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Jackson's Return To Limelight Gets Mixed Reviews

Michael Jackson’s long-awaited return to the airwaves with the release of a new song from his album “Invincible” has not been as “thrilling” as expected, according to station programmers.

The pop star, whose 1982 album “Thriller” ranks among the best-selling albums in the United States, officially returned to the airwaves last Friday after a long hiatus, as Epic Records released the first single off his comeback album to radio stations.

Epic said it released the upbeat dance tune, “You Rock My World,” a few days earlier than planned after it was “leaked” by a pair of New York City stations that obtained a bootleg copy of the track. Epic is a unit of Sony Corp..

But several radio programmers seemed skeptical, saying they believed Epic itself “leaked” the song early to generate a buzz. In either case, radio stations are reporting a lukewarm reception among its listeners and programmers to the song.

“The excitement was there initially,” said Dave Morales, music director for KHKS-FM In Dallas. “We got the single, we heard it and put it on the air… and it was just sort of there. We’re not getting any more repeat requests for it,” he said.

“You kind of wish he came back with something huge, but this song kind of falls in line with what we’ve already heard before from him,” said Morales, but added, “in all fairness, maybe this was just the wrong single to go with.”

Los Angeles Times music critic Richard Cromelin, in a review of the song Wednesday said that waiting for the single was better than hearing it.

“It’s pleasant enough as anonymous fluff goes, but at this point in a precarious career, the erstwhile pop provocateur should be shooting for another ‘Thriller’ not filler,” Cromelin wrote. The Times, in an accompanying article, said an informal survey it conducted of key programmers showed mostly listener apathy.

“Invincible” is the first disc of all-new studio material from Jackson in six years and how the album is received could determine whether the eccentric singer can regain his claim to the title “The King of Pop.” It is slated for release overseas October 29 and in North America on October 30.

Jackson, who turned 43 on Wednesday and has been out of the limelight for several years, is now planning his return with a vengeance by headlining two all-star concerts in New York City’s Madison Square Garden next month.


Several radio executives said the song has potential to be a hit and is just getting off to a slow start.

“Only time will tell if it is a hit. Jackson’s been out of the business for a number of years and has been retooling himself,” said David Lawrence, the host of the Net Music Countdown show in Washington D.C., which is broadcast in radio stations nationwide.

“There are lots of artists who release a song that programmers don’t perceive as a hit. ‘Smooth’ by Santana was a good example of one that eventually caught fire,” he said.

Lawrence predicts the song’s popularity will peak after the Madison Square Garden extravaganza, celebrating Jackson’s 30 years as a solo performer.

Lawrence and others also said the “weird factor” makes Jackson a target among radio programmers. “People love to make fun of him,” Lawrence said.

Some industry experts feel that Jackson has to win over a whole new young audience not familiar with his material.

At Power 106 in Los Angeles, a station which caters to youthful listeners who like edgier hip-hop and R&B, the Jackson song was a flop.

“I don’t think its something we’ll be playing. The song is too pop, but that doesn’t mean the next song off the album won’t work,” said Tito Corona of Power 106.

But Albie Dee, music director for Hot 99.5 in Washington D.C., said “It’s still a little early to tell. I’m getting some phone and Internet requests for the song and could be a possible hit. It’s Michael Jackson so it’s an event. You’ve got to at least give it a shot and see how it goes.”

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