Listen: Michael Jackson gets self-referential in new track 'Breaking News'
Does Michael Jackson's new song "Breaking News" make you want to scream?
Media and character assassination weren't unusual topics for the late pop star, who made his frustrations known in hits like "Scream" and "Leave Me Alone." But the newly released song -- now streaming for the week on michaeljackson.com -- seems to be going a step further down the victim path. The King of Pop refers to himself in the third person, claiming that everyone wants "a piece of Michael Jackson," as it bops along to a New Jack Swing beat. Michael Jackson sounds as obsessed with Michael Jackson as everyone else.
The term "breaking" in "Breaking News" has him put in a vulnerable state, of his psyche and tolerance becoming broken down. But it's more the song itself that's broken.
The lyrics leave the listener a little dry, like weak punches at a straw man, as synthetic horns and strings sections artificially amp up the melody. It's chicken and egg with what could be a Justin Timberlake track from the early 2000s, though according to Sony/Epic, the song was recorded around 2007. The vocals -- especially during the verses -- sound like a badly compressed mp3 rip from a large file, the notes all watery and overly tinkered-with. The chorus is catchy but ultimately empty, given that the songs has two dynamics: play at 10, and stop. A couple nostalgic "whooos" are thrown in for good measure, like a stamp of approval, although something tells me that Jackson would have never given it the nod.
His family feels the same way. Jackson's father Joe's attorneys have released a statement indicated that the estate doesn't feel the song is a completed work and that its release would have gone against the singer's wishes were he still alive. Mom Katherine is reportedly outraged. Fans are claiming online that the vocals don't sound like Jackson's at all. Some feel that there shouldn't be the new album -- "Michael," out Dec. 14 -- at all.
However, Epic says the label has "complete confidence in the results of our extensive research, as well as the accounts of those who were in the studio with Michael, that the vocals on the new album are his own."
That all being said, if the Jackson family didn't think posthumous releases would demean his legendary body of work, then they should have either known fully what tracks they were sitting on or not entered into the $200 deal with Sony at all. "This Is It" feature the same incomplete state of Jackson's abilities, where were the complaints then? "Confidence" seems to be a farce at this point.