Pop mogul Lou Pearlman warns Michael Jackson he'll struggle to regain his popularity even if he's cleared of child molestation charges - because his image has been irreversibly "tainted".

The creator of hit American boybands 'N Sync and Backstreet Boys believes the troubled superstar - who's facing allegations he sexually abused a 12-year-old boy at his NEVERLAND RANCH home in Santa Barbara, California - can only justify his self-styled 'King of Pop' tag again if he manages to write another classic album like the 21-year old THRILLER.

However, he's advised Jackson to shun interest in his private life, urging him to focus only on his performance and his singing instead - because he must accept the public's memory of these allegations will never dwindle.

He explains, "Hopefully everything works out to his best, and it's no problem - he'll just move forward. There's no question that he's been tainted, but the fact of the matter is ignore that personal side of it.

"He should go after the business side of it and his creative side of it, because he's never going to go ahead and eradicate good, bad or indifferent what's been happening in the media.

"Let's talk about the King of Pop. Let's talk about how he dances, great songs. That's where he's got to go after he's done. He'll never eradicate what happened."

And when the music svengali's asked whether he would take on Jackson as a client, he emphatically replies, "Absolutely, if he's innocent."

28/11/2003 19:35