Feb 14

MICHAEL JACKSON – “Blood On The Dancefloor”

Popular82 comments • 7,690 views

#765, 3rd May 1997

blooddance “Blood On The Dancefloor” dates from the 1991 Dangerous sessions – and its rigid, peg-legged Teddy Riley production, full of choppy, cut-up synths, would fit with some of that record’s harsher contours – but it works as a coda to his Popular career, too. Surely “Earth Song” would have been a grander way to go out, fitting the heal-the-world fantasies of Jackson the philanthropist. But “Blood On The Dancefloor” is a truer epilogue – a narrow, claustrophobic song, the sound of Jackson slipping into what we know now as his twilight years. At this point, he’s still younger than I am writing this. But it’s not just hindsight that makes him sound worn out and ragged here.

In his glory days, a Jackson song would marry indelible tunes to mercurial performance, and dance across genres daring pop to keep up. Now what’s left is an instinct for how to structure a song – the hooks here are by no means his best but he knows when to drop them – an emotional palette shared by nobody else in pop, and a bag of vocal tics. “Blood On The Dancefloor” criss-crosses Jackson’s multiple voices to unnerving effect.

He’s using at least three different tones here. On the chorus – and its “to escape the world…” lead-in – he’s using his late-career anguished voice, the howl he unleashed to full effect at the end of “Earth Song”. At the start of the verses, he’s using his Bad-era tough-guy voice, but interspersing guttural, almost feral barks and grunts after the end of every line. And the verses devolve into a third voice – up close against your ear, words and sense breaking down into a tumble of muttered, consonants, with Jackson multi-tracking to talk over himself. It’s the cold sweat wordrush of “Smooth Criminal” taken to its incomprehensible endpoint. The effect is one of horrid, haunted, intimacy.

It’s a dramatization of a crack-up: “Blood On The Dancefloor” is an angry, fearful song – one of many, stretching back at least to its forebear “Billie Jean”, except here the ensnaring, vengeful woman is actually murdering Jackson. And it’s set as a tragedy – the King of Pop butchered, like Caesar, in the place of his greatest power. The meaning – an allegory for the accusations swirling around him – is transparent. Except, of course, the song predates them. Sometimes a paranoid fantasy is just a paranoid fantasy.

It’s an ugly, uneasy record, certainly a minor Jackson single, but Iike a lot of his later songs, I find it fascinating. Whichever of Jackson or Riley put the tiny vamps of keyboard at the ends of occasional lines deserves enormous credit – they keep the song moving, distract you from its nasty side enough to keep the song feeling like spectacle, not voyeurism. That momentum, the shrieked pre-chorus hook, and the delayed-gratification relief of the chords under the final chorus are why I enjoy “Blood On The Dancefloor” as much as I do. But the close-up whispering sections are effectively creepy – a clammy, Gollumish performance. Even here, the last time we’ll see him, Jackson is trying new ideas, pushing his performances, and making pop that sounds stiff and uncomfortable, but which could only be his.



  1. 1
    Tom on 27 Feb 2014 #

    And it’s goodbye to the Tories, too. For a while, anyhow. There’s no actual reason to talk about New Labour for a few more entries, though. (In my reviews, that is – chat away in the comments if you want. Whatever happened afterwards, that was a fun night to be in front of the TV)

  2. 2
    mapman132 on 27 Feb 2014 #

    Nothing to say about British politics, but I can say this record was pretty much ignored in the US in 1997 (Wikipedia says it got to #42 – surprised it managed that). MJ was pretty much a tabloid punchline in the US by this time – his albums still sold to hardcore fans but his singles didn’t get anywhere near the airplay to have much Hot 100 impact. I was surprised to see this hit #1 in the UK at the time – I assumed it was an older re-release (which it sort of was, originally recorded in 1991). Hearing it on first listen this weekend it actually wasn’t bad, even though I’m not a big MJ fan, especially from this era. Wavering between 5 and 6…what the heck, I’ll go 6.

  3. 3
    swanstep on 27 Feb 2014 #

    Yikes, a weak-tea ‘Rhythm Nation’ rip-off backing track and vocal rhythm, and a bizarre paranoid lyric that makes one question MJ’s sanity (and business sense – surely it was improbable that many people would be able to relate to the predicament described?).

    How did this get to #1 exactly? Is everyone so sure that Sony or whoever had a big stake in this didn’t bogusly self-purchase a whole bunch of copies? Better to release nothing than something this derivative and disturbed/eyebrow-raising. The interlaced vocal stylings at the three minute mark are still something special as Tom notes, but that’s not enough for me to give more than a:

  4. 4
    taDOW on 27 Feb 2014 #

    yeah the stuntcasting that had helped ‘scream’ and ‘you are not alone’ be smashes in the us hadn’t carried over into a real comeback and the latter singles underperformed similarly to the dangerous singles. this couldn’t even manage that, a true flop as opposed to a flop ‘by michael jackson’s standards’. it would’ve been one of the lesser dangerous singles if it hadn’t been cut and as there are dangerous album cuts better than some of the singles i can totally understand why it was cut but for a fairly autopilot track it’s decent. there are more ignominious exits on popular that’s for sure. 6.

  5. 5
    Alfred on 27 Feb 2014 #

    The great track from this album is “Morphine,” as dense as Nine Inch Nails but brittle and twitchy like prime Jackson. And the lyrics — well.

  6. 6
    Tom on 27 Feb 2014 #

    #3 Jackson still had enough fans in the UK to manage a fanbase number one – “Earth Song” had been his best selling single ever here, remember – so I doubt any more sinister mechanism is needed.

  7. 7
    lonepilgrim on 27 Feb 2014 #

    I’m not sure that I like this but it’s still morbidly(?) fascinating. MJ animates a cliched tale of violent betrayal with a conviction and dread that are reminiscent of Billie Jean, Thriller and others. A recurring nightmare.

