Ever since Sony began releasing tracks from Michael Jackson’s 2010 posthumous album Michael, fans and family members alike have questioned their authenticity. It’s widely believed the voice on songs “Monster,” “Keep Your Head Up,” and “Breaking News” isn’t Jackson’s—that though Sony claims he’s the one, these are not his songs.
Some suggest that voice on the tracks—supposedly recorded in 2007 in the basement of the Cascio family with Eddie Cascio and James Porte present—belongs to MJ impersonator Jason Malachi (you can listen for yourself here). Sony has strongly denied the theory, even going so far as to hire a forensic musicologist, who determined the vocals were Jackson’s. But the posthumous track rumor lives on.
In 2014, Michael Jackson fan Vera Servoa filed a lawsuit on behalf of consumers against Sony, the Jackson Estate, MJJ Productions, Eddie Cascio and James Porte, accusing them of violating consumer laws and fraud.
And now, those who believe the songs are not Jackson’s have been vindicated. Sort of.
Consequently, Sony Music Entertainment conceded in court, that it had released fake singles. It’s unclear if fans or Jackson’s estate will be awarded for the criminal behavior or whether there will be an monetary punishment for Sony.
But it’s not so clear cut. Vibe’s sensational report is based on August 21 tweets from @ATruthUntold, a Twitter account dedicated to “investigating the release of fraudulent songs on the Michael album in 2010” run by Australian Damien Shields. The tweets claimed that Sony argued in court that day that the wording on the album cover should not be considered ‘commercial’ speech—and therefore that even if untrue, it was not a violation of consumer law. In other words, whether or not the songs are fake, Sony is off the hook. For the sake of this argument, the tweets continue, Sony “conceded that the songs were fakes, sung not by Jackson, but by an impersonator.”
Shields, who has been investigating the “Cascio tracks” for 8 years and plans to release his findings as a podcast, added in a Twitter DM that the Sony admission currently making news isn’t new: Sony admitted in court in 2016 that it was possible the voice might not be MJ’s.
But nor is it really an admission. Sony did not say that the songs were fake, only that it was irrelevant to their defense if they were. Shields said that Sony “chose to concede that it’s not MJ for purposes of deciding whether they had a First Amendment right to say on the album cover … that it is Michael Jackson” because they are desperate to avoid an evidence-based trial based on the songs’ authenticity (which he is certain they are certain they would lose). But it’s also possible Sony is simply trying to quash the case without going to a full trial.
Sony did not respond to a request for comment, however in a statement released Friday denied any such concession had been made. “No one has conceded that Michael Jackson did not sing on the songs,” said Sony lawyer Zia Modabber, as reported by the more accurate source Variety. “The hearing Tuesday was about whether the First Amendment protects Sony Music and the Estate and there has been no ruling on the issue of whose voice is on the recordings.”
If Sony had confessed, it would have been a huge departure from the line the company has taken throughout this eight-year saga. When the controversy first broke in 2010, Sony claimed that it had “complete confidence in the results of our extensive research, as well as the accounts of those who were in the studio with Michael, that the vocals on the new album are his own.”