New Songs From The Late King Of Pop
MICHEL MARTIN, host:
I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News.
Later in the program we'll talk to the moms about that all-important question: Do you let Santa bring your six-year-old an iPod or not? Assuming Santa's got it like that this year. And for a bracing dose of reality, we'll also talk to money coach Alvin Hall about keeping a lid on that holiday spending.
But first, some music news.
(Soundbite of song, "Breaking News")
Mr. MICHAEL JACKSON (Musician): (Singing) Everybody wanting a piece of Michael Jackson. Reporters stalking the moves of Michael Jackson. Just when you thought he was done, he comes to give it again.
MARTIN: You heard that right. He might be gone, but the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, lives on, and that's a track from a new album from Michael Jackson titled simply "Michael." It's a collection of 10 songs that were at various stages of completion at the time of his death last year. That album's just out today. We wanted to talk more about it, so we've called Associated Press music editor Nekesa Mumbi Moody. And she's with us now. Welcome, thanks for joining us.
Ms. NEKESA MUMBI MOODY (Music Editor, Associated Press): Thank you for having me.
MARTIN: How did this come about? Who made the decision to release these tracks and how did it happen?
Ms. MOODY: Well, soon after Michael Jackson died, there was all these reports that he had hundreds of songs in his vault. So that was going to happen - his music was going to come out. This was put out by his estate. His estate, which is run by his former lawyer, John Branca, and one of his longtime friends and producers and manager John McClain, they came together and they decided to look through the vault and decide what songs they wanted to put out.
MARTIN: There were a number of collaborations on this album. Were those already in process at the time that - when Michael was working on the album, or were those added later to sort of flesh it out?
Ms. MOODY: Well, the Akon and Michael Jackson collaboration, that was already done. The 50 Cent/Michael Jackson collaboration, that was something that apparently Michael wanted to do. He told 50 Cent that he wanted him on this monster track. But it didn't happen. 50 Cent didn't do his lyrics until after Michael Jackson died.
MARTIN: Well, let's play a couple of those. Let's play the first. You mentioned Akon. This is called "Hold My Hand," and it's, as we said, it's a duet with international singer/producer Akon. Here it is.
(Soundbite of song, "Hold My Hand")
Mr. JACKSON and AKON (Musician): (Singing) This life don't last forever. Hold my hand. So tell me what we're waiting for. Hold my hand. We're better off being together. Hold my hand. Than being miserable alone. Hold my hand.
'Cause I've been there before and you've been there before but together we can be all right. Yeah. 'Cause when it gets dark and when it gets cold we hold each other till we see the sunlight.
Hold my hand, baby I'll promise that I'll do all I can. Things will get better if you just...
MARTIN: If you're just joining us, you're listening to TELL ME MORE from NPR News.
We're speaking with Associated Press music editor Nekesa Mumbi Moody. We're talking about the release of a new album from Michael Jackson titled "Michael." It's just out today.
Before we get to your opinion about the whole album, and we're going to do a little drum roll for that, but he was known as a perfectionist. I think that's really clear. If anybody saw "This Is It," a film that was made of the rehearsal videos that he was working on at the time of his death - it was in preparation for a performance in London - you can tell what a perfectionist he is.
And so I think some people who were - had worked with him or who were other artists have been critical of the decision to release these tracks, saying that Michael Jackson would not have approved of this. Black Eyed Peas front man Will.I.Am, for example, told Rolling Stone that he was disgusted with the whole idea. Is that a widely held view?
Ms. MOODY: I think it's mixed. I actually talked to Lenny Kravitz when I was reporting this article and Lenny was like, you know what? They were going to come out anyway. There's no way you have someone this famous and you're not going to hear that song. When I talked to Will.I.Am earlier this year, he was very much against it because Michael Jackson was such a perfectionist. But I think that when you have someone who is known for making some of the world's greatest music, there's a clamor for that. So I think it's a little impractical that some of these songs were not going to get out.
MARTIN: Well, drum roll: What's your opinion?
Ms. MOODY: You know what? I like the album. I appreciate the album. I think if you go into it looking for the next "Thriller," you're going to be disappointed. But if you go into it just hoping to hear some good music by Michael Jackson to kind of get a sense of what he was working on, I think he was off to a promising start and I think a lot of the tracks are very strong. They're enjoyable. I don't think there's any track on there that ranks as among his best.
MARTIN: You're saying that none of them ranks among his best.
Ms. MOODY: None of them rank among his best, but there are a lot that are very strong.
MARTIN: Any particular favorites?
Ms. MOODY: "Best of Joy," I think Michael sounds beautiful. "Hold My Hand," I actually - even though the song is a little bit generic, I think that he has a very soulful approach and it makes it rise above. I think "The Way You Love Me" is also a great song.
MARTIN: "I Like the Way You Love Me." All right. Well, let's play a little bit of that. Let's hear that.
(Soundbite of song, "I Like the Way You Love Me")
Mr. JACKSON: (Singing) I was alone in the dark when I met you. You took my hand and you told me you loved me. I was alone, there was no love in my life. I was afraid of life and you came in time. You took my hand and we kissed in the moonlight. I like the way that you hold me.
MARTIN: It's him. I mean, it sounds - it is him. It is vintage Michael Jackson, do you think? Do you agree?
Ms. MOODY: Exactly. There was some controversy on a couple of tracks of whether it was him or not. But I think overall you can tell that's classic Michael Jackson.
MARTIN: And you mentioned that there was a little controversy, particularly on "Breaking News." That was the track that we played first. You said that there was some controversy about whether or not it was him. I don't remember who was raising those questions. But it's my understanding the family - some family members apparently were raising the question.
Ms. MOODY: Yes, it's three - his three nephews, Tito's sons, came out and said, you know, I know my uncle's voice, that wasn't his voice. But I think when you listen to it, it does sound like Michael Jackson, and Sony Music brought in his former engineers, producers, manager, forensic musicologists, to back that up. I don't think Sony would take a chance and put out music that was doubtful, so I do think it was him.
MARTIN: And finally, is there other new material from Michael Jackson that we can expect to hear at some point?
Ms. MOODY: I think there will definitely be more to come. We talked to - former Sony chief Tommy Mottola said that there were hundreds of Michael Jackson songs that had never been released. And we've always heard of Michael Jackson over recording and having a lot of - doing multiple songs and, you know, just having a wealth of material to choose from when he finally whittled down to the final album. So I think we can definitely expect a few more Michael Jackson albums on the way.
MARTIN: So, Nekesa, I'm going to put you on the spot here. Do you think Michael should end up in somebody's stocking?
Ms. MOODY: Yes, I do. I think that if you're - especially if you're a Michael Jackson fan, all the fans that I've talked to love it. I think it's a good album. I think there's nothing that detracts from his legacy. I think it only makes me appreciate him.
MARTIN: Nekesa Mumbi Moody is a music editor at the Associated Press. She was kind enough to join us from our studios in New York. Nekesa, happy holidays to you and thank you so much for joining us.
Ms. MOODY: Happy holidays to you as well.
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