Michael Jackson - HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I

NME.COM feature on Michael Jackson - HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I album including album review, artwork, tracks, listen now, tour dates, discography and more.

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Michael Jackson - HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I: Wikipedia Album Entry

HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I (usually shortened to HIStory) is a two disc ninth studio album by American songwriter and recording artist Michael Jackson, released on June 16, 1995 by Epic Records. A majority of the albums tracks were written and produced by Jackson. The album was the first album to be released by Jackson since he was accused of child sexual abuse in August 1993. Recorded in September 1994, several out of fifteen songs pertain to the accusations and Jackson's perceived mistreatment in the media, specifically the tabloids. The albums songs themes included environmental awareness, isolation, greed, and injustice.

HIStory is one of Jackson's most controversial albums. Jackson was accused of using anti-Semitism lyrics in "They Don't Care About Us". Jackson stated that he did not mean any offense and, on mutiple occasions denied anti-semitism. The dispute regarding the lyrics ended with Jackson re-recording the lyrics. R. Kelly was accused of plagiarizing one of the albums songs, "You Are Not Alone"; in 2007 a judge ruled that the song was plagiarized. Six singles, and two promotional singles were released from HIStory: "Scream", "You Are Not Alone", both of which charted within the top five on Billboard 100 and "Earth Song", "This Time Around", "They Don't Care About Us" and "Stranger in Moscow". "This Time Around" was released as a radio only single, and "Earth Song", "They Don't Care About Us" and "Stranger in Moscow" were less successful within the United States, but were successful internationally; all three peaking within the top ten in multiple territories.

The first disc (HIStory Begins) is a compilation album of previous hits by Jackson, whereas the second disc (HIStory Continues) comprises new material. HIStory was generally well received by contemporary music critics. Aside from critical success, the album was also commercially successful, debuting and peaking at number one in twelve counties, including the United States, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom, as well as charting within the top ten in Spain, Mexico, and France. HIStorys least charting territory was Italy, peaking at number fifteen. HIStory is the best-selling multiple disc album ever by a solo artist, with worldwide sales of over 20 million copies (40 million in terms of units). The album was nominated for five Grammy Awards, winning one for Best Music Video — Short Form for "Scream". The greatest hits disc of the album was reissued on November 13, 2001 under the name Greatest Hits: HIStory, Volume I and has reportedly sold four million copies worldwide.

HIStory is primarily directed at the tabloid press. Since the late 1980s, Jackson and the press had a difficult relationship. In 1986, the tabloids ran a story claiming that Jackson slept in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber, which Jackson claimed was untrue. It was reported that Jackson had offered to buy the bones of Joseph Merrick (the "elephant man"). Jackson described the story "a complete lie". These stories inspired the pejorative nickname "Wacko Jacko", which Jackson despised. He stopped leaking untruths to the press, so the media began making up their own stories. In 1989, Jackson released the song and music video "Leave Me Alone", a song about his perceived victimization at the hands of the press. The video shows Jackson poking fun not only at the press but also the situation he was in.

In 1993, the relationship between Jackson and the press soured entirely when he was accused of child sexual abuse. Although never charged with a crime, Jackson was subject to intense media scrutiny while the criminal investigation took place. Complaints about the coverage and media included using sensational headlines to draw in readers and viewers when the content itself did not support the headline, accepting stories of Jackson's alleged criminal activity in return for money, accepting confidential, leaked material from the police investigation in return for money paid, deliberately using pictures of Jackson's appearance at its worst, a lack of objectivity and using headlines that strongly implied Jackson's guilt. In 1994, Jackson said of the media coverage, "I will say I am particularly upset by the handling of the matter by the incredible, terrible mass media. At every opportunity, the media has dissected and manipulated these allegations to reach their own conclusions."

Jackson began taking painkillers, Valium, Xanax and Ativan to deal with the stress of the allegations made against him. A few months after the allegations became news, Jackson had stopped eating. Jackson's health had deteriorated to the extent that he canceled the remainder of his tour and went into rehabilitation. Jackson booked the whole fourth floor of a clinic and was put on Valium IV to wean him from painkillers. When Jackson left the United States to go into rehabilitation, the media showed Jackson little sympathy. The Daily Mirror held a "Spot the Jacko" contest, offering readers a trip to Disney World if they could correctly predict where Jackson would appear next. A Daily Express headline read, "Drug Treatment Star Faces Life on the Run", while a News of the World headline accused Jackson of being a fugitive; these tabloids also falsely alleged that Jackson had traveled to Europe to have cosmetic surgery that would make him unrecognizable on his return. Geraldo Rivera set up a mock trial, with a jury made up of audience members, even though Jackson had not been charged with a crime.

HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I was recorded from September 1994 to March 1995. Jackson co-wrote and co-produced a majority of the songs featured on the album. Aside from Jackson, other writes include Dallas Austin, Christopher Wallace, Bruce Swedien, R. Kelly and Rene Moore and other producers include David Foster and Bill Bottrell. HIStory was the first studio album to be released by Jackson since his 1991 album Dangerous four years prior, and his first new material to be released since being accused of child sexual abuse in 1993. HIStory was released as two-disc album; disc one (HIStory Begins) contains already released material from Jackson, and the second disc (HIStory Continues) comprises new material. HIStorys first disc had fourteen songs from Jackson's four previous studio albums, Off the Wall in 1979, Thriller, Bad and Dangerous. Physically, the album was available on double gold CD, double cassette, and, due to playing time constraints, triple vinyl. Musically, HIStorys themes are credited as, R&B, Pop, Dance, Urban, New jack swing, Funk, and Hip-Hop. HIStory was released on June 16, 1995 by Sony Music's Epic Records. In 2001 a greatest hits disc was reissued on November 13, 2001 under the name Greatest Hits: HIStory, Volume I. The greatest hits album had sold a reported four million copies worldwide.

HIStory, similar to Jackson's previous studio albums Thriller and Bad, contains lyrics that deal with paranoia. A majority of the songs were written by Jackson. Several out of the albums fifteen tracks pertain to the child sexual abuse allegations made against him in 1993 and Jackson's perceived mistreatment by the media, mainly the tabloids. HIStorys song have been described as being Jackson's most "personal" album. Two of the albums new material were covers. The albums songs genres consist of R&B, pop, hard-rock and ballads. The albums songs lyrics pertain to isolation, greed, environmental concerns, injustice. The albums song, "Scream" is a duet with Jackson's younger sister Janet; contemporary critics noted that it was difficult to distinguish their voices apart. It was noted that the "refrain" of the songs lyrics "Stop pressurin' me!" is "compelling," and that Jackson "spits out the lyrics with drama and purpose." "Scream"s lyrics are about injustice.

The lyrics of "You Are Not Alone", written by R. Kelly, described as being an R&B ballad, pertain to isolation. Two Belgian songwriters, brothers Eddy and Danny Van Passel, claimed to have written the melody in 1993; In September 2007 a Belgian judge ruled the song was plagiarized from the Van Passel brothers and the song was subsequently banned from airwaves in Belgium. The song "D.S" is a hard rock song. The lyrics to "D.S." was observed by music critics as being an attack on the district attorney of Jackson's child sexual abuse case, Thomas Sneddon. Multiple music critics reviewed the song in connection to Sneddon, Fox News Channel and CNN expressed the opinion that the "cold man" of this song's lyrics is Sneddon, as when sung, like in the songs chorus, "Dom S. Sheldon" sounds very close to "Thomas Sneddon".

The albums song "Money" has been noted as being "directed" at Evan Chandler, the father of the boy who accused Jackson of child sexual abuse. The lyrics of "Childhood", described as being a pop song, pertain to Jackson's own childhood. Similar to "Scream", "They Don't Care About Us"s lyrics pertains to injustice, as well as racism. In "This Time Around"s lyrics, Jackson asserts himself as having been "falsely accused. The song features The Notorious B.I.G. two years before his death in 1997; Jackson would work with Biggie again posthumously in 2001 on his next Long Play (LP) album, Invincible, on the song "Unbreakable" making him the only rapper to appear on multiple Jackson LP's. "Earth Song"s lyrics, described as a "slow blues-operatic", pertain to environmental concerns. On HIStory, Jackson covered Charlie Chaplin's "Smile" and The Beatles "Come Together".

"Stranger in Moscow" is a pop ballad that is interspersed with sounds of rain. Jackson described the songs lyrics as being a "swift and sudden fall from grace." "Tabloid Junkie" is a pop—funk song that's lyrics are directed at listeners to not believe everything they read in the media and tabloids. The albums title track, "HIStory" contained multiple samples, including Martin Luther Kings "I Have A Dream" speech. "HIStory" was not released as a single from HIStory, but was from Blood on the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix in 1997.

The possibility that the lyrics to "They Don't Care About Us" contained antisemitism was first raised publicly by The New York Times on June 15, a few days before the album's release. The publication highlighted the lyrics, "Jew me, sue me, everybody do me/ Kick me, kike me, don't you black or white me" and labeled them "slurs". Jackson responded directly to the publication, stating:

The idea that these lyrics could be deemed objectionable is extremely hurtful to me, and misleading. The song in fact is about the pain of prejudice and hate and is a way to draw attention to social and political problems. I am the voice of the accused and the attacked. I am the voice of everyone. I am the skinhead, I am the Jew, I am the black man, I am the white man. I am not the one who was attacking. It is about the injustices to young people and how the system can wrongfully accuse them. I am angry and outraged that I could be so misinterpreted.

When questioned further about the lyrics, Jackson denied that "They Don't Care About Us" was anti-Semitic, commenting "It's not anti-Semitic because I'm not a racist person ... I could never be a racist. I love all races." That same day, Jackson received support from his manager and record label, who described the lyrics as "brilliant", that they were about opposition to prejudice and taken out of context. The following day, two members of the Jewish community stated that Jackson's attempt to make a song critical of discrimination had backfired. They expressed the opinion that the lyrics used were unsuitable for young audiences because they might not understand the song's context and that the song was ambiguous for some of the listeners. They acknowledged that Jackson meant well and suggested that the he write an explanation in the album booklet.

On June 17, Jackson issued another public apology to anyone offended by his choice of words and promised that future copies of the album would include an apology, Jackson concluded, "I just want you all to know how strongly I am committed to tolerance, peace and love, and I apologize to anyone who might have been hurt". The next day, in his review of HIStory, Jon Pareles of The New York Times alleged, "In ... 'They Don't Care About Us', he gives the lie to his entire catalogue of brotherhood anthems with a burst of anti-Semitism: 'Jew me, sue me, everybody do me/ Kick me, kike me, don't you black or white me'".

On June 23, Jackson decided, despite the cost incurred, he would return to the studio and alter the offending wording on future copies of the album; "Jew me" and "Kike me" would be substituted with "do me" and "strike me". He reiterated his acceptance that the song was offensive to some. Spike Lee, who would direct the music videos for "They Don't Care About Us", stated that he felt there was a double standard in the music industry, commenting that the use of the word nigger, in music, does not cause controversy. Additionally, Jackson, who is African American, used the word nigger on another song on the HIStory album, but it did not attract media attention.

HIStorys music videos displayed different themes and elements. Certain music videos, for example "They Don't Care About Us"s helped bring awareness of poverty's and had positive effects on the locations. "They Don't Care About Us"s music video was directed by Spike Lee, Jackson said that Lee chose to direct the video because, "'They Don't Care About Us' has an edge, and Spike Lee had approached me. It's a public awareness song and that's what he is all about. It's a protest kind of song ... and I think he was perfect for it". Jackson also collaborated with two hundred members of the cultural group Olodum, who played music in the video. The media interest surrounding the music video exposed Olodum to 140 countries around the world. It brought them worldwide fame and increased their credibility in Brazil. Lúcia Nagib, of The New Brazilian Cinema, said of the music video:

When Michael Jackson decided to shoot his new music video in a favela of Rio de Janeiro ... he used the favela people as extras in a visual super-spectacle ... All the while there is a vaguely political appeal in there ... The interesting aspect of Michael Jackson's strategy is the efficiency with which it gives visibility to poverty and social problems in countries like Brazil without resorting to traditional political discourse. The problematic aspect is that it does not entail a real intervention in that poverty.

In 2009, Billboard described the area as "now a model for social development" and stated that Jackson's influence was partially responsible for this improvement. For the first time in Jackson's career, he made a second music video for a single. This second version was filmed in a prison with cell mates; the video shows Jackson handcuffed and contains real footage of police attacking African Americans, the Ku Klux Klan, genocide, execution, and other human rights abuses. Jackson's music video for "Earth Song" received praise for its environmental recognition. The video received a Genesis Award for Doris Day Music Award, given each year for animal sensitivity in 1995. In 2008, a writer for the Nigeria Exchange noted, "'Earth Song' drew the world's attention to the degradation and bastardization of the earth as a fall out of various human activities".

