Can Michael Jackson Reign Again?

PHOTO The much anticipated album of newly completed recordings from Michael Jackson entitled MICHAEL will be released on December 14 by Epic Records in conjunction with the Estate of Michael Jackson.PlayCourtesy Sony Music/Epic Records
WATCH New Michael Jackson Song Features Akon

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 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.

"I KNOW my Uncle's voice, and something's seriously wrong when you have immediate FAMILY saying it's not him," Taryll Jackson tweeted on Nov. 8. "Don't you have to wonder why? I have strong, undeniable points. They can't give me answers, yet continue to move forward with lies and deception. Sounding like Michael Jackson and BEING Michael Jackson are two different things."

But Teddy Riley, the producer of "Michael" who also produced Jackson's "Dangerous," "HIStory" and "Invicible" albums, insisted Jackson's voice deserves to be heard and the tracks are indeed authentic.

"When I heard these songs, my heart cried hearing Michael again in good spirits," he said in a statement. "The vocals sounded very polished, very on key and processed. I have no doubts that these are Michael's vocals."

Sony defended the album as well. Sony said that it worked with Jackson's estate to put together "Michael," taking his past recordings and bringing them to completion with a small group of collaborators.

"We have complete confidence in the results of our extensive research as well as the accounts of those who were in the studio with Michael that the vocals on the new album are his own," Sony told ABC News.

A source close to the Jackson family also told ABC News that two forensic companies have confirmed it is Jackson's voice on the album.

"Michael" is the latest example of how Jackson's career has continued to flourish, even in death. Forbes recently named the late singer as the best-selling artist in 2009, and the posthumous "This Is It" documentary was the highest grossing concert movie, bringing in more than $260 million.

There's also a new video game and a Cirque Du Soleil world tour dedicated to Jackson. But "Michael" could be the real cash cow for the late King of Pop.

"There is a long history of albums or singles coming out after an artist has died and quite often they do quite well and there is a lot of interest in them," Rock and Roll Hall of Fame curator John Henke said.

ABC News' Sarah Netter contributed to this story.