9
Jul 13

MICHAEL JACKSON – “You Are Not Alone”

Popular62 comments • 6,970 views

#726, 9th September 1995

Jackson Alone Whatever grim spirits drove Michael Jackson, they were hovering around his music long before HIStory – a double album that, through hubris or masochism (or commercial good sense) directly linked his greatest songs to his newest. There’s terror and paranoia to spare on the hits, even before Jordan Chandler’s accusations against Jackson curdled his public profile: the HIStory songs were darker still. Whether it was the agony of wrongful accusation or the cold horror of discovery motivating Jackson – or just a development of his existing demons – his music around this time is a sea of sorrow and fear.

This applies even to a track like “You Are Not Alone”, not written by Jackson, but which ends up sounding as diffused, sad, and lost as any of his own songs. As an attempt at tenderness and comfort, it’s hardly convincing. For all that this period of Jackson can be a tough listen, its best songs are as compelling as anything he’d done since Thriller. But they’re usually the ones where he sounds most adrift or angry, not the ones where he’s trying to persuade someone – or himself -that things are going to be OK.

Glimpses of the Jackson his 80s fans loved poke through, which just makes this trudge all the sadder. His voice hasn’t lost any of its sensitivity, and the “whispered three words” break is a brief and lovely glimpse of the old Jackson balladry, the tender, courtly singer who made “Human Nature” or “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You”. But the rest is suffocating, an endless snowfall of smothering triple stresses – “YOU are NOT a LONE, I’LL be HERE for YOU”, on and on and on, with the brutal truck driver’s gear change before the final chorus giving the impression of a ghastly forced smile. The situation of the song seems to slide – a departed lover? a bereavement? a reconciliation? – but whatever R Kelly intended it’s hard to hear it as sung to anyone but its singer. His hiccups and vocal tics – also carried over from happier times – now seem like Gollum-esque sobs, and his shift to his growlier register over the fade underscores how badly this song fails to soothe: the last we hear of Jackson is a miserable plea of “GOTTA STOP BEING ALONE!” howled low in the mix.

4

Comments

  1. 1
    Tom on 9 Jul 2013 #

    Our first encounter with R Kelly! Better to come from him, I suspect.

  2. 2
    Mark M on 10 Jul 2013 #

    (I feel I’ve told this story before, but…) I reviewed HIStory. Of course there were no tapes available – I had to go to Sony, where I was locked in a room with some speakers, snacks… and cardboard cut-outs of the Michael statue from the album cover, slightly larger than man himself, I reckon. In my memory there were four, at least. In any case, it was weird and distracting and when I was released back on to London’s streets I had no useful thoughts on the album.

  3. 3
    hardtogethits on 10 Jul 2013 #

    Two things about which I think, when I think about You Are Not Alone.

    a. Used in a funny scene in Grandma’s House! Someone please link to it (can’t find the clip)! It demonstrated some of the songs weaknesses!

    b. This is one of the best 3 cards to be dealt if you’re ever playing “Top Trumps Specials: An Unofficial Guide To The Music Of Michael Jackson”, best done over a cup of tea and a packet of Fruit Jaspers.

  4. 4
    Ed on 10 Jul 2013 #

    “Whatever grim spirits drove Michael Jackson, they were hovering around his music long before HIStory”

    I remember a critic praising Jackson’s Thriller-era music as a brilliant dramatisation of the dancefloor as a metaphor for relationships of money and power, discipline and control.

    It turned out to be not much of a metaphor at all.

  5. 5
    mapman132 on 10 Jul 2013 #

    I know most people here aren’t chart-stat-geeks the way I am, but I can’t let this one pass by without noting its place in history as the first ever single to debut at #1 in Billboard Hot 100 history. As a longtime follower of the Hot 100, I still remember exactly where I was when I found out (from an actual print Billboard magazine, no less, in the days before Internet ubiquity). There had been hints this could happen in the months prior as record companies had been starting to tinker with release dates, much as they apparently did in the UK. First the Beatles’ seemingly unassailable highest debut record (“Let It Be” at #6) fell when Michael and Janet entered the chart at #5 with “Scream” that June. Then, more surprisingly, a record by the Notorious BIG entered at #5 the very next week. Then, finally in September, this. Of course, it would drop out of #1 after one week, but the precedent had been established, and #1 debuts became semi-common in the US for a few years until Billboard started allowing unreleased singles to chart on airplay alone, putting such high debuts out of reach until American Idol, and later the digital age, came along.

