Jackson Loses His Cool, But Not Skill, With 'HIStory'

Double CD full of greatest hits and wrath

By , Special to The Christian Science Monitor

AFTER all the uproar dies down about Michael Jackson's new double-CD release, music lovers can begin to enjoy an entertaining and technically marvelous collection of music.

HIStory has a number of thumping and lyrical tunes; the problem is these are all on the first disc, a greatest-hits compilation. From ''Billie Jean'' to ''Heal the World,'' Jackson gives his fans a grouping of truly greatest hits.

The problem arises with the second CD, ''HIStory Continues.'' A barrage of bad press followed the release of ''They Don't Care About Us,'' in which Jackson incorporates racial slurs. After complaints by the Jewish community and others, Jackson went back to the studio to rerecord the lyrics, removing the offending lines. All future copies of HIStory will have the revised lyrics.

Recommended: Michael Jackson: 10 quotes on the 30th anniversary of "Thriller"

However, some listeners to the original lyrics may find a different theme in relation to the entire song. Jackson seems to be referring to the rage and blind hatred he believes is saturating the country, and saying that traces of the horrors of Nazism are slipping into American society.

Without a doubt, a lot of the controversy with HIStory was created on purpose by Jackson. The ad campaign invokes images of Nazi Germany, Russia during the cold war, and Tiananmen Square in China. When told by interviewer Diane Sawyer on TV's ''PrimeTime Live'' that the ads had sparked controversy, his first response was, ''Good.''

While ''They Don't Care About Us'' has been the most controversial song so far, Jackson's newfound bitterness and vengeful attitude are most clearly represented in the song ''D.S.'' where the liner's lyrics read, ''Dom Sheldon is a cold man'' over and over again. But on the CD, Jackson instead screams the name Tom Sneddon, who happens to be the Santa Barbara, Calif., district attorney who investigated charges of child molestation against Jackson. On this wrathful album, Sneddon gets the brunt of Jackson's displeasure.

Soon after the civil suit involving a preteen boy was settled out of court, Sneddon dropped the criminal investigation.

Critics' complaints have also been directed at the 52-page ''HIStory'' booklet, in which Jackson shares letters from Elizabeth Taylor, Steven Spielberg, and others; notes from fans; and self-aggrandizing messages in return. Some listeners have taken issue with the number of truly angry songs and the absence of love songs.

This may sound like a complete pan of the album, but it's not. Jackson does mix up the furious, ''grown-up'' tunes with a couple of fabulous songs, such as ''Little Susie'' and ''Earth Song.''

''Little Susie'' is a heart-wrenching ballad, and ''Earth Song'' sparks memories of classic Jackson ballads, the type that made fans scream.

Jackson's first single from ''HIStory,'' ''Scream,'' is a duet with his sister Janet. ''Scream'' is an attack on the critics who have assaulted Jackson for the last few years. Despite the hostile tone, Jackson uses the talents of both singers to make a great tune.

Every song has so many layers and is so rich in depth, listeners can hear something new every time. This is what makes the album good. It proves once again that Jackson is indeed the King of Pop, even if it has gone to his head.

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