Throughout his life, [artist id="1102"]Michael Jackson[/artist] had a rather contentious relationship with the media. The late pop icon's outrageous behavior and appearance never failed to generate the attention and adulation he seemed to crave, but that fascination was always a double-edged sword for the conflicted star, as it also involved tabloid reporters digging into every nook and cranny of his personal life. This subject is one he revisited on "Breaking News," the first single from his upcoming posthumous album, Michael, which is scheduled for a December 14 release.
On Monday morning (November 8), a full stream of the biting, never-before-heard track was posted online.
The first salvo from the singer's 11th CD features a propulsive, robotic beat and layered vocals that have the signature future-funk sound of Jackson's late-period work, with pointed lyrics about the thirst for news about the reclusive icon, who died at age 50 in June 2009 following an overdose of the surgical anesthetic propofol.
The four-minute track begins with snippets of news reports about Jackson's life and death, which reach a crescendo before being cut off by a crash, followed by a thumping, skittering beat and lively strings.
"Everybody wanting a piece of Michael Jackson/ Reporters stalking the moves of Michael Jackson," the King of Pop sings urgently. One of the more jarring aspects of the song is that it appears to mark the first time in his career that Jackson made a first-person reference to himself when discussing his feelings about being hounded by reporters. "Just when you thought he was done/ He comes to give it again," he continues, adding the ominous first-verse kicker, "They want to write my obituary."
MJ then sings in the pre-chorus, "No matter what, you just wanna read it again/ No matter what, you just wanna feel it again." He then asks why it is so strange that he should want to fall in love, referring to himself as "the boogie man" and lamenting the media's desire to see him fall. "You write the words to destroy, like it's a weapon/ You turn your back on love and you can't get it again."
An odd musical shift occurs halfway through the song, as a jarring edit takes place that brings up a brighter rhythm section accented by triumphant jazzy horns and Jackson crooning, "All the news today, they say we're crazy."
The mix of Jackson's sugary and tart vocals, dripping with contempt for the tabloid press, helps cut some of the bitterness of the song, but clearly the singer had something to get off his chest. Mocking his tormentors, he sings, "This is breaking news/ This is breaking news," before ending with the biting line, "You're breaking the news" — both a slap at the tabloids for thinking that his personal life is headline-worthy copy and a judgment on what their reporting is doing to the free press.
This being MJ, there is, of course, some controversy surrounding the tune, courtesy of tabloid site TMZ, which has raised questions about its legitimacy. Last week, TMZ reported that the superstar's children and mother were not convinced that the vocals on "Breaking News" were those of Jackson, but rather that they were possibly sung by an imitator.
According to a Reuters report, a lawyer for Michael's father, Joseph Jackson, also said that the music on the album consists of unfinished tracks that notorious perfectionist MJ would never have wanted released. On Friday, Sony Music reacted to the controversy and said that it had "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."
The label has said that "Breaking News" was recorded by Jackson at a friend's house in New Jersey in 2007 and described it as having recently been "brought to completion." Sony has not revealed how much work was done on the tracks for Michael or which producers were involved.
What do you think of the new Michael Jackson song? Tell us in the comments.