Okay, okay, you know I am as big and hyped for Xscape as anyone and, as you can clearly tell just from srolling down the page a bit, it was only very recently that I wrote a post all about how excited I was over this release. Of course, I am still excited and nothing has changed that. I thoroughly support the efforts to keep Michael’s musical legacy alive and current. That isn’t the issue.
But as soon as I found out that the first single to be debuted was this version of “Love Never Felt So Good” with Justin Timberlake added to the mix (and which is now being promoted everywhere as a Jackson/Timberlake “duet”) I had mixed feelings. I am also starting to get a sinking reality check of just what they truly mean when they talk of “contemporizing.” You see, it’s one thing to re-mix the songs, or maybe polish them up a little. I have no quarrel with that, to a point, as long as it is done tastefully and with respect to Michael’s original vision. But it’s quite another when suddenly the producers are inserting THEMSELVES into the songs, manufacturing fake duets just to either boost sales or to fulfill some fantasy on their own part to sing with Michael Jackson.
Didn’t we just have this ugly debate a few months ago when the Justin Bieber version of “Slave to the Rhythm” was leaked? The estate was quick to shut it down, but now they are openly sanctioning this. I have to ask: What’s the difference?
“Love Never Felt So Good” was debuted on the IHeartRadio Awards Show, and the response has been overwhelming:
But before I get on my soapbox, I have to give credit where credit is due. I very recently commented on Facebook and Twitter that if the goal was to make this a HIT album; if the goal was to sell to the masses and put Michael Jackson squarely back into the current mainstream, some changes in approach and marketing strategies would have to be made. It appears that they’ve done just that. For whatever reason, the marketing campaign has been full steam behind Xscape, and it appears to be paying off.
Here is what Billboard wrote recently:
Michael Jackson, Justin Timberlake’s Duet Off To More Than ‘Good’ Start
By Gary Trust and Keith Caulfield | May 05, 2014 4:24 PM EDTThe lead track from ‘Xscape,’ the late King of Pop’s album due May 13, is headed to this week’s Hot 100 thanks to a strong first few days of sales, airplay and streamingMichael Jackson and Justin Timberlake’s sleek new duet, “Love Never Felt So Good,” will enter the Billboard Hot 100 chart this week following its first few days of availability.The song appears on “Xscape,” an album of eight tracks of Jackson’s vocals set to new music from Timbaland and J-Roc, Rodney Jerkins, Stargate and John McClain (a former A&M Records executive and co-executor of the Jackson estate). The set arrives May 13.
“Good” premiered on the iHeartRadio Music Awards, broadcast on NBC on May 1, and was then made available for digital purchase. (Instead of Timberlake, Usher danced to the song on the broadcast.)
Fueling its Hot 100 start? Solid initial sales and airplay, which should send the song, available as a solo Jackson recording and in a duet version with Timberlake, onto this week’s Hot 100 in the list’s lower half. Streaming activity since its premiere will also contribute to its debut rank. While “Good” is not yet available across on-demand subscription services, it’s has racked 960,000 views on YouTube so far, split between its official audio clip on Vevo (which was released May 1) and user-generated YouTube clips.
Highlights of the Hot 100 will post on Billboard.com on Wednesday (May 7), while the chart will post in its entirety the following day.
“Good” will mark Jackson’s 49th Hot 100 entry and second since his 2009 death. “Hold My Hand,” with Akon, reached No. 39 in January 2011. That collaboration was released from the posthumous “Michael ” album, which debuted on the Billboard 200 at No. 3 and has sold 540,000 copies in the U.S., according to Nielsen SoundScan.
Jackson boasts 13 Hot 100 No. 1s, the most among solo males in the chart’s 55-year history. Only the Beatles (20) and Mariah Carey (18) have totaled more No. 1s, with Rihanna also having notched 13 leaders.
Industry forecasters suggest that “Good” may have sold more than 60,000 downloads in the week ending Sunday, May 4. That sum would’ve been generated from only three full days of sales, as the song reached retailers late on Thursday (May 1), after its premiere earlier that evening.
Certainly, “Good” is buoyed by the availability of the duet version with Timberlake, which accounts for the bulk of the song’s overall sales. (Both the Jackson solo version and the duet are combined for sales tracking and charting purposes.)
If “Good” debuts with more than 60,000 downloads sold, that would outpace the opening of “Hold My Hand.” That song sold 19,000 in a similar opening time frame, and served as the first radio-promoted single from “Michael.” It was released on a Friday (Nov. 19, 2010), so it had less than three full days of sales in its first week (ending Nov. 21). “Hold” then sold 44,000 in its first full week of availability (the frame ending Nov. 28).
Meanwhile, “Good” has also garnered a strong response at radio and appears on track for a debut on the 50-position Radio Songs chart. As of this posting, the cut has drawn 31 million all-format radio audience impressions since its first plays on Friday. On this week’s airplay charts (highlights of which will post later today, while the full charts, along with all others, will update on Thursday), it makes multiple debuts, starting on Adult R&B Songs (No. 19), Adult Contemporary (No. 23), R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay (No. 28) and Adult Pop Songs (No. 40).
As part of Clear Channel’s promotional synergy after the premiere of the song on the iHeartRadio Music Awards, “Good” received hourly plays the following day on a multitude of the company’s pop, adult and R&B/hip-hop stations, greatly contributing to its airplay so far.
Still, the station that has played “Good” the most is CBS Radio-owned adult contemporary KYXY San Diego (and, thus, did not contribute to Clear Channel’s concentrated play). The station has given the duet 37 plays (though Sunday). “We loved the song the instant we previewed it,” says KYXY program director Charlie Quinn. “It felt familiar and right in line with audience expectations for a Michael song.”
As for its long-term fortunes, Quinn is optimistic. “Timberlake and the production value definitely elevate it beyond a novelty.”
“Two icons coming together for a great groove,” is how Alex Tear, Clear Channel vp of programming/Miami, top 40 national brand coordinator and PD of Pop Songs reporter WHYI, describes the track. The station has played “Good” 13 times through May 4. “Hearing and watching the debut [of ‘Good’ during the iHeartRadio Music Awards] certainly played a role in inspiring listeners’ passion and for them to request it. News traveled fast across the generations, lighting up social media and text requests all weekend.”
Tear concurs that the song could sustain widespread interest following its splashy start.
“It’s smooth and will certainly have a pop-culture impact. It’s a great way to begin rolling into summer.”