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XSCAPE: The latest on the upcoming Michael Jackson album

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It’s been three weeks since the announcement of the upcoming Xscape album – to be released by The Estate of Michael Jackson via Epic Records on May 13. In their joint statement, published on michaeljackson.com, an “unprecedented global campaign” to promote the project spanning multiple marketing platforms was promised.

However, despite the album being released worldwide in just three weeks (even less than three weeks in some countries), fans of the King of Pop haven’t heard a peep from The Estate or Epic Records since their announcement. So, here is a little update on what fans might be able to expect in the coming weeks.

During the last week of April the Xscape album’s presence will be felt across prominent social media websites including Facebook, Google and YouTube. Banner advertisements on these sites are scheduled to run for approximately one month, until the end of May.

The album’s lead single, “Love Never Felt So Good”, will hit radio in the first week of May. The track is currently expected to make its worldwide debut on May 5, along with the digital release of the track. Fan sites have also quoted Sony as stating that the music video for the track will premier the same day, while I’ve been told that the music video will be part of the Deluxe Edition’s bonus content and will be released the same day as the album. So who knows regarding the video? I guess time will tell! One thing is for sure, though; there will be a video.

From the beginning of May, until Xscape is released on the 13th, fans should expect to see a steady increase in written reviews by major online and print publications, radio involvement, and the introduction of the “Making of Xscape” documentary featuring interviews with the producers who worked on the project. The documentary will supposedly be teased piece by piece, in individual chapters, before being officially released in full as part of the ‘XSCAPE’ Deluxe Edition’s bonus material.

The highly-anticipated (yet practically already deciphered – see below) Xscape track list will be officially unveiled between now and the first week of May. As always, previews of each track will be made available to fans via iTunes prior to the release of the album. I’ve also been told that fans may not necessarily have the entire track list masterminded yet, with mystery regarding the bonus track remaining unconfirmed.

Earlier this month, it became popular belief that the Xscape album’s Deluxe Edition bonus track would be Jackson’s cover of the Sly Stone song “Hot Fun In The Summertime” – featuring guest appearances by Mary J. Blige, D’Angelo, Questlove and others.

Rumors regarding this track, which was produced by D’Angelo and executive produced by John McClain, started swirling when the track’s guitarist, Jesse Johnson, spoke about it on his Facebook.

However, I’m hearing that there were other tracks considered as the bonus track and that Johnson may have spoken too soon. There’s been no indication as to what the bonus track might be, if not “Hot Fun”, which adds to the mystery The Estate and Epic Records were hoping to create for fans in the lead up to the album’s release.

New information is also now available regarding which producers worked on what tracks, following newly published review by USA Today.

“Love Never Felt So Good” (originally co-written by Jackson with Paul Anka in 1980) has been carefully re-produced by John McClain and Giorgio Tuinfort.

McClain, who serves as co-executor of The Estate of Michael Jackson, has already produced three tracks for posthumous Jackson compilations – “Much Too Soon,” “Behind The Mask” and “This Is It”.

McClain also co-wrote “You Are My Life” – which features on Jackson’s 2001 Invincible album. 

Tuinfort – a specialist pianist who fittingly goes by the nickname “Piano Man” – co-produced Jackson’s “Hold My Hand” duet with Akon.

Timbaland, whose real name is Timothy Mosley, can be credited with production on four tracks on the Xscape album: “Chicago (She Was Lovin Me),” “Do You Know Where Your Children Are,” “Loving You” and “Slave To The Rhythm” – the latter of which was co-produced by Jerome “J-Roc” Harmon.

“The Michael Jackson album is great. It’s great. I can’t lie. And not because I did it. It’s great,” said Timbaland in a video recently uploaded to hangwith.com, adding: “I think I did a great job on it from what I was given. The beats are jammin’.”

As previously reported, Rodney Jerkins got the call to come back in to the studio and revisit the title track – “Xscape” – which he and his “Darkchild” production team co-wrote with Jackson in 1999, during the early Invincible album sessions.

