Well isn’t this just a ghastly state of affairs! It seems everyone wanting to “honor” or “cash in” on the late king’s memory are feeling the burn of their last-minute slapdash of a Michael Jackson song blow up in their faces. We probably should be tut-tutting them, in part because it’s practically pop gospel that any song named “This Is It” will inevitably suck. And by virtue of being in the music biz, the three thousand people involved in the eleventh hour resuscitation of “This Is It”> should’ve known better. Still, the world’s on fire, echoing with the shrieks of MJ fans scorned.
“This Is It” was originally a work-in-progress between Jackson and Canadian crooner Paul Anka. But that tune never quite came to fruition. Cut to centuries later, when Jackson’s estate has greenlit the tune for public release. Still, when you so sloppily sellotape a tune together, does it hold up under extreme duress? Since we’re beyond the era of physical CD singles, we can’t test durability per se, but a cursory glance reveals that “This Is It” well … isn’t. It’s a soppy watercolor of a pop song, engineered to make people feel sad enough to want to buy it. For grieving fans, purchasing this tune is tantamount to eating their emotions. Michael Jackson’s pop music was never meant to be consumed like a Carvel cake-for-one.
That said, there’s a lot of profit to be made from pity. Anka himself was quick to wise up to this. After dangling the threat of legal action over Jackson’s estate — as he produced the song and furnished the studio — Anka was awarded with half the tune’s copyright and a substantial chunk of potential profits. Still, he’s branded the circumstances around the tune’s release as a “mistake.” Anka says, “They realize it’s a mistake, they realize it’s my song, they realize it’s my production of his vocal in my studio and I am getting 50 percent of the whole project, actually, which is fair.”
Less understanding are those who have had a little time to digest this too-sweet bit of filler. The Telegraph barbs:
Basically it sounds like Michael Jackson singing a gentle ballad rather tentatively to a piano accompaniment, possibly recorded in a barn, which has then been overdubbed to within an inch of its life with orchestration, trademark Jackson slinky guitar and lots of backing vocals from his brothers. So many backing vocals, in fact, that they almost drown Jackson out.
Meanwhile, The New York Times‘ Jon Pareles remarks how the tune “won’t be on anyone’s list of best Michael Jackson songs, even if it’s a long list.” And Idolator’s Maura Johnston shares that sentiment, explaining, “There’s probably a reason that this slight track was left off the final tracklisting of whatever album it was slated to be on — as entries in Jackson’s catalog go, “This Is It” is fairly insubstantial.” Although she tempers that verdict by admitting, “I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get chills the first time his disembodied voice came out of my computer speaker.” Popjustice, on the other hand, is more cryptic, offering how the single is, “Not bad in a bad way, nor bad in a good way, just somewhere in the middle. OH WELL.” And maybe that’s the gentlest way to let the king’s rabid disciples know that this tune is, well, rather dull.
Nevertheless, his Twittering fans far more forgiving, hashtagging to their heart’s content. Other listeners remain unimpressed, however. And as for me, I guess Beyoncé sums things up best. But then again, doesn’t she always?