World-renowned music producer Teddy Riley has made the explosive claim that he was “set up” when The Estate of Michael Jackson and Sony Music hired him to produce music for the King of Pop’s first posthumous album, Michael, apologising to a fan via Twitter for his involvement in the project.
Riley, who worked on several of Jackson’s landmark albums between 1991 and 2001, recently vented his frustrations about the continued criticism directed at him by fans via Twitter.
On a number of occasions, Riley has used Twitter to strike back at disgruntled fans, defending himself for the work he did on the controversial album which was released on December 14, 2010 – 18 months after Jackson’s death.
This time, however, Riley has openly expressed his displeasure with the way things went down back in 2010, deflecting blame towards another producer, Eddie Cascio, along with Sony and the Estate, for having him work on several tracks which many allege feature a lead vocal sung by a Jackson sound-alike and not Jackson himself.
For those of you not familiar with the controversy, Jackson’s longtime friend, Eddie Cascio, and his collaborative partner, James Porte, claim that Jackson secretly co-wrote and recorded twelve songs in Cascio’s basement in the fall of 2007 – two years before Jackson’s death.
Those tracks are now infamously known as the Cascio tracks.
The Cascio tracks were completely unheard of until eleven months after Jackson’s death, when reporter Roger Friedman broke the news of the existence of the twelve songs.
“Bombshell exclusive,” Friedman wrote in an article published exclusively via his Showbiz411.com website on May 2, 2010. “Michael Jackson recorded a whole new album of material in the fall of 2007.”
Friedman wrote that according to one of his sources who’d heard the material, Jackson’s vocals on the Cascio tracks were “perfect.”
With the assistance of high-profile entertainment attorney Donald Passman, Cascio and Porte quickly struck up a deal with the Jackson Estate and handed the tracks over.
At that time, the Estate was preparing to release its first posthumous album of unreleased Jackson material as part of a 7-year 10-project deal with Sony Music valuable at up to $250 million.
A few months later, Teddy Riley was asked to remix a number of tracks being considered by Sony for that album, including a handful of Cascio tracks.
Between September and November 2010, Riley worked on the music in several Los Angeles-based studios including Marvin’s Room, Encore and The Boom Boom Room, bringing 50 Cent into the studio to rap on a Cascio track while engaging the Benjamin Wright Orchestra for new string arrangements on three Cascio tracks. Jackson’s This Is It guitarist, Orianthi, was also invited to contribute.
Early in the production sessions Riley and members of the Jackson family – including Riley’s close friend Taryll Jackson (Michael’s nephew) – raised concerns about the authenticity of the vocals on the Cascio tracks. They believed that an impostor – not Michael – was singing.
When those concerns were brought to the attention of The Estate, an investigation was launched, including the purported engagement of two independent forensic musicologists.
Estate attorney, Howard Weitzman, also gathered a number of Jackson’s former collaborators at Encore recording studio – including Teddy Riley and Taryll Jackson – to listen to the Cascio tracks and to give their opinion on the vocals.
The general consensus after that meeting was that the Cascio tracks had too many red flags and audio inconsistencies to be authentic. Estate co-executor John McClain expressed that he felt the Cascio tracks should be scrapped, as did Jackson’s family. Even Michael’s mother, Katherine Jackson, was steadfast in her belief that the Cascio tracks were fakes and should not be released.
However, despite everything that was going on around him, and despite himself acknowledging the issues with the vocals, Teddy Riley continued to work on the Cascio tracks – something he now seemingly regrets doing.
I didn’t do the funking song I just mixed it. My work speak for itself. Now go to the funking Cascios. I’m sure they got a twitter… I was giving a problem that involved my bestfriend and sign a contract to remix what I had. It was too late for me to turn back so I finished out the project. Now if you want me to apologize for that, yes I’m funkin sorry I did it. Now leave me the hell alone.Teddy Riley via Twitter on September 2, 2013.
