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From The Vault: Michael Jackson – ‘Stranger In Moscow’

Published: Sunday 12th Jan 2014 by Joe

This week’s From The Vault spotlights yet another magnificent track, courtesy of the King Of Pop himself: it’s Michael Jackson‘s ‘Stranger In Moscow’.

‘Moscow’ was the last of five singles to be released from Mike’s 1995 ‘HIStory’ album. A qualitative classic, the Jackson produced cut remains a fan favorite thanks largely to its honesty and vulnerability. Written at the height of MJ’s 93 legal drama – first as a poem then developed into a full fledged-song – ‘Moscow’ deals with isolation and solitude. The slow pace and minor-key arrangements convey that very sentiment of sadness and loneliness.

While remaining rather composed throughout the bulk of the track, the bridge sees the vocalist burst out in anger, releasing his frustration about being mistreated and misunderstood.

In the US – where Jackson’s profile wasn’t at its best following much publicized controversy – the gem only peaked in the lower tier of the Hot 100, precisely at #91, but fared much better in Europe where it ascended to #4 in the UK, #1 in Spain, and #18 in France. In Australia the song reached the 14th position of the charts and peaked at #6 in New Zealand.

The black and white Nick Brandt-directed video mirrors the track’s theme and depicts sombre-looking characters including Jackson wandering the streets while the other passersby run counter in slow-motion – which is symbolism for the song’s lyrical narrative, as is the rain at the end of the video. Impressive CGI was used as often was the case with the visual artist’s biggest videos.

When it comes to fusing music and video together, it – quite literally – doesn’t get any better than Michael Jackson. Hopefully today’s talent follow in his footsteps and internalize the importance of delivering sounds and visuals that so envelope pushing that once opened they inspire generations to come. The likes of Beyonce and Lady GaGa are – at least – trying, but the industry would benefit from more.

There’s only one King Of Pop, that much is a given. Yet, the new generation would benefit from seeing his achievements and innovations as a challenge, rather than resting on their laurels. Momentary popularity is fleeting, greatness is ever-lasting.

Stranger-In-Moscow-michael-jackson-thatgrapejuice

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  1. Dan January 12, 2014

    AMAZING song. MJ is the best.

  2. stephy Tha lambily January 12, 2014

    Suicide, I was just talking about this song. Maybe Sam saw convo…

  3. stephy Tha lambily January 12, 2014

    This song should have charted way better than 91…

    Off The Wall: 1979 (21,000,000+)

    Thriller: 1982 (65,000,000+)

    Bad: 1987 (32,000,000+)

    Dangerous: 1991 (30,000,000+)

    History: 1995 (24,000,000+)

    AMAZING!!!!!

    The Jackson 5: Sold 100,000,000+ Records

    Michael Jackson: Sold 400,000,000+ Records

    Entire Career: Sold 500,000,000+ Records

    1969 – 2009 (Career)

    Sold 50+ Million Records Since DEATH!!!

    Bye Michael Forever!!! *Cries*

  4. denise black January 12, 2014

    wow!!!! RIP Michael This song is a wow factor !!!! love this.

  5. Matthew Charlery-Smith January 12, 2014

    I was somewhat indifferent to this song when it was released back in ’95. I see it differently now and I always loved the vocals. “Moscow” follows the isolated narrative of “Billie Jean” and “Who Is It?” from his previous albums. I think the production would have been more stellar if he’d collaborated with Jam & Lewis or Teddy Riley on it. MJ’s best music was always what he produced with someone else.

    Tidbit: Many don’t know this song first saw the light of day on the credits of Sonic the Hedgehog 3 but apparently Michael didn’t like the quality of music on the consoles at that time so he took his name off. “Jam” also appeared back then too.

    http://youtu.be/uwA9E-OTkbk

  6. AscendedPhoenix January 12, 2014

    Peaked at #91? Lord I hate people… But when this man died, so suddenly no one cared about the false accusations and decided to buy everything he ever made? Ugh.. Disgusting.!!!!
    This song was a masterpiece smh.. RIP Michael Jackson, you will forever be THE blueprint.!!!

