Page last updated at 17:00 GMT, Thursday, 26 January 2006

Can new singles format revive Jackson?

Michael Jackson
Jackson is currently living in Dubai
A new dual format CD/DVD is to receive a major push from record company Sony-BMG as they re-release 20 of Michael Jackson's greatest hits - but can it revive the artist's flagging career?

Every week for the next five months, Jackson's back catalogue will be released on the new "dual disc" format - on one side with the music, but, flip it over, and the original video is on it.

"With Michael Jackson being such a visual artist, it's obviously a very compelling proposition," Darren Henderson, in charge of the commercial marketing of the project, told BBC World Service's The Music Biz programme.

"The packaging that each of these singles is housing is very lavish. We're going back to the original single artwork - and each of these singles are limited editions."

Confusing format

The first single to be released will be Thriller, with the next 19 singles to released over the subsequent weeks.

The releases follow Sony's Elvis singles project, which began at the start of last year. Each one of these singles went into the top five, and three were number ones - including the thousandth number one.

Mr Henderson said the Michael Jackson releases would do even better, "partly because of his current status and awareness, but also because of the compelling proposition of having the video on one side of the DVD and the audio on the other."

Michael Jackson
"He needs somebody who is enormously critical to come into the studio with him... only then will he turn out something half-decent
John Lewis, Time Out
However, John Lewis, music writer for Time Out magazine, said he had doubts about the new format.

"They're actually very confusing," he said.

"A lot of people who have bought these discs take them back to the shops, because there's no printing on them - or if there is, it's right near the middle. You're not entirely sure which side is the audio and which is the DVD.

"But they are taking off... this is clearly something that is going to add value to CDs."

The latest album reissue of Jackson's back catalogue, The Essential Michael Jackson, was a major flop in the US, selling just 8,000 copies in the US in its first week and only reaching number 128 in the chart.

But Mr Lewis said that he felt there are enough "obsessive Michael Jackson fans who are going to buy these things" to make the singles reissues worthwhile.

"I think people were sceptical about the success of the Elvis number One campaign, but they sold 750,000 singles because there is a core of manic Elvis fans who will just buy these things because they're out there and limited edition.

"And there are enough Michael Jackson obsessive to maintain good sales."

Being indulged

However, Mr Lewis also said that he felt re-releases are likely the only Michael Jackson music to be put out for the foreseeable future.

The dual format means the groundbreaking Thriller video is included
He argued that Jackson has "lost the chance" to reinvent himself.

"The fact that he just looks so awful [means] that the key demographic who buy pop music - the teen market - are just going to see pictures of him now and just be rather horrified and put off by it," he said.

"I think Michael Jackson is at that stage now where he surrounds himself with people who indulge him and tell him that everything he does is wonderful.

"He needs somebody who is enormously critical to come into the studio with him and say, 'this is rubbish, get rid of this,' - and push him as hard as Quincy Jones once did.

"Only then will he turn out something half-decent."

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