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    Cumbrian on 27 Feb 2014 #

    Apart from Billie Jean, I reckon this is his best UK #1 (though as Tom pointed out on Michael Jackson’s first #1, apart from Billie Jean, the UK public seems to have managed to avoid sending some of his standout tracks to the top of the charts). It’s a retread of the lyrical themes of the likes of Billie Jean and Dirty Diana, with a touch of Smooth Criminal thrown in – and as such, although it’s got the paranoia and the uneasiness shot through it, he sounds simultaneously comfortable, like he’s on safe ground here, knows what he’s doing and is capable of throwing down. Marked against his other #1s, this would be a solid 8 or 9, with Billie Jean as a 10 – I mean seriously, check out that list of Michael Jackson #1s again. Against all other #1s, I think 7 is probably about right.

    On the recent U2 thread, I said I wanted them to try and push their envelope and that interesting failures by them are better, to my ears, than doing their safe stuff over and over, so I guess it is perverse of me to say that in the case of Michael Jackson I’d have been keen for him to stick to the stuff that he’d shown he was good at – but there you go.

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    Cumbrian on 27 Feb 2014 #

    Re: fanbase hits – Michael Jackson’s fanbase was capable of getting You Rock My World off Invincible to #2 and it was only kept off by a pretty “memorable” Kylie bunny. The Jackson fanbase is still pretty strong from what I understand. It wouldn’t surprise me if he got another #1 post death if they can dust something off that has wide enough appeal (there’s been talk of releasing the “State of Shock” duet with Freddie Mercury for instance – which as a combination of two large fanbases and with the right promotional push, could be the sort of thing that gets Michael Jackson back to #1).

  10. 10
    Speedwell54 on 27 Feb 2014 #

    Re 3 and 6.

    I don’t think the mechanism was sinister but there was ‘marketing’. I am sure he got all the usual stuff that was happening at the time, but also I think TOTP put this on before it was released which wasn’t something everyone could do. This alone could well have made this a no1.

    He still had a fan base and this was a return to the pattern of the 1st single from the album reaching No1, all the many singles after, don’t. (at the time this is being the only way to get the track)

    ‘I Just Can’t Stop Loving You’ then ‘Bad’,
    ‘Black or White’ then ‘Dangerous’
    ‘Blood On The Dance Floor’ then ‘Blood On The Dance Floor – History In The Mix’

    ‘You Are Not Alone’ and ‘Earthsong’ didn’t follow the pattern, but then again unlike BOTDF they both have a strong tune and some people other than Michael Jackson fans like the songs. They both stuck around for 9 weeks in the top 10 where as BOTDF fell to no 8 in week two and that was it.

    For me, from Dangerous onwards he started to release some songs that really do not stay in the memory. They are dominated by the industrial drumbeat, contain whispered vocals that are way back in the mix, and are littered with the usual moans, groans, yelps, gasps and other vocal tics.

    No one hums ‘In The Closet’, ‘Who Is It?’ is a “pointless” answer, and ‘Blood On The Dance Floor’ is in this group of tracks that sound like they are a ‘re imagining’ of a remix of his earlier stuff.

    3 from me.

    Cumbrian re ‘State of Shock’. It could happen and it’s not a bad track. It would be a marketing thing. They could even use Jagger and Turner as well!

  11. 11
    swanstep on 27 Feb 2014 #

    Checking now, BOTD got to #1 in NZ too (and spent two weeks at #3 before hitting the top) and got to #5 in Australia. So I guess it has broader appeal at least among the faithful than I imagined. No suspicious record company behavior necessary!

  12. 12
    Izzy on 27 Feb 2014 #

    This was the big step in my reëvaluating Michael Jackson, after having had him down as irrelevant and increasingly in-the-way since Dangerous, and nothing in the run through to Earth Song causing me to change my mind.

    I spent a little time in Tunisia at the start of 1997. There was a pretty relaxed club we frequented which played a mix of mainstream pop-dance older hits and contemporary francophone pop. One night someone turned up with what, going by when this hit no.1, must have been a pre-release of Blood On The Dancefloor.

    I hesitate to say the place went mental – it really wasn’t that kind of place – but the local kids certainly went for this in a huge way. They were throwing all kinds of moves to a first listen, it was quite extraordinary and completely unlike the reception any other track ever got. I think MJ may have played Tunis on one of his world tours, which must have been pretty unusual and nailed down the affection. It was brilliant, and a huge surprise, to see that for cooler kids than I he was still the man.

    Anyway seeing that reaction changed my perspective to a big extent – plus it’s a great, visceral record and still is – such that I got a similar huge kick from You Rock My World a couple of years later. Like: not only has he still got it, he always had it. (9)

  13. 13
    JLucas on 27 Feb 2014 #

    #10 I could totally hum In The Closet, and Who Is It is amazing!

    I find Jackson’s post-imperial work generally more interesting than the Thriller and Bad stuff. It’s less iconic, but was there ever a pop star more lacking in any kind of filter? (At least in the pre-Twitter age). The combination of superbudget-pop and naked vulnerability is fascinating, even if it sometimes slips into something quite uncomfortable to hear. I also think the Dangerous album is an undervalued masterpiece of New Jack Swing. A couple of the gloopier ballads aside, it’s a fantastic album.

    This is serviceable, not one of his best but far from his worst. 7 from me. Blood On The Dancefloor feels like a bit of a wash-up project from the HIStory album, although ‘Morphine’ is certainly creepily prophetic.

    As we won’t be discussing it later, hasn’t You Rock My World aged well? The album was his weakest by some distance, but the song still sounds great. I remember it was massively derided at the time, quite unfairly in retrospect.