The only two tracks from the album that have not yet been attributed to producers are those originally written by Elliot Straite (aka Dr. Freeze) in 1998 – “A Place With No Name” and “Blue Gangster”.

The statement released three weeks ago by The Estate of Michael Jackson and Epic Records cites that Norwegian production and songwriting duo Stargate (Tor Erik Hermansen and Mikkel Storleer Eriksen) had also produced tracks for the Xscape album, so we can probably surmise that they have revamped one or both of these two tracks.

UPDATE: It has been revealed that Timbaland produced “Blue Gangsta” and Stargate “A Place With No Name”.

Xscape (Standard Edition) track list, including surmised list of writers and producers, below:

  1. “Love Never Felt So Good” (Written: Jackson, Anka, Wakefield / Produced: McClain, Tuinfort)
  2. “Chicago (She Was Lovin Me)” (Written: Rooney / Produced: Mosley)
  3. “Lovin’ You” (Written: Jackson / Produced: Mosley)
  4. “A Place With No Name” (Written: Straite, Bunnell / Produced: Hermansen, Eriksen)
  5. “Slave To The Rhythm” (Written: Reid, Edmonds / Produced: Mosley, Harmon)
  6. “Do You Know Where Your Children Are” (Written: Jackson / Produced: Mosley)
  7. “Blue Gangster” (Written: Straite / Produced: Mosley)
  8. “Xscape” (Written: R. Jerkins, F. Jerkins III, Daniels, Mason, Jackson / Produced: R. Jerkins)

Four versions of Xscape will be available:

  • Standard version (CD)
  • Deluxe Jewel Case O-Card version (CD + DVD)
  • Deluxe Softpack version (CD, DVD + Poster)
  • Vinyl version (LP)

The Deluxe Editions of Xscape will include 8 remixed tracks, the same 8 tracks in their original form (as Jackson last worked on them during his life), an unknown bonus tracks and two videos.

Discuss below…


Damien Shields is the author of the book Michael Jackson: Songs & Stories From The Vault examining the King of Pop’s creative process, and the producer of the podcast The Genesis of Thriller which takes you inside the recording studio as Jackson and his team create the biggest selling album in music history.
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41 Comments

41 Comments

  1. Geo M

    April 21, 2014 at 6:39 pm

    Wow Great article Damien…Just 2 questions does the song “Love never Felt so good” has confirmed by someone to be the 1st single? And what are the possible songs as the bonus Track except “Hot Fun”?

  2. James

    April 21, 2014 at 7:26 pm

    Another brilliant article. Looking forward to hearing the Dr. Freeze tracks. They scream hit material!.

  3. Ian

    April 21, 2014 at 7:28 pm

    Curious about “Love Never Felt So Good” in terms of vocals.
    LA Reid has stated he only chose songs with full vocals (full verses, chorus, backing tracks, etc.)
    However, the demo of LNFSG appears to be only a single take and we even hear MJ mumbling a few words. I wonder if the Estate has access to a better vocal? Do we know if the leaked demo is the one used by the Estate for the final master?

    • WhatADisgrace

      April 21, 2014 at 7:35 pm

      Doubt it. They released the song This Is It even though it was missing a bunch of lyrics and full of mumbled nonsense. They’ve probably just got whoever’s looking after that track to massively over-produce it and try to bury the vocal under a load of noise. That’s probably one of Timbaland’s tracks; his speciality is tuneless noise.

      • Diana Rose

        April 22, 2014 at 8:51 am

        HA!

      • Damien Shields

        April 22, 2014 at 9:46 am

        New version was subtly co-produced by McClain and Tuinfort, as per the article. Timbaland did four tracks, also detailed in the article. The vocals are at the forefront of the mixes. The idea was to showcase Michael’s voice above all else.

        • Layne4

          April 22, 2014 at 3:18 pm

          Heard it. Not overproduced. And, yeah, Michael’s voice is front and center…same on all tracks. Pretty far from tuneless noise, actually.

    • Damien Shields

      April 22, 2014 at 9:44 am

      LNFSG definitely flies in the face of what LA Reid says he was aiming for. Vocally and lyrically complete tracks that Michael spent time on. LNFSG was written, demoed and passed on for other people to record. It was never a “Michael Jackson” song. The vocals will be from 1983 as we know them from the demo, including the “alright, that’s it” spoken part at the end.

