That “New” Michael Jackson Song Isn’t a New Michael Jackson Song

Slate's Culture Blog
April 9 2014 6:20 PM

That “New” Michael Jackson Song Isn’t a New Michael Jackson Song

Michael Jackson XSCAPE album art
That "new song" supposedly from Michael Jackson's XSCAPE is not a "new song" and it's not from XSCAPE.

Album art for XSCAPE

Less than two weeks after the announcement of Michael Jackson’s posthumous album XSCAPE, the title track supposedly leaked online today. Music blogs like Prefix, Gigwise, and Pretty Much Amazing were among the first to post the “new song” early in the morning, and sites like Vulture and BuzzFeed soon followed their lead, with BuzzFeed calling it “The Best Michael Jackson Song In Forever.” By this afternoon, the “leak” had been posted by nearly every major outlet that’s in the business of posting songs, including the Huffington Post, Entertainment Weekly, Spin, MTV News, the Guardian, and many, many more.

There’s only one problem: It’s not a new song, and it’s not from XSCAPE at all. In fact, the version of “XSCAPE” making headlines today has been around for years.

I was first tipped off to this fact by a commenter on Stereogum—due credit to “ghostschannels”—and it didn’t take much time to verify the claim that this song was not at all new. While “XSCAPE” is an old song, the new album is set to feature “contemporized” production from a group of producers led by Timbaland and including Rodney Jerkins, Stargate, and more. The version making the rounds today, however, appears to be identical to the version that’s been around for years. Here’s a 2010 YouTube video I found of a Jackson impersonator dancing to the track:

I reached out to Epic Records, and the label’s Lauren Ceradini confirmed that the version making the rounds is “not from XSCAPE.” Indeed, the “leaked” version sounds nothing like version included in the official album teaser released at the end of March:

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It’s easy to see how a story like this could spread in today’s music media ecosystem, when respected and normally reliable publications often cite music blogs for news about the latest leaks. As I’ve chronicled before, it only takes one such publication picking up a story from a less-reliable source—such as when Variety did a story citing Wikipedia—before everyone else follows suit, citing the Varietys of the world instead of the original source.

We’re all excited about the possibility of “The Best Michael Jackson Song In Forever,” but we’ll have to wait a while longer before we can hear it.

Forrest Wickman is a Slate staff writer. 

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