  7. Del January 12, 2014

    This is a beautiful song and video. One of Mike’s most underrated. A few years ago, Janet hosted a countdown of her favorite videos on BET and SIM was near the top of her list. She said that the song and video are dark and beautiful all at the same time. I agree.

  8. stephy Tha lambily January 12, 2014

    I’ve been so obsessed with Michael Jackson lately…

    Right now for the past 3 hours I have been listening to non stop Little Michael…

    Best Songs As A Child…

    Who’s Loving You
    I Wanna Be Where You Are
    Ain’t No Sunshine
    I Was Made To Love Her
    People Make The World Go Round
    With A Child’s Heart
    Ben
    Rocky Robin
    One Day In Your Life
    Never Can Say Goodbye
    I’ll Be There
    ABC
    The Love You Save
    AND MANY MORE…

    His Child Career IS The Best Child Singing Career Ever..

    He has over 250+ songs recorded from when he was a child.

    LEGENDARY BEFORE THE AGE OF 20!!

  9. Stephy stan January 12, 2014

    Stephy’s impact 🙂

  10. JOHNVIDAL January 12, 2014

    History wasn´t his best album at all, but this song and “They don´t care about us” are among his best ever. Love those two songs. So damn good.
    @stephy
    Now that you seem to really know Michael´s catalogue: can you tell me your favorite songs from Dangerous album? Cos people is always susprised when I say my two favorite songs on that album are “Who is It” and “Give in to me”. Those are unbelievably good to me.

  11. stephy Tha lambiy January 12, 2014

    The ache in his voice as a child was beyond heartbreaking but still impressive…

  12. Matthew Charlery-Smith January 12, 2014

    I was somewhat indifferent to this song when it was released back in ’95. I see it differently now and I always loved the vocals. “Moscow” follows the isolated narrative of “Billie Jean” and “Who Is It?” from his previous albums. I think the production would have been more stellar if he’d collaborated with Jam & Lewis or Teddy Riley on it. MJ’s best music was always what he produced with someone else.

    Tidbit: Many don’t know this song first saw the light of day on the credits of Sonic the Hedgehog 3 but apparently Michael didn’t like the quality of music on the consoles at that time so he took his name off. “Jam” also appeared back then too. 🙂

    http://youtu.be/uwA9E-OTkbk

  13. stephy Tha lambiy January 12, 2014

    Michael Jackson HISTORY album is his best to me.

    He poored his heart into that album.

    He produced everything & wrote it almost by himself..

    Earth Song is his best production ever. The song itself is an powerful message about his struggle with the illuminati & world destruction..

    You Are Not Alone is a beautiful song written by R Kelly… Michael vocals are beautiful

    They Dont Really Care Is very haunting. He was warning us about the government & illuminati. Telling people what was going on with our system…

    Little Susie is a metaphore for someone that died of A***…

    Stranger In Moscow was about his mind. That he feels like he is going crazy & how does it feel to sit & live insane I UNDERSTAND EVERY WORD TO THE POINT IT HURTS…

    Michael Jackson was misunderstood.

    Dangerous album fvs are EVERYTHING!!!

    Tyhe Production from that album is still very good. It aged well..

    Dangerous is a pop masterpiece…

    I love Will You Be There, Give In To Me, Who Is It, Dangerous, Black Or White, Gone Too Soon, Heal The World, EVERYTHING FUCKINGG THING..

    I honestly dont really like Thriller that much..
    Yasss it chaged pop music forever but Michaels best albums to me starts from Bad til Invincible

    Listen To The Song HEAVEN CAN WAIT carefully

    HE WAS TALKING ABOUT HIS DEATH!!! ALSO THE SONG MORPHINE WAS TALKING ABOUT HOW HE WAS GONNA DIE!!!

    HE WAS A GENIUS I LOVE HIM EVEN MORE THAN MARIAH…

    RIP ONE OF THE GREATEST POP STARS TO EVERRR LIVE BESIDES MADONNA!!!

  14. Matthew Charlery-Smith January 12, 2014

    I love those songs. What do you think of Maybe Tomorrow (one of his best vocal performances), Looking Through the Windows, Doctor My Eyes. Sang his afro off!

    His teen voice numbers such as Life of the Party, Get it Together and Dancing Machine were amazing too.

    Michael sang with incredible skill as a child and when he was an adult his voice became drastically diverse. Not many could sing “Don’t Stop”, “Dirty Diana”, “Tabloid Junkie” and “Childhood” etc with the quality, conviction and delivery he did. He really was in his own lane and still is now.

  15. stephy Tha lambiy January 12, 2014

    Morphine is song about his death. He predicted everything…

    I FUCKINGGG LOVE THAT SHITTT

  16. stephy Tha lambiy January 12, 2014

    This Should Be The List Of Michaels Number 1 Hits

    Whos Loving You
    I Wanna Be Where You Are
    Rocky Robin
    Dont Stop Till You Get Enough
    Rock With You
    Billie Jean
    Beat It
    Thriller
    Say, Say, Say
    We Are The World
    Bad
    The Way You Make Me Feel
    Dirty Diana
    Smooth Criminal
    I Just Cant Stop Loving You
    Man In The Mirror
    Black Or White
    Remember The Time
    Will You Be There
    Give In To Me
    Scream
    You Are Not Alone
    Earth Song
    You Rock My World

    THAT SHOULD BE MICHAELS NUMBER 1 HITS AMERICA YOU ARE DUMB,..

    Its a CRIME that BIG FOREHEADED BITCHHH IS TIED WITH THE KING

  17. stephy Tha lambiy January 12, 2014

    Thank You Sam For This Post!! I love this post.

    Michael Jackson’s childhood career is better than most so called legends & current pop stars that sing about stupid stuff like Touch MyBody & Birthday Cakes UGH!

  18. DOSSOME January 12, 2014

    I’m so going back to listen to this album now..MASTERPIECE cannot even describe this song

  19. Lovebird January 12, 2014

    I’m just shocked a black man managed to walk through Moscow with no hustle.

    Anyway this brings back so much memories; Michael was on another level back then.

  20. DOSSOME January 12, 2014

    INVINCIBLE IS PHENOMENAL As well…

  21. cocobutta January 12, 2014

    Always been one of my favs this song is truly a deep piece of artful depth in writing.

    The visual sticks to its nature

  22. stephy Tha lambiy January 12, 2014

    Shut up Lovebird,,, You make me sick!!! Sam delete his comment…

  23. MusicStan(y’all know who I Stan for) January 12, 2014

    This is my ultimate idol been a fan and still is a fan the original blueprint in black music just music period!!!!!! He is everyone’s fave ultimate idol they follow his road in the music career!!!!! Love him

  24. RDK January 12, 2014

    The Legendary king of pop micheal jackson.

  25. Sandra January 12, 2014

    I love that song!! I love Michael Jackson <3

  26. MJSTAN January 12, 2014

    My li bro would always sing this song and then I finally listened to it and fell in love. This is definitely one of my all time favorite MJ songs. I just love & miss MJ 🙂

  27. Loyalty January 12, 2014

    One of my all time favorite MJ songs along with Human
    Nature <3333

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  29. MC!! January 12, 2014

    bad is micheal jacksons best album in terms of experimenting between genres but stranger in Moscow is one of those “you have to be a real fan to appreciate” type of song its also one of his gems to me.

  30. Elke January 13, 2014

    Great Article and so much appreciated. I am just happy that you take the time to highlight these amazing songs and videos of the Great Michael Jackson, many out there don’t know anything from this Genius Man beyond Thriller and its a real shame. So your articles and highlights of the lesser known Gems of his really help to spread the amazing work that this Man produced. Thank you

  31. Diane A January 13, 2014

    The minor key, the dirge like rhythm, the soulful anguish — this song is a masterpiece. No one did it better than MJ when it came to communicating his heart in a song. Just like Earth Song, Will You Be There, etc. I love the HIStory II album! Critics came down on him because they said the album was angry and paranoid. Why the hell wouldn’t he be after what he’d been thru? I’ll take his version of Come Together any day over the original. The man BECAME the music!

  32. gem January 13, 2014

    stranger in moscow deserves a grammy award, i love that song the first time i heard it in 95

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