Epic skeds new Jackson album for Dec. 14

Collection is first set of unreleased material since singer's death

Just in time for last-minute Christmas shoppers, Epic Records has scheduled a new Michael Jackson album, simply titled “Michael,” for Dec. 14.

Collection — the first set of previously unreleased Jackson material since the entertainer’s death last June — will be prefaced by the premiere Monday of a new song, “Breaking News,” which will stream for a week on MichaelJackson.com.

According to an announcement on the site, tune was recorded in New Jersey in 2007 “and recently brought to completion.”

Set will comprise newly finished Jackson songs cut in New Jersey, Las Vegas and L.A. with personnel described as “a small group of handpicked collaborators.” No further information about the package was revealed.

“Michael” could benefit from the timing of its release, which comes very late in the pre-holiday shopping cycle. Most of the big titles for the season will have already reached stores, adding luster to the Jackson set as a late-breaking must-have item for under the tree.

In March, Jackson’s estate extended its deal with Sony Music Entertainment. Pact, believed to be the largest in history, brought an estimate $200 million into the family coffers (Daily Variety, March 17).

Following Jackson’s sudden death last year, stores experienced an unprecedented run on the singer’s music. According to 2009 sales figures from Nielsen SoundScan, he was the bestselling artist of the year with 8.3 million units sold, dwarfing the 4.6 million units shifted by No. 2 performer Taylor Swift.

The posthumous concert rehearsal film “This Is It” was a major theatrical and home video hit; its two-CD companion album debuted at No. 1 last November with sales of 373,000 units.

On Wednesday, Cirque du Soleil announced the schedule for a joint venture with the Jackson estate, “Michael Jackson the Immortal World Tour.” Nouveau circus outfit has devoted previous shows to the Beatles and Elvis Presley.

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