Presented amidst a promotional campaign comparable to the second coming of Christ with movie theater trailers and 32-foot statues, Michael Jackson’s History album hits the world of popular music like nothing before it. It’s the most important album by the most important song artist, the presentation seems to suggest, and you just have to hear it.
With that, it should be the happiest of times for The King Of Pop, but there’s a dark cloud overhead and a bitter tone to most of these songs. “Stop pressuring me,” he Screams on his long-awaited duet with Janet Jackson, “Stop fucking with me!” The siblings take turns firing back at the slanderous news media, though it’s Michael who’s been under attack.
Biased journalists have partaken in what seems like a worldwide conspiracy to ruin his name, especially since he’s been publically accused and investigated, but not actually charged, with molesting one of his Neverland boy friends. It’s a case that was eventually settled out of court for a lot of dough. That convinces a lot of people that he’s guilty.
Some people are smarter than that. We wonder what kind of parent whose kid was sexually abused pursues cash over justice. So we nod our heads as he sings about people who’ll do “anything” for Money; the best part of the album is the last chorus section of this song; or Tabloid Junkies who believe “everything” they read in a magazine or see on the TV screen.
There’s even a song about Tom Sneddon; the prosecutor responsible for trying to put him in prison. “You know he really tried to take me down by surprise”, Jackson ponders in the angry and strained vocal style he’s taken on over the years. It’s a stark contrast to the tender crooning he does on Childhood or the ballad about the ghost girl he refers to as Little Susie.
The album would be better without the cover songs; Come Together by The Beatles and Smile by Nat King Cole, which, on a Michael Jackson album, amount to mere filler. He also repeats the Dangerous blunder of featuring rappers, though The Notorious BIG, who’s surprisingly allowed to refer to Michael Jackson as “my nigga”, provides a remarkable verse.
Even on that song, Mike is in defense mode, paranoid about people being out to “get” him. I commend him for addressing the scandal that would’ve been the elephant in the room if this were an album of romantic love songs, but the amount of time he spends on it takes away from the History concept, which is supposed to be about his legacy as a whole.
The message of the title song, which samples historic audio bits like Martin Luther King’s I Have A Dream speech, is to live your life to the fullest and be the best you can be. It’s advice Michael Jackson certainly has the credentials to give, but he’s doing a lot of polishing to keep his crown from tarnishing and that’s starting to affect the quality of his music.
Most of these songs are good, but none of them are great. Most of the songs on his previous album are great. That makes History a disappointment after Dangerous like Bad was after Thriller. It’s unusual to be disappointed by good albums, but Michael Jackson has set unusually high standards for himself. I guess that just comes with being The King.
my rating : 4 of 5
Though this album is promoted and presented as a double album; Michael Jackson’s most popular songs from the Past and new songs from the Present; my review is limited to the new songs.