    Ironically, I think this is one of the few UK number ones of 1995 NOT to debut there. The first single to debut at #1 on both sides of the Atlantic I don’t think happened until 1997 (one guess which…)

    But, for all that chart history, the single itself is…kind of dull. MJ was clearly past his prime here, and in fact his 13th Hot 100 #1 would prove to be his last. I guess we still have a couple to go here though….

    Agree with Tom’s 4.

  6. 6
    Tom on 10 Jul 2013 #

    We have his BIGGEST SELLING UK SINGLE still to come!

  7. 7
    Chelovek na lune on 10 Jul 2013 #

    This leaves me utterly indifferent. His voice is still beautiful, in its kind of crystalline, polished, innocent manner, but the song is just dull and the instrumentation and production duller. Rather more listenable than “Scream”, which as comebacks go, did seem to hint that not all was well. “They Don’t Care About Us”, which had some balls (as well as a couple of strikingly, unexpectedly, shockingly, antisemitic lines) was very much better, and to my recollection the only one of his singles from this time that really did seem to hark back to the things that had brought him such acclaim earlier on. It’s, obviously, all rather a tragedy. And I’d be quite happy to never hear this again.

  8. 8
    mapman132 on 10 Jul 2013 #

    #6 Actually, I guess I am aware of that. Very strange from my American POV, but we’ll get to that…

  9. 9
    Ed on 10 Jul 2013 #

    If you like this, you’ll love these: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Resistible-Demise-Michael-Jackson-Books/dp/1846943485

    The best book about Michael Jackson, ever. (Admittedly the only one I’ve read, ever.) With contributions from FTers Tom and Marcello. (And maybe others?)

    A couple of the Amazon reviews are quite entertaining, too.

  10. 10
    swanstep on 10 Jul 2013 #

    ‘She’s out of my life’ for dummies (without the great vocal, the great relatable lyrical through-line, the great spare arrangement, and so on). Some nice changes, but for me at least, soppy slowies have to have essentially *all* their ducks in a row on pain of being a trudge (as Tom nicely puts it) or an embarrassment. YANA surely wouldn’t have been a #1 for anyone but MJ (puts ‘Shake your Body down to the Ground’ one more time to raise spirits).

  11. 11
    weej on 10 Jul 2013 #

    I don’t think YANA is dull, I can even imagine liking it, but something about it just makes me feel a little queasy.

    The video ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pAyKJAtDNCw ) is surely worth noting as it features frankly pornographic scenes of Lisa Marie Presley naked apart from a wet towel draped over her bottom. I couldn’t believe it was allowed on TOTP. Watching it again, the way they interact with each-other seems a little too forced and distant for a husband and wife, but that shouldn’t really aurprise anyone.

  12. 12
    lonepilgrim on 10 Jul 2013 #

    the tune reminds me a little of ‘I’ll blame it on the sun’ by Stevie Wonder but whereas that song admits to a sense of desolation (and is far superior all round IMO) this covers it up with a mask of unconvincing sentiment. MJ appears like an androgynous replicant in the video, desperately trying to pass as human

  13. 13
    anto on 10 Jul 2013 #

    I’ll go with the review on this one. It’s a bit of a trudge and the concilitory tone sat uneasily with the unpleasant speculation around MJ at the time. The promotion campaign for “History” was one of the strangest ever – a statue of the singer floating on the Thames (even uglier than the other likeness that his pal Mohammed Al-Fayed has insisted on having outside Craven Cottage), the frankly rather disturbing video for “Scream” and the half-hour broadcast – shown on the BBC – where he sat alongside Lisa-Marie pleaing his innocence. Also the use of apparently anti-semitic terms on one of the album tracks added to this dizzying, fractious blend of rancour and hubris.

  14. 14
    James BC on 10 Jul 2013 #

    One of the most musically insubstantial number 1 hits I would think. Four lines, four chords, repeat. Might sound nice played by a music box.

  15. 15
    JLucas on 10 Jul 2013 #

    “You are not alone, I am plastic too…” – I can’t think of this song without being reminded of the version we all sang on the playground. I suppose I was of the generation that only caught Michael Jackson as a macabre walking punchline rather than one of the most dynamic pop forces of all time.

    This is pure gloop, but HIStory has some really interesting stuff elsewhere. Of the singles, I actually think ‘Stranger In Moscow’ is one of his all time best. As tragic and desolate as this is slick and unconvincing.