    • aruey

      April 22, 2014 at 1:45 pm

      they probably use an MJ impersonator to sing over the mumbling part. J/K. LNFSG sounds average at best. Their choice baffles me.

  4. WhatADisgrace

    April 21, 2014 at 7:32 pm

    No fan who was around in 2002 will buy this album or even give a rat’s anus what’s on it. This is posthumous slavery. The man is being put to work from beyond the grave, his name, image and music being used to flog mobile phones by a company he despised and never wanted to work with again. It’s sick.

    • Pas Mater

      April 21, 2014 at 10:59 pm

      Hahaha.. what a moron you are. I’m a fan, I was there in the ’90 when all the shit happened to him, I was there on the HIStory Tour supporting him and I was there in 2002/2003 buying Invincible and supporting him again. And again in 2014 I’m buying this album and supporting this project 100%.

    • Pas Mater

      April 21, 2014 at 11:07 pm

      True fans support the artist, not the record label. True fans don’t care if its Sony, Motown, Universal, Warner or whoever it is who distribute the music. True fans care about the music. They don’t fall for false propaganda and conspiracy theories by some crazy extremists like yourself.

      • Damien Shields

        April 22, 2014 at 9:52 am

        In my opinion there’s no such thing as a “true fan”. There are people who take an interest with varying tastes, dedication, loyalty, motives and agendas – and opinions on what right and wrong is in all of those areas. Different people are simply in it for different reasons. Anyone who likes Michael Jackson or his music can probably pass as a “fan”. I prefer to not be labelled as a “fan”. I know where I stand personally and I don’t need a label for it. I love Michael.

        • Alex Henderson

          April 22, 2014 at 11:44 am

          Damien,I’m following you on twitter,still wonder why you wouldn’t buy this album?I know money is not the case,and I know you love Michael deeply,have you ever bought an album before MJ past?

          • Damien Shields

            April 22, 2014 at 12:02 pm

            I own every item of physical music released by Michael Jackson during his life. I also bought tickets to see ‘This Is It’ in the cinema (ten times over) in 2009. Since then I have not purchased a single item, and don’t intend to – especially after what happened in 2010.

  5. Wishal

    April 21, 2014 at 8:51 pm

    @WhatADisgrace, speak for yourself, I am a longtime MJ fan since 1988. I will definitely buy this album, because MJ was an artist who could touch people with his voice. And I am also a Timbaland fan. This project excites me and I can’t wait to play this disc (deluxe version with the original recordings) on my stereo setup.

    I WILL buy ‘Xscape’.

  6. Unk

    April 21, 2014 at 9:18 pm

    @WhatADisgrace, you don’t listen to music very well I take it I will support MJ and Timbo

  7. thepestilence

    April 21, 2014 at 9:45 pm

    @WhatADisgrace…wow….u must be one of those people that listens to all his music through speakers…
    “tuneless noise”??
    those who cant do, critique…

  8. Jared Jones

    April 21, 2014 at 11:56 pm

    @WhatADisgrace … you do realize that MJ’s kids benefit from these projects. How else do you think they can continue to go on living the life they have? Sure the estate and Sony make their share, it is business after all. I for one will support this album because I love to hear all of the unreleased material. If you don’t agree with it then simply don’t buy it and don’t listen to it.

    • Q. G-S

      April 22, 2014 at 1:21 pm

      sadly, MJ’s 3 children and his mother do not receive any benefits from profits of these projects. They receive monthly living allowances, but have yet to receive their share of Estate earnings, which is massive because of the Cirque shows and the TII propaganda machine before that. Nor do Charities, also mentioned in the apparent Will currently receive any money/donations. And I fear it will be a VERY LONG LONG time before they do with the 750BILLION dollar tax bill the Estate have created.
      The affairs have been handled very poorly by the Executors of the Estate, who are being paid handsomely, and have received an increase in their personal takings in the last few years.

