Day that you'll come back to me
But I guess I learned my lesson much too soon...
For a time after being acquitted of several child abuse charges, there were rumors that Michael was working on a comeback album and preparing for a world tour. Between 2005 and June 2009, MJ had recorded and produced several songs, some unfinished, with will.i.am of The Black Eyed Peas, James Porte and Eddie Cascio, and was preparing for a 50-show concert series in London's O2 arena titled "This Is It".
Tragically, Michael died from an overdose of Propofol and benzodiazepine on June 25, 2009, putting a premature (and permanent) end to his plans.
Inevitably, with the sales of Jackson's discography skyrocketing shortly after his death, his estate made plans to release a selection of the tracks he recorded between 2005 and 2009, as well as others recorded between Thriller and Invincible. Dangerous producer Teddy Riley was brought on to remix several of the tracks, alongside Neff-U, Tricky Stewart, and Eddie Cascio himself. will.i.am. objected to the plans, and blocked the estate from using the tracks he recorded with Michael. Also, Sony released an early version of the album art that featured Prince's "Love Symbol", starting speculation that the Purple One had lent his talents to the album's development, but was immediately denied by his camp. Sony scrubbed the symbol from the album art soon after the response.
On release, Michael was met with mixed reviews from critics, and controversy from fans over the authenticity of some of the album's tracks. "Breaking News," "Keep Your Head Up", and "Monster" were recorded in the basement of Eddie Cascio's house during Michael's stay there in 2007 and are credited to him, Cascio and James Porte. Many MJ fans have claimed the vocals on the Cascio tracks were not genuine and were recorded by an impersonator (the popular target being Italian-American R&B artist and MJ soundalike Jason Malachi). Teddy Riley, who remixed three of the Cascio tracks, said the vocals were authentic, but were distorted due to heavy use of Auto-Tune and Melodyne. This did nothing to appease the fans, to the point where one filed a class action lawsuit that went all the way to the California Supreme Court, and Riley himself eventually backed down and apologized for working on the album, claiming that he was "set up"; all of which eventually resulted in the alleged fake tracks getting pulled off music services in June 2022 by Sony. Sony and the Jackson estate initially denied hiring an impersonator, but later claimed they didn't know, and that their claim that the vocals were genuine were protected under the First Amendment. On August 18, 2022, the lawsuit was mutually settled; however, the courts ruled that Sony was still at fault, stating that their First Amendment defense didn't override consumer protection when it came to "an explicit promise of a superstar's vocal contributions to a product".
- "Hold My Hand" (3:32)
- "Hollywood Tonight" (4:30)
- "Keep Your Head Up" (4:49)*
- "(I Like) The Way You Love Me" (4:33)
- "Monster" (5:04)*
- "Best Of Joy" (3:02)
- "Breaking News" (4:14)*
- "(I Can't Make It) Another Day" (3:54)
- "Behind The Mask"note (5:01)
- "Much Too Soon" (2:48)
* Tracks that were removed from the album on June 2022.
- Canon Discontinuity: The infamous "Cascio" tracks were pulled off streaming services and future pressings of the album in 2022, removing them from Jackson's official discography.
- Combo Breaker: During his adult career, Jackson always used adjectives (or as near as made no difference) for his album titles, from Off the Wall to Invincible. This album, perhaps appropriately due to its posthumous release, breaks with this tradition.
- Continuity Porn: Michael Jackson's career from Off the Wall and onward is the basis for the cover art, including nods to Moonwalker and Neverland Ranch. the full picture◊ includes his days with The Jackson 5, his This Is It press confrence, and images of his children, parents and other siblings.
- The Cover Changes the Meaning: While the original Yellow Magic Orchestra version of "Behind the Mask" was a spacey tune about depersonalization and emotional detachment, Michael Jackson's version is a love song about breaking a woman out of that very state, owed to Jackson substantially rewriting the song's lyrics. The song's original lyricist, Chris Mosdell, commented on Jackson's alterations:"When Michael Jackson took it, he made it into a love song about a woman. It was a completely different premise to me, I was talking about a very impersonal, socially controlled society, a future technological era, and the mask represented that immobile, unemotional state. But hey, I let him have that one."
- Cover Version: "Behind The Mask" is a somewhat interesting case: the original song from 1979 was primarily a Synth-Pop instrumental with the occasional lyrical chorus (as was the case with most of the songs on its parent album), but Jackson wrote a whole series of new verses for the song specifically for himself to sing (the man was known as a singer and a dancer, not an instrumentalist). These revised lyrics became standard for most covers of the song, including ones by The Human League and Eric Clapton in the years before Jackson's cover was eventually allowed to be released.
- Crossover: Michael teamed up with Akon and Lenny Kravitz to make "Hold My Hand" and "(I Can't Make It) Another Day", respectively. Lenny would complete the crossover eight years later with his single "Low", which also features posthumous vocals from MJ.
- Cut Song: Invoked Trope, since nearly all of the songs were merely demos before being remixed.
- In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It: Perhaps having the foresight of the many, many accusations of inauthenticity it would receive, the album's pamphlet makes explicit note that it was produced, arranged and performed by The King of Pop, Michael Jackson.
- Paparazzi: A recurring theme from MJ since Dangerous, and is discussed in "Breaking News" and "Monster".
- Record Producer: Teddy Riley returns from Dangerous and Invincible to produce three of the Eddie Cascio tracks, along with Neff-U, Tricky Stewart, and Eddie Cascio himself to flesh out the rest of the album.
- Updated Re-release: All of the album's tracks were included in the iTunes exclusive Ultimate Fan Extras Collection, which itself is an updated reissue of the 2004 Ultimate Collection.
- A Wild Rapper Appears!: 50 Cent has a guest verse on "Monster".