio.”

“Brad was playing keys and Michael was doing a scratch vocal. It happened very fast,” recalls Prince, who began working on the song soon after the first scratch vocal had been laid down.

Left to right: Buxer, Jackson, Prince

“Michael did multiple performances to get a good demo down,” tells Prince. “We worked on it further at the ranch  (Neverland) and at other times in other places, too. Michael likes to keep polishing things. He was always asking for a new sound here or a new hi-hat there.”

The song is built around trademark Jackson/Buxer drum loops and beatbox sounds in the vein of “Stranger in Moscow” and “Beautiful Girl”, and backed by soothing synths and an angelic harp. Jackson tells Buxer’s true story of a love lost with poignant lyrics; “I say hello/You say goodbye. I reach to you/You don’t even try. I am a loser. I am a loser.”

Upon reviewing what was leaked today, Prince can confirm it is not the most recent version of the track.

“I mean the leaked version is vocally complete, but you can tell it’s the demo because after the second or third chorus you hear Michael go ‘Ahh’ like that, because he was getting ready to sing a part and then he stopped,” explains Prince. “Nobody has edited that. He didn’t mean for that to be left on the record. Just like on [the unreleased track] “Gloucestershire” – Michael starts doing a little horn part with his voice, just so he wouldn’t forget it – because it’s a scratch vocal track.”

“The version that leaked is pretty much the finished demo from before it became ‘I Was The Loser’.”

“What you’re hearing is Michael singing and Brad playing. That truly is the demo. Those vocals are untouched, un-tuned and unedited,” says Prince.

“He was happy with the original ‘I Am A Loser’ demo,” adds Prince. “But before we played it for anybody else we had a long talk and Michael said, ‘I don’t want be a loser. I don’t mind if I was the loser but I don’t want to say I’m still a loser.’ So we changed that.”

“I Was The Loser” is the final version of the track.

Jackson did not record the whole song again when it changed from “I Am A Loser” to “I Was The Loser”. He simply re-recorded that particular line, while the musical composition remained exactly the same.

The recording of the “I was the loser” line took place in a makeshift studio set up by Prince at Jackson’s Bel Air Hotel room in late 2008 – the same period of time in which the King of Pop laid down additional vocals for other pre-existing tracks including “Best of Joy” and “Hollywood Tonight”.

These, among many others, were tracks Jackson had on “to do” list at the time of his death on June 25, 2009. A handwritten note detailing the titles of 28 tracks Jackson had hoped to completed, including “The Loser” as Jackson called it, was found beside his bed following his passing. See below:

Jackson's 2009 "to do" music list

“There are things that just stuck in his mind,” says Prince. “Sometimes he writes new songs, and sometimes he wants to bring up something from the past that he knows is an unpolished gem.”

“I remember we did a little work on ‘Scared Of The Moon’ for the ‘Invincible’ album, actually. And I remember Steve Porcaro joking, ‘Oh that song again?’ It’s so funny because I’d never heard it before. But that’s Michael’s way of doing things – he always revisited some of his favourite stuff. He’d say, ‘Why didn’t we put this on our last album? Let’s listen again. Can we make it any better?’ Sometimes it makes it on the album and sometimes it doesn’t.”

Both “I Am A Loser” and “I Was The Loser” remain unreleased in an official capacity to this day.

UPDATE: Michael Prince and Brad Buxer have politely requested that the powers that be remove all links from the internet. Unfortunately, takedown notices don’t appear to have been issued yet and the track remains all over YouTube for fans to stream, download and share.

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