    • aruey

      April 22, 2014 at 1:50 pm

      Do not worry about MJ’s kids and mother, they are a billion times richer than you. Even if no posthumous product is released, they will still have more than enough from Sony/ATV revenue.

  9. Eric H

    April 22, 2014 at 2:05 am

    If Michael didn’t want any of his unreleased material to ever see the light of day after he passed away, he would have had this put in his will. Michael wasn’t a dummy, and he knew his legacy that’s still unreleased in that music vault of his, will support his kids long after he’s gone.

    And once again, if MJ despised Sony so much, why did he release music AFTER the whole Invincible fiasco? Answer that one sherlock. It wasn’t Sony MJ was pissed at..it was Tommy Motolla. Motolla got fired/removed/asked to leave, new blood was put in place, and things got patched up between Sony and MJ. So enough of this MJ hated Sony…Sony’s using MJ bullshit.

    • Damien Shields

      April 22, 2014 at 9:59 am

      Michael was actively seeking an Estate Planner at the time of his death. Knowing that, I think it’s safe to say he died without the will/estate plan he wanted. The Sony issue isn’t as straight forward as people think either. Michael was by no means pleased to be working with Sony in 2008 on the Thriller 25 project.

  10. JVL

    April 22, 2014 at 2:41 am

    There has never been such a divide between the fan community as there is now, since MJ is no longer.

    I did not support the first posthumous release because there were 3 songs that were not Michael (overall) singing. The anger over that, and all of the controversy it caused, set the tone for how each release after would feel initially. It also made it easy to STRONGLY dislike those running the estate, and to talk ill of Sony (even though many of those who worked there when MJ had issues with them, were long gone). Regardless of who is running the estate, and what company releases music, the truth is I desire to hear and have as much new MJ music. I am a fan of the music. When MJ passed, after months and after This Is It hits the movies, it was an instant thought of when the unreleased leaked somgs would be released. I KNEW it had to happen… and granted, the MICHAEL album was a disaster all over.

    Fast forward to now, I feel that the Estate has learned from the MICHAEL trainwreck.

    They respected and used an up to fate image of MJ, which speak volumes to the kind of fan I am. The general outlook is felt to be that Thriller is the peak of his best music, and with the MICHAEL album, they used the main picture to mimic that. I had issues with that + my favorite MJ album is Invincible, and I related more to his later personal music.

    It is SO OLD to hear some try to say what a REAL FAN is.

    I’ve been a MJ fan all of my life. I didn’t support the first posthumous album because it was done all wrong and not handled with the best care. XSCAPE is a total different ball game and feels like the first real release posthumously. I am supporting it 100%.

    I live everything about it: from the cover artwork, to the songs, the theme, the urban sound, and of course, we also get the original demos.

    Whatever went on behind the scenes in MJ’s life im any area, from finances, to relationships, to public image… it NEVER obscures my love for the music, and that has not changed. I know one thing, MJ would not want his fanbase to become so divided and nor would he want anything connected to his name to fail.

    The first posthumous album had music-faults… but this time around (no pun) we are being presented a heck of an offering. I will do my part.

  11. Diana Rose

    April 22, 2014 at 9:06 am

    I agree with JVL mostly except in the case of the album cover. it looks like he’s wearing a sparkly straight jacket or something, and Michaels lips never looked like that. I also feel somehow, that the Estate is leaning towards promoting the fictional tabloid charachter version of MJ a bit more than they should to try put him more in a lady gaga type category, idk why i feel that, just a gut reaction to the cover. I feel like the general public might also be a bit scared away with that pic.

    • Arya

      April 23, 2014 at 8:23 am

      The first time I saw the album cover, I was on FB and it just sprang up in the notifications and I was left stunned. I had to stare at it for 10 seconds to register in the awesomeness of what I just saw. The album cover is so trippy and very IN. Well that’s my opinion! I love the stardust on it and Michael’s powerful gaze. I have a feeling the original picture is his BOTF look, I just hope someday we will know the exact source of that picture.

  12. ADAM

    April 22, 2014 at 9:07 am

    JVL, well stated. I too want to support the upcoming release. I do not usually buy music, but as a result of the demo’s, xscape will make a fine addition to my old CD collection.

