So how fast was Michael Jackson’s new single, “This Is It,” thrown together and shoved out the door? So fast that nobody bothered to tell the poor guy who wrote it, hilariously. After the track was released in full to the Internet on Sunday night, a few fans noted its remarkable similarity to “I Never Heard,” a 1991 single by mostly forgotten R&B singer Safire, co-written by MJ and Paul Anka. Which is probably because “It” is “I Never Heard,” just renamed so as to better synergize with This Is It, Jackson’s forthcoming 3-D concert movie.
The “This Is It” you heard yesterday was a fleshed-out version of a 1983 piano recording originally laid down in Anka’s California studio and intended to serve as a demo for the songwriter’s Walk a Fine Line album. Reached yesterday by the Times, Anka threatened, “They have a major, major problem on their hands … They will be sued if they don’t correct it.”
And that was all it took! Shortly after, John “Not the Guy From Die Hard” McClain, a record producer and an executor of Jacko’s will, called to apologize and promised Anka “all due credit and royalties.” Also, according to Anka, McClain said of the single’s choosing, “We took Sony 50 songs, and this was the best of all of them. My thought was that this one sounded different. Now I know why.”
So this whole episode doesn’t really instill us with much confidence in the Jackson estate to carefully and tastefully honor MJ’s posthumous legacy (and we haven’t even seen the 3-D movie yet). Also, if “This Is It” was the best track McClain could find, that certainly doesn’t bode too well for Jackson’s next 49 singles.
Here’s Jackson’s “This Is It”:
And here’s the Safire version: