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.
Producer Teddy Riley Comes Clean Regarding Fake Songs From Posthumous Michael Jackson Album
Legendary producer Teddy Riley has spoken out against the controversial Michael Jackson album he worked on after the pop star’s death, claiming that he believes some of the tracks he was asked to remix for the project are fakes, but that he was “pushed” to say they were authentic.
“I just hope that the truth comes to light because it was never proven to me that it was Michael’s voice,” said Riley in a bombshell video published today by hard-hitting pop culture interviewer DJ Vlad for Vlad TV.
The songs in question, known as the Cascio tracks, were provided to Sony Music and the Estate of Michael Jackson by the pop star’s longtime friend Eddie Cascio and his collaborative partner James Porte.
Cascio and Porte claim that Jackson recorded 12 songs in Cascio’s basement shortly before his death. Three of those songs – “Keep Your Head Up,” “Breaking News” and “Monster” – were included on the Michael album in December 2010.
Riley, who worked extensively with Jackson throughout his life, remixed “Breaking News” and “Monster” for the posthumous project.
Initially, Jackson’s family gave Riley their blessing to work on the project. Michael’s nephew, Taryll Jackson, even joined Riley in the studio.
But upon hearing the Cascio tracks, Taryll believed the vocals were sung by an impostor.
When the rest of the Jackson family heard them, they felt the same way, taking to social media to denounce the Cascio tracks as fakes.
Amidst all the controversy, Riley and Cascio appeared on Oprah Winfrey’s talkshow, where they both insisted the vocals were the real deal.
But when interviewer DJ Vlad asked Riley about it, the producer made the explosive claim that he was forced to say the vocals were authentic:
“I was influenced and pushed to say the things that were said.”
The producer went on to explain that he initially demanded proof regarding the authenticity of the vocals, but that no such proof was ever presented.
“They would not prove it to me,” says Riley.
Riley also says that Jackson’s nephew, Taryll, encouraged him to distance himself from the tracks, but that Riley felt too intimidated by those in control of the project to do so.
“I felt I was dealing with some high, powerful people. And I didn’t want no problems at all.”
Riley explains that his decision to continue working on the Cascio tracks ultimately cost him his friendship with Taryll.
“I was like, Taryll, I already got paid. What do you expect me to do? And he stopped speaking to me for a while. And I was like damn, I lost my friend over this.”
Riley said that to be involved in another Michael Jackson project in the future, he would need proof that the vocals were authentic, and for the Jackson family to be on board and involved.
“[Michael] is their family. This is their brother, their son, their uncle,” said Teddy.
“I will not move until I have their blessing. But this time I want a real blessing. I’m not talking about money. I want a real blessing from the family.”
Riley also took the opportunity to apologise to fellow producer Quincy Jones.
During the interview, DJ Vlad reminded Riley that back in 2010, Riley accused Jones of being too old to know the difference between the real Michael Jackson and a fake Michael Jackson.
“My apologies, my apologies,” said Riley to Jones in the video. “I always wanted to say that, because Quincy is someone I look up to… He’s a guy that I worship as my idol.”
Riley’s interview with Vlad TV comes just months after Sony Music and the Michael Jackson Estate abandoned the Cascio tracks.
As part of the settlement of a consumer fraud lawsuit filed against them over the Michael album, Jackson’s estate and Sony removed the three commercially-released Cascio tracks – “Breaking News,” “Monster” and “Keep Your Head Up” – from streaming platforms around the world.
The corporations have also re-pressed the physical CD of the Michael album without the Cascio tracks, and are now selling the amended version via the official Michael Jackson shop online.
For those of you who are interested, a podcast series called Faking Michael, detailing the findings of my 12-year investigation of the Cascio tracks, is currently in production. Subscribe via Apple Podcasts, Spotify or YouTube to be notified when episodes are released.
Huge Win for Michael Jackson Fan as Supreme Court Rejects Sony’s Free Speech Defense in “Fake” Songs Lawsuit
Two ‘get out of jail free’ cards, used by lawyers for Sony to avoid facing the music in a consumer fraud lawsuit, were ripped to shreds by the California Supreme Court on Thursday last week.
