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Thread: HIStory Begins: A 2017 appraisal

   
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    Default HIStory Begins: A 2017 appraisal

    I’ve had a relatively busy morning here at work, but that means that I was able to listen to some music through one headphone (mono style).

    I don’t know why, but I decided to listen to HIStory Begins, which I can honestly say I haven’t listened to since the late 90’s/early 00’s. Number Ones seemed to take it’s place as the compilation to go to, which was subsequently replaced by The Essential and then The Ultimate Collection (The King Of Pop compilations never did anything for me, other than playlists on shuffle).

    Going back to this first disc of HIStory though has been a real walk through history itself. As essentially my first listen the whole way through as an “almost” mature adult, I can say that the song selection and sequence is absolutely perfect, and completely compliments the HIStory Continues disc.

    First off, we don’t need to remind ourselves that this was the first album release since “the unpleasantness” of 1993. I can only imagine the various ideas that were thrown around at the time as to how Michael should re-enter the stage and remind people who he REALLY is.

    Is there a better way to start off than Billie Jean? His most identifiable song, possibly the most identifiable intro. Just a bass and snare drum. Instantly reminded of the King of Pop.

    Secondly, let me say that the mastering of this album is perfect. The songs sound gorgeous.

    Anyway, with the other 14 tracks selected, there are absolutely NONE with any negative tones. There is no Dirty Diana, no Leave Me Alone, no Who Is It, no Smooth Criminal. Wanna Be Startin Something could be argued that it’s got too much of a feel good nature, despite the lyrical content to be considered dark.

    These are, for the better part, the feel good songs of Michael’s solo career to date. She’s Out Of My Life being on its own slightly, but still, despite the topic, there is no malice or begrudgery in the song. It’s Michael at his most vulnerable (aside from Will You Be There) up to that point.

    Then, finishing with Heal the World, we are reminded not only of the generous and good nature of Michael, but of how much of a colossal success it was! We are finishing on an uplifting inspiring song to help those around you, and look after what may not be looked after. To finish on this song mirrors his idea to close his concerts with an uplifting inspirational message.

    The journey between Billie Jean and Heal The World really is a phenomenal one. It’s like going down a road where there is nothing but clear skies and a smooth straight path. It has never occurred to me that this could compliment the dark turn that we would have to take with the 2nd disc…

    Could there be a more ruthless contrast between Heal the World and Scream? The world portrayed in Scream is the beginning of a story that happens in a world that wasn’t quite ready to be healed yet.

    No force of nature can break your will to self motivate.

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    Default Re: HIStory Begins: A 2017 appraisal

    It's an interesting take on HIStory Begins that maybe the concept was to have only feel good songs. I always felt that the lack of great, signature MJ hits such as Smooth Criminal or Dirty Diana was rather a weakness in this collection. But if you interpret it this way then maybe that's an explanation. Although I don't feel SC and DD are more dark, than, say, Thriller. I mean sure they have dark theme, but then Thriller does too by that measure.

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    Default Re: HIStory Begins: A 2017 appraisal

    Quote Originally Posted by respect77 View Post
    It's an interesting take on HIStory Begins that maybe the concept was to have only feel good songs. I always felt that the lack of great, signature MJ hits such as Smooth Criminal or Dirty Diana was rather a weakness in this collection. But if you interpret it this way then maybe that's an explanation. Although I don't feel SC and DD are more dark, than, say, Thriller. I mean sure they have dark theme, but then Thriller does too by that measure.
    Yeah I see what you mean totally. I dont think I was able to make my point properly, maybe I meant "negative". Thriller is fantastical I suppose, so cant be really seen as an "oh no" song, where as Smooth Criminal is about some girl whos been attacked, Diana seems to be a complete bitch, Leave Me Alone is all about all the arses in the world. In Beat It, its about avoiding the fight. This kinda goes against my point about WBSS then though, doesnt it, but its still upbeat.

    I always thought that Smooth and Diana were massive losses for the album (especially since they both did better than SOOML and RTT). But after listening yesterday (and a few times since) I think he wanted to keep it as upbeat and "negativity free" so that there was a fairly level ratio between the 30 tracks

    Edit: the Billie Jean lady is a bit of a bitch too I suppose
    Last edited by innuendo141; 18-02-2017 at 11:45 AM.

