Martin Bashir interviews Michael Jackson in 2002
There was extraordinary excitement when three previously unheard tracks were unearthed after the star’s death. The songs Breaking News, Monster and Keep Your Head Up were included on the posthumous album Michael, with reports that Sony has also bought another nine tracks from the two producers who claimed to have made secret recordings with the star. In 2014, a fan went to court in California claiming it was not MJ’s voice at all on the three songs. At the time, legal documents filed said Sony Music and the Michael Jackson Estate “conceded in trial court that Jackson may not have been the singer.”
The court documents added that the two producers, Eddie Cascio and James Porte, “claimed that Jackson recorded these songs in the basement of their house in 2007, without any witnesses”.
The fan, Vera Serova, went to court alleging the three songs were actually performed by an impersonator – and says she has forensic audio evidence to prove the vocals “very likely did not belong to Jackson”.
Over the years, many others, including Jackson’s nephews Tarryl and TJ, have also argued that the star’s voice clearly sounds different on the tracks in question. The producers explained he had sung in a homemade sound booth using PVC pipes and the vocals at the time were only intended to be rough guides for demos.
LISTEN TO THE TRACKS BELOW
READ MORE: Michael Jackson tried to DESTROY the Thriller video master tapes
Michael Jackson album with ‘fake’ songs
Michael Jackson album includes three ‘fake’ songs
When they first heard the tracks, members of Jackson’s own family like Taryll and TJ questioned their authenticity.
The producers, who were close family friends of Michael, said his obsession with privacy meant he would not permit photos or video footage to be shot during the various sessions that potentially yielded twelve new tracks.
Any music recording will involve numerous takes and discarded versions but the producers also testified that they had wiped any and all extra material that was not used in the final version – in order to clear space on a hard drive.
Interview by Oprah Winfrey, Casio said, “It is Michael’s voice. he recorded it right there in my basement.”
Michael Jackson producers Teddy Riley and Eddie Cascio
Michael’s nephew Taryll, however, said: “I am shocked that things have gotten this far. This is ridiculous. I tried so hard to prevent this craziness, but they wouldn’t listen. I KNOW my Uncle’s voice and something’s seriously wrong when you have immediate FAMILY saying it’s not him … They can’t give me answers, yet continue to move forward with lies and deception. Sounding like Michael Jackson and BEING Michael Jackson are two different things.”
His brother TJ added: “There’s many MJ vocal impersonators. Some better than others. But there is only ONE Michael Jackson. Why they would ignore the obvious, look the other way and rush a suspicious track that was NEVER on my Uncle’s radar is beyond me. I’m disgusted, disappointed and saddened … We know how much he valued his legacy and his fans. And cheating either is unacceptable. ‘Lies run sprints, but the truth runs marathons.’”
New legal comments over Michael Jackson album with ‘fake’ songs
And now, seven years after the case began, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has just thrown his support behind Serova’s claim and filed a motion (an amicus brief) with his state’s Supreme Court.
The case hinges on whether a company should be allowed to label a product, in this case a CD, with information that may not be entirely true or accurate.
It seems cut and dried, but when the case reached the courts in 2016, Sony argued that it had taken the producers’ claims on good faith. Furthermore, the label said that calling Jackson the vocalist on the songs was an act of ‘artistic expression’, not ‘commercial speech’, and was therefore protected under their constitutional right to freedom of speech.
At the time, the presiding judge, Anne Jones, said; “What is problematic is that you are ripping people off under your admitted facts.”
She ruled that the case should go to trial and now the state’s Attorney General has weighed in with a blistering public statement and a legal motion to his Supreme Court.
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Becerra’s public statement pulled no punches: “Sony’s overly broad interpretation of the First Amendment fails to protect consumers by enabling companies from a wide array of industries to make false or misleading claims about their products and then declare ignorance of the misrepresentation…
“Sony argues that it can’t be held liable because it didn’t record the tracks itself; rather, it purchased them from other producers and didn’t know whether or not the songs were actually performed by Jackson.
“Sony argues that even if Jackson didn’t sing the songs, purchasers who relied on that claim have no remedy under California false advertising laws.”
Becerra added: “Truth in advertising is rooted in the most basic contract between a seller and consumer. Products must deliver on their claims.
“If someone buys an album from a recording artist, they should expect that the songs on the album were made by that artist unless noted otherwise.
“We must hold companies accountable to stand by their products. Companies have a First Amendment right to communicate, but their claims must be informed and accurate.”
His strongly-worded public statement warned that Sony’s defence has “absurd, broad consequences” for consumers.
READ ATTORNEY GENERAL BECERRA’S STATEMENT HERE