As part of their ruling, the court determined that the description on a posthumous Michael Jackson album cover was indeed commercial speech — not free speech, as lawyers for Sony and Jackson’s estate had argued — and that consumers have a case if false or misleading statements were made in the description.
The unanimous ruling sets an important precedent for the protection of California consumers in cases of alleged fraud moving forward.
The controversy centers around an album titled Michael, released 18 months after Michael Jackson’s death by his estate and Sony Music Entertainment.
Prior to the album’s December 2010 release, members of Jackson’s family claimed that three songs on Michael — “Breaking News,” “Keep Your Head Up” and “Monster” — were fakes, with vocals sung by a Jackson impersonator.
But Sony and Jackson’s estate insisted the songs, which they acquired from the pop star’s friend Eddie Cascio and his collaborative partner James Porte, were the real deal.
The songs are known as the ‘Cascio tracks’.
In response to the controversy, Estate attorney Howard Weitzman said he’d conducted an “exhaustive investigation” during which a host of Jackson’s former producers had listened to the Cascio tracks and confirmed that the vocals were “definitely Michael”.
But several of those producers dispute Weitzman’s version of events. You’ll hear their stories in an upcoming podcast series called Faking Michael.
Nevertheless, based on the purported findings of Weitzman’s investigation, Sony asserted their “complete confidence” in the authenticity of the Cascio tracks.
With the authenticity a matter of conjecture, fan Vera Serova relied on Sony and the Estate’s assurances — that the tracks on Michael were indeed sung by Jackson — when she decided to buy the album.
Further convincing Serova to hand over her money was the product description printed on the reverse side of the album cover. It stipulated that the vocals were “performed by Michael Jackson”.
But as evidence contradicting the official story emerged, Serova began to believe she’d been duped.
And so she hired a world-renowned forensic audiologist, who conducted a groundbreaking scientific examination of the vocals on the Cascio tracks. His opinion: the vocals weren’t Michael’s.
That forensic examination was the catalyst for what became an eight-year David versus Goliath legal battle, culminating in Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling.
Corporations can’t sell fake art as the real deal
“Relief has long been available in California to unwitting purchasers of imitation art who relied on false representations about authenticity” said the court in their 45-page opinion.
“If Sony’s assertion that Jackson contributed lead vocals affects consumers’ experience of Michael, this illustrates how misrepresentations about an artist’s contributions can harm consumers in ways that matter to them.”
Executive director of the Berkeley Center for Consumer Law & Economic Justice, Ted Mermin, who supported Serova in her battle with Sony, said:
“If we are buying an album that is marketed as being the songs of Michael Jackson, it had better have the songs of Michael Jackson.”
As well as setting an important legal precedent protecting California consumers, the court’s ruling inadvertently protects artists.
Based on the ruling, there is no plausible excuse for falsely attributing fake works to famous artists. This puts songs on par with paintings and sculptures when it comes to outlawing art forgery.
The ruling is a huge win for creatives, whose reputation — and therefore livelihood and legacy — could be at stake if corporations were free to commercially exploit pastiches under their name.
“Misleading attributions on a record jacket might not only confuse consumers […] but also harm a performer’s reputation,” the court’s ruling states.
But what happens if a corporation sells a forgery without knowing it’s a forgery? This was also covered in the Supreme Court’s ruling.
Sony’s ‘lack of knowledge’ defense
Sony’s purported ‘lack of knowledge’ was raised by the corporation itself in a 2016 petition to be removed from Serova’s lawsuit.
At the time, lawyers for Sony and the Estate volunteered to argue their case based on the notion that the Cascio tracks were fakes, but that they ‘didn’t know’ at the time they released them back in 2010.
It should be made clear that this wasn’t an ‘admission’ that the Cascio tracks are indeed fake. Rather, it was their way of arguing that ‘even if’ the tracks are fake, they’ve done nothing wrong by selling them to fans as authentic Jackson material.
In a December 2016 trial court hearing, attorney Zia Modabber argued that to be liable for misleading consumers, Sony and the Estate had to know the songs were fake, adding that Cascio and Porte had “failed to disclose to Sony or the Estate that Michael Jackson did not provide the lead vocals.”