  13. Diana Rose

    April 22, 2014 at 9:30 am

    The thing I’m wondering about…is where is the humanitarian Man In The Mirrror/Heal The World/Earth Song type gospel/ballad track? ever since BAD, heck ever since Victory actually, theres always been at least on on each album. I know there HAVE to be a few unreleased ones. For MJ I’m pretty sure those kind of songs were the whole reason for putting out albums. the man made music for one reason- to heal the world. the songs that weren’t about healing the world were for attracting attention to the songs about healing the world. heck, What More Can I Give would be great. I have heard theres a version he recorded solo. that would have been perfect.

    • Damien Shields

      April 22, 2014 at 10:02 am

      I’d say that “Do You Know Where Your Children Are” falls into that category. Michael being the voice for the voiceless, bringing attention to an important issue with a powerful anthem. In my opinion it’s his best unreleased track.

      • Diana Rose

        April 22, 2014 at 10:33 am

        I agree with your opinion, I LOVE that song. but I meant one of those world uniting anthems. with DYKWYCA I can allready hear the general public reacting- “how dare MICHAEL JACKSON ask us if we know where our children are” (read that in a nancy grace voice lol) some people might take offense. so it may be a dividing song rather than a uniting one. but yeah it is humanitarian, but not a gospel or ballad type.

        • Diana Rose

          April 22, 2014 at 10:55 am

          I’m also hoping they didn’t mess around with Do You Know Where Your Children Are too much both lyrically and musically I like it the way it is. I’m hoping they kept the beat mostly the same and didn’t mess with the guitar parts too much. but if they did, I guess at least the demo is on the other disk..

    • JVL

      April 23, 2014 at 2:45 am

      This very thought came to mind. I also think that “What More Can I Give” would have been a perfect 9th song to fit onto XSCAPE. They could have done a new veraion and of course we would have got the version MJ showed at the awards show in 2003. Is it crazy that I wish that it was the bonus track on the deluxe version? (Instead of the rumored “Hot Fun” cover).

      • Diana Rose

        April 23, 2014 at 5:36 pm

        nope not crazy at all.

  14. Alex Henderson

    April 22, 2014 at 12:11 pm

    Because of the “Michael” project?It seems like you’ve been irritated by those fake songs….I purchased that album because I didn’t realized it was jason malachi “debut album”;Nevertheless,I’m going to buy xscape because I want Michael to top the charts one more time

    • Arya

      April 23, 2014 at 8:15 am

      It was unfortunate what happened with the “Michael” album. I feel it was done in a hurry and without much thought/efforts put into it. I still lament the fact that some really good songs like “Hollywood Tonight” couldn’t manage to be a huge hit because of so much controversy. The album cover will always be my favorite of all the covers ever made. I gave “Hollywood Tonight” to one of my friends who performed it for our college fest and people loved it and all of them listened the song for the first time. Now everybody can clearly see how the estate have learned from their mistakes, and personally I think they are doing a fantastic job with this album. For the sake of MJ’s legacy, I want this album to go number one as well. 🙂

      • Alex Henderson

        April 23, 2014 at 10:50 am

        Yep,I love Hollywood tonight,too.Although I’ve heard most of the track on Xscape,but I hope the production will help to appeal to more listeners in new generation

  15. Billy V

    April 22, 2014 at 12:35 pm

    Damien – I follow you as well and I can respect that you have decided not to purchase since 2009. On a seperate note – I think it shows how much u do love Michael tho even tho you aren’t buying the album – you still do cool articles such as these and stay connected to all MJ does. So i think that’s cool and want to say keep up the good work and keep the info coming!

  16. Judith Mason

    April 22, 2014 at 2:43 pm

    Fortunately, there is a big world of new and longstanding music consumers who aren’t particularly interested in the pro-anti Estate, pro-anti Sony, pro-anti Will debates. They are interested in hearing the music and deciding for themselves. Critics and marketers certainly have their place in the business and have their important jobs to do. But eventually, the result will rest on the personal experience between each listener and the music. Michael Jackson IMO had a gift of connection both over the airwaves and in a big crowd. That’s what I look for.

