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The Michael Jackson new-music onslaught begins [Updated]

September 23, 2009 | 12:30 pm


So this is “It.”

Sony Music announced Wednesday that on Oct. 12 it will release a new Michael Jackson single called "This Is It" -- the first previously unreleased recording to be put on sale since the superstar's death. The song's debut will be followed by a blitz of posthumous releases from the man remembered as the King of Pop, including a traveling exhibition of Jackson memorabilia and a two-disc album also titled "This Is It" (which hits retail internationally on Oct. 26 and North America on Oct. 27), featuring music that "inspired" the Sony Pictures movie "Michael Jackson's This Is It."

The feature arrives in theaters for a limited two-week run on Oct. 28, consisting of rehearsal footage shot during the preparations for Jackson's planned comeback: a 50-date concert engagement -- also titled "This Is It" -- at London's O2 Arena.

According to a news release, the album's first disc features original album recordings of many of the performer's biggest hits – sonically identical to the songs included on other Jackson discs -- sequenced as they appear in the movie. The CD ends with two versions of the song "This Is It," which includes backing vocals by the singer's brothers, the Jacksons.

Disc 2 contains "previously unreleased versions" of some of Jackson's most popular tracks -- in other words, it could contain alternative arrangements of some of the same songs on Disc 1 -- as well as a spoken-word poem, "Planet Earth," by the entertainer that has not been publicly heard until now.

The announcement follows the decision last week by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff to allow the music from “This Is It” to be released simultaneously with the theatrical roll-out of the documentary. Jeryll Cohen, an attorney for the special administrators of Jackson's estate -- John Branca and John McClain -- had argued that the deal would provide the estate with “an immediate and substantial cash advance from Sony.”

Further capitalizing on the rabid gusto for all things Jackson-related, AEG Live, the promoter of the singer’s London concerts, announced Wednesday that it will mount a traveling exhibition of Jackson memorabilia. 

“Michael Jackson: The Official Exhibition” will debut in London on Oct. 28 for a limited three-month run at the O2 Bubble, a gallery space that is attached to the AEG-owned O2 Arena. Sanctioned by the Jackson estate, the exhibition will include more than 250 items from the superstar’s Neverland Ranch – such as awards, video costumes, his famous sequined glove and personal Rolls Royce --  chronicling “Michael’s rise to fame with The Jackson 5 at Motown Records, his record-breaking solo career as a global superstar, and end with the spectacular shows he had planned,” a press release said.

The exhibition is described as being divided into galleries that reflect milestones in the performer’s life and his humanitarian efforts.

Death has proven no barrier to the continuing success of such artists as Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra. The estate of gangsta rapper Tupac Shakur, who was murdered in 1996, has put out five posthumous albums which have all managed to crack the national album chart’s Top 10.

Additionally, former Jackson confidantes continue to emerge, providing new insights into the King of Pop. NBC announced Wednesday that the news program “Dateline” will air a special called “The Michael Jackson Tapes: A ‘Dateline’ Exclusive” on Sept. 25.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, a member of Jackson’s inner circle from 1999 to 2001, recorded some 30 hours of interviews with the superstar – recordings that have Jackson speaking on the record about his fear of aging (“I don’t want to grow old”), keeping mannequins around for company (because he was “too shy to be around real people”) and his life experiences.

“Anyone else would probably be dead now, or a junkie, with what I’ve been through, Shmuley,” Jackson is quoted as having said on one of the tapes.

--Chris Lee

Photo credit: Kevin Mazur / Associated Press

UPDATED 12:48 P.M.: This post was updated to include additional information on the CD release, as well as “Michael Jackson: The Official Exhibition."