Sony Music Responds to Claims in 'Michael' Lawsuit: 'No One Has Conceded That Michael Jackson Did Not Sing on the Songs'
A Michael Jackson fan's lawsuit claiming that the vocals on three songs from the posthumous 2010 MJ album Michael contained lead vocals by someone besides the late King of Pop took another twist on Tuesday during a hearing in Los Angeles. Contrary to a number of reports claiming that Sony Music "admitted" that three of the songs -- "Breaking News," "Keep Your Head Up" and "Monster" (feat. 50 Cent) -- had vocals that were not MJ's, the law firm representing Sony Music and the Jackson estate said in a statement that the hearing was about a different matter.
"No one has conceded that Michael Jackson did not sing on the songs," read the statement from attorney Zia Modabber of Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP obtained by Billboard. "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." The class action suit in question was filed in 2014 by Jackson fan Vera Serova against Sony Music; estate co-executor John Branca; MJJ Productions; the song's songwriters/producers Edward Cascia and James Porte; and their production companies.
The suit claims that in November 2010, Sony claimed that it had "complete confidence" that the vocals in question were recorded by Jackson before his death in June 2009, based on statements from a number of musicians, engineers and musicologists. The three songs, all of which list Jackson as a co-writer, appeared on the first album in what was planned as a 10-album deal between the estate and Epic Records to issue previously unreleased songs by the pop icon. So far, Michael and 2014's Xscape are the only collections that have emerged from the deal.
A source close to the case confirmed to Billboard that the estate and Sony attempted to have the suit tossed on the basis of California's anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) statute aimed at protecting the free speech rights of all Californians. A judge granted the motion, in part, and the law firm appealed the portion that was denied, which prompted Tuesday's hearing in front of a three-judge panel in the 2nd District Court of Appeal. The source says the hearing was not to determine the nature of the vocals, but to determine if the album cover, title, some fine print on the back of the album and a YouTube ad were protected by the First Amendment.
A statement in the liner notes says that Michael was "conceived and inspired by the King of Pop Michael Jackson." Spokespeople for the Estate and Sony Music referred all questions to Modabber.