First of all, Breaking News isn't the "new" Michael Jackson single. Not sure if you heard, but the King of Pop passed away in June 2009. No, this song (supposedly recorded in 2007) is merely a teaser for his forthcoming album, Michael, due on 14 December – a collection of songs recorded over the last decade and finished by various producers since his death. As with anything to do with Jackson – alive or dead – the album comes laden with controversy, with various members of his family claiming that not all the tracks feature his vocals.
So, what's Breaking News actually like? Opening with a series of samples from news broadcasts it's not too dissimilar to Tabloid Junkie, a song from his 1995 HIStory album, with Jackson tackling media paranoia and victimisation (the first line is "Everybody wanting a piece of Michael Jackson"). For all the talk of Jackson working with producers like RedOne, Will.i.am and Mark Ronson before his death, the beat that drops after the intro is dated, all synth strings and perfunctory drum claps. Having listened to Jackson's music non-stop as a teenager, the vocal comes as a shock because it doesn't really sound like him. Deeper and somehow flatter than on his last album, 2001's Invincible, it sounds like a heavily treated guide vocal. There are the obligatory "hee hees", but as the synthetic horns and vinyl scratches appear in the final third, Breaking News feels like a song Jackson wouldn't have been happy to release. There's also something strangely disturbing about lines such as "he wants to write my obituary", while the news samples at the beginning are staged to sound as if they're referring to Jackson in the past tense, as if his obsession with his mistreatment at the hands of the press continues from beyond the grave.
Breaking News is streaming on Jackson's official website this week