(#529: 24 June 1995, 1 week)
Track listing: Billie Jean/The Way You Make Me Feel/Black Or White/Rock With You/She's Out Of My Life/Bad/I Just Can't Stop Loving You/Man In The Mirror/Thriller/Beat It/The Girl Is Mine/Remember The Time/Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough/Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'/Heal The World/Scream/They Don't Care About Us/Stranger In Moscow/This Time Around/Earth Song/D.S./Money/Come Together/You Are Not Alone/Childhood (Theme From "Free Willy 2")/Tabloid Junkie/2 Bad/History/Little Susie/Smile
(Blogger's Note: This entry was written by Lena, with formatting, some minor editing and linking done by myself.)
Is fame a good thing? What on earth is it for, after a while? Is there a reason for it, to become so unstoppable, so tremendously powerful that you can do whatever you want to do, to whomsoever you want to do it, and no one, not even your father, could stop you? What does it feel to have that power – to hold it, wield it, enjoy it? What happens when you cross the line and discover there are, in fact, powers greater than you?
It can be disconcerting, if not truly disturbing, to find that you, a near-legendary figure, have the feet of modest clay after all. (“Sliding backwards really eventually was too far”). But what might upset Michael Jackson, were he alive now, was how he is now being treated by many – as a relic, his music from the '70s/'80s as the only playable radio hits, save for '90s chart shows. How he is frozen in time,
I will not dodge the issue: the material which comprises the second disc of HIStory is in large part a reaction to this, and it is arguably the case that this whole album is one long exercise in saying that he is still the King of Pop, still the benevolent and generous patron of children, with testimonials from Steven Spielberg and Elizabeth Taylor and photos of him meeting Presidents and even pictures of yes, children, with "We Love You Michael" and "Michael Is The Best."
And there he is on the cover, against stormy clouds and orange
sunset light, only....it's not actually him. It is one of the statues
made in his likeness, much larger than life, perhaps even the one that
was sent down the Thames on a barge in mid-June,
so big the Tower Bridge had to be raised to let it through. All this,
before we even get to the music. It does not bode well, to say the
least; and I will have to tiptoe through the album song by song. I
listened to it with a profound unease. A track-by-track commentary follows:
Stop Pressurin' Me!
Jam and Lewis and two Jacksons, what could go wrong? Well, "Scream" is perfectly serviceable but it feels less like a Michael song and more a Janet one, from 1989 perhaps. It is also him complaining about how he's going to go insane if all these lies don't stop. HMM.
Tell Me, What Has Become Of My Rights?
Well at least it sort of sounds like Adam and The Ants. There is an offensive word in the lyrics that is strategically messed up so when you listen to the song, you don't hear it. Jackson is being so generous with us, giving us a whole album where his rights and the rights of others are conflated - to himself he is "us" and to a lot of people he was still "us" at this point. I wonder if the missing word refers to who "they" are though? First appearance of a children's choir, likely not the last.
Swift And Sudden Fall From Grace
The best song on this album by far, where he seems to be coming to terms with something, or at least contemplating what that feeling would be like, if he were to actually try to really, you know, look at himself in the mirror. If only the whole album could have been as lyrically modest and musically interesting and quiet as this. But oh then what?
Somebody's Out, Somebody's Out To Get Me
Well at least The Notorious B.I.G. gets a look-in here in the vast tale of Then Play Long. It is too bad it had to happen this way though. Nothing like attacking someone less powerful than yourself, is there?
What About Us?
The only time I'm convinced Jackson is actually noticing that the rest of the world exists and is in need of help. So much of this is Statue Jackson feeling sorry for himself or putting his enemies down, when he logically has no reason to do so. I mean, what does he really have to complain about, he got the Super Bowl half-time show in '93, right? And he married Lisa Marie Presley. "Us" here includes Jackson, who really is trying his best.
Does He Send Letters To The FBI?
How dare Dom Sheldon prosecute only the most famous man in the world? HOW DARE HE!! The first instance of what I am going to call Trump Pop here, and sadly it won't be the last. I feel as if Jackson is just going to throw all his toys at me to get my sympathy.
Where Do Your Loyalties Lie?
I should note here that due to the, uh, events of 1993, Pepsi dropped Jackson as its celebrity face, so to speak. You do wonder what would have happened if he had said 'no' to Pepsi in 1983 - I mean, besides Neil Young's not having to write "This Note's For You."