  17. Arya

    April 23, 2014 at 8:01 am

    As always, thank you for the article! We are already entering the last week of April and I hope to see banner ads regarding Xscape springing up in the next few days. Social networking websites and especially Google displays ads according to the user’s choices by taking in the information of their browsing habits. As I browse about Xscape nearly everyday I am being shown the advertisement from Amazon for the album on Facebook. So I hope by ads you mean they will be visible to everybody. That will be great for the promotion. Also can you also provide any information as to how Sony is planning to promote this album? I have read on the MJ website and in your blog that a lot of hype will be created. Also Sony is the official partner of the Fifa world cup this year. Will they use that as an opportunity to promote Xscape? by airing Xperia Z2 ad which has STTR in it maybe? Will that ad be even featured on TV?

    I am glad that the estate is approaching the album promotion very carefully this time. I am only focusing on the positives because I want Michael Jackson to be alive in everybody’s consciousness. Because lets face it, media still doesn’t leave him alone. And from the first listener reviews this is an album which will remind the world why MJ was you know.. “MJ” and I want that to succeed. Michael Jackson should be established back in people’s heads as why he is still the King and there is no better way to do that than his music.

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Cascio Tracks

First Amendment Coalition to Support Sony and the Jackson Estate in Fake Songs Lawsuit

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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:

“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.”

More to come when FAC files their amicus brief.

A podcast series called Faking Michael is in the works, detailing a decade-long investigation of this case. You can subscribe to Faking Michael on Apple PodcastsSpotify and YouTube.


Damien Shields is the author of the book Michael Jackson: Songs & Stories From The Vault examining the King of Pop’s creative process, and the producer of the podcast The Genesis of Thriller which takes you inside the recording studio as Jackson and his team create the biggest selling album in music history.
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Cascio Tracks

Californian Government Joins Fraud Lawsuit Against Sony Music and Jackson Estate

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The California state government has officially joined a class action lawsuit against Michael Jackson’s estate and record company.

In a press release issued yesterday, the state’s Attorney General, Xavier Becerra, accuses Sony of “shirking responsibility” for making “false and misleading claims” about a posthumously released Michael Jackson album, and then declaring ignorance of their misrepresentation.

The Attorney General also filed an amicus brief with the California Supreme Court, urging them to intervene in the case of Serova vs Sony Music Entertainment, et al., for fear that “broad, destabilising consequences for well-established false advertising principles,” could be felt if it did not take action and rectify a problematic Appeals Court decision in the case.

The lawsuit at the centre of the amicus brief was filed almost 7 years ago. The suit alleges that Sony Music and the Jackson Estate misled consumers when they commercially released the Michael album, comprising 10 tracks, in December 2010.

The plaintiff in the case, Vera Serova, insists that three of the 10 tracks on Michael are part of an elaborate artistic fraud masterminded by co-defendants Eddie Cascio and James Porte, who sold the tracks to Jackson’s Estate for millions of dollars after the superstar’s death. 

Serova alleges that those three tracks, known as the Cascio tracks, are fakes sung by an impostor. And she’s not alone.

Months before the album was released, members of the Jackson family warned Sony and the Estate regarding the Cascio tracks, insisting that they were fakes and should not be released. One of the Estate’s co-executors, John McClain, agreed with the Jackson family.

In response, Sony issued a press release stating that they had “complete confidence in the results of their extensive research” that the vocals were authentic. The company then released the album, including three Cascio tracks, against the family’s wishes.

Sony even went as far as to explicitly inscribe on the album cover that the vocals on all the album’s tracks were “performed by Michael Jackson.”

But despite Sony’s repeated assurances that the vocals were legit, when Jackson’s fans got their hands on the album and heard the Cascio tracks for themselves, a huge controversy ensued. Thousands upon thousands of fans around the world instantly rejected them as fakes.

Ironically, this very controversy – which Sony itself created by releasing the Cascio tracks – is one of the many points the company has since tried to raise as a get-out-of-jail-free card.