But the judge overseeing that hearing didn’t take kindly to Sony’s position, saying:
“I think what [Modabber] is saying here is. ‘We were duped… We didn’t know [Cascio and Porte] were recording stuff in a basement that wasn’t recorded by Michael. [Cascio and Porte] told us it was Michael. We believed it was Michael.’”
The judge accused Sony of throwing Cascio and Porte under the bus before ruling in Serova’s favour, ordering Sony to face the music.
But Sony appealed, and in 2018 the appeals court took Sony’s side, dismissing the corporation from the lawsuit.
Serova then challenged the decision to dismiss Sony, petitioning the California Supreme Court to intervene, which they did.
That, in a nutshell, is how we got to Thursday’s ruling — arguments for which were heard by the court on May 24, 2022.
During that May 24 hearing, Modabber again argued that Sony couldn’t be held accountable because they didn’t know the vocals were bogus when they released them in 2010.
But on Thursday, the court rejected Sony’s lack of knowledge defense once and for all, stating that if ignoring evidence was all a corporation had to do to get away with fraud, false advertising laws would be redundant.
“If ignorance around a product’s authenticity were a legitimate defense against false advertising claims, sellers would be incentivized to know as little as possible about their own products,” said the court in their ruling.
“Sellers making claims about their offerings surely do not avoid false advertising regulation […] by scrupulously declining to verify those claims or to acquire knowledge.”
Jeremy Bollinger, one of the attorneys representing Serova, told the LA Times that the court’s ruling was not only a victory for his client, but for all music and art consumers.
“The decision confirmed that it doesn’t matter whether the seller has personal knowledge of the veracity of its statements about its products,” Bollinger said. “If you’re going to sell something, you’re responsible for those representations.”
If they didn’t know in 2010, they knew by 2018
As we discussed earlier: back in 2010, before the Michael album was released, questions were raised regarding the authenticity of the Cascio tracks.
At that time, several people told Estate attorney Howard Weitzman that they did not believe the vocalist was Michael. They alleged it was another singer, named Jason Malachi.
In response, Estate attorney Howard Weitzman claimed that he spoke to Malachi and confirmed that he wasn’t involved.
But when fans heard the Cascio tracks, many identified Malachi’s voice — not Jackson’s — on the tracks.
Further validating the reaction of fans was Malachi’s longtime producer, Tony Kurtis. In a barrage of comments posted via YouTube, Kurtis stated that he knew “without a doubt” that Malachi was the vocalist.
Even the aforementioned audiologist noted in his forensic report that the dialect and vibrato of the Cascio vocalist were consistent with Malachi, but not with Jackson.
Then, in early 2018, Malachi hired a lawyer.
That lawyer then contacted Vera Serova’s legal team to discuss Malachi’s involvement with the Cascio tracks.
Serova and her lawyers claim that Malachi’s lawyer said that his client wanted to help resolve Serova’s litigation with Sony — and to get paid for his involvement.
A meeting between Malachi’s lawyer, Serova’s lawyers and lawyers for Sony and the Estate was arranged.
But according to Serova’s lawyers, the day before the meeting was set to take place, Sony and the Estate cancelled it, and communications with Malachi’s lawyer came to an abrupt end.
For the four years that followed Malachi’s attempted intervention, Sony and the Estate continued to argue their ‘lack of knowledge’ defense, while also continuing to commercially exploit the Cascio tracks as authentic Jackson recordings.
Calls and emails to Malachi and his lawyer — offering them the right of reply — were not returned.
Why don’t Sony and the Estate sue Cascio and Porte for fraud?
In their 45-page ruling, the California Supreme Court supposed that if the Cascio tracks are indeed fake, Sony and the Estate would want to file a fraud action against Cascio and Porte for duping them, stating:
“Presumably, Sony would seek to invoke any warranties, or assert fraud or other claims, against Cascio and his associates if it believed they peddled fake recordings.”
But in this case, it’s the exact opposite.
In fact, Sony and the Estate have stood firmly behind Cascio and Porte since 2010, regardless of the overwhelming evidence and public outcry against them — something that no one, including Jackson’s family, fans and former collaborators can understand.
Songs removed, case closed
In a somewhat anticlimactic end to their eight-year legal battle, just days before the Supreme Court issued its ruling, Sony and the Estate reached a settlement agreement with Serova.
