Reclusive pop superstar Michael Jackson made a musical comeback of sorts at the World Music Awards 2006 on Wednesday (Nov. 15), singing just the chorus line of charity single “We Are The World” before the sound cut out as he struggled for the high notes.
The 48-year-old, performing live for the first time since he was acquitted of child molestation charges in June, 2005, had been expected to perform his seminal hit “Thriller.”
Jackson looked uncomfortable at times as he was surrounded by excited young members of a gospel chorus on stage with him.
The failure by the deposed “King of Pop” to demonstrate his voice and confidence were back to anywhere near their best was likely to raise further doubts about his ability to resurrect a career that has been on hold for years.
“I love you!” he told the audience ceremony as the ceremony wound up.
Earlier in the evening, Jackson was given the Diamond Award, which honors artists who sell more than 100 million records.
Introducing Jackson, U.S. singer Beyonce said: “Tonight we are celebrating 25 years of ‘Thriller’,” referring to his seminal album. “If it wasn’t for Michael Jackson I would never have ever performed. I love you, we all love you.”
Jackson, who has been a virtual recluse for the last 17 months, thanked fans and his family, singling out his three children who have been with him during his stopover in London.
“I am greatly humbled by this award,” said Jackson, who wore his jet-black hair long and straight. “It was my dream that ‘Thriller’ would be the biggest-selling album ever … and God has answered my prayers,” he added.
Jackson’s lifetime record sales tally is believed to be around 750 million, making him the most successful entertainer of all time.
Whether Wednesday’s performance helps him on the road to professional recovery remains to be seen.
“I would say there’s very little chance of him coming back from where he is,” said Gareth Grundy, deputy editor of the Q music magazine, speaking before the show.
“I think people will always be fascinated by the freak show, and that’s what’s going on,” he said. “I would categorize him as a celebrity as opposed to an artist.”
Jackson has said he planned to move to Europe in a bid to resurrect his musical career and indicated he will release a new album in 2007.