Explosive Fraud Lawsuit Filed in ‘Fake’ Michael Jackson Songs Case

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A Michael Jackson fan has filed a Class Action lawsuit in Los Angeles over the authenticity of three controversial songs included on the posthumously-released Michael album.

The plaintiff, Vera Serova, alleges that Jackson’s longtime friend Eddie Cascio, his collaborative partner James Porte, and Cascio’s music production company Angelikson Productions LLC committed fraud by creating and selling fake songs, via The Estate of Michael Jackson and Sony Music Entertainment, to consumers on the Michael album – released on December 14, 2010 in the United States.

The songs in question – “Breaking News,” “Keep Your Head Up,” and “Monster” – have become known as the ‘Cascio tracks’. Cascio and Porte say that Michael Jackson recorded the songs in Cascio’s New Jersey basement between August and November 2007. Serova, many of her fellow fans, and the entire Jackson family say Michael did no such thing.

I will personally be following this case very closely. For the last three-and-a-half years I’ve been working on investigating this very issue with a dedicated team of researchers. The findings of our investigation will ultimately be published as a podcast series that will cover Jackson’s final years in the recording studio while detailing the events surrounding the conception, production and release of the Michael album following his passing, and the controversy that erupted as a result of the inclusion of the Cascio tracks.

Serova’s filing also claims that Sony Music and The Estate have themselves mislead consumers by falsely representing these songs as Michael Jackson recordings. The claim cites that the Michael album’s promotional campaign and wording on the back of the CD cover expressly and implicitly represents all lead vocals on the album as being performed by Michael Jackson.

Find the official court documents here.

The filing states that Serova has engaged the services of a forensic musicologist who analysed the Cascio tracks and found it is unlikely that the vocals were performed by Michael Jackson. The filing also states that a second, independent forensic musicologist reviewed the methodologies and findings of the first musicologist and agreed with the deduction that it is likely that Michael Jackson does not perform lead vocals on the Cascio tracks.

Back in 2010, when the controversy first erupted, Estate attorney Howard Weitzman issued a statement to fans and the media outlining the lengths he had gone to in order to confirm the authenticity of the Cascio tracks:

“Six of Michael’s former producers and engineers who had worked with Michael over the past 30 years – Bruce Swedien, Matt Forger, Stewart Brawley, Michael Prince, Dr. Freeze and Teddy Riley – were all invited to a listening session to hear the raw vocals of the Cascio tracks in question,” Weitzman’s statement reads. “All of these persons listened to the a cappella versions of the vocals on the Cascio tracks being considered for inclusion on the album, so they could give an opinion as to whether or not the lead vocals were sung by Michael. They all confirmed that the vocal was definitely Michael.”

However, former Jackson producer, Cory Rooney, and Jackson’s nephew, Taryll Jackson, who were at that very listening session, vigorously contest the accuracy of Weitzman’s statement.

“I have read the statement from the MJ estate and I have to say that it’s just more bullshit!” said Cory Rooney on his Facebook profile after Weitzman’s statement went public. “I was in that room, and the majority of the people mentioned did NOT agree that it was MJ! Some felt it sounded like him but all agree that there was nothing there that was consistent with any MJ habits like finger snaps, headphone bleeding, foot stomping or just simple things like his voice asking for another take. Both Dr. Freeze and Teddy Riley sat with Taryll Jackson and myself and stated that they felt what we felt.”

“There are many inaccuracies and omissions in that statement,” added Taryll. “For one, I was also in that meeting and that was not the outcome. You will hear my story because this is way too important for my Uncle’s legacy. The truth will prevail.”

Serova cites these statements in her filing.

Teddy Riley personally took to Twitter last year to apologise to fans over his involvement with the posthumous production Cascio tracks (Riley remixed “Breaking News” and “Monster”) while deflecting the blame towards Eddie Cascio.