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    sükråt tanned rested unlogged and awesome on 27 Feb 2014 #

    Agreed that “Who Is It?” is astonishing (lyric: “I am the damned/I am the dead/I am the agony inside a dying head” — wtf omg wait whut ect ect…)

    By now MJ has become the most unguardedly avant-garde musician operating at the toppermost/(anti)poppermost level of the entertainment industry since, well, maybe John&Yoko in the last days of the Beatles. Except , if anything, his level of isolated unhappiness and disenchanted anger is more extreme — and of course Lennon had during divorce proceedings become quite hostile to (McCartney-sanctioned) complexity of production and arrangement: he declared it a betrayal of all that rock’n’roll is/was about, and favoured nakedness of delivery and quasi-nakedness of presentation. By contrast, Jackson increasingly pushes in both directions at once: nakedness and complexity of collage-juxtaposition of elements.

    [update: edited for clarity]

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    Tommy Mack on 27 Feb 2014 #

    There’s nothing a teenager despises more than that that he/she adored as a child. When Dangerous came out, I remember playing it over and over again, finding it completely perfect: Bad sounded positively old-fashioned by comparison. He was The Man and he was leading pop boldly from the front (I now realise that, by 1991, he probably wasn’t but I owned about three tapes so as far as i was concerned, New Jack Swing (not that I knew it had a name back then) was His thing (capital H intentional!))

    I’d agree Dangerous is undervalued: his most consistent album since Off The Wall (although that’s somewhat disingenuous: Thriller is only uneven in the sense that its peaks are so stratospherically high that even the fine tracks around them can’t quite match their impact)

    By 1996-7, he was, to my mates and I, at best a punchline to a playground joke and at worst, genuinely an annoyance, a creepy, needy old fart, hanging round, still getting plastic surgery to ‘pretend’ to be young: an embarassing reminder of the bygone pop era of our childhood. We were practically grown ups now and we were listening to proper grown-up music by the sort of sussed, arrogant young men we would no doubt soon be. I started getting into Pulp after having been ho-hum on them after Jarvis’ Brits antics and I know plenty of mates felt the same – prior to this there would have been little playground cache in publicly alligning yourself with a pervy gimp like Jarvis…

    All of which goes to say that this passed me by at the time and for the worst possible reasons. I’ll give it a spin and try to post some thoughts on what it sound like to me now…

  16. 16
    Steve Mannion on 27 Feb 2014 #

    This sounded so unpleasantly dated and out of place to me back then (which the likes of the rising Timbaland only magnified). I found the same with ‘You Rock My World’ a few years later which felt like another case of a hip new producer washing out their sound for an artist who couldn’t afford to take risks in that way – an interesting contrast in perception with some of the above comments (but again I’m a little less harsh on both now).

  17. 17
    Billy Hicks on 27 Feb 2014 #

    I don’t think I’d heard this at all until June 26th, 2009 – the date being memorable for two reasons, one the obvious and also iTunes tell me it’s the same day I added to my music library. The energetic opening caught me by surprise as after You Are Not Alone and Earth Song I presumed Jackson stuck to soppy ballads for the last few years or so of his career. But the four minutes don’t hold my attention enough to make me listen to the end, I’d give this a 5 at most.

    I think many casual chart fans would be surprised when they look at his post-1995 career as there’s a hell of a lot more fairly big hits than most people remember. You Rock My World as mentioned was a shock #2 in 2001 (‘shock’ simply for not charting a place higher), then even in late 2003, right at the time of his second arrest, the now completely forgotten ‘One More Chance’ was another one that charted top 5 here but flopped at number 83 in the US, in what turned out to be his last original single before his death. A major re-issue of all his singles took place in 2006, most charting in the top 20 with Billie Jean the highest (#11) and this one recharting at a not too shabby #19. Then of course there’s 2009, ‘Man in the Mirror’ being a hugely unfair #2 given the dreadful record that, erm, ‘beat it’ in a Jackson-dominated singles and album chart, and a further top 10 hit with ‘Hold My Hand’ a year later.

    As for New Labour, that’s a hugely memorable day for eight year old me. My mum tuned in not to BBC1 but BBC2, who ran both a special Have I Got News For You and a comedic election programme featuring Armando Iannucci, Steve Coogan etc which I thought was the real one and didn’t understand why the audience kept laughing at what was surely meant to be a serious programme. Being a huge Labour supporter she tried to explain to me why this was an incredible day and why the man with the big grin was going to be so much better than the one with grey hair and glasses and the world was going to change for the better. Meanwhile my Dad sat in the corner, grumbling “He’s just as much a Tory as Major”. I was confused. And still am, to be honest.

  18. 18
    Billy Hicks on 27 Feb 2014 #

    Bonus 1997 Jackson memory – hearing the sound of his Wembley Stadium show through the air, listening to it out the window. I still live near the stadium but the masses of extra soundproofing added to the new stadium make hearing it mostly a thing of the past.

  19. 19
    iconoclast on 27 Feb 2014 #

    I honestly can’t think of much to say about this. It’s not especially notable or remarkable in any way and gets a bit boring. SIX.

  20. 20
    Rory on 27 Feb 2014 #

    Missed this at the time. Halfway through the track I was ready to give it a 4 or 5, but the end lifts it to 5 or 6 territory (so Billy @18, maybe give it another try?). I don’t know how often I’d want to hear it, though, so might give it a man-in-the-middling 5.

    Great silhouette on the sleeve – immediately recognisable. Is he wearing the Elephant Man’s hood, though? Must have been a job lot.