    Also worth noting is the massively creepy album track ‘Little Susie’. Recording *that* in the midst of all his troubles must have taken some balls (or else a complete lack of self awareness).

  16. 16

    9: me too me too! —> “What About Death, Again? The Dolorous Passion of the Son of Pop”

    Also Alex Niven posts here now and then, while Robin Carmody is a long-time-since FT above-the-liner (though I forget if he’s been on Popular threads because I am old and my memory is full of lesser pop rubbish).

  17. 17
    thefatgit on 10 Jul 2013 #

    It’s probably the slowest MJ #1 ever, perhaps even the slowest song of his since “Ben”. And it’s almost impossible to look upon this favourably, unless you compare it to a bunnyable cover way over yonder, beyond the Popular horizon. It’s a calculated, lowest-common-denominator R&B ballad and Kelly and Jacko knew they didn’t have to try harder. I’m sure they were both shocked when the Billboard hoodoo was finally broken. With the exception of the excellent “Stranger In Moscow”, there’s nothing from HIStory, I would be tempted to revisit.

    The video just ramped up the shock factor as well. We knew his skin tone was getting lighter and lighter, but when his “significant other”, Lisa-Marie posed tanned, semi-naked in the temple scene (Aphrodite & Hephaestus? Apt if you imagine Elvis as Zeus), the only conclusion I could make was that all vestiges of his old Off The Wall and Thriller image had gone forever. He was but an alabaster simulacrum of his former self, fooling nobody with his naked=honest schtick.

  18. 18
    Tom on 10 Jul 2013 #

    BTW has anyone taken the obvious step of using “Stranger In Moscow” as backing for their Edward Snowden news features?

  19. 19
    Tom on 10 Jul 2013 #

    #17 I had forgotten the cover. Oh no :(

  20. 20
    swanstep on 10 Jul 2013 #

    @14, James BC. There are a bunch of other chords (even modulo key changes) both in the bridge to the chorus and in the middle eight. But I think you’re right that having the *same* 4-chord pattern for the main bits of both verses and choruses is a big part of what makes the song feel so static. That said, there are plenty of great songs (e.g., Chic’s Le Freak) that reuse patterns in this way. Normally, however, the reuse occurs because the pattern’s got incredible energy so that changing the vocal rhythm and timbres over the top brings out new aspects. That’s absolutely not the case here, so, e.g., the triple-stress vocal rhythm that Tom laments occurs in both the verses and the choruses, hence our finding the thing so deadly.

  21. 21
    Tom on 10 Jul 2013 #

    Yeah, there’s more to be said on this when we get to R Kelly’s own #1s, but he was obviously a believer in effect through repetition – I think it needs a different kind of singer, though. He’s also, it seems to me, going for a kind of lullaby effect – to work, the song ought to feel like a hug.

  22. 22
    James BC on 10 Jul 2013 #

    Should have got Ringo to sing it.

  23. 23

    Too busy right now to get into this — and besides, I’ve already written the massive incomprehensible essay on it (see #9 and #16) — but when it comes to HIStory and what came after, I very strongly maintain that if the person delivering such material had been based in the semi-academic avant-garde or the pop-industrial hinterlands, it would have been received with much more forgiving curiosity and (for MJ, if he knew how to hear it) useful and useable response. As a vanguardist, MJ is in one sense an outsider naif, of course — whose fault is this? his minders? his own? — but some of what made him an outsider is exactly what made Whitney Houston an outsider; as a performer, he was uncannily, stupendously gifted; as a professional, he was a quick study and very well-versed, to surprising depth, in musics that weren’t what you might call natural market neighbours; as a commercial property, he was vastly (not to say irresponsibly) cocooned. Deeply wounded by the horrific schedules of his youth and the ministrations of his actual sometimes nearly-as- horrific family, he was ever-more surrounded as he reached adulthood by people saying yes — not all of them good-hearted, some of them not very smart — and only very rarely in colloquy with people who “got” him (Quincy Jones, for example).

    (QJ is such an *extraordinarily* interesting figure — he flashes across the screen of the Ray Charles biopic as a kind of a proto-Kanye, and yet who the fuck has ever discussed or described him in these terms, at least at any length?)

