SCMP Tuesday, January 9, 2001

Rumours of Jackson flop


Michael Jackson's long-awaited comeback album is the most expensive record ever made, but music industry insiders say it's shaping up to be a flop.
The King of Pop has recorded more than 50 songs so far, but does not have enough strong tracks for a whole album or even a single. Even the efforts of top producers Rodney Jerkins and David Foster, who charge more than US$100,000 (HK$780,000) for each track they produce, do not seem to be helping.
Jackson, 42, has been working on the album for well over a year. But an insider told the New York Post: ''It was due out first in September, then November, and now it's been pushed back to March. Epic [Jackson's record label] can't even find 10 hot ones, or even a hot single to release.''
Jackson needs a strong album to compensate for the disappointments of HIStory in 1995 and Blood On The Dance Floor two years later, and to try to put the lingering allegations of child abuse behind him. Although he has just been voted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for the second time (the first as a member of the Jackson Five), Jackson is so low he cannot find a backer for a tour to support the new record. ''No one is biting now but they'll come to the table eventually when the money is right,'' predicted the insider. ''Epic will most likely market it heavily abroad, like they did with HIStory. He's really big in Japan and Germany.''
Jackson's spokesman Howard Rubenstein says there are no plans for a tour and there is nothing sinister about the delay. ''So there is no question of a sponsor or promotion,'' he said. ''Michael is a perfectionist and wants the album to be excellent. The album is coming along fine and is not in trouble. Everyone is very excited and happy so far. The first single has not yet been chosen, but that in no way indicates a problem.''
Meanwhile, Jackson is said to be house-hunting in the trendy, star-studded Caribbean island of St Barts. He wants to bring up son Prince and daughter Paris, whose mother is his second wife, Debbie Rowe, away from the spotlight, according to the newspaper.
Whether he succeeds in escaping the media spotlight is a different matter: in the last week the island has hosted Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins, Julianne Moore, Ellen Barkin and her billionaire husband Ron Perelman, Princess Diana's favourite photographer Patrick Demarchelier, Sean Puffy Combs and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. Jackson's big brother is also said to be house-hunting. Jermaine Jackson has visited a Perth mansion called Prix D'Amour, on the market for A$25 million (HK$125 million).