  21. 21
    thefatgit on 27 Feb 2014 #

    As this had been recorded in 1991, I’d have imagined MJ was entirely familiar with Trent Reznor’s Nine Inch Nails and The Young Gods. I wonder if Teddy Riley was as keen as MJ? It wouldn’t have been a mis-step to employ Flood to produce as Reznor did on “Pretty Hate Machine” and come up with something that could be described as Massive AtTackhead. How remarkable would that have been? Instead Riley played down the IDM and forced BOTD into an R&B straitjacket. BOTD’s drenched in paranoia, entirely suited to a much more muscular and visceral backdrop, where his vocal tics povide texture and context. The dancefloor becomes a dungeon. But then perhaps for Michael, the dancefloor has always been a dungeon.

    Compare this to “Billie Jean” and yes there are similarities, but Billie Jean is human and relatable. BOTD is monstrous, disturbing even. It’s sad for me that Popular parts company with MJ this way.

  22. 22
    sükråt tanned rested unlogged and awesome on 27 Feb 2014 #

    Obviously there are many worse sadnesses and possibly badnesses in MJ’s story, but I’m always a little melancholy that after c.1982 he wasn’t quizzed more closely on what he was listening to, by people with ears to hear. Of course unlike a million bad bands listing their “influences”, he didn’t desperately need to borrow authority, and so might not have answered such questions usefully: this being exactly the kind of promo-process banter he was so (justifiably) leery of. My ungrounded guess has always been that he listened widely and (as a phenomenally able dancer and singer) well: that the lack of a link between him and us in one media territory doesn’t imply lack of a shared knowledge-base in others. But who knows?

    (Teddy Riley’s talked a little about working with MJ, but no one’s really asking him the right questions either.)

  23. 23
    leveret on 27 Feb 2014 #

    I must admit, I took the lyrics of this as being metaphorical. Rather than the ensnaring, vengeful woman actually murdering Jackson, I took it as her being out to ruin him in some other way, or even another paternity claim theme like Billie Jean (“She got your baby/It happened fast/If you could only/Erase the past”). Still pretty paranoid stuff mind you.

    Without wishing to open cans of worms, I’ve never been able to buy into any of the songs that present Jackson as some kind of ladies’ man. A bit like his marriages, these seem to smack of unconvincing attempts to portray himself as just a regular guy.

    I do rather like this tune overall, though. 7 seems about right. It more or less passed me by at the time. The fact that it dates from 1991 explains a lot, as it has a very early 90s or even late 80s kind of sound palette. Infinitely preferrable to the turgidity and messiah complex of Earth Song.

  24. 24
    Tommy Mack on 27 Feb 2014 #

    #22: In the Christmas issue of the NME, 2000 (or maybe 2001), MJ headed a list of artists giving their top picks from the preceding year. I remember an editorial note saying none of his picks were actually from the year in question and sprawled into films as well but ‘f*ck it, it’s Michael Jackson, we’re not going to quibble.’ The only specific thing I remember from his list was Coldplay’s Parachutes, which disappointed me greatly, even though I was no longer a big MJ fan.

  25. 25
    Tom on 27 Feb 2014 #

    There’s an element of metaphor in there – I mean, I don’t know what standard blade lengths in the USA are/were but getting killed on a dancefloor by ‘seven inches’ is a resonant choice – but they’re all swirling around unfixed, and so the literal reading looms larger than any of them.

    (Actually the song doesn’t make it clear it’s Jackson getting murdered – it’s an unknown “you” all through – but it’s hard not to feel he’s not singing about himself here)

  26. 26
    Andrew Farrell on 27 Feb 2014 #

    As per Cintra Wilson’s (unavailable online, I think) essay on MJ, I think almost any attempt to portray him as a ‘regular guy’ makes very little sense – but particularly in the realm of The Ladies.

  27. 27
    sükråt tanned rested unlogged and awesome on 27 Feb 2014 #

    Whatever intermittent attempts he may have made to come across as ordinary are just swamped in the flood of successful instances of coming across as really quite odd: his autobiography is after all called Moonwalk

  28. 28
    James BC on 27 Feb 2014 #

    The comments above about MJ’s number ones all being sub-par seem a bit unfair to Black Or White – to me, that’s by far the best song on its album and his last truly great track. Its release felt like a massive event and both song and video lived up to the hype (weird car-smashing bit aside). (I have a liking for I Just Can’t Stop Loving You, too, but it is low-key.)

    This isn’t anywhere near that league, though. In fact I don’t even remember much hype for this album, which seems odd. Perhaps it was because of the accusations.

  29. 29
    Tom on 27 Feb 2014 #

    Quick interruption: I’ll hype this more at the start of the next entry, but I’ve set up a side-Tumblr to Popular here – http://notquiteaspopular.tumblr.com/ – at which I will post no discussion or analysis (so you will miss absolutely nothing by NOT following it). But it will have videos of all the hits we’re covering, and relevant additional material sometimes too. The additional material may be out of sequence so beware mild spoilers. And some of the additional material will be inspired by comments here, and I’ll credit it as such.

    It seemed a good way of promoting the site on Tumblr and also putting up interesting side material without clogging up FT.

  30. 30
    Cumbrian on 27 Feb 2014 #

    #28: They’re not all sub-par. Billie Jean is great.

    Black Or White is not one of my favourites – moralising like Man In The Mirror without as strong a tune. I’d also be much more likely to join Izzy’s Tunisian friends on the dancefloor for this, rather than Black Or White. I definitely prefer the rhythm to BOTD than BOW, even if he’s mumbling the lyrics and it’s not as good as some of his other works. BOW isn’t even the best single off Dangerous in my view – much prefer Remember The Time and Who Is It to be honest.

  31. 31
    James BC on 27 Feb 2014 #

    Sorry, yes, everyone agrees that Billie Jean is the exception so I was ignoring it.

    I love the Slash guitar riff in Black Or White. I think that type of arrangement suits his voice a lot better than the heavier r’n’b ones – he’s at his best when his vocal is given space, and the r’n’b stuff, BOYD being a prime example, gets far too claustrophobic. I know that’s the intention of the track but it doesn’t play to his strengths in my view.