In the end, one of the Riley-produced Cascio tracks, “Breaking News,” was chosen by Sony and The Estate as the teaser for the Michael album, premiering at michaeljackson.com at midnight New York time on November 8, 2010.
As the full “Breaking News” track went live, members of the Jackson family took to Twitter to raise their voice against the track.
I am shocked that things have gotten this far. This is ridiculous… I tried so hard to prevent this craziness, but they wouldn’t listen. I KNOW my Uncle’s voice and something’s seriously wrong when you have immediate FAMILY saying it’s not him… They can’t give me answers, yet continue to move forward with lies and deception. Sounding like Michael Jackson and BEING Michael Jackson are two different things.Taryll Jackson via Twitter on November 8, 2010.
There’s many MJ vocal impersonators. Some better than others. But there is only ONE Michael Jackson… Why they would ignore the obvious, look the other way and rush a suspicious track that was NEVER on my Uncle’s radar is beyond me. I’m disgusted, disappointed and saddened… We know how much he valued his legacy and his fans. And cheating either is unacceptable. ‘Lies run sprints, but the truth runs marathons.’TJ Jackson via Twitter on November 8, 2010.
Prior to hearing “Breaking News,” most Michael Jackson fans dismissed the notion that the vocals would be fake.
But when the track went live on michaeljackson.com on November 8, 2010, all hell broke loose.
Because of his accessibility via social media, Teddy Riley became the target of the fan community’s frustrations, copping a bombardment of insults and scrutiny from people all over the world for his participation in what they deemed to be a fraud.
Initially, Riley defended himself and the songs, stating that he had confidence in the authenticity of the vocals.
This echoed an earlier statement released by Epic Records – the Sony record label set to commercially distribute the Michael album – regarding the controversial songs, insisting that sufficient research had been done and that the label was satisfied with their findings.
We have complete confidence in the results of our extensive research, as well as the accounts of those who were in the studio with Michael, that the vocals on the new album are his own.Sony Music’s Epic Records, November 5, 2010.
The record company had made their position clear. They were taking the word of Eddie Cascio and James Porte over the opinions of Jackson’s family and fans. Not even the wishes of Michael’s mother and children – the beneficiaries of Jackson’s estate – were taken seriously. Neither were those of Estate co-executor John McClain
As the onslaught of angry tweets continued to flow in Teddy Riley’s direction, the producer conceded that while he believed the vocals on the Cascio tracks were indeed Jackson’s, he couldn’t guarantee it.
I was called on this project by the Estate, Sony, and the [Jackson] family co-signed it. These songs are created by the Cascios. I did not original produce his vocals nor these songs. I was called in to mix and finish what I was given… The vocals [that] was given to me from the Cascios was all I had to work with… I’ve answered all that I can answer for MJ fans. The truth of this of it all [is that] no one knows [but] MJ and God… I have nothing more to say and I can’t prove anything.Teddy Riley via Twitter, November 8, 2010.
Surprisingly, Riley’s concession went largely unnoticed by fans and the media alike.
Then, when Riley gave a series of subsequent radio and television interviews regarding the project, he went back to saying that the vocals were definitely Michael’s.
In addition to his media appearances, Riley’s name was included in a statement released by the Jackson Estate’s lead attorney, Howard Weitzman, in which Weitzman references the listening session Riley attended at Encore recording studio.
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. 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.Estate attorney Howard Weitzman on November 11, 2010.
Weitzman’s statement was vigorously contested by Michael’s nephew, Taryll Jackson, and former Sony vice president, Cory Rooney – both of whom were also in that listening session, but whose names and opinions were omitted from the statement.
I have read the statement from the MJ Estate, and I have to say that it’s just more bullshit! 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.Cory Rooney via Facebook on November 11, 2010.
There are many inaccuracies and omissions in that statement. 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.Taryll Jackson via Twitter on November 13, 2010.
As the release of the Michael album approached, Teddy Riley appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show, alongside the Cascio family, to defend the authenticity of the tracks.
