Walter Dhladhla /Getty Images
Michael Jackson performing in 1997.
Michael Jackson performing in 1997. Walter Dhladhla /Getty Images
Rolling Stone broke the news on Friday afternoon that a new collection of songs recorded by Michael Jackson will hit stores in November. The singer's first posthumous release of "new" material (the soundtrack to the concert film This Is It was essentially a greatest hits album with a new song, the title track, added for good measure) will contain 10 songs drawn from the Jackson vault.
We can look forward to a lot more of this kind of news. Earlier this year Sony signed a deal with Jackson's estate worth some $200 million to release 10 albums — new albums, reissues and collections of Jackson's songs and music videos — over the next seven years. Snippets of some unreleased songs have leaked. Jackson was rumored to have collaborated with Will.i.am, Akon and Ne-Yo. Frank DiLeo, the singer's manager, told Rolling Stone that as many as 100 completed unreleased songs exist, ready to be packaged for consumers.
Will this release bring the next phase of tension and disagreement over Jackson's career? During the last 10 years of his life, the debate tilted on the disillusioning gap between Jackson's classic songs and the legal and economic troubles in his life. After he died, focus returned to his music, but largely the hits he made in the 1980s.
Now, as with so many other artists who died young (Tupac Shakur and Jeff Buckley spring to mind), that tension shifts to questions of exploitation and dilution of a legacy weighed against the sincere desire to continue a conversation with an artist that meant something to so many.