  32. 32
    Cumbrian on 27 Feb 2014 #

    I might be wrong but I think Slash only plays on the skit intro at the start of it. The jangly guitar riff that is in BOW proper doesn’t sound like him at all (wary of this, as guitarists can obviously play different instruments and through different effects pedals – but that riff just doesn’t sound like Slash and given Beat It, I’d have thought that if Jackson has Slash on the track he’d want him to sound like himself, like EVH does on Beat It).

    Different strokes for different folks obviously – I much prefer this sort of claustrophobic, paranoid dancefloor track to his more rock based work and I probably prefer stuff like You Rock My World to it too. Though, to be totally truthful, I think none of it really beats the disco orientated stuff from Off The Wall.

    Funny thing, having written that out, he’s tried an awful lot of stuff has Michael Jackson, a lot more than I first thought and perhaps more than he is given credit for (though I am wary of this too – I don’t spend a lot of time reading articles about him, so don’t know his critical rep that well).

  33. 33
    James BC on 27 Feb 2014 #

    Oh, OK. Interesting. My liking for the arrangement still stands, Slash or no Slash.

    It’s funny, I never put Black Or White in the same preachy category as Heal the World or Man In The Mirror. Obviously the lyric does have that anti-racist message, but it’s worn very lightly; the song as a whole is too silly to sound overly moralising.

  34. 34
    AMZ1981 on 27 Feb 2014 #

    It’s a fanbase number one, in and out of the top forty in four weeks (1-8-21-36). His previous single, Stranger In Moscow (number 4 in November 1996) managed one more than that despite having an 18 month old parent album available. A glance at the sales figures on Wikipedia suggests that had it come out a week earlier R Kelly would have held him at bay by 2,000 copies.

    I was hoping I’d be the first to mention that this record’s week at the top was the same as that of Blair’s landslide; although viewing it as the last record of the Tory era seems more apt. At the risk of bunnying – when Blair finally left office ten years on the top spot was occupied by an RnB star – only 9 years old at the time – whose music was as thrilling and untouchable as Jackson’s was at his peak.

  35. 35
    Tom on 27 Feb 2014 #

    It would be more apt if the two songs were swapped – hugely popular and inclusive hit to begin with, knives-out paranoia at the end.

  36. 36
    Tom on 27 Feb 2014 #

    Songs about Blair (especially the early Blair era) are pretty thin on the ground. Saint Etienne’s “Heart Failed” mentions the 97 election, Pet Shop Boys “I Get Around” is Blair/Mandelson fanfic, Pulp’s “Cocaine Socialism” will be relevant in a few entries time….

  37. 37
    Andrew Farrell on 27 Feb 2014 #

    #9: I’ve never heard of that track before, but I’d definitely be interested in buying it, particularly to give him one last #1 – which is an interesting urge to have, as the article on the last entry make me certain to buy another R. Kelly song as long as I live (not that I was that likely in fairness – though I may have to think about things when Gaga puts out a hits collection).

    #32: His critical rep is as I understand it that he invented modern pop – how far this gets him with any given critic varies of course.

    #34: I think you mean that they were 9 when this track came out – also I think you may be dangerously insane, but we’ll get to that in 2007.

  38. 38
    Andrew Farrell on 27 Feb 2014 #

    Chumbawamba’s Amnesia, the next single after Tubthumping, was very angry about New Labour – though as is usually the case with them it’s all very pointed after the liner notes have clued you in. It sank without much of a trace, which was possibly a good thing for them – it was probably their best chance to have a hit on purpose, and continuing doing whatever they wanted served them afterwards. It was also completely great:)

  39. 39
    Chelovek na lune on 27 Feb 2014 #

    I left the (Scottish) Labour Party immediately after Tony Blair was elected as the (British) Party’s leader – I saw right away that No Good was going to come of that, and I still maintain I was right. As it happens where I was in May 1997 (geographically and socially, as well as mentally, intellectually and emotionally) was more or less immune to both the appeal of New Labour (they came fourth in the constituency where I lived, with 10% of the vote) and (cue dodgy segue) this record. I actually have no recollection of hearing it then at all. Although discovering that it had been recorded several years earlier makes a great deal of sense – the sound does fit in much more with some of the (better) “Dangerous” tracks than it does with what MJ did slightly later.

    But…but…but…while some of the comments here make me think that I should go back and pay some more attention to this song, my sense is that it really is rather less than the sum of its parts: there are a LOT of classic, characteristic, MJ touches – both musically and vocally – quite a few elements from his 80s (and especially Bad) box of tricks are thrown in here. (I did think…is it a kind of remake/homage to “Smooth Criminal” in places, with a Susie taking the place of an Annie…?).But…the song isn’t strong enough to stick in the mind, or (it seems to me) to make a lasting impression. I just find a bit dull, in. Certainly not atrocious or shameful or embarrassing- but I can why it essentially was a fanbase purchase. A 5 or so.

  40. 40
    AMZ1981 on 28 Feb 2014 #

    #37 as by the time 2007 rolls around on Popular this thread will be forgotten I’ll reply now. Firstly I did mean 9 years old in 1997.

    I’m not sure of my insanity is down to the MJ comparison which might have been a little bit of an overstatement (although few could deny they were the biggest stars of their respective eras and both crossed genre boundaries) or the `thrilling and untouchable` – let’s just say that I’m a classic rock fan who long ago lost interest in the charts but I’ve downloaded a lot of the Bunny’s songs after hearing them in clubs and thinking, `this is a good song`.

