“Michael”, Melodyne, and Teddy Riley: Just When You Thought You Were Past the Controversy

So the quencher to our burning, lingering questions about the vocals on ‘Michael’ may have finally brought the closure to some, but for me, it’s another story.

Lately, Teddy Riley (the guy from Guy who worked with Michael in the production of the Dangerous album) is finally coming out of the shadows to shed some light on the whole “is it MJ, or isn’t it” fiasco. At last! One month later, we get answers to the questions that should have been answered way back before the controversy started.

What’s the rush? Why all of a sudden, I wonder. Why wait until the days surrounding the release of ‘Michael’ is it now acceptable to have your word taken for instead of a month ago when everyone was ready to rip each other to shreds? What good does it do to keep controversy surrounding something related to Michael Jackson whenever possible? One minute it’s okay to shun those who purposely inflict controversy to MJ legacy in one breath, only to aid in the keeping of a secret that should have been out with the first released and questionable song?

Enough of that rant; now for some answers. According to an interview with Teddy Riley recently, a technique called Melodyne was used to enhance Michael’s (demo!) vocals.


Recordings of Michael Jackson’s voice on a new album being released this week were far from the finished article and required considerable digital enhancement, according to one of its main producers.

But Teddy Riley, who worked with the King of Pop on several records before his death, believed that Michael would go down as a classic, albeit short of the heights of Jackson’s heyday in the late 70s and early 80s.

“I had to do more processing to the voice, which is why people were asking about the authenticity of his voice,” Riley told Reuters of the first album of new Jackson material since the singer’s sudden death 18 months ago.

The project has been mired in controversy since members of Jackson’s family were quoted questioning the authenticity of the voice on some tracks and his father’s lawyer said the perfectionist would never have wanted the music released.

“We had to do what we had to do to make … his voice work with the actual music,” Riley added in an interview.

“He (Jackson) would never consider it being a final vocal. But because he’s not with us he cannot give us new vocals. What we did was utilise the Melodyne (technology) to get him in key.

Riley worked on three of the 10 songs on the album – Hollywood Tonight, Monster and Breaking News.

“With the Melodyne we actually move the stuff up which is the reason why some of the vibrato sounds a little off or processed, over-processed. We truly apologize for that happening, but you are still hearing the true Michael Jackson.”

The last two were recorded at the New Jersey home of the Cascio family in 2007, along with a third Cascio track Keep Your Head Up.

It was these recordings that led some to cast doubt over the authenticity of the songs, although Riley, and record label Sony, have been at pains to show they were genuine.


Riley said much of the negative publicity surrounding the album came from people within Jackson’s entourage who did not approve of the project.

“That don’t just happen like that, that has to come from somewhere and where it came from was not a great place. It was from a family member, and some family members … didn’t totally get the last say so they kind of hate the project.

“So there you have it, a chain reaction, a domino effect that makes the credibility of Michael go down,” he said.

“I am here to protect that, because I know it’s him, I know it’s great material, I know that it needs to be out, I know that the legacy needs to continue because he’s such a great person, and there’s more to come.”

Michael is the first album of new Jackson material since Invincible in 2001, and the first in a reported $US250 million ($NZ320.83 million) deal between Sony and the executors of Jackson’s estate to release 10 albums through 2017.

Author J. Randy Taraborrelli, who wrote a 1991 best-selling biography of Jackson, said on Monday that Jackson’s estate had another 60 songs but did not plan on releasing all of them

“They’ve got 60 incomplete songs but they’ve only got about 20 left with vocals that they feel, that the estate feels, are worthwhile,” Taraborrelli said in a US interview on the CBS TV network’s The Early Show.

“They’re not releasing everything. They’re releasing the things that they believe Michael would want released, and that’s about 17 to 20 more songs,” Taraborrelli said.

Asked if he would agree to produce future posthumous Jackson material, Riley replied:

“If it was my decision, yes, I would be involved in anything that Michael was involved with. If they will have me I will definitely be a part of it. I’m here, I came out here to be a servant to my friend.”

Among the topics Jackson tackles on the new album is people’s thirst for fame and the high price of becoming a star.

In Hollywood Tonight he describes the real-life experiences of an unnamed friend who heads to Los Angeles aged 15 to make it in the movies, and in Monster he sings about the paparazzi.

“The Monsters are the ones who, when you’re up they come to get you and they beat you down and when they get you down they go to the next artist,” Riley said of “Monster.”

“That’s their job, to hit you while you’re up and step on you while you’re down, and that’s what he always said.”

Reviews of Michael, which hits British stores on Monday and US stores on Tuesday, have been generally positive.

So for those who favor Teddy and who believe his word, ain’t nothin’ but Michael on the CD.  However, let us not neglect that since we can detect the differences in the sound of Michael’s vocals therefore, there is no getting around the fact that a lot of this technique (along with autotune) was used to complete demos. In other words, Michael played almost no part (except for maybe a little teeny bit of Divine intervention) in the completion of these songs.

That’s all I needed to be reminded of for my conscience to set in. Needless to say, I didn’t purchase the album. I went to the store to buy it, however, but got a little cognitive intervention of my own, if you will.

With the help of a fellow blogger friend, I was able to post some videos that break it down step-by-step on how Autotune and Melodyne are applied to vocals.


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