By now you've probably heard "Breaking News," the lead track off of Sony's upcoming posthumous Michael Jackson compilation Michael. If not, listen to it at MJ's official site. Once you've listened to it, you may feel free to join the chorus of "wait, what?"s that have surrounded this song.
The big question on everyone's mind is, of course, whether Michael's vocals are on that track or not. (Sony, naturally, says it is.) I've seen plenty of polls asking for reader input, and you'll see ours below. But there's an option on ours that I haven't seen elsewhere, because I think Michael Jackson does sing on "Breaking News" - but not all of it.
Those stuttering vocal tics and yelps that you hear between verses are most likely his. I'd hazard a guess that part of the song's chorus has him singing. But those verses just don't sound like him, and that's considering how his vocal delivery changed while he was alive. (Nobody who heard Thriller in the early '80s would be able to predict the brittle, edgy cadences he'd deliver on Dangerous or HIStory.) And the choruses likely aren't entirely him, either - they lack the distinctive vocal blend fans have been in love with from the days of "Rock with You."
It's no surprise that there would be a need for additional background vocals - these songs are probably overdubbed to heck from whatever their original versions might be - but the notion that Sony could be theoretically duped by an MJ impersonator is bizarre. The label has gotten their facts twisted from time to time - there's no way the Thriller 25 bonus track "For All Time" originates from the Thriller era - but this is just crazy. And yet, what other deceased legend could be mired in this kind of musical controversy? That's not to say that Michael is better than Elvis, Lennon, Hendrix and the like - but their posthumous material was never as dissected, and certainly never as seemingly fake.
Perhaps the full Michael disc will have some less disputable tracks therein. But if the first thing fans are going to hear is a track that doesn't sound like the King of Pop, it's not hard to imagine such a backlash lasting for the rest of the month.