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.