    The timing and the times were all wrong for this kind of response — who really at the time could have picked up on what MJ was so incredibly plainly saying, so repeatedly? — but I do sometimes wish his work could be judged in the same critical universe as Blackout or Yeezus. IT IS SO RIGOROUSLY WEIRD AND RONG: what happens if we assume that all the RONG is deliberate, and artistic? Bcz some of it clearly is. It means treating failures as failures of high if opaque ambition rather than failures of foolish inadequacy. He wasn’t stupid, I don’t think.

    (This is admittedly an absurd song to choose to make this pitch from.)

  24. 24
    Tom on 10 Jul 2013 #

    I was playing Yeezus a lot while making notes for the next Jackson #1, actually.

  25. 25
    Tom on 10 Jul 2013 #

    Though TBF I was also playing Yeezus a lot while making notes for the next Robson and Jerome #1 so don’t read too much into it.

  26. 26

    Robson and Jerome: the Jeff Koons years

  27. 27
    Matt DC on 10 Jul 2013 #

    I had no idea this was written by R. Kelly – even at the time its resemblance to ‘I Believe I Can Fly’ was kind of comical.

  28. 28
    JLucas on 10 Jul 2013 #

    R Kelly did a much better job of writing for a troubled superstar with I Look To You by Whitney Houston, one of the most affecting songs she ever recorded.

    http://youtu.be/5Pze_mdbOK8

  29. 29
    Cumbrian on 10 Jul 2013 #

    I’m really struggling to think of anything to say about this beyond what Tom has already written in the original review. It does sound more than a little sad but I don’t find it especially compelling for all that. It’s very difficult to divorce my view of this from my view of him. His best music, by sheer force, makes me forget about his complicated personality (and my complicated feelings about him), but this doesn’t rise to that level. What I will say though is that, unlike a forthcoming bunny, it doesn’t really piss me off – probably because it is more focused on him than us than said bunny, so it has that in its favour at least. 4 seems about right.

    Stranger in Moscow was pretty good and I might be alone in this, but I thought Scream was pretty good as well (a real howl at the circus that had built up around him).

  30. 30
    Chelovek na lune on 10 Jul 2013 #

    I can’t remember Stranger In Moscow at all! And I was living in (a Russian-speaking) part of Ukraine for most of that year, so really don’t know how it was taken there. It certainly wasn’t a “Wind Of Change” (much taken to the hearts of post-communist Eastern Europeans, throwing good taste to the wind: or several songs by DJ Bobo, many crap, but one less so*, including the word “Freedom” in the title) to le monde russophone, anyway. Certain other of his songs (the bunny, the aforementioned “They Don’t Care About Us”, and to a very much lesser extent that either of those, this) were inescapable there at this time, but Stranger in Moscow not at all.

    *The “when love is the price, freedom is the cost” one. Rather jolly and melodious in fact.

  31. 31
    Tom on 10 Jul 2013 #

    “Stranger in Moscow” isn’t really about Moscow*, so I’m not surprised the Russian public was a bit baffled!

    *(except in the sense of the Moscow that exists on Earth-M, the Earth in Michael Jackson’s head. Of which more anon.)

  32. 32
    Another Pete on 10 Jul 2013 #

    Let’s not forget the promotional stunt for his album HIStory which must of been around this time that involved a giant statue of Michael Jackson being floating down the Thames. Maybe it’s this statue Mohammed Al-Fayed had in mind for Craven Cottage instead of one that looks like it was bought from a garden centre.

  33. 33
    wichita lineman on 10 Jul 2013 #

    The first appearance of R Kelly on Popular gives me the opportunity to share this extraordinary behind-the-scenes clip, just in case you haven’t already seen it:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cdaAWFoWr2c

    MILTON!

  34. 34
    Steve Mannion on 10 Jul 2013 #

    That is highly entertaining, although I was hoping for a line like “Girl what you think the R in my name stands for anyway…real talk”.

  35. 35
    Ed on 11 Jul 2013 #

    @16 – Yes! Sorry I forgot you. I had to go and re-read it. It’s a great piece.

  36. 36
    punctum on 11 Jul 2013 #

    Yet another entry I can’t write about because it comes from a number one album – and (despite my earlier miscalculations) there are three more of these to come in 1995. Was there ever such a concordance between number one singles and albums, and yet also such a disparate gulf?

  37. 37
    punctum on 11 Jul 2013 #

    So all I have to say about this record for the time being is…

    “YOUR BURGERS ARE THE BEST!”

