Michael Jackson controversy: Estate attorney cites proof that he sang 'Breaking News'

Michael-Jackson-240.jpgImage Credit: Tim Whitby/Getty ImagesWhen “Breaking News,” the first single from Michael Jackson‘s posthumous album Michael, hit the Web this week, some fans immediately began questioning whether it really featured Jackson’s vocals. Now a lawyer for the late King of Pop’s estate has responded to the rumors with a detailed account of the evidence that “Breaking News” is legit.

In a letter directed to fans and subsequently published online today, attorney Howard Weitzman says the estate contacted a long list of producers, engineers, and other collaborators who had worked with Jackson in his lifetime. All of them, he says, agreed that “Breaking News” and two other songs from the same 2007 sessions were indeed sung by Jackson. The estate and Sony Music also hired two forensic musicologists to compare the a cappella recordings with other known examples of Jackson’s voice. They, too, certified the tracks. Finally, the letter states that Jackson soundalike Jason Malachi told the estate he had nothing to do with these songs.

“Sony decided that, given the overwhelming objective evidence resulting from the exhaustive investigations outlined above, they wanted to release a record that included three of [the 2007 recordings]—because they believed, without reservation, that the lead vocal on all of those tracks were sung by Michael Jackson,” Weitzman writes. “Although there still seem to be concerns being expressed in some quarters about the authenticity of the lead vocals, notwithstanding the opinion of those who worked with Michael, and two independent forensic analysts, ultimately, Michael’s fans will be the judges of these songs, as they always are. We take all fan comments very seriously, and as I’d stated above, there is nothing more important to the Estate than Michael’s music, his legacy and his fans.”

A representative for the Jackson estate noted that Weitzman’s letter is not an official press release, but vouched for its authenticity. The full letter can be read after the jump.

What do you think? Does the letter convince you that Michael Jackson sang lead on “Breaking News”? Speak up in comments.

November 11, 2010

Jeff:

I am writing you in response to your questions regarding “Breaking News,” and your reports of fan comments and concerns. There is nothing more important to the Estate than Michael’s music, his legacy and his fans. I hope the information below is helpful and responsive to your concerns.

As the Michael album was being put together, it was decided to bring Teddy Riley on board to work on several songs, including “Breaking News,” a song Michael recorded with Eddie Cascio and James Porte in late 2007 while living at the Cascio family home with his children. Riley produced and submitted “Breaking News” to Sony for inclusion on the album. At that time, no one ever mentioned that the vocals we heard on the Cascio songs, which were basically in demo format, might not be Michael. It was known, however, that the background vocals were a combination of Michael and James Porte.

After the tracks were submitted to Sony, three of these Cascio songs were selected to be on the album, and “Breaking News” was one of the three. The day after the submission and selection of the album tracks, for the very first time, the authenticity of Michael’s vocals on the Cascio tracks was questioned.

Because of these questions, I was immediately asked by co-Executors John Branca and John McClain to conduct an investigation regarding the authenticity of the lead vocals on the Cascio tracks.

Six of Michael’s former producers and engineers who had worked with Michael over the past 30 years – Bruce Swedien, Matt Forger, Stewart Brawley, Michael Prince, Dr. Freeze and Teddy Riley – were all invited to a listening session to hear the raw vocals of the Cascio tracks in question. All of these persons listened to the a cappella versions of the vocals on the Cascio tracks being considered for inclusion on the album, so they could give an opinion as to whether or not the lead vocals were sung by Michael. They all confirmed that the vocal was definitely Michael.

Michael’s musical director and piano player on many of his records over a 20-year period, Greg Phillinganes, played on a Cascio track being produced for the album, and said the voice was definitely Michael’s. Dorian Holley, who was Michael’s vocal director for his solo tours for 20 plus years (including the O2 Concert Tour) and is seen in the This Is It film, listened to the Cascio tracks and told me the lead vocal was Michael Jackson.

These are all engineers, producers and musicians who worked on tours and/or in the studio with Michael when he was recording Bad, Thriller, Off The Wall, Dangerous, Invincible, HIStory and Blood On The Dance Floor, and they all reconfirmed their belief that the lead vocals were Michael’s voice on the Cascio tracks.

The Estate then retained one of the best-known forensic musicologists in the nation to listen to the vocals without any instrumental accompaniment (“a cappella”), and to compare them with a cappella vocals from previous Michael songs. This expert performed waveform analysis, an objective scientific test used to determine audio authenticity, on the Cascio tracks, as well as previously released tracks with Michael’s voice, and reported that ALL of the lead vocals analyzed (which included Cascio tracks) were the voice of Michael Jackson.

Sony Music conducted their own investigation by hiring yet a second well-respected forensic musicologist who also compared the a cappella lead vocals from Cascio tracks against previously released vocals of Michael’s, and found that Michael’s voice was the on all sets of the raw vocals. The Cascio tracks were also played for two very prominent persons in the music industry who played crucial roles in Michael’s career. Both of these individuals believed that the lead vocals were Michael’s.