Riley was asked the following by a fan via Twitter: “Do you feel betrayed by Eddie Cascio and his team for the situation you ended up in with their fake MJ songs? It seem[s] to me like you got all the heat for a fraud they created, which is [not] fair on you…”

He responded: “It isn’t (fair), but it’s all good. I’ll be able to talk soon,” later adding: “[Now] isn’t the time. I’m muted, but trust me MJ always gets his just due. He is my bestfriend, bigbro and confidant. Please believe! The truth will set us all free… I was set up and it will all come out… That’s all I can say right now.”

It should also be noted that Stuart Brawley, who is cited in Weitzman’s statement as one of the engineers and producers who confirmed the authenticity of the vocal on the Cascio tracks, was in fact working with Eddie Cascio and James Porte on these songs as part of the Angelikson Productions team!

“Stuart co-produced 3 of the tracks [featured on the ‘Michael’ album] as part of the Angelikson production team, along with Eddie Cascio and James Porte,” says an article on Brawley’s own The Backyard Studios website. “In addition, Stuart played keyboards, engineered, programmed on all the songs, and did the string arrangement for ‘Keep Your Head Up.'”

“I was focused on making Michael sound like Michael,” Brawley told Rolling Stone of his contribution to the tracks.

Back to Weitzman’s statement. He also cited the engagement of two forensic musicologists – one by the Estate and one by Sony Music – both of whom reported that the vocals on the Cascio tracks were Michael Jackson’s. See below:

“The Estate then retained one of the best-known forensic musicologists in the nation to listen to the vocals without any instrumental accompaniment (“a cappella”), and to compare them with a cappella vocals from previous Michael songs. This expert performed waveform analysis, an objective scientific test used to determine audio authenticity, on the Cascio tracks, as well as previously released tracks with Michael’s voice, and reported that ALL of the lead vocals analyzed (which included Cascio tracks) were the voice of Michael Jackson.

Sony Music conducted their own investigation by hiring yet a second well-respected forensic musicologist who also compared the a cappella lead vocals from Cascio tracks against previously released vocals of Michael’s, and found that Michael’s voice was the on all sets of the raw vocals.”

Despite claiming that the Estate’s forensic musicologist is one of the “best-known” in the nation, Weitzman does not name him/her, and does not provide excerpts from or copies of the supposed findings. Sony’s “well-respected” expert was also not named.

Ms. Serova’s court filing, however, does name one her primary forensic musicologist – Dr. George Papcun, PhD.

Dr. Papcun is a seasoned expert in the world of sound. His expertise, according to his website, includes analysis of recordings, enhancing the intelligibility of recordings, determining whether recordings have been altered, speaker identification, memory for voices, voice lineups, using voice to determine speaker veracity and voice morphing.

He has performed audio analysis for countless high-profile clients and cases including the CIA, the Secret Service, the NSA, the Trayvon Martin case, Rodney King case, O.J. Simpson case, and on a Paula Abdul recording.

If this case goes to trial we could see the likes of James Porte – who co-wrote the Cascio tracks and is credited as singing background vocals on them, yet has never once commented on his supposed work with the King of Pop – take the stand for questioning. We could see Jason Cupeta (a.k.a. Jason Malachi) – the person many believe actually sings on the Cascio tracks – called to testify; or perhaps even Cupeta’s longtime producer and vocal engineer Tony Kurtis, who has publicly stated that the singer on the Cascio tracks is, in his view, without a doubt Jason. Members of the Jackson family will almost certainly be called for questioning, as will those cited in Weitzman’s statement.

Stay tuned for further updates on the Serova vs Sony Music, Jackson Estate, Cascio, Porte et al case. I will provide more information as the case progresses.

You can also listen to the trailer for my upcoming podcast series, called FAKING MICHAEL, about these songs and this case. A release date for the podcast has not yet been set, but you can subscribe to have episodes delivered when they become available.

The trailer for FAKING MICHAEL is live on Apple PodcastsSpotify and YouTube.

Damien Shields is the author of Michael Jackson: Songs & Stories From The Vault—a book that details the King of Pop’s creative process and dissects the anatomy of his craftsmanship. The book is available in physical and digital formats via Amazon and iBooks.

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