Two other music videos from HIStory have been influential. Jackson's "Stranger In Moscow" music video influenced the advertising campaign for ICC Champions Trophy 2004, which featured "a series of smart outdoor ads and a classy TV spot". The television commercial was inspired by "Stranger In Moscow"s video where "the maiden in black splash about in the rain, with kids playing cricket for company". "Scream" was a creative influence on other music videos such as the 1999 release of the award winning "No Scrubs" by TLC. This influence was also present on the 2008 release of "Shawty Get Loose" by Lil Mama and Chris Brown. Reacting to the comparisons made between the videos, Mama explained, "I feel honored, because that was one of the initial goals, and I feel that it was executed well", she added that the emulation was intentional and that Brown was the only logical choice to step into Michael Jackson's role.

Sony Music spent thirty million dollars for promotion for the album. Prior to the albums release, press were waiting to see if the album would sell well. One analyst for SoundScan expressed the opinion that the press were out of touch with the public when it came to Jackson; the public liked him, while the press did not. He believed that "naysayers" in the media would be left surprised with the commercial reception to the HIStory campaign. HIStory's "Smile", "This Time Around" and "D.S." were released as promotion singles in 1995 and December 1997. Due to lack of radio air-play, "Smile" and "D.S." did not chart on any music charts worldwide. "This Time Around", was released as radio-only single in the United States in December 1995. The song peaked at number twenty-three on the Billboard Hot R&B Singles chart and at number eighteen on the Billboard Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart solely off radio airplay.

To promote the album, Jackson embarked on the successful world tour, entitled, HIStory World Tour. The HIStory World Tour was Jackson's third, and last, concert tour as a solo artist. The HIStory World Tour, beginning on Prague, Czech Republic on September 7, 1996, attracted more than 4.5 million fans from 58 cities in 35 countries around the world. The average concert attendance was 54,878 and the tour lasted 82 tour dates. Jackson did not perform any concerts in the United States, besides two concerts in January 1997 in Hawaii. VIP seats cost, on average, two—hundred dollars per—person. Each concert lasted an estimated two—hours—ten—minutes. The HIStory World Tour concluded in Durban, South Africa on October 15, 1997.

HIStory received generally positive reviews. HIStory, arguably Jackson's most angry and raw, emotional album, revealed a "furious" pop icon worn, torn and possibly paranoid by years of superstardom, now reportedly reacting against people who tried to bring him down. This reaction is what some people say ultimately stunted his previous skill at creating cutting edge musical trends, with Jon Pareles of the The New York Times writing that "It has been a long time since Michael Jackson was simply a performer. He's the main asset of his own corporation, which is a profitable subsidiary of Sony". Some reviewers commented on the unusual format of a new studio album being accompanied by a "greatest hits" collection, with Q magazine saying "from the new songs' point of view, it's like taking your dad with you into a fight."

James Hunter, of Rolling Stone, gave HIStory four—out—of—five stars, and noted that HIStory "unfolds in Jackson's outraged response to everything he has encountered in the last year or so. It makes for an odd, charmless second chapter to a first that includes miraculous recordings like "Billie Jean," "The Way You Make Me Feel," "Black or White" and "Beat It." In relation to "This Time Around", Hunter described it as a "dynamite jam" that's "ripe for remixes" and described "Scream" and "Tabloid Junkie," as being "adventurous" while noting that "Earth Song" as a "noble sentiments" that sounds "primarily like a showpiece".

Jon Pareles of The New York Times believed that Jackson "muttered" lyrics such as "They thought they really had control of me". Chris Willman of the Los Angeles Times said of "This Time Around", "a tough, rhythm-guitar-driven track co-written and co-produced by hit-maker Dallas Austin that sports one of the album's better grooves". Fred Shuster of the Daily News of Los Angeles described "This Time Around", "Money" and "D.S." as "superb slices of organic funk that will fuel many of the summer's busiest dance floors".

