Michael Jackson single controversy: 'This Is It' is 'exactly the same' as song he wrote with Paul Anka

Paul-Anka-Michael-Jackson_lThe manager of the singer Safire has weighed in on the growing controversy surrounding the new Michael Jackson single “This Is It.” Sal Abbatiello told EW earlier this evening that “This Is It” is “exactly the same” as the song “I Never Heard,” which was written by Jackson and Paul Anka and released by Safire in the early ’90s.

After “This Is It” was released last night it soon became clear to many listeners that the tune, which features on the soundtrack to the forthcoming movie of the same name and is credited to just Jackson, was very similar to “I Never Heard.” Late this afternoon TMZ reported that Jackson “stole” the tapes of “I Never Heard” after Jackson and Anka had written the song and only returned them once Anka threatened to sue. Meanwhile, the New York Times quoted Anka as saying, “It’s exactly the same song. They just changed the title.”

According to Abbatiello, “I Never Heard” was originally supposed to be duet between Anka and Safire. But the manager claimed that, after Jackson met with Safire, he “gave” her the song and told her to put it out with his blessing. Abbatiello also expressed amazement that no one at Michael Jackson’s record company Sony had seemingly bothered to research the possibility that the song had been been previously released. “This is a terrible mistake,” he told EW. “I’m pretty sure Paul Anka has a big case. I don’t know if Safire has any legal right as the artist. I’ll have to contact my lawyers. But, hopefully. They’re advertising this movie everywhere.” (Sony declined to offer any comment on the controversy.)

Check out the clip from Safire’s “I Never Heard” below and tell us if you agree with Abbatiello’s  allegation that it is basically the same song.

UPDATE, October 12, 10pm ET: Jackson’s estate released a statement acknowledging Anka’s work as co-writer of Jackson’s new single and promised him 50 per cent of the profits from the song’s sales. “The song was picked because the lyrics were appropriate because of the name Michael gave his tour,” the statement read. “We are thrilled to present this song in Michael’s voice for the first time, and that Michael’s fans have responded in unprecedented numbers.”

More from EW’s Music Mix:
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Lady Gaga gets serious for gay rights, covers Lennon’s “Imagine”

Michael Jackson’s new single, ‘This Is It’: Stream it here

Stephen Gately: Why the Boyzone singer’s death is the biggest story in the UK
Janelle Monae, ‘Come Alive (The War of the Roses)’: Stream it here
Kanye West MIA at BET Hip Hop Awards

Comments (84 total) Add your comment
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  • Samantha Delynne

    Thats sad that pop Icon Michael Jackson isnt Alive Anymore to sort out this problem.If he was Alive Right now.He can Take care of this problem with Paul Anka.But Michael Jackson pop Icon isnt Alive Anymore.His Fans miss him a lot.Also his mom Katherine misses him a lot.Also his sisters Janet/LaToya miss him a lot/his Kids Paris/her two Brothers.No Thanks to Dr Conrad Murray.Pop Icon Michael Jackson isnt Alive Anymore.Dr Murray should be put away for what he did .On June 25th 2009.I liked watching his videos a lot.Bad Back in 1987.Dirty Diana Back in 1988.The way you make me feel Back in 1988.His videos are fun to watch.

    • Charles

      Let me guess, you feel that Michael Jackson is a pop icon. True enough, but we got it the first time.

      • starsie

        Paul Anka is a pop icon as well — but of a different generation

  • mark

    Excuse me, Michael didn’t steal anything. This song was co-written by him so he can use it whetever he likes. Eitherway, it’s not his fault that his brothers and Sony are exploiting his death by releasing this song without his permission. This song was never part of the rehearsals. it was only added to the closing credits of the upcoming movie which proves my point.

    • AcaseofGeo

      Mark, I think the legal argument is that if Paul Anka co-wrote the original song and music, then he deserves royalties on it regardless of who sings it or a revised version, even Michael Jackson.

      • Sally in Chicago

        Paul has settled for 50% royalties…he’s a happy man….he stated that MJ “stole” the tapes, so yeh, MJ was a thief….I think everybody wins including Safir. And I agree with Tim, this is a better rendition of the song. It sounds more complete and her vocals are good. The arrangement is more ‘popish’.

  • SD Tim

    Actually, this version is more listenable than the one they released for Michael.

    • AA

      uh, disagree.

  • Kevin

    comment to Samantha Delynne – It was extremely hard reading your comment because of all of the grammatical errors as well as ridiculous repetion of the phrase “miss him a lot.” It reads as though a four year old wrote it. I, however, am guessing that you are about in your late 20s to early 30s by your statement that you liked watching his videos in the late 80s. Since you are of that age, you should know how to write better. Next time have someone proof read your comments.

    • Jill

      You are right Kevin. That said, you spelled ‘repetition’ incorrectly.

    • talkin’

      chill out. What’s it to you?

  • kburns

    I’m with Kevin..Samantha’s comment is just one more example that our education system needs an overhaul.

    • abracadabra

      guys, maybe English is not her native language, no need to be mean.

      • AcaseofGeo

        Then maybe she should be posting on whatever-the-heck language that was website for entertainment news.

  • Cad Bane

    It’s sad that they used a previously released song as a promitional stint. No one should be blaming Jackson, unless he had intentions of releasing this song. It’s pretty sloppy on the part of sony or whoever’s in charge.

