Jermaine Jackson says he took a biting musical swipe at his superstar sibling, Michael, because his younger brother had frozen him out of his life.
In an interview, Jermaine explained that the cantankerous lyrics to his song "Word to the Badd!!," which criticize Michael for allegedly changing his skin color and obtaining plastic surgery, were written in retaliation for eight months of unreturned phone calls.
"I understand he's a very busy person, but after you repeatedly try to contact your own brother and he doesn't call you back, you begin to wonder if he hasn't just completely lost touch with reality," Jermaine, 37, told The Times.
"I know people are going to go off on a tangent and say that Jermaine is jealous. But it's not true. Michael and I have never feuded. The only reason I wrote this song--and it came from the bottom of my heart--was to help my little brother get a grip on reality. I never meant to discredit him. The song was never supposed to come out in public. But now that it has, I am hear to say that, yes, I wrote it and I stand by it."
A bootleg cassette of "Badd!!" was leaked last weekend to programmers at several radio stations, which began playing it back-to-back with an unauthorized version of Michael Jackson's long-awaited new single "Black or White," a song about racial harmony that was not officially due to be released until Monday.
Jermaine's song includes lyrics such as:
Don't know who you are
Think they love you
They don't know you
Lonely superstar . . . .
Michael Jackson, 33, could not be reached for comment, but a spokesman for his record company called the release of Jermaine's song a "malicious publicity stunt."
Representatives from LaFace Records, the Atlanta-based independent label for which Jermaine Jackson records, and from Arista Records, the company that distributes his music, denied playing any part in leaking the song to radio programmers, as did Jermaine.
Jermaine said he is tired of hearing the lyrics of "Badd!!" being compared to his sister La Toya's vindictive tell-all autobiography about the Jackson clan, of which an excerpt appears along with her nude photos in the November issue of Playboy magazine.
"In no form or fashion was this done as a publicity stunt," said Jackson, who hasn't scored a solo Top 10 hit on the pop charts since the early '80s. "This is not like La Toya. I think that what La Toya has done is unforgivable. I don't know who leaked the song. I certainly had nothing to do with it. But it doesn't anger me. If it wasn't leaked now, maybe it would have been leaked later. The fact is it's out there and I have to deal with it."
However, the way Jermaine looks at it, at least one positive thing occurred as a result of the song's public airing. Shortly after the recording was leaked, Michael called.
The two Jackson siblings reportedly met for the first time in eight months on Monday in Los Angeles.
"The first thing Michael asked me was 'Why?' " Jermaine said. "So I explained to him how I felt. After we talked for awhile we agreed that no matter how busy each of us gets that we should never be too busy to take a call from one another. But that's between us.
"You see, I love my brother very much. My relationship with my brother is more important than money. It's more important than a No. 1 record. The most important thing is that we maintain being brothers and hopefully this song will help improve our relationship. I'm not happy that the song has been made public, but what can I do about it now?"
A tamer version of "Word to the Badd!!" is included on Jermaine Jackson's new album, "You Said," which was released last week. The singer said he specifically asked his record company to edit the version now playing on the radio before placing the song on the album because he did not "feel emotionally ready for the public to hear it."
"My song deals with much more than any plastic surgery or any facial changes or this and that," Jackson said. "The bottom line here is that this song was written as a private message to help get my brother to heal our relationship."
Still, all the attention focused on the bootleg version of "Badd!!" has officials at Arista and LaFace reportedly considering the possibility of rush-releasing the original track as a single or offering it free to consumers who buy a copy of Jermaine's new album.
Asked whether he would consent to the release of the unedited version of "Badd" if pressed by his record company to do so, Jackson said he was still undecided.
"I really don't know," Jackson said. "I'll cross that bridge when we get to it. Michael and I talked. That's what's important to me. He left smiling and I'm smiling."