  38. 38
    Steve Mannion on 11 Jul 2013 #

    re mapman’s Billboard stat at #5 – curious tho isn’t it that Jackson debuts at #1 AFTER the scandal and not before, and especially odd after the relative flop of ‘Scream’ (here at least, if only in the specific context of failing to make #1). I always loved the ‘Scream’ video tho – still the most expensive promo ever made (assuming no major could spend $6m on a clip post-Napster)?

    Back on the Prince entry there was talk of his general 90s decline despite actually topping the charts in the process. MJ’s equivalent trajectory surpasses that for relative oddness – although some rate much of his 90s stuff highly (I’m increasingly sympathetic to the argument that Dangerous is better than Bad), he didn’t even end up having fewer #1’s in his 30s than he did in his 20s.

    ‘Stranger In Moscow’ is indeed better, but then so is the MJ version of Portishead’s ‘Numbed In Moscow’ I just imagined. What if there’d been no cause for controversy in his ‘private’ life and untarnished he’d gazumped Madonna to recruiting William Orbit and Massive Attack as opposed to the more predictable idea of him just contemporising with R&B more ie Timbaland and hooking up with Rodney Jerkins much sooner than he did, or making more of the kind of pre-Kanye kind of weird/rongness Mark refers to which I would love to discuss more as I’m not quite sure what it amounts to re his post-Dangerous stuff. I am kinda stuck on the idea that MJ kept playing it too safe production-wise and really nothing after ‘Bad’ sounded like it couldn’t have actually been on ‘Bad’ (not to suggest ‘Bad’ is devoid of some stark inventive moments musically, and I loved the 25th anniversary documentary about its making from last year).

  39. 39
    Izzy on 11 Jul 2013 #

    One of many fascinating moments in This Is It had him almost wordlessly coaxing the-guy-with-the-laptop to make (iirc) The Way You Make Me Feel more … more … the way it is on the record. MJ looked more like a guy in love with the sounds he knew than one who wanted to play with the avant-garde.

    Which obviously isn’t a criticism when he synthesised so much of it into magnificent shapes already, and even in the 90s would still pull off unexpected things, like Scream or They Don’t Really Care About Us. I can’t imagine most of Madonna’s partners to hold any fascination for him (though he’d’ve got a kick out of Stuart Price).

  40. 40
    Tom on 11 Jul 2013 #

    #38 One effect of the accusations was to radicalise the fans a bit – it shrank the overall fanbase but if you were a Jackson fan afterwards there was a higher chance you would go all in on your fandom. Mobilised fanbase + pop world geared up to rewarding same w/first-week buys = more number ones. Not that any marketers were using 90s Jacko as a case study.

  41. 41
    JLucas on 11 Jul 2013 #

    I’m not sure Michael could ever have “done a Ray of Light”. Madonna may be his closest equivalent in terms of mind-boggling superstardom, but even she never felt quite as hobbled by the need for every album release to be an “event”. She was much more productive through the 80s and 90s, with albums that were big hits (Like a Prayer, True Blue) and albums that were more modestly received (Erotica, Human Nature). Every album Michael released had to live up to ‘Thriller’, and I don’t quite get the sense that for Madonna the expectation was the same.

    HItory Disc 2 is probably his most personal album, and even that was disguised behind a Greatest Hits package and ridiculous myth-making promotional gimmicks (the aforementioned statue).

    I’ve always thought it a shame that it’s never been released as a One-Disc. It is essentially an entirely new solo album of his, with some of his most famous hits, but more up to date or comprehensive hits packages post-HIStory Disc One have rendered it somewhat overlooked.

    Final point, I think Madonna was always more skilled at holding a part of herself back. When Jackson entered personal mode – as he does on a good half of HIStory -he has no barrier. It’s completely exposing in a way that worked wonderfully in some places (Moscow) and slipped into mawkishness or self-indulgence elsewhere (Childhood, D.S.)

    Ray of Light was and is the closest we’ll ever get to seeing the ‘real’ Madonna, but it was still another pose she was striking. She’s clearly made of stronger stuff, and knows the value of a calculated retreat. It’s unimaginable that she’d ever fall victim to an equivalent of the Bashir interview. Living his entire life in the spotlight, the art of withholding is a lesson Jackson never learned.

  42. 42
    Patrick Mexico on 11 Jul 2013 #

    Every time I hear this I think it’s Peter A****.

    Fine with Jacko’s aggressively gonzo brilliance in Billie Jean, Beat It, Don’t Stop.. et al, but even in his heyday found the ballads a little awkwardly saccharine, like munching through a naff kids’ breakfast cereal. Unfortunately, this is the eye of that storm. An easy 3. (But don’t write him off just yet!)

  43. 43
    swanstep on 11 Jul 2013 #

    @40, Tom. I think the impact of the accusations was much greater in the US than outside it. Someone mentioned upthread that YANA was MJ’s last #1 in the US, but really that understates the dropoff in support: MJ was barely in the US singles chart after this (‘You rock my world’ peaking at #10 is his only subsequent top 20 placing). The Tour to support HIStory had no dates in North America (2 concerts in Honolulu were as close as he got). In fact, AFAIK, two special anniversary concerts for MJ and the Jackson 5 in NYC in 2001 were MJ’s only gigs in North America post the Bad Tour in 1989, and of course ‘This Is It’ was going to be a London-only event. For someone as wedded to the idea of being a true mass entertainer as MJ was, and living in LA, this must have been misery- and crazy-making.

    @ Jlucas, 41. Agree that Madge possibly shrewdly holds stuff back. She’s been through some serious shit in her life but you’ll never figure that out from her lyrics. And for all her seeming self-exposure, she’s only talked about the genuinely nasty stuff (rapes, etc.) in interviews once or twice.

  44. 44
    Tom on 11 Jul 2013 #

    #43 The singles chart thing makes total sense. Airplay helps dictate the Billboard chart, and airplay includes a whole lot of other factors – including weighting “makes you not want to switch off” quite high since it’s a push medium not a pull one. So polarising acts don’t get it. (THere’s a good anecdotal story in a marketing book I read about how difficult it was to get “Hey Ya” – a huge sales and internet success by the standards of the time – accepted on radio.)

    But I don’t doubt there was a real decline in support too.

  45. 45
    mapman132 on 11 Jul 2013 #

    #43 & #44: I’d have to say this is definitely the case. MJ was radio poison in America from about 1993 to his sudden death, at which point, everything was apparently forgiven. The massive UK/European hit to come was never even released in the US – I doubt most Americans have even heard of it.

    Re: “Hey Ya”: Thought you were poking the bunny here, but apparently not. Anyway, I’m surprised to hear this, as I remember “Hey Ya” getting a lot of US airplay back in 2003. I guess it was a slight genre-buster though. But your overall analysis is definitely valid. The airplay component has kept the Hot 100 much more middle of the road than the UK and other national charts, which means fewer truly great or truly awful #1’s. This is starting to change a bit in the digital era, as traditional airplay gets less weight. Unfortunately the most extreme example yet is at the truly awful end of the scale (no bunny – congrats UK, but I still won’t mention it by name…).

  46. 46
    Tom on 11 Jul 2013 #

    #45 I looked up the book – its Charles Duhigg’s The Power Of Habit. I was misremembering slightly I think (my copy isn’t to hand) – it wasn’t about Hey Ya’s lack of airplay but about how it was difficult to get passive radio audiences to not switch off – they had to stagger the airplay in unusual ways IIRC. Anyhow I’m in the office tomorrow morning so I’ll look up what he says and what his sources were.

  47. 47
    Another Pete on 11 Jul 2013 #

    #43 Apparently one of the reasons for staging “This is it” in London was that in having stricter gun laws here in the UK alleviated his paranoia of being shot on stage. Maybe this is why he sparingly performed in his native US post-Bad.

  48. 48
    Kat but logged out innit on 11 Jul 2013 #

    I liked Scream and its video enough to buy it on cassingle (the only MJ output I’ve ever bought!), and it’s definitely in my Top 5 Nineties Jacko Tunes. All the squished-up squeals and whistles (from both MJ/JJ and the backing track) make me think of the animated kids’ show Bertha with its fizzing, popping factory production line — it’s not even that much of a stretch to think of Michael and Janet as toy aliens emerging from the conveyor belt at the end. (If Bertha is not your era, you could probably substitute Ivor The Engine‘s fssshticop sound.)

    YANA on the other hand = slow, basic, mushy, vom-worthy, almost stalkery sentiment. I can’t hear any of R Kelly’s usual playfulness/heartfelt emotion through the gloopy sad vocal of a weakened man going through the motions. How could these songs even be on the same album?

  49. 49
    Mark G on 11 Jul 2013 #

    I’m not sure MJ ever gave anything of his real self ever, he always struck me as an empty cipher for whatever emotion the song required. “Man in the mirror” was not even a reference to himself really, it was purely about convincing you that it was.

