The manager of the singer Safire has weighed in on the growing controversy surrounding the new Michael Jackson single “This Is It.” Sal Abbatiello told EW earlier this evening that “This Is It” is “exactly the same” as the song “I Never Heard,” which was written by Jackson and Paul Anka and released by Safire in the early ’90s.

After “This Is It” was released last night it soon became clear to many listeners that the tune, which features on the soundtrack to the forthcoming movie of the same name and is credited to just Jackson, was very similar to “I Never Heard.” Late this afternoon TMZ reported that Jackson “stole” the tapes of “I Never Heard” after Jackson and Anka had written the song and only returned them once Anka threatened to sue. Meanwhile, the New York Times quoted Anka as saying, “It’s exactly the same song. They just changed the title.”

According to Abbatiello, “I Never Heard” was originally supposed to be duet between Anka and Safire. But the manager claimed that, after Jackson met with Safire, he “gave” her the song and told her to put it out with his blessing. Abbatiello also expressed amazement that no one at Michael Jackson’s record company Sony had seemingly bothered to research the possibility that the song had been been previously released. “This is a terrible mistake,” he told EW. “I’m pretty sure Paul Anka has a big case. I don’t know if Safire has any legal right as the artist. I’ll have to contact my lawyers. But, hopefully. They’re advertising this movie everywhere.” (Sony declined to offer any comment on the controversy.)

Check out the clip from Safire’s “I Never Heard” below and tell us if you agree with Abbatiello’s allegation that it is basically the same song.

UPDATE, October 12, 10pm ET: Jackson’s estate released a statement acknowledging Anka’s work as co-writer of Jackson’s new single and promised him 50 per cent of the profits from the song’s sales. “The song was picked because the lyrics were appropriate because of the name Michael gave his tour,” the statement read. “We are thrilled to present this song in Michael’s voice for the first time, and that Michael’s fans have responded in unprecedented numbers.”

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