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    Default Re: HIStory Begins: A 2017 appraisal

    I don't generally listen to compilations of any artist or band, but I have more time for ones that are compiled and put together by the artist, than the endless packages churned out by record labels. At least HIStory Begins has no ghastly radio edits (I can't MJ would've been too fond of the butchering of his work that went on).

    Your take on HIStory Begins is quite interesting. You can tell a lot of time went into putting this compilation together, from the perfect order and sequencing of the tracklist, to the artwork in the booklet, it's really night and day when compared against the haphazard, lazy releases that followed, especially Number Ones, which is a terrible release.




    I also think The Ultimate Collection was lovingly put together, and that's all I really ask for as a fan. You can almost always tell when the artist themselves has had a say in these kind of releases and when they haven't.

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    Default Re: HIStory Begins: A 2017 appraisal

    Quote Originally Posted by MattyJam View Post
    I also think The Ultimate Collection was lovingly put together, and that's all I really ask for as a fan. You can almost always tell when the artist themselves has had a say in these kind of releases and when they haven't.
    I agree. The choice of outtakes/demos clearly came down to Michael's choice. Also, NO short edits a la Number Ones or The Essential (even though most big Sony artists have an essential, I'd say MJ had very little to do with that, if anything).

    TUC is a great journey from 69 to 05 though, obviously not everyone is going to be happy with certain exclusions, but with TUC they got it right. It's always easy to fall back on the "chronological order" and get lazy, but it doesnt seem that way on TUC. It seems fluid at all times.

    The only other ones that come to mind are Pure McCartney by Paul and Nothing Has Changed by Bowie. HIStory isn't even a greatest hits to me anymore, its a perfectly chosen group of songs that perfectly sum Michael Jackson's career from 79 to 91 in an hour or so.

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    Default Re: HIStory Begins: A 2017 appraisal

    Quote Originally Posted by innuendo141 View Post
    I agree. The choice of outtakes/demos clearly came down to Michael's choice. Also, NO short edits a la Number Ones or The Essential (even though most big Sony artists have an essential, I'd say MJ had very little to do with that, if anything).

    TUC is a great journey from 69 to 05 though, obviously not everyone is going to be happy with certain exclusions, but with TUC they got it right. It's always easy to fall back on the "chronological order" and get lazy, but it doesnt seem that way on TUC. It seems fluid at all times.

    The only other ones that come to mind are Pure McCartney by Paul and Nothing Has Changed by Bowie. HIStory isn't even a greatest hits to me anymore, its a perfectly chosen group of songs that perfectly sum Michael Jackson's career from 79 to 91 in an hour or so.
    My only gripe with TUC, was the curious decision to include a dreadful remix of Who Is It instead of the original album version. But other than that, it is probably the only compilation of any artist or band that I actually get something from. It's a beautiful package, the booklet has lots of interesting pictures and a nice write-up by somebody who actually knows what they're writing about. And I like the little MJ figure in the corner that moonwalks as you flick through the pages. It's the little touches that make the difference. That, and the fact that We've Had Enough and In The Back are sonic eargasms.

    I never bought Nothing Has Changed, because I have all of Bowie's albums and am not a collector. But I did glance at it in the shop once and yes, you can definitely tell it's put together by Bowie himself.

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    Default Re: HIStory Begins: A 2017 appraisal

    I agree that they tried to offset the dark side of the second disc with those mostly “feel good songs” that appear on the first one for the sake of an overall thematic balance.

    In fact, I even expressed that opinion two years before when I started a similar thread:

    Quote Originally Posted by mj_frenzy View Post
    Although I understand that making a compilation can become a really tricky task, (greatly) liable to subjectivity unless certain criteria are taken into account, I think that some inexplicable decisions took place.

    For example, “Human Nature” (an impeccable track) should have made the album instead of the vacuous & undeniably inferior “The Girl Is Mine”. Also, the choice of “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” was rather far-fetched considering the fact that “Liberian Girl” (probably his strongest ballad) did not make the album. Moreover, I think that they should have included either “Dirty Diana” or “Give In To Me” because the first disc needed more an explosive feeling. Also, the choices of “Heal The World” (a rather overestimated song) & “She’s Out Of My Life” (unconvincing rather than touching) were unnecessary considering that, at the same time, some of his most impressive tracks never made the first disc (“Who Is It”, “Jam”, “Will You Be There”). By all accounts, the most glaring omission was “Smooth Criminal”, suffice it to say that any MJ compilation without one of his most characteristic songs will be forever incomplete.

