| A Michael Jackson fan in Los Angeles. (AFP)
Los Angeles, Nov. 25: His legal problems aside, Michael Jackson has something else to worry about. For the first time since he was 10-years-old, he may soon be without a record contract, and is reportedly in deep debt.
Sony Corp., whose labels have released Jackson records for almost 25 years, last week issued Number Ones, a greatest-hits collection that is almost certainly his last album for the company. The CD’s one new song has attracted little attention, and sales are expected to be modest.
Meanwhile, Jackson, 45, faces the prospect of enormous legal bills to defend himself against the child molestation charges announced last week in Santa Barbara, California. Jackson denies the charges.
It’s always difficult for pop music stars to maintain supremacy as the decades wear on, and few expected Jackson ever to equal the spectacular success of Thriller, the 1982 album that yielded such classics as Billie Jean and Beat It.
But record industry executives say Jackson’s history of erratic behaviour, including allegations a decade ago of sexual misconduct with a 13-year-old boy, helped push the King of Pop off his throne more quickly.
“This isn’t the first time Michael Jackson’s been in the negative spotlight,” noted Geoff M ayfield, chart director of Billboard magazine. “He has weathered a lot of weird stuff before that would have put a grinding halt to anybody else’s celebrity.”
Among every pop album ever recorded, only Eagles: Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975 has outpaced Thriller, which has sold 26 million copies in the US. By comparison, Jackson’s 2001 release, Invincible — his first album of all-new material in nine years, costing a reported $30 million — has sold 2.1 million copies, according to Soundscan, and produced no number one hits.
Number Ones is projected to have opening-week sales of 85,000 to 100,000 — perhaps not even enough to land it in Billboard’s Top 20. In part, this is because it duplicates not one, but two previous greatest-hits collections.
The first of those compilations, 1995’s HIStory, was the first project for Jackson after his reputation was rocked in 1993 by allegations of molestation at his Neverland Ranch in Santa Barbara County. Jackson denied those accusations.
Jackson, who signed a $65 million contract with Sony in 1991, has been at odds with the company in recent years. When Invincible failed, Jackson accused then-Sony Music chief Tommy Mottola of racism, saying he had not properly promoted the album. Number Ones marks the end of his obligations to the label.Executives at Sony and Jackson’s label, Epic, did not return calls for this story.