Music News: Are some of the posthumous Michael Jackson songs fake?

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Cover art for the Michael Jackson album 'Michael.'
Cover art for the Michael Jackson album 'Michael.' (Sony)
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Are some posthumous Michael Jackson releases fake?
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Above, listen to an episode of The Current's daily Music News podcast. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, or wherever else you get your podcasts.


Does a posthumous Michael Jackson album include vocals that aren't actually the King of Pop? That's what a fan named Vera Serova says. In 2014, she filed suit against the singer's estate, Sony Music, and two music producers, alleging that certain songs on the posthumous 2010 album Michael weren't actually sung by Jackson.

This lawsuit is now moving forward, and it's in the news today because some interpreted a comment by Sony's lawyer as an admission that there might actually be a different singer on three of the tracks from Michael. As those reports started to circulate, Sony issued a statement: "No one has conceded that Michael Jackson did not sing on the songs. The hearing Tuesday was about whether the First Amendment protects Sony Music and the Estate and there has been no ruling on the issue of whose voice is on the recordings."

When questions about the vocals first arose in 2010, Sony said, "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."

Things are getting thorny now, because Sony is trying to argue that it shouldn't be liable "even if the vocals weren't Jackson's," as the attorney said in court. One possibility is that Jackson's vocals may be on the tracks, but supplemented by other vocals.

The three tracks in question — "Breaking News," "Monster," and "Keep Your Head Up" — are credited as having been recorded in 2007 in the New Jersey basement studio of the Cascios, a family with whom Jackson had become close. Eddie Cascio, a credited co-writer of the song and a defendant in the lawsuit, met Jackson when he was just a boy, and was musically mentored by Jackson when he got older.

Sony is arguing that the whole lawsuit is bogus because the album counts as protected free speech, which potentially raises the question of whether liner notes crediting band members count as expression (like the music itself) or count as a label of contents (like labels on food packaging). There's potentially a lot of money at stake: if Sony is found to have misrepresented the recording personnel, it could conceivably be liable for refunds to album buyers. (Variety)

This week's new releases

Blood Orange: Charcoal Baby

Blood Orange is the music moniker of Dev Hynes, who formerly went by Lightspeed Champion. He's released three previous electronic R&B albums as Blood Orange, and the most recent — 2016's Freetown Sound — was widely cited as one of that year's best LPs. Hynes calls his new album, Negro Swan, "an exploration into my own and many types of black depression, an honest look at the corners of black existence, and the ongoing anxieties of queer/people of color."

In a 7.6 review, Pitchfork writes, "Negro Swan captures the scattershot, jittery, anxious, blissed-out-depressive feeling of what it's like to be a marginalized person at a toxic and retrograde moment in global culture and politics."

Interpol: Marauder

Interpol, one of the defining bands of the early '00s New York rock revival, are back with their sixth studio album. The Guardian says the record sounds gratifyingly warm and accessible for a band whose dance-rock is sometimes regarded as icy. "It's the sound of a band who have done the last thing you might expect them to do at this stage of their career: start moving on."

Boygenius

Boygenius is a supergroup comprising Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker, and Lucy Dacus. Their self-titled debut EP is due out Nov. 9, and they've already released three songs, fully half the EP: "Bite the Hand," "Me and My Dog," and "Stay Down." They're touring the U.S. in November.

Cher sings ABBA

Delighting basically everyone, Cher has announced an album of ABBA covers. The Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again star will release Dancing Queen on Sept. 28, and "S.O.S." is out now. One enterprising fan used the track to "fix" Pierce Brosnan's notoriously iffy vocal performance in the original Mamma Mia! movie.


Songs sampled in podcast
Jahzzar: "Comedie" (CC BY 4.0)
Michael Jackson: "Breaking News"
Michael Jackson: "Hollywood Tonight"
Michael Jackson: "Keep Your Head Up"
Blood Orange: "Charcoal Baby"
Interpol: "The Rover"
Boygenius: "Bite the Hand"
Cher: "S.O.S."


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