Sony says that because thousands of people were questioning the authenticity of the vocals, the company’s claim that Jackson sang them was not commercial in nature, but merely their non-commercial contribution to the ongoing authenticity debate.

But the Attorney General argues that Sony’s logic is absurd. The fact that there were questions over the vocals, the AG says, only increased Sony’s need be sure that the songs were indeed authentic if they intended on claiming they were:

“Questions about the authenticity of songs allegedly recorded by Michael Jackson shortly before his death naturally led to significant interest and debate among fans, members of the media, and the public more generally. That level of interest made it all the more important for Sony to provide accurate information about the songs to consumers.”

The AG added: “It would seriously frustrate the State’s interest in combating false or misleading advertising to immunise a seller from liability merely because its claims bear some relation to a matter of public interest or a public figure.”

Moreover, the Attorney General completely rejects Sony’s claims that their speech wasn’t commercial in nature.

Because the album cover explicitly stated that the songs were “performed by Michael Jackson,” Sony was bound to that statement as being the truth, and could be held liable under consumer protection laws if it were proven otherwise.

“A seller’s description of a product on a label or in an advertisement is a classic form of commercial speech. Thus, assuming Serova’s allegations are true, application of California’s false advertising statutes fully comports with the First Amendment.”

In the press release issued yesterday to alert the media of the California state government’s support of Serova’s lawsuit, Attorney General Becerra 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.”

Sometime in mid-February the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office is due to join the California Attorney General and the nine other consumer protection groups already supporting Serova’s case. No amicus brief has been filed in support of Sony or the Jackson Estate.

A date for the oral hearing of these briefs is yet to be set.

A podcast series called Faking Michael is in the works, detailing a decade-long investigation of this case. You can subscribe to Faking Michael on Apple PodcastsSpotify and YouTube.


Damien Shields is the author of the book Michael Jackson: Songs & Stories From The Vault examining the King of Pop’s creative process, and the producer of the podcast The Genesis of Thriller which takes you inside the recording studio as Jackson and his team create the biggest selling album in music history.
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Fake Michael Jackson Songs Lawsuit Boosted by Support from Consumer Protection Groups

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A legal quest for justice over a posthumous Michael Jackson album including 3 allegedly-fake songs has received a serendipitous boost on the 10th anniversary of the album’s release.

On Friday, December 11, 2020, the Berkeley Center for Consumer Law and Economic Justice filed an amicus curiae brief with the California Supreme Court in support of plaintiff Vera Serova’s ongoing class action consumer fraud lawsuit against Sony Music and the Estate of Michael Jackson.

The powerfully-worded brief was co-signed by 8 additional consumer protection organisations. Click here to read it in full.

Serova’s lawsuit, filed in 2014, alleges that Sony and the Estate misled her and millions of consumers when they commercially released the Michael album on December 14, 2010 – exactly ten years ago today.

The lawsuit alleges that three songs on the album are forgeries sung by an impostor vocalist, and that Sony and the Estate falsely advertised those songs to consumers as authentic Jackson material.

The three songs at the centre of the lawsuit – Breaking News, Monster and Keep Your Head Up – were originally co-written and produced by Eddie Cascio and James Porte, who are co-defendants in the fraud component of the case.

The consumer protection organisations wrote in their joint filing on Friday that Serova’s is a “straightforward case of deceptive advertising.”

Yet the case has been in legal limbo for more than four years.

Back in 2016, Sony and the Estate filed an anti-SLAPP motion against Serova, claiming that her lawsuit was a ‘strategic lawsuit against public participation’ (SLAPP) intended to deny the billion-dollar corporations their purported constitutional right to sell fake songs as authentic Jackson material.

For the purposes of their legal arguments, Sony and the Estate conceded that Jackson was not the singer of the three songs in question. To be clear, this was not an outright admission that Jackson was not singing – after 6 years in court, that issue hasn’t even been addressed yet.

Rather, their concession was made in order to prevent Serova from presenting evidence that the songs are fakes. Under normal circumstances, Serova would have been required to demonstrate that her case wasn’t a shakedown, and that she could substantiate her claims with supporting evidence.

