Allegations have recently resurfaced as to whether Michael Jackson is in fact the vocalist on some tracks from his first posthumous album “Michael” (2010). The album was cobbled together from scraps of recording left behind, predominantly from his last album project “Invincible” that he had been working on from 2001 until his death in June 2009.
The songs under scrutiny are “Breaking News”, “Keep Your Head Up” and “Monster” and have been since the album’s release. “I know my Uncle’s voice and there’s something seriously wrong when you have immediate family saying it’s not him” Tarryl Jackson, the son of Michael’s brother Tito, wrote on Twitter in November of 2010. An ongoing lawsuit has followed, led by fan Vera Serova, which has recently led to sources reporting that Sony Music admitted in court to Jackson not being the sole vocalist. Sony have escaped sanction on the grounds that they had no way of knowing that Michael was not the vocalist and Serova has gone on to file suit against the producers Edward Cascio and James Porte who were co-writers of the songs, as well as their company Angelikson Productions.
The ongoing suit raises questions of authenticity in popular music culture and its consumption, particularly with the rise of companies rebranding posthumous artists for economic gain. This is most overt in the perhaps morbid use of holograms for so-called ‘live’ performance of the deceased, from Tupac to Frank Sinatra. Key characteristics of the artists voice, Jackson’s ‘Moonwalk’ or Prince’s shadow over his guitar, are being turned into code and reproduced without the artists consent and the controlling arm of business leaves their voice culpable to corruption and misrepresentation.
Applicants for Music may wish to consider the role of authenticity in music and its effect upon its consumption. Questions surrounding an artists, or composers, intentions are likely to be addressed in a range of historical courses at undergraduate level. Applicants for Anthropology may want to study the role of music and art in Western society and the influence of business upon this.