Michael Jackson died in June 2009, and with that, the Michael Jackson Memorial Celebration began, an outpouring of grief not matched in magnitude or lengthiness since Lincoln’s corpse toured the American railway system, even more remarkable because Lincoln was popular and well-liked up until his death; Jackson had languished in media obscurity as a pariah for the better part of the 2000s.
But then he died, Vh1 played “Man in the Mirror” around the clock, everyone got nostalgic for Thrillermania, and all was forgiven. The bestselling albums of the year were Jackson’s hits compilation Number Ones and Thriller. Presumably, consumers inhaled the old stuff because there was no new stuff. Then they scraped together some rehearsal footage of Jackson preparing for a string of potential comeback shows that never happened due to the unfortunate circumstances of the singer’s death; that film, This Is It, made $72 million at the box office, making it one of the most successful documentaries of all time. Coinciding with This Is It came “This Is It,” a mid-’80s collaboration with Paul Anka that fared well at radio (that wasn’t released as a commercial single).
The market was clearly asking for more Michael Jackson material, no matter what it was. His label, Epic, scraped together some unreleased stuff, called it Michael and released it in December 2010. The first single: a remastered, cleaned-up, freshened-up duet with big star Akon recorded in 2008 called “Hold My Hand.” Funny thing about “Hold My Hand”: a primitive version of it was leaked on the Internet in 2008. Nobody cared.
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And nobody much cared in 2010, even after the extremely profitable influence of Jackson’s death.
Usually, there is a reason why unreleased songs are unreleased – because they are not very good. My esteemed colleague may disagree, but “Hold My Hand” is just not a very good song. It’s a slight ballad of friendship and solidarity, the unwarranted third part of the Michael Jackson Late Period Schmaltzy Friendship Trilogy, after “Will You Be There” and “You Are Not Alone.” Perhaps “Hold My Hand” is what officially brought the public Jackson memoriam to an end, as “Hold My Hand” reminded us that Jackson had pretty much run out of steam and magic by 1992.
“Hold My Hand” peaked at #39 on the Hot 100. For some perspective, consider that this week, Rebecca Black’s “Friday” reached #36.