  41. 41
    enitharmon on 28 Feb 2014 #

    I had my own reservations about the advent of Blair but I hung in there. Some funny people started appearing at party branch meetings and gave me a rough ride as CLP chair and in the run up to the election (I was a candidate for Bristol City Council the same day as the 1997 election). I had my own count to attend at 10 the following morning and given that I’d been enjoying some very lavish MSF hospitality during the night and only managed to snatch an hour’s sleep in an armchair at a friend’s house. I won by 73 votes. It wasn’t a happy half-a-term as a city councillor. But it was a heady night and there really was a sense of a new dawn that day, and not just amongst the party hacks. People were smiling in the street. It was a gloriously warm, sunny day. And to be fair that first term wasn’t at all bad; the rot set in after 2001 when Blair became cocksure of himself, the old party guard got pushed out and the new breed of political anoraks, hothoused in the universities and the think tanks, came into favour. But by then I’d left the party and the council in disgust.

    The song? Nothing to say about it beyond its marking a socio-political landmark. The country and indeed the world was changing fast and soon the old cultural order would be unrecognisable. In 2014 global communications are part of the fabric, even for me it’s hard to remember life without it and a whole generation has grown up since 1997 without knowing anything else, but in 1997 the internet was still mainly the preserve of IT geeks and journalists. Not many people had broadband access and it was funky to have a pager never mind a mobile phone. We were talking in another thread about seismic cultural shifts; one on the scale of 1963 is just ahead, but not quite yet.

  42. 42
    Will on 28 Feb 2014 #

    I was in Bristol on Friday 2nd May 1997 Rosie, and yes I remember it too as a gorgeous sunny day with much smiling between strangers. At that point I’d waited over two thirds of my life for the moment. Not that I ever thought Blair would right all of the wrongs of the Thatcher era, but like many I at least thought he’d be a social democrat.

  43. 43
    wichitalineman on 28 Feb 2014 #

    I woke up in Liverpool on May 2nd 1997. I’d been DJing at a club called Liquidation the night before but obviously everyone just wanted to watch the TV once the results started coming, including me, so the music finished around 12.30 (I think). It was a good city to be in for the Portillo result.

    Going to buy a pint of milk the next morning, everyone was smiling. I think everyone had their doubts as well, but it felt as close to being inside an old Ealing film as life has ever got, if only for a few hours.

    On May 1st 1998, me and my girlfriend went to the fabled Granita restaurant on Upper Street (for some reason, I thought other people might do the same thing), already pretty disillusioned.

    What an odd song to soundtrack the end of the Tory government.

  44. 44
    Kinitawowi on 28 Feb 2014 #

    Northwest Norfolk saw the departure of Henry Bellingham MP; my corner of the country briefly turned red, having been Toryland since 1974 (except for a brief two year period when the incumbent changed to SDP).

    Pretty much nothing changed.

    Four years later, he won his seat back again. Pretty much nothing changed.

    Thirteen years later, he’s still there. Pretty much nothing has changed.

    (Northwest Norfolk as a constituency is a political deadspot; it has nothing to offer the country – the agriculture is further east, the industry further north, the finance further south – so nobody cares about it.)

  45. 45
    Ed on 28 Feb 2014 #

    @36 I hadn’t spotted that reference in ‘Heart Failed’. I love the song, but never had any idea what it was about.

    Now I’m wondering if it was an early foreshadowing of this sort of thing: http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/feb/26/tony-blair-new-labour-hero-political-embarrassment-murdoch

  46. 46
    Ed on 28 Feb 2014 #

    As for BOTD, I can’t really think of a more appropriate record to be the last number one of John Major’s government: the tension, the paranoia, the anxiety, the curdled sexuality. And above all, the sense of being an oppressive 80s hangover, a bleak reminder of a happier and more glorious time.

  47. 47
    tm on 28 Feb 2014 #

    In my school there were 17 year old boys with their heads in their hands who genuinely thought the country was going to go to pot now the reds were in. Wilmslow was a weird place to grow up.

  48. 48
    punctum on 28 Feb 2014 #

    It must have been, if people thought politics was snooker.

  49. 49
    Mark M on 28 Feb 2014 #

    In the spirit of historical balance, I should point out that – in London at least – the weather was perfect the day after the 1992 election. I remember vividly the contrast between my mood and the sky above…

    My memories of 1997 go slightly counter to the wider story of the time. I celebrated on election night with my family, but next day at work, very few people seemed excited. I was working at PA Listings, in sprawling open plan office of bright, ambitious twentysomethings doing a job to pay their way before their more creative other projects became financially viable – almost everyone was either also writing for magazines or had a novel or a film or a band or internet idea on the bubble. Just the kind of group of people you’d expect to be buzzing about a change of government, having had the Tories in power since they were children. But as I remember it, only a few people were saying anything, and oddly enough, I went for lunch with the office’s only avowed Tory.

  50. 50
    Cumbrian on 28 Feb 2014 #

    1992 election night, I was 11, and remember going to bed thinking “it will all be different in the morning” and the following morning was characterised by being disappointed when it wasn’t (Dad was a teacher, Mum worked in Health Care, lived in a city rather than the rural part of Cumbria – the house was pretty staunch Labour as a result).

    1997’s result was so obvious, and I knew more about the process by then anyway and was more clued up on exit polls and the like, that the following morning was more like a coronation plus schadenfreude (take that Portillo!).

  51. 51
    enitharmon on 28 Feb 2014 #

    tm @ 47: Whereas I spent the early part of the night, between the initial excitement of Sunderland and the main flow of result potting reds (but not being much of a snooker/pool player seldom getting beyond the odd red). Portillo was a big moment but for us the highlight was the scarcely believable demise of our own Willie Waldegrave. And the night was summarised for me by the flashed “LAB gain Hove”.

  52. 52
    Andrew Farrell on 28 Feb 2014 #

    #40 – I could probably deny the “biggest star of their respective era” all day, unless you added “not counting Beyonce, of course”, in there – apart from anything else, her star has been eclipsed by her story by now.

