Now that two thirds of the Michael Trinity — Jordan and Tyson — have returned from the wilderness, the third, less athletic member is edging toward his own emergence from exile. Last month, Michael Jackson, the temporarily dethroned King of Pop, briefly courted the spotlight by inviting 46 children from around the world to his Neverland Valley Ranch for a three-day seminar on children’s issues, sanctioned by the United Nations. But the real close-up is being saved for June 20, when Jackson’s long-delayed double album, HIStory, Past, Present & Future — Book 1, hits stores.
His first release since 1991’s Dangerous, the new disc has been keeping the star busy. On paper, HIStory reads like some maximalist Victorian tome: The album includes a 52-page booklet (with testimonials from Jackie Onassis and Elizabeth Taylor), 15 new songs, and 15 remastered hits. The former include collaborations with sister Janet (on the first single, ”Scream”), Boyz II Men, the Notorious B.I.G., Slash, R. Kelly, and Shaquille O’Neal. Sprinkled among the new songs are covers of Charlie Chaplin’s ”Smile” and the Beatles’ ”Come Together,” as well as one cut — ”Childhood” — from the upcoming Free Willy 2 soundtrack.
”Scream,” with a video likely to feature Janet and Michael, officially opens the floodgates when it hits the radio on May 23. But Jackson has planned his comeback to be as massive as his 1993 downfall. Coming soon are videos, commercials, a Jackson 5 boxed set, and 3T, an album by brother Tito’s three sons for which Michael produced two cuts and lent his voice.
Most observers have faith that the marketing blitzkrieg will serve its purpose. ”HIStory will be the biggest-selling record of the year,” predicts Lew Garrett, buying and merchandising vice president of Camelot Music. The lingering taint of scandal, says Garrett, ”will sprout wings and fly away once Michael and Janet are at No. 1 on the charts.” Reports producer Jimmy Jam: ”The album is diverse but danceable. You could put it on at a party, and you’d be fine.” Still, not everyone is thrilled at the prospect of a rejuvenated Jackson. According to one report, a farmer in India has found that Jackson tunes scare wild pigs away from his crops. Beat it, indeed.
— Nisid Hajari, with reporting by Divina Infusaio