'This Is It' Kicks Off Michael Jackson's Posthumous Career
Listening to the first Michael Jackson track to be released since his death this summer, bloggers and fans each hear something different
On Monday morning, Internet users awoke to find out the highly-anticipated Michael Jackson track "This Is It" has been released as a streaming audio file. The release of the song, actually recorded in 1991, marks the first push to capitalize on the King of Pop's extensive back-catalog. It precedes a new compilation album and documentary film featuring Jackson's rehearsal footage for the now-canceled "This Is It" concert series. Bloggers love and hate the new track in equal measure, but nearly everyone agrees it's a sad reminder of the passing of an icon.
- Bittersweet Several bloggers voice mixed feelings about the song. Gawker's Andrew Belonsky calls it "at once reassuring and distressful." Idolator blogger Maura is also undoubtedly moved: "I'd be lying if I said I didn't get chills the first time his disembodied voice came out of my computer speaker."
- He's Done Better An early backlash has come from listeners who thought the track had been left off previous Jackson albums for a reason. Analyzing the track for its overall musical merit, The Chicago Tribune's Greg Kot is not impressed: "The song feels half-baked...Some nice ideas with potential for further exploration, but it's evident why Jackson didn't see fit to put this song on one of his albums while he was alive." Ann Althouse offers up a similar critique. Addressing the departed pop-star, she writes: "The singing is not up to your standard. Presumably, if you'd lived, you'd have rerecorded it with more of a feeling of style, varying between urgency and effortlessness, instead of continuing throughout at a medium level of strain." Finally, the Times Online rounds up comparable negative reactions from the singer's fans around the web, including one who labels the song "garbage."
- Return to Form By contrast, Spinner's Benjy Eisen found the song to be quite melodic and emotionally resonant: "All told, 'This Is It' sounds triumphant and is somewhat of a return to the King of Pop's roots in R&B and gospel." Short Form Blog's Ernie Smith agrees: "How about the song itself? It's pretty good. It's got an old-school MJ feel. It's not even pretending to be a song released in 2009." The same is true for Newsday Blogger Glenn Gamboa, who calls the track "a sweet throwback to his simpler times." The LA Times' Tom O'Neil asks if the track could even garner Jackson a Grammy award.
- Just the Beginning Heckler Spray blogger Stuart Heritage somewhat cynically compares Michael Jackson to slain-rapper Tupac Shakur in the sense that their deaths yielded vast new commercial opportunities: "Because what did Michael Jackson do in his last few years?...Even his comeback shows didn't sound particularly heartening, what with the postponements and the rumours of ill health and the contractual obligations to only appear onstage for 13 minutes per concert. But now he's dead? There's no stopping Michael Jackson." Todd Martens echoes a similar sentiment at the L.A. Times music blog, Pop & Hiss: "With the singer's passing this summer, it's a safe bet that one will not have to go years before hearing a bounty of as-yet-unheard Jackson songs again. The music industry is more than adept at exploring an artist's unreleased back catalog..." The BBC, meanwhile lists and describes some of the other famous artists "for whom death has not been a barrier to releasing new music."
- Disgusting Riffing off the theme that Jackson's death is a goldmine to his financial backers, Daily Finance's Zac Bissonette predicts that the singer's fans will recognize the new Jackson product releases for what they are: shameless attempts to cash in on an avoidable tragedy: "If all of this seems a bit crass, that's because it is. In the final months of his life, Jackson was a sick drug addict who had been coerced into a concert tour to pay off his creditors -- a tour that he didn't want to do and wasn't physically prepared for. If he'd been in rehab instead of preparing to perform, he might still be alive." Writing in a similar vein, The Guardian's Alexis Petridis thinks that the impending concert documentary of the same name will also be cringe-worthy: "It's going to be a painful hagiography, suggesting that Jackson shuffled off this mortal coil at the top of his game, despite some pretty convincing evidence to the contrary - including, it has to be said, the fact that he dropped dead from a heart attack while full of benzodiazepines."
Updated Tues. Oct. 13, 9:16 a.m.: The AP is reporting that Canadian-American singer-songwriter Paul Anka has claimed co-authorship of the new Jackson single, originally written in 1983 and titled "I Never Heard." According to Anka, representatives of Jackson's estate have verified his claim and are pledging him half the song's profits (Assumedly once the track has become available for purchase-- as it remains only a free audio stream at this time).