Just to be absolutely certain, I also contacted Jason Malachi, a young singer who some persons had wrongfully alleged was a “soundalike” singer that was hired to sing on the Cascio tracks, and I confirmed that he had no involvement with this project whatsoever.

Sony decided that, given the overwhelming objective evidence resulting from the exhaustive investigations outlined above, they wanted to release a record that included three of the Cascio-Porte tracks – because they believed, without reservation, that the lead vocal on all of those tracks were sung by Michael Jackson.

Although there still seem to be concerns being expressed in some quarters about the authenticity of the lead vocals, notwithstanding the opinion of those who worked with Michael, and two independent forensic analysts, ultimately, Michael’s fans will be the judges of these songs, as they always are. We take all fan comments very seriously, and as I’d stated above, there is nothing more important to the Estate than Michael’s music, his legacy and his fans.

Michael’s fans are extraordinary in their quest for accuracy and their passions to raise their voices in a search for truth! We join with them in our care and concern for Michael. We are continuing to follow up with those who have worked in the studio or on tours with Michael, and if any new information comes to light, we will keep you and the fans advised.

Thanks,
Howard

Howard Weitzman, Esq.
Attorney for the Estate Of Michael Jackson
Santa Monica, CA

(Follow the Music Mix on Twitter: @EWMusicMix.)

More from EW.com’s Music Mix:
Michael Jackson’s “Breaking News”: How do you like the new single?
Michael Jackson’s new single: Is that really him singing?

Comments (71 total) Add your comment
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  • Phil

    Funny how everyone forgets that around this same time last year everyone was writing up stories on the originality of “This Is It” & how no one wants to mention how many fans knew then that that song was also not intended for release, but SONY needed it for the movie to again, make their money back.
    And real quick, to all the MJ superfans talking bout Jackson Malachi & want not….THE AVERAGE CONSUMER WHO DOES NOT SPEND TIME ON YOUTUBE (THEY EXIST!) HAS NO IDEA WHO YOU ARE REFERRING TO & more than likely diminish anything you have to say since you refer to this tribute singer like he’s in your cell phone. Just an FYI.

    • Truth

      He wanted to touch every child in the world

      • BLT

        what a jacka$$ thing to say

      • Lorraine

        Your full of s…!

  • Dan

    THE KING OF POP!!!

    Ilove MJ’s music.

    “Breaking News” is GREAT.

  • aldebaran

    i love this song and i believe teddy riley and the others who have authenticated the song as michael’s. even without this proof, to me i hear michael loud and clear. i hope the fans will “bathe in the moonlight” and calm down over this. some people who have no proof are just pounding out their opinion. i think they should stop the madness and–com,e on–2 musicologists verified from the acapeela track that this is michael and people still doubt? this is nuts. also it was reported that michael’s handwriting is on the music sheets for this song–people say this is no proof. well–why would he write comments–detailed notes–on music he had nothing to do with? it’s michael. enjoy it.

    • jessica

      thank you exactly what im saying

    • jeniffer

      So just because Sony says that 2 musicologists verified it means that I should believe it. Sorry, I’m not that naive. I don’t take what people say and believe it 100%. Also, just because Michael may have written the song does not mean that the lead vocals are 100% Michael.

  • E.B. Berman

    Forensic musicologist? Come on, that’s not really a thing, is it?

    • jessoca

      Of course it is have you ever seen forensic crimes when they analyze peoples voices for crimes

      • E.B. Berman

        Sure, I’ve heard of voice analysis, but forensic musicology? That’s a new one on me. And it seems way too ridiculously specific and narrow to be of any real use.

      • Desh

        A forensic musicologist is a person who identifies excerpts of music that may subtly or obviously consist of tunes from another piece. They determine if anything-the lyrics, tune, chords, or the pitch in a song sounds too similar to something that has already been copyrighted.

        So what has this got to do with identifying a voice? Thats not what they specialize in. And yes the fans are the final judges so sony dont waste time trying to prove fakes as genuine…you can fool some ppl all the time but not all ppl all the time!

  • dwain neilleay

    i have listened to Michael Jackson music for at least the last 15 years…after listening to this I believe the lead vocals are certainly his, but in the past he has also always done the backing vocals but on this record “breaking news” I believe they have been added with other singers or computer techs…. I just hope there are going to be some great songs on this next album and that his image as a incredible recording talent be tainted for those wishing to make money

  • dwain neilleay

    i have listened to Michael Jackson music for at least the last 15 years…after listening to this I believe the lead vocals are certainly his, but in the past he has also always done the backing vocals but on this record “breaking news” I believe they have been added with other singers or computer techs…. I just hope there are going to be some great songs on this next album and that his image as a incredible recording talent be not tainted for those wishing to make money

  • blondiesez

    I wish words could express exactly how infinitesimally I care. But they can’t. I can’t believe how much attention this drug-addicted mess of a person is still getting a year after he died. Sheesh.

    • Rob

      But…you continue to follow all news about him, obviously you care. Foolishness!

