This article originally appeared in the May 30, 1997 issue of the Boston Phoenix
Personally, I'm fascinated by Michael Jackson, who may be the only truly deviant artist in modern pop: who would you really find scarier in a dark alley, him or Marilyn Manson? Jackson's real-life perversity began to infect his music on the new half of his last album, the denial-heavy HIStory, and that trend continues on his new disc (which combines a number of HIStory remixes with half an album of new material).
For starters, there are a dozen dedications in the booklet — including a lovy-dovy one to Elizabeth Taylor — but not a single mention of the wife and kid he commissioned last year. And just as there hasn't been a natural photo of Jackson on a CD sleeve in a decade, there isn't a vocal on recent albums that doesn't sound creepily computer-processed.
What's more, the five new songs are all on the same subject, turning the fear of women he expressed on "Billie Jean" into full-blown paranoia. Both the title track and "Superfly Sister" are otherwise tepid funk pieces that find Jackson invoking the name "Susie" as though he were summoning the Antichrist. But those songs pale beside "Morphine," a truly twisted piece of work that begins as almost-funk before segueing into a Peter-Pan-on-acid sequence. "Good God, he's taking Demerol," chants a quavering, panicked-sounding Jackson. Weird and scary.