Here's another episode to add to the Michael Jackson saga.
I am told by a reliable insider that Jackson's charity single, "What More Can I Give?" is headed to McDonald's. Maybe you can SuperSize it.
According to this source, the single will be recorded on Oct. 20 in Orlando, Fla. with members of 'N Sync, the Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears joining in. The single will then go on sale at McDonald's for $2.99. According to my source — who didn't seem like an escaped mental patient — McDonald's has pledged $30 million to the relief effort for World Trade Center victims and families.
If that weren't enough, my insider believes that Jackson will get the blessing of President Dubya to make "What More Can I Give?" the official song of the Sept. 11 disaster.
Michael will perform the song as the big closing number at the mega-charity show on Oct. 21 at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. along with the aforementioned pop stars.
"The funny thing is that 'What More Can I Give?' was planned as a charity recording for next February," my source continued. "They were all going to do it then as a 'We Are the World' kind of thing. Then came the disaster, and the whole project was accelerated."
Interestingly, Sony Music — Michael's label — has just rush released a new compilation CD called God Bless America. It features songs from such Sony artists as Celine Dion and Bruce Springsteen, but nothing from Jackson, not even "Heal the World." Certainly Jackson would have benefited from being included in such a project.
Meanwhile, Jackson's album, Invincible, is headed for stores on Oct. 30 in the United States. So far not much of a marketing campaign has emerged.
A radio single, "Cry," was released Sept. 17, but Radio & Records shows no demonstrable addition of it to radio playlists. The first radio single, "You Rock My World," is already slipping off the charts, and its video has met with apathy.
If "What More Can I Give" winds up with the apple pie as a McDonald's extra, one wonders how that might affect the launch of Invincible. But at this point, Michael Jackson's marketing seems to be a kind of free-for-all, with little organization and lots of good anecdotes.
On planetjackson.com, which seems to be an official Web site, plans have been made to release "You Rock My World" as a commercial single in November, and "Cry" in December — several months after their radio releases. Why? Who knows? Only the Shadow, my friends, only the Shadow.
Meanwhile, the Hollywood Reporter's Robert Osborne let himself be spun like a top by Jackson's press controllers yesterday. He wrote that Jackson's CBS TV special, which airs Nov. 13, looks like it will be "CBS' and Leslie Moonves' ratings topper for the year." This seems to be in direct response to an item in this column from last week in which we asserted that the show was a mess and most of the guest stars had to be edited out.
Indeed, buried in Osborne's report is the news that most of the TV special comes from the Monday night show (which did not include a rambling Marlon Brando and a frightening Whitney Houston), and that 61 minutes of the total 80 were of Michael performing alone or with his brothers. So let's mark Nov. 13 on our calendars now. By then, the album and the RFK special will have both occurred and all the elements of Jackson's comeback will be in place.
It's still just an unconfirmed rumor, but the word in the music industry is that Sean "P Diddy" Combs may no longer be a record mogul.
Combs's Bad Boy Entertainment, which is part of Arista Records and Bertelsmann Music Group, is said to be teetering on the edge of the abyss. The most persistent story is that BMG will merge Bad Boy into its existing structure, keep hits artists Dream and 112, and jettison the rest.
Some sources are claiming the deal is already done. Others are refuting the idea that Combs is shopping Bad Boy to other labels.
"They don't have hits," my source reminds. "Who would want them now?"
Combs is, without a doubt, running through money quickly. His Saga Continues album has sold fewer than 750,000 copies and is more or less dead in the charts.
Since he doesn't tour, or write his own music per se, Combs is not generating much income for Bad Boy. But his expenses — yachts, champagne and the like — are probably excruciatingly high.
'N Sync Beats Backstreet to Big Screen
Lance Bass and Joey Fantone of the boy band 'N Sync make their acting debuts in a new romantic comedy called On the Line. It's harmless fun, with Fantone playing a comic foil to Bass's leading man.
In an hour and a half Lance almost finds the girl, loses her, looks for her, and, well, you know how it ends. At the premiere last night, 10-year-old girls were shrieking on the street waiting for autographs, shrieking in the theater and just shrieking in general.
So here's some gossip: Lance, who like Joey is a nice guy in person, lost 10 pounds and toned up for his part as Kevin. When I asked him if he was going to record the "What More Can I Give?" song with Michael Jackson, he said: "I don't think so. I think Michael was only interested in having Justin [Timberlake] to do it with him."
Lance was protected with Joey by a SWAT team of security people at the private after-party at Planet Hollywood. He said the group is satisfied with the sales of its latest album, Celebrity, and that the soundtrack to On the Line — which features some very 'N Sync-like songs — won't be competition for it.
"Celebrity sold 7 million worldwide and it's been out for a while," he explained. The soundtrack will be released next week.
By the way, if you plan on seeing On the Line for any reason, stay 'til the end. The closing credits have a pleasant surprise for 'N Sync fans, but I won't give it away. This bit is actually funnier than the movie itself.
With this movie, 'N Sync officially beats the Backstreet Boys to the big screen. BSB's Brian Littrell was involved in a movie called Olive Juice with his wife and friends, including some BSB music, but it has failed to find a distributor thus far. On the Line has the backing of Miramax Films.
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