But Sony and the Estate said that it didn’t matter if they were fake, arguing that the law allows them to lie to consumers regardless.

Their argument centres around their assertion that the statements made as part of the album’s promotional material – including on the album cover and in a TV commercial – are not commercial in nature. Yes, they’re arguing that the speech in a commercial isn’t commercial speech.

“If we ripped people off and it’s noncommercial speech, they lose under the statutes,” said Sony lawyer Zia Modabber in court. “That is just the law.”

In August 2018, the corporations succeeded in their bid to be dismissed from the case. Serova fought back, petitioning the California Supreme Court to intervene, which they did. But when the case was sent back to the Appeals Court in January 2020, Sony and the Estate were yet again dismissed.

Shockingly, the Appeals Court ruled that Sony and the Estate should be allowed to lie to consumers by selling fake songs as authentic Jackson material. And so Serova petitioned the California Supreme Court a second time, seeking a review of the Appeals Court’s bizarre ruling.

As reported here in April, the Supreme Court found that the Appeals Court’s ruling was legally problematic and granted Serova’s petition for review.

In their filing on Friday, the consumer protection organisations supporting Serova’s case took aim at Sony and the Estate’s application of the anti-SLAPP statute, writing that it “does not provide a get-out-of-jail-free card to forgers.”

Under the stipulation governing this proceeding, Sony’s promotion of Michael plainly violates California’s statutes protecting consumers from false and misleading advertising. Sony marketed Michael as “a brand new album from the greatest artist of all time,” with “9 previously unreleased vocal tracks performed by Michael Jackson.” Because, as the parties have agreed for purposes of this appeal, three of the nine songs were not sung by Michael Jackson, Sony has made advertising statements that were untrue and misleading and has therefore violated California’s basic consumer protection laws.

Amicus curiae brief, Berkeley Center for Consumer Law and Economic Justice et al., December 11, 2020.

The anti-SLAPP statute is intended to protect David from Goliath – to shield the general public against the limitless funds and resources of wealthy corporations, and to prevent those corporations from intimidating the public into abandoning legal action against them.

The consumer protection organisations state in their filing that Sony and the Estate have misused the anti-SLAPP statute to achieve the exact opposite of its intended purpose:

What the present proceeding entails is the misuse of the anti-SLAPP statute by a well-funded corporation to try to silence individual consumer claims arising from what are conceded to be, for purposes of this appeal, the corporation’s misleading commercial statements. In other words, this action embodies precisely the reverse of what the anti-SLAPP statute is intended to accomplish.

The consumer protection organisations concluded their 47-page filing with the following:

The anti-SLAPP statute must not be misused to undermine California’s consumer protection laws. When Sony promoted Michael, it engaged in misleading or deceptive advertising. Sony has no free speech right to deceive consumers. Ms. Serova’s claim for misleading advertising is not a “strategic lawsuit against public participation.” To the contrary: it is a straightforward deceptive advertising action brought to vindicate precisely the individual rights that both California’s consumer protection laws and its anti-SLAPP statute are designed to protect.

The California Attorney General’s Office has also stepped in, requesting an extension to file their own amicus brief in support of Serova.

This means that when the California Supreme Court hears Serova’s case sometime next year, she will not only have the support of at least 9 independent consumer protection organisations, but also the backing of the California state government.

UPDATE: The Los Angeles City Attorney’s office has also joined the chorus of support behind Serova’s case, formally requesting an extension to file an amicus brief on December 14, 2020.

Stay tuned for further updates on the case. This website will continue to provide information as it becomes available.

You can also subscribe to the upcoming Faking Michael podcast series about this matter. A release date has not yet been set, but subscribers will have episodes delivered to them when they do become available.

The trailer for Faking Michael is available on Apple PodcastsSpotify and YouTube.


Damien Shields is the author of the book Michael Jackson: Songs & Stories From The Vault examining the King of Pop’s creative process, and the producer of the podcast The Genesis of Thriller which takes you inside the recording studio as Jackson and his team create the biggest selling album in music history.
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