Michael Jackson: Making 'Michael'
We asked two of Jackson's collaborators to share memories of recording the songs that ended up on his new album.
Planning a Comeback
Akon became friendly with Jackson after remaking ”Wanna Be Startin’ Something” for a 2008 Thriller rerelease. Around that time, he played an early version of ”Hold My Hand” for the King of Pop in Las Vegas. ”He fell in love with the record, and we went into the studio and recorded it,” says Akon. ”When it was done, we were excited and ready to go with it.”
Jackson wanted to release ”Hold My Hand” to coincide with the July 2009 kickoff of his 50-date This Is It concert series at London’s O2 arena. After his unexpected death just weeks before the first show, the track was put aside until this year, when Jackson’s label and estate decided to include it on Michael. ”I was so excited that we finally would get a chance to put it out, because I know how he felt about that record,” Akon says. ”But it’s a bittersweet victory. I would love for him to have been here.”
Back to the Studio
Early this September, the estate asked producer Teddy Riley to listen to several unreleased Jackson demos. ”The songs were unfinished,” says Riley, who worked closely with Jackson on 1991’s Dangerous. ”It wasn’t where Michael would expect it to be if he was here. It was not an easy job.” He spent the next three months adding new drums, keyboards, bass, and strings to Jackson’s recorded vocals.
Remembering a Friend
Working on Jackson’s music without the exacting artist present unnerved Riley at first. ”It was very emotional,” he says. He felt better after decorating his L.A. studio with photos of the singer. ”His aura was in the room,” he says. ”I started imagining voices from him, saying, ‘I would do this. If you can add this to the track, it would be slamming.’ That’s how I got through it.”