    I understand that, the rather angry & aggressive feeling that overshadows the second disc explains (to some extent) the softer track listing of the first one. Also, I understand that their intention was not to harm previous albums sales. But, I firmly believe that the track listing of the first disc did not represent Michael Jackson’s (solo) career in the best possible way, especially during that (artistically) crucial period for his career…
    http://www.mjjcommunity.com/forum/th...-track-listing

    Finally, I am pretty sure that almost any fan would agree that ‘Smooth Criminal’ & ‘Dirty Diana’ should have made the disc one track listing.

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    Default Re: HIStory Begins: A 2017 appraisal

    Great post, although I personally wouldn't consider the track list perfect simply because Smooth Criminal isn't on there. You can't have a Greatest Hits or show the journey of Michael Jackson throughout the 80s without that song (Still very good though! I played the hell out of Disc 1 back in the day).

    Quote Originally Posted by innuendo141 View Post
    Anyway, with the other 14 tracks selected, there are absolutely NONE with any negative tones. There is no Dirty Diana, no Leave Me Alone, no Who Is It, no Smooth Criminal.
    Quote Originally Posted by innuendo141 View Post
    I dont think I was able to make my point properly, maybe I meant "negative".
    Could you argue, perhaps, that Billie Jean does have some negative/darker tones? It is a song about a random chick who falsely claims Michael is the father of her child after all, a scary idea for any male!

    Quote Originally Posted by mj_frenzy View Post
    I agree that they tried to offset the dark side of the second disc with those mostly “feel good songs” that appear on the first one for the sake of an overall thematic balance.
    I've never thought of the album in that way before this thread!

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    Default Re: HIStory Begins: A 2017 appraisal

    Quote Originally Posted by mj_frenzy View Post
    Finally, I am pretty sure that almost any fan would agree that ‘Smooth Criminal’ & ‘Dirty Diana’ should have made that track listing of the disc one.
    I think they could've gotten away with no Dirty Diana, but no Smooth Criminal is unforgiveable.

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    Default Re: HIStory Begins: A 2017 appraisal

    Quote Originally Posted by mj_frenzy View Post
    I agree that they tried to offset the dark side of the second disc with those mostly “feel good songs” that appear on the first one for the sake of an overall thematic balance.

    In fact, I even expressed that opinion two years before when I started a similar thread
    Thanks for the link Frenzy, I dont remember seeing it but glad to read it now

    Quote Originally Posted by MattyJam View Post
    My only gripe with TUC, was the curious decision to include a dreadful remix of Who Is It instead of the original album version. But other than that, it is probably the only compilation of any artist or band that I actually get something from. It's a beautiful package, the booklet has lots of interesting pictures and a nice write-up by somebody who actually knows what they're writing about. And I like the little MJ figure in the corner that moonwalks as you flick through the pages. It's the little touches that make the difference. That, and the fact that We've Had Enough and In The Back are sonic eargasms
    Ah yes. THAT remix... indeed... He almost ALMOST makes up for it with an extra few second of You Are Not Alone ad libs

    Quote Originally Posted by MattyJam View Post
    I think they could've gotten away with no Dirty Diana, but no Smooth Criminal is unforgiveable.
    Yeah, to be honest I was even shocked the other day when I remembered its not on there. I remember the Smooth Criminal pic in the booklet as being one of the standouts too!

    Quote Originally Posted by HIStoric View Post
    Could you argue, perhaps, that Billie Jean does have some negative/darker tones? It is a song about a random chick who falsely claims Michael is the father of her child after all, a scary idea for any male!



    I've never thought of the album in that way before this thread!
    Yeah definitely with Billie Jean, that woman was a WAGON. But I suppose they just wanted to grab the listener by the you know whats from the get-go maybe.