Riley claimed that Jackson would be loving the controversy regarding the album, assuring Winfrey that vocals on the Cascio tracks were the real deal.
“Why do you say for sure it is him?” asked Winfrey.
Because you can hear the authenticity in his voice and you can hear, like, the natural part of him. And no one can really do a scream like that strong scream on the music that you hear, like Michael. I don’t care if you get anyone. They will never be able to duplicate Michael’s voice.Teddy Riley via the Oprah Winfrey Show, televised on December 6, 2010.
The only problem with Riley’s statement that ‘no one can do a strong scream like Michael Jackson’ was that the screams heard on the Cascio tracks – i.e. “aow!” and “hoo!” – were actually stolen from previously released Jackson recordings .
This was something that Jackson’s nephews TJ and Taryll addressed in statements via Twitter.
Deceptively merging shady vocals with MJ samples (from prior MJ records) will never fool me.TJ Jackson via Twitter on November 8, 2010.
When the Michael album was eventually released on December 14, 2010, three Cascio tracks were included.
Two were produced by Teddy Riley – “Breaking News” and “Monster” – the latter of which featured a rap verse by popular rapper 50 Cent.
The third Cascio track included on the Michael album was called “Keep Your Head Up” – a song originally given to Riley to produce, but which chose not to finish.
I remember when Teddy and I were at Encore listening to ‘Keep Your Head Up’. We both knew it wasn’t my Uncle. [Teddy] stopped working on it because (and I quote) ‘it didn’t sound enough like Michael. Michael doesn’t swing like that.’ He also said he was only working on the Cascio records in hopes that he would eventually be given a ‘real Michael Jackson song.’ As he knows, I never agreed with that logic.Taryll Jackson via Twitter on December 7, 2010.
Hitmaker Tricky Stewart, who never worked with Jackson during his life, completed the mix of “Keep Your Head Up” as it appears on the Michael album.
Since the Cascio fiasco first blew up, Teddy has endured a continued onslaught of negative remarks from Jackson’s fans online, and many insist he deserved it.
However, it seems that now Riley is hoping to turn the tables on Eddie Cascio, James Porte and anyone else involved with the creation of the Cascio tracks, claiming he will be addressing the issue soon.
When asked if he feels betrayed by Cascio and his team for the predicament he ended up in regarding the authenticity of their songs, Riley said in several statements:
It isn’t (fair), but it’s all good. I’ll be able to talk soon…
[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 when [my] book comes. That’s all I can say right now.
My book will not be totally about Michael… Just a chapter of my total MJ experience. The times I had working with and without him. I love MJ so much and he knows that. What I’ve been through without him being there I regret, and thats what will be in detail. I hope everyone appreciate and respect that. Thank you so much for your concern. Michael loves everyone, especially his fans that protects him.Teddy Riley via Twitter in September 2013.
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.
Subscribe to Podcast
A lawyer defending Sony Music and the Estate of Michael Jackson in a consumer fraud lawsuit has today argued that...
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...
Invincible, ‘Xscape’ and Michael Jackson’s Quest for Greatness
‘Blue Gangsta’ and Michael Jackson’s Fascination with America’s 20th Century Underbelly
Michael Jackson Meets America in Invincible Album Outtake ‘A Place With No Name’
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...
Californian Government Joins Fraud Lawsuit Against Sony Music and Jackson Estate
The California state government has officially joined a class action lawsuit against Michael Jackson’s estate and record company. In a...
Love Never Felt So Good and Michael Jackson’s Work with Paul Anka
The following is based on a chapter from my book, first released in 2015 as Xscape Origins and re-issued in...
Fake Michael Jackson Songs Lawsuit Boosted by Support from Consumer Protection Groups
A legal quest for justice over a posthumous Michael Jackson album including 3 allegedly-fake songs has received a serendipitous boost...
The Genesis of Thriller – A Michael Jackson Podcast Documentary
Taking listeners inside the recording studio with Michael Jackson and his production team, The Genesis of Thriller tells the story...