The Second Disc

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Breaking Snooze

with 4 comments

By now you’ve probably heard “Breaking News,” the lead track off of Sony’s upcoming posthumous Michael Jackson compilation Michael. If not, listen to it at MJ’s official site. Once you’ve listened to it, you may feel free to join the chorus of “wait, what?”s that have surrounded this song.

The big question on everyone’s mind is, of course, whether Michael’s vocals are on that track or not. (Sony, naturally, says it is.) I’ve seen plenty of polls asking for reader input, and you’ll see ours below. But there’s an option on ours that I haven’t seen elsewhere, because I think Michael Jackson does sing on “Breaking News” – but not all of it.

Those stuttering vocal tics and yelps that you hear between verses are most likely his. I’d hazard a guess that part of the song’s chorus has him singing. But those verses just don’t sound like him, and that’s considering how his vocal delivery changed while he was alive. (Nobody who heard Thriller in the early ’80s would be able to predict the brittle, edgy cadences he’d deliver on Dangerous or HIStory.) And the choruses likely aren’t entirely him, either – they lack the distinctive vocal blend fans have been in love with from the days of “Rock with You.”

It’s no surprise that there would be a need for additional background vocals – these songs are probably overdubbed to heck from whatever their original versions might be – but the notion that Sony could be theoretically duped by an MJ impersonator is bizarre. The label has gotten their facts twisted from time to time – there’s no way the Thriller 25 bonus track “For All Time” originates from the Thriller era – but this is just crazy. And yet, what other deceased legend could be mired in this kind of musical controversy? That’s not to say that Michael is better than Elvis, Lennon, Hendrix and the like – but their posthumous material was never as dissected, and certainly never as seemingly fake.

Perhaps the full Michael disc will have some less disputable tracks therein. But if the first thing fans are going to hear is a track that doesn’t sound like the King of Pop, it’s not hard to imagine such a backlash lasting for the rest of the month.

Written by Mike Duquette

November 8, 2010 at 13:32

4 Responses

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  1. I think the real issue at hand here–fake or not–is that the song sucks. I really wanted to like it, but musically, lyrically…not a great choice to lead this album off.

    For the record, I’m going with partially too–we’ve heard his lower voice on “2000 Watts,” and “Breaking News” sounds nothing like that.


    November 8, 2010 at 13:46

    • I’m trying to suppress any cynicism, but even if I accept that all of the lead vocals belong to Jackson, in one condition or another, the bottom line is indeed that the song isn’t a strong one. What happened to putting your best foot forward?

      “Breaking News” makes “This is It” sound like “Billie Jean,” for cryin’ out loud…if that wasn’t a top-drawer outtake, it certainly had a good (even memorable) melodic hook, a solid arrangement and slick production. “Breaking News” is simply lackluster, and as Mike astutely points out, if it doesn’t sound like Jackson – whether or not it, in fact, is – the damage has already been done.

      So the question now is, will Sony do any damage control? A behind-the-scenes video with the producers and engineers showing how the song was assembled would go a long way…just sayin’.

      Joe Marchese

      November 8, 2010 at 14:08

  2. The song sounds like a New Jack-outtake from “Dangerous”. No way the vocals are all him…unless he was zonked out when he recorded them. Remember how Elvis’ voice markedly changed whenever he was on pills? Compare his voice on “Promised Land” and “Hurt” to “Suspicious Minds”.


    November 8, 2010 at 15:53

  3. I’d like to amend my vote to real–there’s an a capella version on YouTube that sounds like MJ. Whatever vocal effects they added do not help the song at all; this version is actually pretty nice.


    November 10, 2010 at 03:29

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