By Simon Vozick-Levinson
Updated August 03, 2020 at 08:05 AM EDT

The first single from Michael, the set of unreleased Michael Jackson recordings due Dec. 14, is streaming this morning from Jackson’s official site as promised. It hasn’t been made clear exactly to what degree “Breaking News” was completed after the King of Pop’s 2009 death — some have even questioned whether Jackson actually sang on these tracks — and listening may or may not provide a final answer.

The track opens with a few staticky tabloid news headlines: “The paparazzi would not leave him alone… Here we go again, another lawsuit for Michael Jackson… More allegations against him.” In comes a tight new jack swing beat, à la 1991’s Dangerous, followed by some angry, half-whispered lead vocals that remind me more of 1995’s HIStory. “Everybody wanting a piece of Michael Jackson,” he hisses, presciently adding after a few lines, “They want to write my obituary.” Later on he reaches the chorus: “Why is it strange that I would fall in love?/Who is the boogieman you’re thinking of?”

The theme of lashing out at the press is vintage Jackson, dating back at least to 1987’s “Leave Me Alone.” Aside from that, the melody here feels second-rate, with echoes of his own “Who Is It” and (to my ears, in the descending verses) Bobby Brown’s “My Prerogative.” This probably shouldn’t come as a surprise. Jackson chose to leave “Breaking News” unfinished in his vaults for a reason. But dedicated fans will no doubt appreciate the chance to hear even these warmed-over leftovers.

What do you think of “Breaking News”? Will you be buying Michael next month?

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