As part of the settlement, Sony and the Estate were forced to remove the Cascio tracks from digital retailers and streaming platforms around the world.
Based on Serova’s statements over the years, it was clear that no settlement could have been reached without this demand being met.
It should be noted that, according to Serova, she did not receive any money as part of her settlement.
As she has maintained from the beginning of her legal action, Serova’s main objective in filing this lawsuit was justice for Michael Jackson, his art and his fans.
And while Sony hasn’t offered refunds — or an apology — to fans who feel they’ve been duped, the removal of the Cascio tracks from digital platforms worldwide has gone a long way to restoring the integrity of Jackson’s discography.
But despite the Supreme Court’s ruling — that the wording on a CD cover is subject to consumer protection laws — it appears Sony and the Estate have opted against recalling CD copies of Michael from music stores or other retailers around the world.
This is surprising.
The case with Serova is settled only with Serova, meaning anyone else who purchased the album within the statute of limitations — or anyone who might buy the album in the future — would be able to sue Sony and the Estate just like Serova did.
The only difference is that a potential future plaintiff wouldn’t have to argue that the wording on the album cover was commercial speech, or contend with a ‘lack of knowledge’ defense from the corporations.
Now that the case is settled, will the truth regarding the Cascio tracks and the Michael album ever be told?
After selling the Cascio tracks as authentic Jackson recordings for almost 12 years — since December 2010 — Sony and the Estate’s settlement with Serova seems to have absolved Cascio and Porte of liability. At no point were the alleged forgers required to testify under oath, or prove the authenticity of their songs.
And while Sony and the Estate have stated that the recent removal of the Cascio tracks from digital platforms is the “simplest and best way to move beyond the conversation associated with these tracks once and for all,” many of Jackson’s most dedicated fans continue to demand answers.
My forthcoming true crime podcast series Faking Michael will explore those answers, taking listeners behind the scenes to uncover the music industry scandal they were never meant to hear about.
Alleged Forgeries Removed From Michael Jackson’s Online Catalog After 12 Years of Protests and a Fraud Lawsuit
Three songs alleged to have been falsely attributed to Michael Jackson were abandoned by the pop star’s estate and record company this week after 12 years of fan protests and a consumer fraud lawsuit.
The alleged forgeries – known as the ‘Cascio tracks’ – come from a collection of 12 songs which producers Eddie Cascio and James Porte claim Jackson secretly recorded in Cascio’s basement in the fall of 2007.
The 12 Cascio tracks were sold to Jackson’s estate a year after the pop star’s death, and three of them – “Breaking News,” “Keep Your Head Up” and “Monster” – were officially released by Sony Music on the Michael album in December 2010.
But Jackson’s fans insist the songs are fakes, with vocals sung by an impostor, and they’ve been demanding the tracks be removed from Jackson’s catalog for the past 12 years.
This week, they got their wish, with the controversial songs being removed from streaming platforms around the world. Jackson’s estate also appear to have discontinued the original 10-track CD version of the Michael album, replacing it with a 7-track edition which can now be ordered from their official website.
But according to a joint statement issued by Jackson’s estate and Sony – who are currently co-defendants in a class action lawsuit which alleges that the Cascio tracks are fakes – their decision to abandon the tracks had nothing to do with their disputed authenticity:
“The Estate of Michael Jackson and Sony Music decided to remove the tracks ‘Breaking News,’ ‘Monster’ and ‘Keep Your Head Up,’ from the 2010 ‘Michael’ album as the simplest and best way to move beyond the conversation associated with these tracks once and for all,” reads the statement, adding that “nothing should be read into this action concerning the authenticity of the tracks – it is just time to move beyond the distraction surrounding them.”
But many fans aren’t accepting Sony and the Estate’s position, because the “conversation associated with these tracks” is founded entirely on their disputed authenticity. According to some fans, removing the songs while defending their authenticity is not way to move “beyond the distraction surrounding them.”
And despite the fact that the “conversation associated with these tracks” has persisted relentlessly for 12 years, Sony and the Estate continued to sell the tracks to unwitting consumers throughout that entire period, while reaping millions of dollars from what many believe are brazen forgeries.
