Sony Music released a statement to Variety yesterday (August 24) denying that they have released “fake” Michael Jackson songs posthumously, contrary to reports earlier this week.
Claims emerged that three “Michael Jackson” songs Sony released posthumously on 2010’s ‘Michael’ were not in fact by the artist, but an impersonator instead.
The songs ‘Breaking News’, ‘Monster’ and ‘Keep Your Head Up’ were said to have been recorded by the singer the year before his death. ‘Michael’, the first posthumous album released by Sony, sold 85,000 copies in it’s first week alone and reached number 3 on the Billboard 200.
However, a fan – named as Vera Serova in court documents – brought a class action lawsuit against Sony Music, the Jackson estate and Eddie Cascio, a Jackson collaborator whose production company (Angelikson Productions) is said to have sold the songs in question to Sony, in 2014.
Serova is said to have employed the services of a forensic audiologist, Dr George Papcun, to compare Jackson’s voice to those on the recording. According to The Mirror, the audiologist concluded that the voice “very likely did not belong to Michael Jackson.”
In a US court this week, Sony attempted to persuade a judge that it should not be a defendant in a lawsuit over the songs. The label hypothesised that even if Jackson wasn’t the main singer on the disputed songs in question, it would not mean that it had no rights to still sell the music under his name.
Media reports then emerged saying that Sony had conceded the songs were “faked”, but the record company is now denying this is the case. Speaking to Variety, they said: “No one has conceded that Michael Jackson did not sing on the songs.”
It continues: “The hearing Tuesday [August 21] 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.”
Variety also added: “According to sources close to the situation, individuals who attended Tuesday’s court hearing seized upon a statement by an attorney for Jackson’s estate in which he said something to the effect of ‘even if the vocals weren’t Jackson’s’ as proof they were indeed faked. The sources insist that the attorney was speculating.”
According to court documents, Sony is arguing that the songs were provided to them in good faith by Cascio’s production company and James Porte, a supposed co-writer of the disputed songs.
However, as reported in The Guardian, the album sparked controversy upon it’s release with many questioning the authenticity of the voice on the recordings. Michal’s sister La Toya Jackson was quoted in TMZ as saying “it didn’t sound like him” even though Michael’s Epic records company – part of Sony Music Entertainment Group – said it had “complete confidence” in the validity of the songs at the time.
Mike Smallcombe – the author of Michael Jackson biography Making Michael – has also doubted the legitimacy of the songs. “Those three songs need to be removed from the album immediately, and the executors of the estate should resign,” he said.
Ray Gallo, a lawyer representing Serova said his client was not interested in money. “She is a lifelong Michael Jackson fan that deeply felt the importance of protecting Jackson’s legacy…my colleagues and I are always honoured to bring consumer cases that challenge dishonesty and help bring integrity and reliability to consumer markets, including this one.”
Jackson died in 2009, just before he was due to make a series of high-profile comeback shows. His label released a tribute to the late singer in the days after his death, describing him as “a brilliant troubadour for his generation, a genius whose music reflected the passion and creativity of an era.”
This is a developing story. NME have reached out to Sony for comment.