Thursday, May 26, 2011

Every Line They Scrutinize: Michael Jackson & Janet Jackson - Scream

In some people's memory, in particular one nameless journalist whom appeared on one of those 'True Hollywood Story' television docs, "Scream", the 1995 collaboration between famous siblings Michael and Janet Jackson was a 'bomb'. True, it may not be as well remembered or loved as Michael's "Beat It" or Janet's "Rhythm Nation" by the mass public, but it was far from disaster.

In fact, "Scream" happens to be one of my all time favorite tracks by either Janet or Michael. The song had a lot of hype to live up to with two (then) megastar names collaborating on the lead off single to Michael's HIStory  album. While the term megastar doesn't carry much weight in these times, it would roughly be the equivalent of a duet between Lady Gaga & Madonna today. Some could even argue that it's the equivalent of a duet between Lady Gaga and Beyonce' today, which has happened... twice.

I, for one, believe that the track certainly lives up to said hype. It has a whole lot going for it. Michael and Janet's respective production teams joined forces and turned what could have easily turned into a banal piece of filler into a considerably edgy and catchy, danceable single. A careful listen through headphones reveals the multiple layers that Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, alongside both Jackson siblings and Michael's resident engineer Bruce Swedian crafted to create the harsh, digital atmospheric sound scape. Without a doubt, the track still stands up as a production marvel and a lot of modern pop music sounds like an off-brand imitation of "Scream"'s searing beat.

sibling rivalry at its best

You can't breathe word of the song "Scream" without mentioning the eye-catching video. It too has a whole lot going for it:

  • Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson dancing their asses off
  • Groundbreaking, even by today's standards, special effects
  • Things being smashed
  • Pong
  • Janet Jackson giving the finger to correspond with the track's surprising "F Bomb"
  • All this and more takes place... IN S-P-A-C-E!!!! 
 In the years predating MJ's premature death, I could usually be caught defending the integrity of this song. Sadly, when an artist dies, everyone begins to appreciate their body of work as a whole a lot more, regardless of how they felt about it prior. Thus, it's really cool to like this track again.

However, for me, it was never uncool. I doubt Lady Gaga and Madonna's duet (if it ever happens) would even be able to touch it.