    That does not mean he did nothing of worth, quite the opposite.

  50. 50
    Alfred on 12 Jul 2013 #

    I thought I was going to be the first to mention the superiority of “Stranger in Moscow,” but I’ll confine my remarks to point out that thanks to its title it had no chance in hell of being a massive hit anywhere — even in Moscow.

  51. 51
    Ed on 12 Jul 2013 #

    @40 – “One effect of the accusations was to radicalise the fans a bit.”

    And how. This piece about fans following the case over Jackson’s death, now being heard in court in LA, opens a window onto the lives of the hardcore:

    http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-jackson-nation-20130627-dto,0,2758379.htmlstory

  52. 52
    Ed on 12 Jul 2013 #

    There’s a great passage at the end of Mark S’s piece in ‘The Resistible Rise…’ (see #9, #16), where he wonders about what will happen now the hellhounds have escaped from Jackson’s head and found homes in bilions of others. (Apologies for the crude paraphrase from memory.)

    The answer, apparently, is that like Obi Wan Kenobi or The Master, he’ll be everywhere.

    To name a few examples:

    He’s in that trial in LA, which has been full of glum details about his mental and physical condition in his final years.

    He’s in the new Justin Timberlake song, inevitably:
    http://www.hitfix.com/news/justin-timberlakes-bouncy-new-song-take-back-the-night-listen

    Increasingly, he’s in Justin Bieber:
    http://www.tmz.com/2013/06/21/justin-bieber-monkey-jet-miami-delay/

    He’s in ‘Random Access Memories’, as an absence. In part it’s an attempt to remake ‘Off The Wall’ / ‘Thriller’ with Jackson’s urgency replaced by Pharrell Williams’ casual self-confidence.

    And he’s in this, which might be terrible, but might be fun. I can’t tell. And it does have ‘Stranger in Moscow’:
    http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2013/may/24/michael-jackson-one-cirque-du-soleil-best-and-incl/#axzz2Ynw7naEu

  53. 53
    Ed on 12 Jul 2013 #

    @52 Erm, ‘The Resistible *Demise*…’, that should be.

  54. 54
    Tom on 12 Jul 2013 #

    #54 he needs a Greil Marcus figure to pull together / excavate / spin fairy tales around all the various strands of culture he’s spun out into. I’m still emotionally very tempted by the idea that he’s a break-point figure, a la Elvis, that pre-Michael, or rather pre-Thriller pop is a foreign era. But things are rarely that simple.

  55. 55
    punctum on 12 Jul 2013 #

    #54: be patient, I haven’t got to him yet.

  56. 56

    That Old Weird Neverland

  57. 57
    Dan Quigley on 12 Jul 2013 #

    Wichita @33: I’d somehow never seen that before, so many, many thanks! Wish R had written something more in this ‘Trapped in the Closet’ vein for Jackson than the track under discussion, although the desperate, almost free-tempo ad-libs(?) in YANA’s fade-out – a disquieting echo of the “Just look over your shoulder” moments in ‘I’ll Be There’ – go some way to balancing the stevia sweetness of the chorus.

  58. 58
    Kylie on 12 Jul 2013 #

    #15 I sang that on the playground too, haha!

  59. 59
    Ed on 13 Jul 2013 #

    Panstick Traces

  60. 60
    Patrick Mexico on 13 Jul 2013 #

    If there’s anything in this song’s defence it was that it wasn’t the chart hit of 1995 with the most monotonous chord structure – Enya’s Anywhere Is, well, is.

  61. 61
    Conrad on 16 Jul 2013 #

    This song reminds me of HMV in the days when I still lived in london, still bought CDs regularly, and enjoyed wondering around the oxford circus branch on a sunday morning before it got too busy.

    In fact so often did I do this that I soon realised I was hearing the same 3 or 4 songs on loop every sunday before midday, and this was always the one that played immediately before the tills opened! And it always made me feel slighly queasy. I’m not sure I liked any of the HMV looped selection. From memory, Losing My Religion was another.

  62. 62
    ciaran on 19 Jul 2013 #

    Not much going on here.The usual MJ slowie release from an album with more lively fare elsewhere.3.As boring as the other 70s/80s stars Number 1 in early 95 Cher,Hynde,Neneh and Clapton

    History was a big deal at the time but little stands out now.Scream was truly terrible.A complete waste of money that.

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