Stephen Thomas Erlewine, of Allmusic, gave HIStory three—out—of—five stars, but commented that HIStory was a "monumental achievement" of Jackson's "ego." Erlewine remarked that on the "HIStory Begins" CD, it contains "some of the greatest music in pop history" but that It leaves some hits out, citing "Say Say Say" and "Dirty Diana" — commenting that "yet it's filled with enough prime material to be thoroughly intoxicating." Erlewine noted that "HIStory Continues" is "easily the most personal album Jackson has recorded" and that its songs lyrics referencing to the molestation accusations create a "thick atmosphere of paranoia". He cited "You Are Not Alone" and "Scream" as being "well-crafted pop that ranks with his best material". David Browne , of Entertainment Weekly, gave "HIStory Begins" a "A-" grade, and the albums new material a "C-", which "winds up a B" for the entire album. Browne commented that the albums music "rarely seems to transport him (and thereby us) to a higher plane.2

"HIStory" debuted at number-one on the Billboard 200 and Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums charts selling over 391,000 copies in its first week. The album was certified seven times platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America on October 22, 1999 in recognition of 3.5 million shipments in the United States. Multi-disc albums are counted once for each disc within the album if it is over 100 minutes in length. Because "HIStory" is 148:50 minutes long, its CDs are therefore counted separately for certification purposes, meaning the album achieved platinum status in the United States after 500,000 copies were shipped, not one million. The Canadian Recording Industry Association certified it five times platinum after shipping in excess of 500,000 units.

In Europe, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry certified "HIStory" six times platinum, denoting six million shipments within the continent, including 1.5 million in Germany and 1.2 million shipments in the United Kingdom. Shipments are not sales; the IFPI provides rankings and industrywide totals, but does not calculate actual sales by a given artist or album. Germany was the European country where the double-disc set sold the most, with the album being certified three times platinum by the IFPI. "HIStory" has sold over twenty million copies (forty million units) worldwide and, according to MSNBC, is the best-selling multiple-disc album of all-time for a solo artist.

"Scream/Childhood" - released as a double A-side, the song was the first single released from HIStory in May 1995. "Scream" was sung and performed by Jackson and his sister Janet Jackson. The single had the best ever debut at number five - where it peaked, on the Billboard Hot 100. The song received a Grammy nomination for "Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals". The music video for "Scream" is one of Jackson's most critically acclaimed songs and music videos, receiving numerous awards. With a nine million dollar music video production budget, "Scream" is currently the most expensive music video ever made.

"You Are Not Alone" - was the second single released from HIStory and would become the first song ever to debut at number one on the Billboard Hot 100, (beating his previous single "Scream"). "You Are Not Alone" was released from the album in August 1995. "You Are Not Alone" topped the charts in various international markets, including, the United Kingdom, France and Spain respectively. The song was seen as a major artistic and commercial success.

"Earth Song" - was the third single released from HIStory in November 1995. "Earth Song" did not chart on Billboard 100. Internationally, the song topped four countries charts, as well as charting within the top-ten in nine other territories. The song topped the United Kingdoms Singles Chart for six weeks over Christmas in 1995 and sold one million copies there, making it his most successful United Kingdom single, surpassing the success of his single "Billie Jean".

"They Don't Care About Us" - was the fourth single from HIStory. The song's lyrics were criticized for containing offensive lyrics, which eventually led to Jackson rewriting the songs hook. "They Don't Care About Us" peaked at number thirty on the Billboard 100, as well as charting within the top-ten on Billboards Hot Dance Music and Hot R&B Singles Charts. The song charted better in international countries, compared to the United States, managing to chart within the top-ten in fourteen countries. "They Don't Care About Us" topped the German Singles chart for three weeks, while peaking at number two in Spain, number three in Austrain, Sweden and Swiss, as well as charting at number four in France, Dutch.

"Stranger in Moscow" - was released as HIStorys fifth, and final single in November 1996. The song was well received by contemporary critics. "Stranger in Moscow" was HIStorys least successful single in the United States, peaking at number ninety one on Billboards Hot 100. Outside of the United States the song was a success, topping the Spain Charts, while peaking within the top-ten in the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Italy, and News Zealand, among others.

Aside from critical praise and commercial success, HIStory has received recognition in the forum of awards and nominations. HIStory was the recipient of five nominations in total, winning one nomination, from the Grammys in 1996 and 1997 respectively. The albums song, "You Are Not Alone" was nominated for Best Pop Vocal Performance - Male, but lost to "Kiss From A Rose" and "Scream" was nominated for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals, but lost to The Chieftains and Van Morrison's "Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?" "Scream" won Best Music Video - Short Form and "Earth Song" was nominated for the same award the following year. The album itself was nominated for Album of the Year. The albums lead single "Scream" received ten nominations, winning three, for the albums music video and the song itself at the 1995 MTV Video Music Awards.

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