This is going to take some unpacking.
To bring you up to speed as quickly as possible: there is, allegedly, a chance that three tracks on Michael Jackson’s 2010 posthumous album, Michael, were, in fact recorded by a Michael Jackson impersonator.
This accusation is lodged within the US court system as you read this, and, despite interesting evidence in its favor, may turn out to be true or untrue.
We’ll come back to this because, even if it’s faintly accurate, it’s an incredible Netflix documentary waiting to be made.
What really matters today, however, is this: Sony Music has stated that it did not confirm, early last week, that these tracks were indeed recorded by a fake MJ.
If it did, it would make this story ten times more interesting. But, says the company, it just didn’t happen – and logic is on its side.
To sufficiently explain why, we need to start at the start.
In 2014, an MJ megafan – Vera Serova – filed a class action lawsuit after she became suspicious that three songs from Michael – “Breaking News,” “Keep Your Head Up,” and the 50 Cent collaboration “Monster” – weren’t actually sung by her idol.
Whether or not she was correct in her belief is still being debated.
(Serova presented research from forensic audiologist Dr. George Papcun to back her claims. Papcun concluded in a 41-page, peer-reviewed report that the vocal on the tracks were not likely to have been recorded by the King Of Pop.)
Sony has, for some time, argued that if – and it’s a very big if – the three tracks in question were recorded, as Serova suggests, by an MJ impersonator, then it couldn’t have possibly known.
That’s because, according to Sony, it received the recordings in good faith from a production unit – which in this case, would mean Angelikson Productions LLC.
Angelikson Productions is owned by Jackson’s long time friend Eddie Cascio, and was one of the parties targeted by Serova’s initial class action.
Fast forward to last Tuesday (August 21), in a Californian court of appeals.
The purpose of this hearing wasn’t actually whether Jackson recorded the vocals or otherwise. It was, in basic terms, to determine whether legally-punishable injury may have been caused to members of the public who bought the record believing Jackson recorded every track.
As such, a lawyer representing both Sony and the Jackson Estate argued where and how legal repercussions should land if – and, again, it’s a very big if – the vocals on the three tracks weren’t recorded by Jackson.
“No one has conceded that Michael Jackson did not sing on the songs.”
This appears to have been misinterpreted by some as Sony ‘confirming’ that the vocals on the songs were indeed not recorded by Jackson.
As a result of this misinterpretation, all hell broke loose: headlines appeared in a multitude of powerful publications, from The Sun to Vibe, Spin, Fortune, Vulture and Fox News, suggesting that Sony had indeed ‘owned up’ to the fake Jackson vocals.
A subsequent joint statement on behalf Sony and the Jackson Estate, however, rubbished this idea: “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.”
There are two strands to this drama worth considering.
The first is the stunning power of ‘fake news’ to spread like wildfire in the modern age, seemingly without basic due consideration.
Just think this one through for a second: remember that Sony is denying any culpability over the possibility that Jackson didn’t record the songs.
Its key argument in order to do so is pretty much this: we don’t know who recorded those songs, because we trusted the production company/companies managing the studio process to deliver authentic masters.
Would it not rather destroy Sony’s wider argument to then turn around and say, ‘Actually, changed our minds: it’s definitely not him!’
Sadly, as the old adage goes: ‘A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has got its boots on.’
The bigger story here, though – the one which should get eyes lighting up at Netflix, and the one to keep focused on in the coming months and years – is the David vs. Goliath narrative.
Vera Serova, a UCLA law student, believes someone representing Michael Jackson defrauded his fans following his death with the 2010 album Michael.
In 2014, she started a class action, backed by expert testimony, to fight for that fact.
Her accusations remain unproven… but they’re being taken very seriously at the highest level.
Judge for yourselves!Music Business Worldwide