      • vale colvin

        Thank you Rob..and to blondiesez…all i can say is “REALLY”?

    • Elizabeth

      Then why do you bother reading the whole article? Your only wasting your own time, mate.

    • Chelsea

      You obviously do care – otherwise why bother comment.

    • samson

      If your name is spoken quickly it sounds like blond disease you are obviously a very sad individual keep your nasty comments to yourself dont taint the memory of this true genius and legend with your jealousy you are not even worth a spec of dust from his shoes

    • Cathy

      Ridiculous that you make this comment and yet you’re spending time on this site, reading this article. If you truly didn’t care you wouldn’t be here, and you certainly wouldn’t take time to type a comment.

    • JaryMane

      Well you obviously care enough to take the time to read and comment on this article.
      Michael was not a mess of a person. He was a kind human being he he had problems just like the rest of us.

  • angela

    I dont belive it’s him, the lyrics, yes, he probably DID write it, and sing the back vocals, but certainly NOT the lead vocals. I LOVE the song, but it does NOT sound like my little brother.

    • jessica

      Did you read the letter from his estate…. It was proven by 2 not 1 but 2 forensic voice analyst

      • jeniffer

        Again I have to say what proof is there that an analysis ever took place? Other then Sony ans the estate claiming that it did.

    • tsr

      stop distorting the fact.

    • Kaycee

      I agree with Angela. Don’t believe it’s him I know his voice and that is not his vibrato. They can put out 10 letters if they want my ears don’t lie. I have been in music all my life and pay attention to details and I am not so easily persuaded.

    • myles

      I’ve listened to Michael Jackson for all of my life, my parents were very into his music, as was I. I’ve always had all of his music in my cd-player or cd radio or iPod iPhone whatever. His music is gollllldddd. I can guarantee you with a certainty that this is not his vocals, the background vocals are certainly his, but the lead is an imposter. I may be a young recording engineer, but that tells you something about the quality of my ear. Whomever is on the opposing side of the case not favoring the idea of Michael’s song “Breaking” to be authentic, obviously either payed off these people to come forth and deny it to the media, or called a couple favors and made a pleading case or bribed. Definitely not his lead vocals though.

  • Anna

    Though parts of it like the first verse don’t sound like him I do think it is him. I think it’s possible that his voice would sound different given the fact of age, years of voice use not to mention we don’t know how much vocal training and practicing he was doing. I’m more inclined to think that is him even though it’s not easily recognizable. I didn’t think 2000 Watts sounds like him but it is, I still don’t think it sound like him. I will buy the album regardless of this controversy.

    • Cantu

      Awesome 2000 Watts reference!!! He sings in a lower register for that song, very good point. :)

  • Allison

    @blondiesez If you don’t care why are you reading the article. Doth protest too much!

  • L.O.V.E.

    You better believe it blondiesez. You care enough to take the time to write on here. This person that you are referring to is called MICHAEL JACKSON. KING OF POP. He is loved and cherished the world over. He strived his entire life to make the world a better place and was persecuted by all and sundry for it. His legacy is going to continue making this world even more beautiful. Now you go and try do the same – and if you can’t give respect – get lost.

  • Eliane

    I believe it is Michael who is singing the song Breaking news.
    Michael,Brasil loves you forever.

  • stephen

    that’s not Michael, and even the lyrics are more like a mockery of “2 Bad” and “Unbreakable” – the song is weak, Mike never did it weak. my guess is the real MJ version was too hot and the people putting it together decided to tone it down =)

    Mike aint goin nowhere, this thing is only gonna get bigger and bigger and BIGGER. The King is come =)

  • Jen

    I believe that the lead vocals are him but definitely not the back up vocals. I think this is why it doesn’t sound like one of his songs. He normally was in on the back up vocals too. Big difference.

    • Cathy

      You make a good point. I understand why people are confused – I do think Michael’s voice is on the song, but it is clear there are other voice(s) too. Obviously one of those is James Porte, and who knows if there are others? Who knows too, how much Michael actually sang of this song in the first place? Teddy Riley may not have had much raw material to work with, and had to “patch” it up with samples, vocal fillers, etc.

  • beau

    I think some people want a new MJ song so bad they’ll believe it and all this chaos hurts them because they want it to be MJ. I think these are also fans who are worried that those of us who think it’s fake just don’t like the song. Which is bogus. Believe me, no part of me expected or wanted fake vocals but the second my ears heard this guy singing my heart dropped. From the instant, I knew it was not Michael. Nothing about it is Michael. For a stand alone song for the person who was singing, it’s an alright song. Nothing spectacular but it’s not horrible. However, Michael Jackson it is not. I’m hoping Sony & the Estate see all this and decide not to put any of the questionable songs on the album. Period. If we don’t make a raucous, we’ll be paying for falsely advertised material and we’d just have to stick with it. Now is the time to complain to prevent that song from being on the album, and any other fakes that are in question.

    Simply put, if the authenticity is questioned, it shouldn’t be used. That’s just common sense but these guys seem to lack it.

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