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    Default Re: HIStory Begins: A 2017 appraisal

    You have a really good point. That makes me look at that first disc in a totally different light, you're spot on.
    I do feel no Smooth Criminal was a shame, but I understand why it wasn't used.
    I'm going to listen the first disc after reading this

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    Default Re: HIStory Begins: A 2017 appraisal

    I actually like the Who Is It remix, but it shouldn't have replaced the album version on TUC, having said that at least it wasn't the terrible edit which removes the perfect 2 minutes of adlibs that make WII Michael's best song.

    I like the thought Innuendo has put into the analysis and it very well could be true. But yes, leaving Smooth Criminal out seems crazy, but you can only fit in 77 minutes and you need to cover 4 albums relatively equally.

    Let's face it, if it was done by fans like us, it would be more like:

    DSYTGE
    Off The Wall
    Rock With You
    Billie Jean
    WBSS
    Beat It
    Human Nature
    Smooth Criminal
    Dirty Diana
    TWYMMF
    Man In The Mirror
    Who Is It
    Give In To Me
    Jam
    Will You Be There
    I CAN'T TAKE IT 'COS I'M TONY

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    Default Re: HIStory Begins: A 2017 appraisal

    I would have replaced The Girl Is Mine with Smooth Criminal.

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    Default Re: HIStory Begins: A 2017 appraisal

    Really interesting take, and one Ive never considered. That sorts what I'll be listening to tomorrow. Haven't listened to disc one in years, and I do also remember the disc sounding really good whenever I played it. Man, I'm in the mood for this!

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    Default Re: HIStory Begins: A 2017 appraisal

    I really liked the disc as well, because History Begins, at the time was the first time I could listrn to a mix of songs off the 4 albums at once, rather than changing tapes and discs all the time. In 1995 I had only owned a CD player for 2 years and most of the music I bought was on tape as tapes cost only $20.95 an album and discs were much more expensive at $34.95 (NZ $ in the 1990s). Plus all my early CD players were notorious skippers. Do you all remember those, a lot of 1990s players were skipping CD's by the 11th or 12th track and they would leave scratches on the CD. Part of the reason why I have replaced many albums lately.

    A lot of pre 2000 players aimed at the cheaper end of the market (TEAC, TDK, Technica, Sony, Sharp, House brands like Wired and Realistic) were poorly quality junk mostly assembled in China and Taiwan. Of course now, its hard to find a skipping CD player. Whereas most tapes did not chew except some very cheap blank cassettes, like a 5 pack I got called (No crap) - Ching go sheng that cost $1.99 in 1994.

    I never really noted the tone of the tracks, but mainly the fact they were all his biggest hits such as Billie Jean, Beat It and Bad etc. It is possible the darker songs did not make the cut, as he wanted to restrict the number from one album and they were mostly lesser hits (She's out of my life was only #10, but Dirty Diana left off was #1). Yes bad had 5 number ones, but apart from Bad and Man in the Mirror, all were 1 week and quick droppers from the chart, so they would have less impact that say a Top 10 hit that spent 15 weeks in the chart. Of the 15 tracks - 3 were from OTW, 5 from Thriller, 4 From bad and 3 from Dangerous.

    The 3 OTW tracks included the 2 number ones - DSTYE and Rock with you, both considered the most iconic early MJ songs and both worthy ones. She's out of my life is less known and satisfying, I really think they should have put off the wall on it.

    Thriller has 5 of the 15 tracks and includes the 4 biggest hits (Billie Jean, Beat It, Thriller, TGIM) and the feel good party starter Wanna be startin something. Again many people are not crazy about TGIM probably his lamest lead off single - Perhaps they could have put on Say say say, which is much better and not on a Michael Jackson release to that date (Number ones was much later, and it appears on some edition of King of Pop)

    The 4 Bad tracks are the first four singles, all of which were #1 hits, Dirty Diana was the 5th single and #1. Smooth Criminal should have gone on, but the single incredibly stalled at #7 on the charts (If MIM and DD were #1, this should have been #1 too!)

    Dangerous has only 3 songs, Black or white, Heal the world and Remember the Time, all 3 are quite saccharine, the B/W would be better without the 90 second Macauley Culkin intro, Remember the Time is a very average ballad and Heal the world, is good, but way too suagry and sacchariney by half. I really think Give into me and In the Closet should have gone on in its place with a clipped Black or White, both songs are stronger and were Top 10s.

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