King of Pop—title for life? Michael Jackson’s 1995 was fit for a commoner, with the suspension of that nagging molestation investigation last year offset by mounting artistic disappointments and a humbling physical collapse at year’s end.
His double-disc HIStory lived up to its name, despite the most expensive promotion ever in pop music and ”You Are Not Alone” turning into a No. 1 smash. With a modest 1.8 million copies in American consumers’ hands, the company making the biggest profit might be UPS…on returns.
At times, the King of Pop was a Midas in reverse. Although 60 million tuned in to get a gander at the royal couple on PrimeTime Live, Diane Sawyer’s ”serious journalist” rep was irreparably sullied after she pitched puffballs about the molestation investigation and passed the icky conjugal question off to unserious civilians. At least Lisa (”Eat it!”) Marie picked up a few good reviews for her biker-chick cockiness.
When anti-Semitic slurs popped up in ”They Don’t Care About Us,” Jackson went into naif mode, claiming ignorance that ”Jew me” might be offensive. (Never mind that ”sue me” was the rhyme, and the attorney for the boy in the molestation case happened to be…) But his infamous some-of-my-best-business-associates- are-Jewish defense did win Jackson points for chutzpah.
By December, public relations had soured enough that when he was admitted into intensive care — and even a self-pitying figure might deserve sympathy — speculation ran rampant that it must be another publicity stunt. And that’s gotta hurt.