Record exec and producer Antonio “L.A.” Reid introduced a brand new Michael Jackson song at the iHeartRadio Music Awards this week by saying, “When I first went into Michael’s archives and heard the in-the-raw version of the song you’re about to hear, I was instantly reminded that, yes, Michael Jackson is the greatest.” That song, “Love Never Felt So Good” – which was “contemporized,” to use Reid’s word, with modern instrumentation and a Justin Timberlake guest appearance for the posthumous full-length Xscape, due out May 13th– turned out to be an upbeat, disco-ish pop number that recalled Jackson’s Off the Wall and Thriller radio-friendly dance cuts.
That’s because the song dates back to 1983, the year after Thriller came out. Jackson co-wrote, co-produced and recorded the track with singer-songwriter Paul Anka (“Put Your Head on My Shoulder,” Tom Jones’ “She’s a Lady,” Frank Sinatra‘s “My Way”) around the same time they recorded the 2009 Jackson track “This Is It.” The original demo for the song is online, as is a version of it recorded by Johnny Mathis in 1984. The co-executor of Jackson’s estate, John McClain, worked on contemporizing the Xscape track.
Reid executive produced Xscape, tasking recent hit producers with making the songs he found in Jackson’s archives sound fresh. He enlisted Timbaland as the lead producer and brought in additional producers include Rodney Jerkins, Stargate and Jerome “Jroc” Harmon. The album will come out in standard and deluxe configurations, the latter of which includes the recordings in their original form.
Jackson’s new single wasn’t the only highlight, though. Aaron Paul introduced Arcade Fire as his “beautiful bitches” before the band played “Normal Person,” while Kendrick Lamar gave a rousing cover of Tupac’s “California Love.”