  53. 53
    Tom on 28 Feb 2014 #

    #52 – I think R. is as big or bigger than ever (there are two enormous relatively recent bunnies) and it’s certainly not clear cut that she’s less big than B. I think whether you’re more in touch with teens or 20somethings may skew the answer a bit. Who I prefer (at least recently) is a lot easier to answer but a different question!

  54. 54
    Tom on 28 Feb 2014 #

    And I don’t think – especially in ‘the social media era’ – star and story are remotely separable as ideas. (Both women are FANTASTIC at using the media of their time, in the way Jackson realised and exploited the possibilities of video very quickly.)

  55. 55
    Andrew Farrell on 28 Feb 2014 #

    …neither of which I have heard, so I will bow out.

  56. 56
    Andrew Farrell on 28 Feb 2014 #

    Although actually (crowd groans) the story eclipses the star when it escapes from them – for all R.’s social media nous, the Salient Facts about her in the larger world for a while were #2 “You remember, Ella ella ella, all that summer” and #1 “Did you see that photo?” / “She’s back with him now”.

  57. 57
    Steve Williams on 28 Feb 2014 #

    #17 The Election Night Armistice was on BBC2 on election night and I watched the whole thing, because I was a big fan of the Armistice, but to be honest it was all completely overshadowed by the proper coverage. The main stories were flashed up on screen throughout and within the first two minutes we had “LABOUR LANDSLIDE” on the screen and I was totally distracted, and later the audience laughed longer and harder at the news Portillo was out than anything the Armistice actually did. Course last time out we had C4’s Alternative Election Night, which became Ten O’Clock Live, but both of those were interesting elections and when we’d had boring elections like 2001 and 2005, we’ve not had anything like that.

    One thing about the day after the election (which I also remember as being a gloriously sunny day) is that Top of the Pops, which of course was by now on a Friday, opened with D:Ream performing Things Can Only Get Better which had been re-released for obvious reasons, which I thought seemed a bit unusual because there was an obvious political context to it and you wouldn’t generally invite on a band to perform a re-release from only a few years ago (Radio 1 certainly weren’t playing it), but presumably on 2nd May it was now considered fair game.

    As for Blood on the Dancefloor, it goes back to the idea that if you were to ask the public to name Michael Jackson’s number ones they’d get them all wrong, and this must be the least memorable. On Secret Fortune the other year the contestants were asked to rank four of his songs by chart position and put Thriller top, as I knew they would, but of course that only got to number ten, due to a combination of the video not being ready until after the release and it being the umpteenth track off the album.

    This is going wildly off the point but on a chart-stats-on-lottery-quizzes tip, the other week on Who Dares Wins they had to name as many number ones of the eighties as they could and the second they said Do They Know It’s Christmas I knew they were going to say Last Christmas because they had Christmas on the brain. And they did, and lost.

  58. 58
    Kat but logged out innit on 28 Feb 2014 #

    The momentous events of that week weren’t lost on me – after years in the wilderness, finally a ray of hope shone out and I was overwhelmed with the feeling that finally the UK was getting back on its feet again: WE FVCKING WON EUROVISION YOU GUYS

  59. 59


  60. 60
    Tommy Mack on 28 Feb 2014 #

    Enitharmon @ 51: I should clarify that I was not one of the teenage tory boys with their heads in their hands (who were anyway, exagerating their political convictions to rain on their leftie teachers’ parade). I was a surly teen and the tories were definitely the enemy. My dad (old Labour but hardly committed) woke me up, telling me that the Tories had won a surprise landslide and then laughing at my shocked and appalled reaction. It was a good day.

  61. 61
    Tommy Mack on 28 Feb 2014 #

    58/59 – was that K & The Ws (assume it’s bunnied?)

  62. 62
    Rory on 28 Feb 2014 #

    #61 Can we spoil the spoiler bunny? No, it wasn’t bunnied.

  63. 63
    Tom on 28 Feb 2014 #

    Yeah, 16 years of hurt wasn’t enough to get it to #1!

  64. 64


  65. 65
    Tommy Mack on 28 Feb 2014 #

    Oh shit, I’ve only just remembered it wasn’t Walking On Sunshine. What was it called? Shine a Light? Meh. I can’t even muster enough enthusiasm to say it was terrible.

  66. 66
    tm on 28 Feb 2014 #

    Finally listened to BOTDf: turns out I knew it all along: solid enough Dangerous-era MJ to these ears, some great touches (the bassline, some of the keyboard stabs) but it wouldn’t have been a stand out track had it been on the original album. Also it’s a pretty weak intro for MJ. 6.

  67. 67
    Kat but logged out innit on 28 Feb 2014 #

    Agreed that ‘Love Shine A Light’ was weak sauce but I didn’t care. Even my terrible indie-snobbishness couldn’t stop me watching Eurovision and rooting for whoever. I think I’ve only missed ONE since I was first old enough to stay up for the voting and that was 2004 – Ruslana and her Wild Dances.

  68. 68
    Lazarus on 28 Feb 2014 #

    #57 re: General public being able to identify MJ’s UK number 1s, I reckon if you asked a sample of reasonably pop-savvy 20-50 year olds 90% would get Billie Jean, 70% Black or White and Earth Song, 50% One Day in your Life, 35% I Just Can’t Stop Loving You and maybe 20% this. Deservedly. You can barely hear him on the verse, which I’ve forgotten before we’re through the chorus, and I’ve forgotten the chorus within three minutes of the song finishing … 4.

  69. 69
    Lazarus on 28 Feb 2014 #

    Too late to edit – I’m going with 75% You Are Not Alone – memorable video and not that long ago (as long as we’re not asking people who never listen to anything but Radio 4, of course …)

  70. 70
    Speedwell54 on 1 Mar 2014 #

    Re 57 & 68. I agree that “Blood On The Dance Floor” is his least memorable No1and I think a few would struggle to bring Earth Song to the table chiefly due to the title not being mentioned. (If it had been called “What about us ?” or “Aaaaahhhhhh”, there might be a few more takers.)

