Though he left the United States after his acquittal on child molestation charges last year, apparently happy to live in seclusion in the Middle East, Jackson has started inching his way back into the spotlight.
Earlier this year, he went to Tokyo to accept MTV Japan's "Legend Award." This month, he allowed the syndicated TV show "Access Hollywood" to film him in the studio, working on music with superhot producer will.i.am from the Black Eyed Peas.
And on Wednesday, in a rare public performance, he is set to sing the classic charity song he co-wrote, "We Are The World," at the World Music Awards in London, where he will get another special award.
Move over Justin. Jackson, still one of the best-selling artists of all time, is looking to reclaim his title as the King of Pop.
But does the public care?
"Michael needs to come back strong and come back of today, not of yesterday," said Elroy R.C. Smith, a program director at the Chicago-based radio station WGCI 107.5, which plays R&B, hip-hop and old-school music. "He could get back in the studio, but if he is out of touch with what's going on musically, he'll be considered, 'Well, he's finished.'
"Would the world love to see this guy come back musically? Absolutely. Because he's still one of the greatest performers of all time."
But Jackson the entertainer has long taken a back seat to Jackson the one-man freak show. His acquittal on allegations of molesting a young boy was just the latest, and most dramatic disaster for a man who has admitted to sharing a bed (chastely) with kids, dangled his baby from a balcony and shocked people with his cosmetically enhanced visage. And that's just THIS century — don't get us started on blunders of the '90s or the late '80s.
Jackson's last album, 2001's "Invincible," went double-platinum but didn't register any megahits. Not-so-awesome news for the guy who made the world's best-selling album in "Thriller" and once released multiplatinum albums with ease.
Smith said Jackson's new music would have to earn its way on his radio station.