More than year after his death, Michael Jackson is poised to rule the charts again.
Today, a duet the pop icon recorded with hip-hop singer Akon goes on sale. Nevermind that the song, "Hold My Hand," was recorded three years ago -- hear that? It's the sound of millions of people clicking "download."
"Hold My Hand" is the first official single of the upcoming album "Michael," which includes Jackson's previously unreleased material. It premiered on MichaelJackson.com at 12:01 ET today and is now available for digital downloading on multiple platforms.
Why was "Hold My Hand" chosen as the album's first official single? Because Jackson decreed that's the way it should be. Before his death, he penned a note that expressed his desire to release "Hold My Hand" as his upcoming album's first single. That note is now property of his estate.
Jackson-philes might recognize the ballad: an unfinished version leaked in 2008. But in a statement put out by Sony Music, which is releasing the album, Akon said the song that goes on sale today differs from what fans heard before.
"The world was not ready to hear 'Hold My Hand' when it leaked a couple years ago," he said. "We were devastated about it. But its time has definitely come; now in its final state, it has become an incredible, beautiful, anthemic song. I'm so proud to have had the chance to work with Michael, one of my all-time idols."
Akon was also involved in the songwriting process.
"In 2007, I co-wrote a song called "Hold My Hand" with Akon," songwriter Claude Kelly said on his Tumblr blog Friday. "A good friend and dope engineer, Exit Goodchild, made it sound like magic. My idol, Michael Jackson, recorded it and made one of my lifelong dreams come true. It was slated to come out. ... What happened next the whole world knows. It's now 2010, and although the circumstances are bittersweet, I am still honored and proud that 'Hold My Hand' will have its day in the sun. Grateful."
Sony Music also revealed some of the big-name acts whose collaborations with Jackson will be included on "Michael," due to drop Dec. 14. Below, check out the album's track listing:
1. Hold My Hand (Duet with Akon)
2. Hollywood Tonight
3. Keep Your Head Up
4. (I Like) The Way You Love Me
5. Monster (Featuring 50 Cent)
6. Best Of Joy
7. Breaking News
8. (I Can't Make It) Another Day (Featuring Lenny Kravitz)
9. Behind The Mask
10. Much Too Soon
While "Hold My Hand" is "Michael's" first official single, last week Sony began online-streaming of another track from the album, "Breaking News." At the same time, Jackson's family voiced its protests about the album's release and concerns that the "new" songs might be fake.
"If Michael had wanted this music released, he would have done so before his death," Joe Jackson's attorney, Brian Oxman, said in a statement.
"The songs which are being released on the new Michael Jackson album were unfinished and incomplete tracks that Michael said over and over many times he never wanted released," Oxman said. "We should honor Michael Jackson's wishes."
Jackson's nephews took to Twitter to question whether their uncle is actually the person singing on the new songs.