    Forgive my pedantry here, but on THIS post and subsequent comments about THIS song, thus far, no one can get the ‘bloody’ title right. It’s “Dance Floor” not Dancefloor or BOTDF not BOTD or BOTDf. Rant over.

  71. 71
    Doctor Casino on 2 Mar 2014 #

    This is a fine enough track, but very much an ‘album cut’ – sure I’ve heard it before, just as sure I won’t remember it much tomorrow. Grab-bag of tics, yes, but at this point really feels like autopilot and suffers from the lag between its home album and its release, which makes it feel like he’s venturing back into very well-trodden territory: this is the clatter of “Jam” trying to reach the intensity of “Who Is It?” without delivering the payoffs of either. 4 or 5 – I bet it does sound pretty good on the dancefloor.

  72. 72
    ciaran on 2 Mar 2014 #

    Not a bad effort but BOTD sounds very much like 5-10 years out of time.

    I enjoyed it at the time but it wasn’t played all that much on the radio.Surprised Tom liked it as much. Surprisingly pleasant now. 6

  73. 73
    Weej on 3 Mar 2014 #

    Isn’t this the oddest number one in a while? It sounds like a remix of the sixth single off an album, not a comeback, but that’s what a fanbase hit is all about, I suppose. MJ sounds like the oldest new jack swinger in town, stuck seven years behind, which in the 90s R&B world is an age. It’s a shame this is our final chance to talk about him, but Earth Song should really have been his swansong.

  74. 74
    Martin F. on 4 Mar 2014 #

    Since it’s related to the recent part of the discussion thread, the BBC’s attempt to cap the subsequent stretch of hurt at 17 years was premiered tonight:


    Quite the name for a no-name, although I suppose we’re talking about a competition that counts Lena Meyer-Landrut and Emmelie de Forest among its recent winners.

  75. 75
    Tom on 4 Mar 2014 #

    Oh dear.

  76. 76
    Chelovek na lune on 4 Mar 2014 #

    Not sure the “power to the people” bit will go down well in , especially, Azerbaijan. Certainly not the worst entry we’ve ever put up.

  77. 77
    Rahma on 15 Mar 2014 #

    Well I was born in 1996… I grew up in the era when Michael Jackson was in a a less flattering light than before….. He was in the headlines for lawsuit after lawsuit not to mention the bogus allegations.. But I loved him lool. He Is very popular in my age group. So I disagree with you ALL. MJ has a fanbase filled with people of all ages.. In death he is bigger than Beyonce, Rihanna, Madonna Justin Timberlake and I could go on. Give the KING some credit ya’ll let him rest. I was 13 when he died and it shocked me and I was amazed that a someone could could have that effect.. I mean the whole world froze when he died… Leave him be. History to me is his best album its is like a musical diary..it wouldn’t appeal to people but nvm

  78. 78
    sbahnhof on 5 Apr 2015 #

    Rahma, with your words you have opened our hearts and melted our minds. I, for one, promise never to question the power of the king of pop, and — oh she’s gone.

  79. 79
    Adam on 5 Apr 2015 #

    Do his fans ever discuss the possibility that treating him as the Messiah possibly LED to his psychological downfall? They all seem to focus on their collective persecution complex — been that way since the early 90s. I’m fascinated by pop’s constellation of cults and this one is Sirius.

  80. 80
    weej on 6 Apr 2015 #

    At this point Michael Jackson’s story seems like a premonition of many of the revelations of the last five years – i.e hero-worshipping someone because they are talented or famous, letting them feel that the normal rules of morality don’t apply to them somehow, inevitable bad things (or at the very least allegations of) resulting… If anything this has resulted in making his look both more human and more likely to be guilty.

  81. 81
    Teenage Ebola Victim on 4 Apr 2021 #

    Was listening today for the relative novelty value of a true obscurity by a megastar that still got to number one. Something with no lasting cultural imprint, unheard by anyone since it topped the charts.

    Anyway, since the last comment on this thread, there has been some development in the Michael Jackson story. I can’t see this addressed anywhere on the blog, but perhaps it was considered in the comments for Remix (Ignition), which I haven’t really gone through since I was addictively reading this blog sunbathing in a field in the first, scariest lockdown.

    To supplement some 2014 discussion of whether Jackson would at some point be able to get a posthumous bunny, I just wanted to note the trivial point that he very nearly did. However, it was nothing to do with (as was speculated above) the release with Freddy Mercury, which sank without a trace.

    He made it to the #2 spot in the high summer of 2018, held off by a rather dull bunny, which I have a slight personal connection to and am therefore loath to criticise. The credit was as a featured artist on a track by a ubiquitous and massively bunnyable artist that this project will not get to (at the current rate) until the 2030s. This was a true near-miss, since the artist he piggy-backed on was still in their Bryan-Adams-worrying, imperial phase and it entered at #2, staying in the top 20 for seven weeks, much better than any of Jackson’s singles since 1995 (MITM aside, I’m guessing).

    Since the Finding Neverland documentary premiered in January 2019, I suggest that this was his absolute last chance. Indeed, since the lead artist in question has faced some (needless to say far, far less lurid, nowhere near as serious, not criminal and certainly not on the same scale) questions about their own conduct with underage people, I could be uncharitable and say that they of all people would not have wanted to release a record with Michael Jackson if it had been six months later. Indeed, they promptly dropped the song from their live setlist after the documentary came out.

    So that should be it.

  82. 82
    Gareth Parker on 2 May 2021 #

    I actually rather like this and I think Tom is correct with his 7/10 mark. Had to revisit this one as I hadn’t heard it for a while.

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