  • AcaseofGeo

    At 944 pm I read that tmz reports a settlement has ALREADY been made with Paul Anka! Wow! This song is gonna make millions for Paul. Good for him. However, this song SUCKS in either version….blech!!!

  • James

    Just further proof that Michael Jackson is lame and his career was in the toilet when he died. All of this hoopla surrounding him is just redonkulous. Get a life people – he’s dead and really, who cares? I’d rather he just go away peacefully rather than watch his family further milk this cow.

    • Emma

      Hey, thanks for contributing! If his career was in the toilet why were his albums flying off the shelves weeks after his death?

      • Sick of Michael

        Probably because of that sense of nostalgia that we all felt for the days when his music was good and it wasn’t overshadowed by his bizarre appearance and strange choices. I guess some people can’t separate the semi-normal Michael from the one who hired crap doctors to medicate him each night so he could go to sleep. This is just another controversy to add to the trophy shelf…

      • Jackie

        I don’t mean to be disrespectful here but you pretty much answered your own question. It’s because he was dead. His albums weren’t exactly flying off the shelves this time last year.

  • mark

    For god’s sake, Michael jackson kept this song unfinished in the vault for 26 years. What does that tell you about the song?
    When I first heard it, I knew MJ wouldn’t release a bland song like this as his song. So the blame goes to Sony because they produced and released it after his death because otherwise Michael would never allow this song to be released as his song. They never took the time to explore his unreleased songs because they want to profit from his sudden death just like everybody else.

    • Vandelay

      Michael chose that song BEFORE his death as the title of his London concert engagement. I think it’s safe to say he was planning to use it.

      • RC

        This song was renamed by Sony because of the opening lyrics only weeks ago. This NEVER had anything to do with the concert series as far as MJ was concerned.

  • George

    Michael Jackson was the greatest musician of our time. Greater than Elvis with no question. When I listen to the woman sing,I hear nothin but Mike’s influence all over the song, but what happened to her great albums?

  • mjfan1023

    Hey fools, the song was not recorded in the studio by MJ. The song was recorded on the stage during rehersals. This is why it doesn’t sound as good as it would have had it been done in the studio. You know, like sogs that sound great on the radio – and suck during a concert. Studio verses live concert makes a HUGE difference. And personally who cares if it was co written by this Akna person… MJ played a part of writting it- he should be able to sing it and call it whatever he chose. Difference is he is obvioulsy not here to decide what song is going to be the theme song for “this is it”. And for the idiot that said his career was in the toilet… If u don’t care why the heck are u wasting your time writing on this post?? Geez, go get a life if all u can do is bash someone u don’t have any respect for. Seems to me people that didn’t care for his music wouldn’t waste their time reading something let alone clicking on the post comment, then waiting for it to load and type. Poor guy, u need some friends. RIP MJ

    • libladyd

      You Said it!!! I like the song. And why are they saying MJ “stole” the song? Didn’t he “cowrite” the song? MJ was the Best at what he did. The BEST! Love him, love his music. For the few who critize him, thank God for the million of us who love him and will always love him.

  • Michelle

    James your comment was so far off base that it is almost laughable.
    Michael had absolutely nothing to do with the release of this song. He was however one the greatest performers ever. It is just so sad that you have to disrespect the dead like that, do you even care that his family or his children may see this. The next time you decided to dish dirt on the dead think what your family would think if someone was talking on the Internet disrespectfully about you upon your death.

    • James

      Frankly, I don’t care what his family would say if they saw this. They’ve heard and seen much worse about Michael because he was a huge FREAK. He is so overblown, and his recent rise to popularity is the result of his death, not because of any talent he still may have posessed. And why would anyone say things about me after my death on an EW.com comments board — I’m not famous, I never owned a monkey or slept in an oxygen chamber or molested a whole bunch of kids.

      • AA

        No, but I’m sure you expose yourself as a total tool on a regular basis to those who do know you in your real life…or lack thereof.

      • Abby

        If MJ were still alive and were to tour in the US he would have a completely sold out tour and people would feel honored to be able to attend one of his shows. Despite what he may have done or been charged with, he was an amazing musician.

      • Groundkisser

        I still can’t believe that the world still has people dumb enough to believe in most of those stupid ‘Wacko Jacko’ rumors. Michael Jackson didn’t buy an oxygen chamber to sleep in, and he certainly didn’t molest a bunch of kids. No pedophile with Jackson’s talent and intelligence would have acted around and towards children in the manner he did.

      • MJlover

        Oh dear, yet another misinformed ignoramus – do yourself and everyone else a favour and educate yourself before posting drivel.

  • mjfan1023

    George, very well said! I couldn’t agree more! Anymore all we here on the radio is sex, pimps and hoes and so on! Michael respected people and didn’t go on and on in every song about knockin boots. The man will never rest in peace because of all the media and idiots that feed into the frenzy. What all of us need to remember is that even being an amazing musician.. He was also a human being that has a family and children that love him. For heavens sake treat people how u want to be treated… and if u don’t know the facts… Shut your trap!

  • Natalie

    It was not Michael Jackson’s fault. It’s Sony’s fault for doing a rush job without even researching about the song first. It is almost embarrassing to think that not a single person in Sony was aware of that previously released version! I prefer Michael’s version just because the mood is more cheery.

  • Mary

    Dag, that is just sad sad sad. Exactly

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