The Jacksons to reform for Michael Jackson tribute show with A.I.
The Jacksons – brothers Jackie, Tito, Marlon and Jermaine -- will perform on stage next October for a Michael Jackson tribute concert series that starts with two shows in Tokyo.
The announcement of the shows was made via a produced video during a special 10th anniversary performance of Japanese R&B star A.I.
A.I. will emcee the shows and sing with the brothers, her management told CNNGo. She will also be recording new tracks with The Jacksons in early 2011.
The project came about after an exchange of letters between A.I. and Michael Jackson’s mother Katherine, following a documentary A.I. had made on Michael earlier in 2010 in which she met his family to discuss the legacy of the late performer.
“I was so excited meeting them and I tried to be calm, but once I got into it, they are so nice that they make you feel right,” A.I. told CNNGo ahead of her Monday Tokyo show at the prestigious Budokan.
“I’d been listening to their songs since I was little but once you start talking with them they make you feel like a friend.“
In her letter to A.I., exclusively revealed to CNNGo, Katherine says “Japan was one of Michael’s favorite places in the world. He loved visiting your beautiful country and always felt much love from his millions of fans.”
“By means of having Michael’s brothers headlining the Tokyo Tribute it would provide Michael Jackson’s followers with a true and complete perspective of Michael’s artistic career and life as a brother.”
The Jacksons, originally the Jackson 5, were one of the biggest music acts in the world in the 1970s and also helped launch the solo careers of Jermaine and Michael.
Following Michael’s death in June 2009, the remaining four brothers recorded vocals for the single, “This is it.” Rumors and speculation of a reunion and tribute show soon followed.
The Michael Jackson tribute shows have tentatively been scheduled for Fall 2011, and will feature a number of special guest performers filling Michael’s shoes in The Jacksons. Full details have yet to be released.
Making new music
A.I.’s initial contact with the Jacksons had been for a Japanese TV documentary she hosted for Music On! TV, in which she interviewed each member of the family but was surprised to find them so welcoming and modest.
Katherine and Tito watched the show and wrote her a letter of thanks.
“I felt like I didn’t do anything, they had done it for me,” says A.I. “But she thanked me for making a nice show and I knew I had to write something back. I wanted to say ‘thank you, I love you, thank you.’ I was just happy to meet them and let the people know what Michael was like as a person and what is it like inside the family.
“After I did that I listened to more of the Jackson 5 from back in the day. I thought that would be great to sing and dance with the people who were around Michael, especially his family,” she says.
Following the emotional letter exchange, discussions to record songs together soon began with two tracks already on the cards.
“We haven’t talked about the kind of song yet, whether it will be for Michael, or about us but we think it will be nice to have one of the producers that Michael used to work with. We met with Teddy Riley, he’s been making music for a long time, but he also makes current music.”
Despite the aura around the Jackson family, A.I. is keen to let the audience know how the Jackson family really are and get across their true personalities in the shows.
“Every time I see them on TV shows they seem serious but they are actually so cute and I want to tell people that even though they are the Jacksons, everyone’s human and everyone’s got a heart. I think the show in October will be good for people to enjoy music from back in the day and discover the new songs.”
Celebrating 10 years in Japan
A.I. was the first female artist to sing to Def Jam in Japan in 2003 and has gone on to enormous success, selling 3.5 million downloads of her 2005 hit “Story” and playing to 100,000 fans on her 2008 tour, that also took in El Rey Theatre, Los Angeles.
Talking about her 10th anniversary show at the Budokan, A.I., 29, says she is honored to welcome the guests who will join her.
Her latest album “The Last A.I.” features guest performances from Snoop Dogg, Boyz II Men, K’Naan, Judith Hill and J-Pop superstar Namie Amuro. Though the final guest list for the live show is under wraps, A.I. offered some insight.
“Chaka Khan will be coming and I can’t believe I’ll be on the same stage as her.”
“She’s like a god to me so at first I didn't want to do a song together, then people started suggesting that if I like her so much I should do a song. So I thought, let’s just ask.”
A.I. recorded a duet with Khan titled “One More Try,” and then shot a video in Los Angeles, where Khan impressed her even further. “She was even singing in the video! Lots of people lip-sync for that, that’s how you do it, but she’s singing it for real. I got chills every time the video rolled.”
A.I. also recorded a track with singer Judith Hill, who first came to world attention in the film "This Is It."
“When [Judith Hill & I] were making ‘For My Sister,’ we weren’t tight yet, but within the four days that we recorded we were in the studio from noon until three in the morning. Even though she came from Los Angeles she kept going. In that time we got to know each other well and she came back to sing at my shows or we hang out in Los Angeles. So it became like that song,” says A.I.
Having harbored ambitions to one day win a Grammy and return to Los Angeles -- the city where she was born and then returned to study, aged 15 -- the humble singer believes there is some sort of destiny in the collaborations about to come.
“I feel like all of this happened because I liked Michael. He never knew me but maybe he felt me and thought ‘somebody really loved me.’ I feel like it all happened for a reason.”
A.I. has just launched her English facebook page, here