Stranger in Moscow (Jackson, Michael. "Stranger in Moscow" HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book 1. Epic Records. 1996), exemplifies Michael Jackson, not as The King of Pop, but simply as a man in a foreign land, disconnected from the world.
Stranger in Moscow was written in a hotel room in Moscow, possibly between September 13-16 1993, while Jackson was on his Dangerous World Tour (Craig Halstead and Chris Cadman, Michael Jackson: The Solo Years. pg. 139). The song would be released as the final single off the HIStory album in November 1996. It is perhaps Jackson's most personal song, as his lyrics are direct and in the first person.
"Stranger in Moscow"
The opening verse speaks of isolation and despair, which so often accompanies fame and fortune. Jackson refers to how he would be ridiculed, victimized and deemed a criminal by the press, once the allegations of child abuse broke in 1993.
Up until this point, Jackson was at the height of his success, in the midst of his record-breaking Dangerous World Tour. In response to the allegations, Jackson recorded a statement from his Neverland Ranch, which was televised worldwide on December 22 1993. Of the media's damaging treatment Jackson stated:
"I will say I am particularly upset by the handling of this mass matter by the incredible, terrible mass media. At every opportunity, the media has dissected and manipulated these allegations to reach their own conclusions. I ask all of you to wait to hear the truth before you label or condemn me. Don't treat me like a criminal because I am innocent."
Trial by Press
Jackson has always had an indifferent relationship with the media, as Jackson would suggest later in his career, " The bigger the star, the bigger the target. " In an interview with Barbara Walters in Paris 1997, Jackson declared he disliked the name 'Wacko Jacko,' a name the mainstream and tabloid press often used from the mid 1980s:
"Wacko Jacko - where'd that come from? Some English tabloid. I have a heart and I have feelings. I feel that when you do that to me. It's not nice. Don't do it. I'm not a 'wacko'."
However with the allegations directed at Jackson in the Summer of 1993 , the media now had ammunition for a full character assassination, despite the fact a police officer stated to the LA Times "that no evidence (medical, photographic or video) could be found that would support a criminal filing" (Lisa D. Campbell, Michael Jackson: The King of Pop's Darkest Hour. pg. .42-45).
The media, before 1993, were already invasive of Jackson's privacy, relationships and his changing physical appearance, as Jackson suggested in Leave me Alone, but once the allegations were in the public domain, the mainstream and tabloid media went on the attack:
- The New York Post on it's front-page declared "Peter Pan or Pervert?" on August 23 1993.
- Newsweek on it's cover page questioned of Jackson "Is he Dangerous or Off the Wall?" on September 6 1993.
- Time stated "Michael Jackson: Who's Bad?" on September 6, 1993.
As the remainder of the Dangerous World Tour was canceled, Jackson retreated from the public eye in late November 1993, in an attempt to end his drug dependency: Jackson released an audio statement to the press:
"I was humiliated, embarrassed, hurt and suffering great pain in my heart. The pressure resulting from these false allegations coupled with the incredible energy necessary for me to perform caused so much distress that it left me physically and emotionally exhausted. I became increasingly more dependent to the painkillers to get me through the days of the tour" (Campbell 91)
However the media gave no sympathy to Jackson, whose emotional and physical health was at risk. Instead the embattled star became the subject of taunts and ridicule:
- "The 'Daily Mirror," held a "Spot the Jacko" contest offering readers a vacation to Disney World" (Campbell 92)
- "News of the World ran the headline "Hunt for Jacko the Fugitive" (Campbell 93)
- The Sunday Express headline read "Drug Treatment Star faces Life on the Run" (Campbell 93)
In the chorus of Stranger in Moscow, Jackson repeatedly asks the listener a question he has been asked so many times, regarding his fame, fortune, talent and celebrity. However, Jackson suggests, it all means nothing, when you feel isolated, disconnected, alone.
Deemed a criminal, a forsaken man, Jackson repeatedly asks the media to separate his celebrity persona, from his true self. Jackson is asking for privacy and for the public and media to understand, behind his image, he is a man.
Stranger in Moscow concludes with lyrics spoken in Russian. The lyrics, spoken by an unnamed individual, lend to the feeling of paranoia, despair, fear and isolation of Stranger in Moscow, a ballad about a man, merely trying to have his voice heard, while by being crucified by the press.
- Campbell, Lisa D. Michael Jackson: The King of Pop's Darkest Hour. Branden Books. 1994
- Halstead, Craig and Cadman, Chris. Michael Jackson: The Solo Years. Authors OnLine Ltd. 2003
- Jackson, Michael. "Stranger in Moscow" HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book 1. Epic Records. 1996
"I was on tour and it seemed like I was in Armageddon -- Armageddon in the brains," Michael remembered. "All these horrible stories were going around about me. None was true. It was unbelievable. Lisa Marie would call. I could count my true friends on one hand. She was very, very supportive the whole time. That really impressed me. She would call and be crying. She was angry and really wanted to choke people.'' Michael Jackson/Ebony 1994
,,Here abandoned in my fame
Armageddon of the brain
KGB was doggin' me
Take my name and just let me be"
Michael Jackson, Stranger in Moscow