The Jackson family tried to warn them
Prior to the release of the Michael album in 2010, several members of the Jackson family tried to reason with the Estate, informing them that the vocals on the Cascio tracks were not Michael’s while urging them not to move forward with their release.
Michael’s siblings Randy, Jermaine and Latoya all claimed that the vocals on the tracks did not belong to their brother.
They were ignored.
Michael’s mother – Estate beneficiary and family matriarch, Katherine Jackson – raised her voice against the tracks.
She was also ignored.
Michael’s oldest brother, Jackie Jackson, also came out against the Cascio tracks, revealing that both he and Estate co-executor John McClain had insisted for many weeks that the alleged forgeries should be removed from the album.
Their concerns were “not taken seriously.”
Michael’s nephews Taryll, TJ and Taj from the group 3T also spoke out, taking to social media to dispute the authenticity of the songs and raise awareness regarding some of what went on behind the scenes.
Once again, their concerns were ignored.
In a statement issued on the 5th of November 2010, Sony asserted their “complete confidence” in the authenticity of the tracks. It was even reported that two independent forensic musicologists had verified that the vocals were Jackson’s.
Fans reject Breaking News
On the 8th of November 2010, five weeks before the Michael album was officially released, Sony unveiled one of the Cascio tracks – “Breaking News” – in a world premiere on Michael Jackson’s website.
When fans heard the track, they revolted.
Many rejected the notion that Michael was the vocalist while pointing the finger at another singer named Jason Malachi.
But as they’d done with the Jackson family, Sony and the Estate ignored the opinions of fans.
Instead of reconsidering their plan to release the Cascio tracks, the Estate opted to gaslight fans in a statement, claiming that they’d investigated the authenticity of the vocals and believed “without reservation” that they were indeed Michael’s.
The following month the Estate and Sony took things a step further, stipulating in no uncertain terms that the vocals were “performed by Michael Jackson” on the back cover of the Michael album – released in the U.S. on the 14th of December 2010.
They also arranged for Eddie Cascio to defend the authenticity of his songs on the Oprah Winfrey show. The Jackson family, however, were not invited to tell their side of the story.
In June 2014, Michael Jackson fan Vera Serova filed a class action consumer fraud lawsuit against Jackson’s estate, Sony, Eddie Cascio, James Porte and their production company.
In her lawsuit, Serova alleges that Cascio and Porte are the masterminds of an “elaborate artistic fraud” in which they forged a collection of fake songs, and that Sony and the Estate misled her and others by attributing those forgeries to Michael Jackson on the Michael album.
As part of her lawsuit, Serova demanded the removal of the Cascio tracks from Jackson’s discography – a demand which now seems to have been met.
But despite the Cascio tracks having now been removed, Serova’s lawsuit remains ongoing.
It has been reported by the media this past week that Sony and the Estate won this case in 2018.
This is simply not true.
In fact, Serova actually won the initial ruling on Sony and the Estate’s involvement in this case back in 2016. At that time, Sony and the Estate had tried to shirk responsibility, but were ordered to face the music by the Los Angeles Superior Court.
But Sony and the Estate felt they’d done nothing wrong and appealed that ruling – an appeal on which they prevailed in 2018.
In turn, Serova fought back, petitioning the California Supreme Court for review.
And based on the Supreme Court’s view that the appeal court’s ruling was legally “problematic,” Serova won her bid for review.
Oral arguments in that review were heard by the state Supreme Court the 24th of May 2022.
A ruling has not yet been made, but is expected soon.
Sony and the Estate will need to prevail to be officially removed from litigation once and for all. If they don’t prevail, they’ll remain defendants in this case.
As of today (July 7), neither party has definitively prevailed and there is no judgment.
As mentioned, the original producers of the Cascio tracks – Eddie Cascio and James Porte – have also been sued as part of Serova’s lawsuit. They are sued with fraud, and that aspect of the lawsuit also remains ongoing.
You can hear my opinion on the removal of the Cascio tracks and much more below, in a roundtable discussion hosted by Michael Jackson podcast The MJCast:
I am also working on a podcast series called Faking Michael detailing the ins and outs of the Cascio tracks and the Michael album. Subscribe via podcast apps to be alert when episodes are released in the future.
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