Three songs from the posthumous 2010 Michael Jackson album “Michael,” which some fans have long insisted were not sung by the late artist, have been removed from streaming services.
A statement from Jackson’s estate and Sony Music, which acquired the rights to unreleased material from the singer’s vaults in a blockbuster $250 million deal in 2010, says the songs were removed in an effort to “move beyond” the controversy but effectively maintains that the vocals were not faked: “Nothing should be read into this action concerning the authenticity of the tracks,” it emphasizes.
“The Estate of Michael Jackson and Sony Music decided to remove the tracks ‘Breaking News,’ ‘Monster’ and ‘Keep Your Head Up,’ from the 2010 album ‘Michael’ as the simplest and best way to move beyond the conversation associated with these tracks once and for all,” the statement, issued Tuesday, reads. “The album’s remaining tracks remain available. Nothing should be read into this action concerning the authenticity of the tracks – it is just time to move beyond the distraction surrounding them,” it concludes.
The songs in question have been at the center of an unusually aggressive legal campaign by fans that ultimately was won by the estate in 2018. They were reportedly recorded in 2007 with songwriter/producers Edward Cascio and James Porte, two years before the Jackson’s death from an accidental overdose. Fans have long claimed that an American vocalist named Jason Malachi actually sang the three songs, and he purportedly admitted as much in a 2011 Facebook post, according to TMZ, although his manager later denied it, claiming the post was faked.
The legal action began in 2014, when a fan tried to lead a class-action suit claiming that the album’s liner notes, which list Jackson as the singer, are actually a misrepresentation under California’s Unfair Competition Law and the Consumers Legal Remedies Act. However, the appeals court ruled that because the estate and Sony did not know for certain whether Jackson sang on the three songs, the album’s cover and promotional materials were protected by the First Amendment.
“Under these circumstances, Appellant’s representations about the identity of the singer amounted to a statement of opinion rather than fact,” wrote California Appellate Justice Elwood Liu at the time. “The lack of personal knowledge here also means that Appellants’ challenged statements do not fit the definition of speech that is ‘less likely to be chilled by proper regulation.’”