Monday, November 8, 2010

Remake Remodel

So… to use (loathsome) modern music-biz parlance, Michael Jackson’s ‘new single’ Breaking News has… dropped.

And, dear reader, I have to inform you that... to all intents and purposes, it’s a bonafide turd.

It opens with 35 seconds of, poorly cobbled-together, spoken ‘news reporting headlines’ (eg: More allegations against the King Of Pop; Another lawsuit against Michael Jackson etc etc) played through static as if the listener was twisting the dial on an old fashioned radio.

Tellingly… the word unauthorised is used repeatedly.

Then, Jackson himself – so we’re led to believe – steps up the plate at 54 seconds in over a piss-poor breaking news (sic) shufflebeat accompanied by sampled violins with the opening line of: "Everybody wanting a piece of Michael Jackson; Every reporter stalking the moves of Michael Jackson; Just when you thought he was done; He comes to give it again," And, in the next line the singer mentions his (own) obituary.

And, it may well be – although probably not the one that he’d have liked.

Because… to the ears of this Voltaire out on its grassy knoll on the world-wide-windswept prairie, this doesn’t much sound like Michael Jackson singing before he entered or from beyond the grave.

It actually sounds like one of two things: either a very average MJ impersonator – you know the ones… young lads who appear of programmes like X-Factor and other rubbish TV like that. They’re all dressed up, their hair is done just so, they’ve practiced the moves, privately, in front of a bedroom mirror for months using a hairbrush as a microphone and someone, somewhere has said… ‘hey son, for you… Opportunity Knocks’.

Generally speaking, they disappear into the oblivion from whence they came.

Either that or this is conceivably a rough demo containing (probably) a guide vocal together with a 'rough arrangement' that a ‘producer’ has gotten a hold of and… ‘produced’.

According to Michael Jackson dot com, the song was cut during 2007 by someone called Eddie Cascio at his home in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey; ma and pa Cascio are, apparently, restaurant owners who specialize in Italian cuisine and gave their son his start in music by funding his piano lessons. Beats beating out pizza dough.

Graduating from Drew University, Cascio – via family connections – started writing for the New York based publishing company Sony / ATV Music before founding his own production company Angelikson Music and going on to work with the likes of Luther Vandross, Usher and NSYNC. And, apparently, Jacko tipped up in late ’07 chez Cascio and… laid down a few tunes.

However… and I confess to finding this pretty extraordinary, these ‘tracks’ that Cascio allegedly ‘produced’ of Jacko’s lay dormant (undiscovered / un-talked of) when Jackson’s estate recently concluded a deal with Sony – reportedly for 200 million dollars.

Hmmm… the woodwork squeaks and out come the freaks.

Sony have issued a press-statement that contains one or two interesting ‘wordings’ together with committing the cardinal sin within any media-release – that of using adjectival language. For example they state that this posthumous album (entitled Michael) is ‘much anticipated’. Is it…? That should be down to the public to decide, should it not?

Be that as it may, they also state that the album will be released by Epic in conjunction with the Estate Of Michael Jackson. Frankly as it should be but… how do they now quantify Jackson’s mother (Katherine) using the word fake (according to news sources) when discussing this posthumous album project (from which this track is culled) with… yes, you guessed – and who else but… Oprah Winfrey.

Indeed, TMZ are also reporting Prince and Paris (two of Jackson’s children) stating that they do not believe the vocals on parts of the album are their father’s.

Reading a bit further into Sony / Epic’s mdia-release we learn that: “Breaking News,” a never heard before song by Michael that appears on the new album was recorded in New Jersey in 2007 and recently brought to completion (my italics).

Aha… and therein lies the rub, the nub of the whole matter.

Clearly, even Sony / Epic are admitting that a producer has gotten a hold of this and… produced it.

Poorly at that.

IF it had the kudos of (say) someone with credentials such as Quincy Jones or even Will.I.Am then I should imagine people would take this posthumous offering a lot more seriously.

Do I have any authority to offer that as an opinion? Actually, yes I do.

Over the past year or so, I’ve been working on a number of tracks exactly as that – the only difference being that the artist with whom I’ve been working is very much alive.

Nevertheless, his view – to which I heartily subscribe – is as follows: while previously unheard track X or Y has value to the consumer within the context of an artist’s full body of work and therefore should be cleaned up and brought to the sonic standards people expect to hear in 2010; demos and especially those with guide vocals are best left as they were actually recorded. They are snapshots in time – and therefore should be left as exactly that.

Plus – although this was many years ago, I did have the singular pleasure of meeting the King Of Pop. We stood side by side in the gentleman’s urinals at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London when the annual BRIT Awards were hosted there. As his Giant Haystacks-sized minder guarded the door, we acknowledged the other’s presence by a simple nod of the head and got on the with business in hand (sic), staring at the white marble straight ahead, as gentlemen are won’t to do in such circumstances.

IF it began life as that, Breaking News probably sounded pretty interesting as a work-in-progress demo but now its been produced (with or without his own vocals) it sounds like extraneous matter within the largely formidable cannon of Jacko’s main body of work.

As it has been presented, "Breaking News" is the audio equivalent of a badly photoshopped picture.

And the thing is with turds… no matter how hard one tries, they cannot be polished.

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