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Saturday, June 26, 2010

EARTH SONG




"Earth Song" is the third single from Michael Jackson's album HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I. It is a ballad that incorporates elements of blues, gospel and opera. Jackson had a long-standing history of releasing socially conscious material such as "We Are the World", "Man in the Mirror" and "Heal the World". However, "Earth Song" was the first that overtly dealt with the environment and animal welfare. The song was written and composed by Jackson; the task of production was split between Jackson, David Foster and Bill Bottrell. Reviews were generally favorable, but some charged that the song sounded pompous, even if unintentional.

"Earth Song" was accompanied by a lavish music video shot on four geographical regions. It centered around the destruction and rebirth of Earth and went on to receive a Grammy nomination in 1997. The song was a top five hit in most European countries. In the UK, it remains Jackson's best-selling single. "Earth Song" was not released as a single in the United States. When Jackson performed the song at the 1996 BRIT Awards, Jarvis Cocker attempted to interrupt the show and stormed the stage, offended with the imagery presented. Jackson went on to receive recognition from various animal and environmental organizations.

BACKGROUND

Jackson already had a long-standing history of writing charitable or socially conscious material. As an adult Jackson used his fame and wealth to promote various causes. In 1985, he co-wrote the charity single "We Are the World" with Lionel Richie, which was released worldwide to aid the poor in Africa and the US. The single became one of the best-selling singles of all time, with nearly 20 million copies sold and millions of dollars donated to famine relief. It was also the first time Jackson was seen as a humanitarian.[1] All of the profits from his single "Man in the Mirror" went to charity.[2][3] Jackson founded the "Heal the World Foundation" in 1992, inspired by his charity single of the same name.[4][5]

Following the illness and death of Ryan White, Jackson helped draw public attention to HIV/AIDS, something that was still controversial at the time. He publicly pleaded with the Clinton Administration at Bill Clinton's Inaugural Gala to give more money to HIV/AIDS charities and research. He would go on to perform the song "Gone Too Soon" for White and other victims of the illness.

PRODUCTION & MUSIC

"Earth Song" was written and composed by Jackson in a hotel in Austria; production of the song was a collaborative effort between Jackson, David Foster and Bill Bottrell.[8] Andrae Crouch's Choir and Jackson engage in a back and forth chant as the song reaches its climatic finale.[9] Jackson's intent was to create a song that was lyrically deep yet melodically simple, so the whole world, particularly non-English-speaking fans, could sing along. He conceptualized a song that had an emotional message.[10] "Earth Song" is a ballad that incorporates elements of blues, gospel and opera. In the socially conscious track, Jackson issues a plea to God about problems ranging from war to endangered animals.

CRITICAL RESPONSE

James Hunter of Rolling Stone stated, "The slow blues-operatic 'Earth Song' for all its noble sentiments, sounds primarily like a showpiece".[12] Deepika Reddy of The Daily Collegian expressed the opinion that someone other than Jackson pushed to have "Earth Song" in the final album selection for commercial appeal.[15] A San Jose Mercury News review called it "flat" and "whiny", believing Jackson had already experimented with these concepts earlier in his career.[16]

The Philadelphia Inquirer described the track as "a healing, rhythmic ballad that evokes religious imagery".[14] A review in The Sacramento Bee was favorable, describing Jackson's vocal performance as "cool".[17] Michael Mehle of Rocky Mountain News described the finale as "anthemic" and a "powerful gospel opus".[13] A Ledger-Enquirer review observed of "Earth Song", "[it] enjoys the same kind of subtlety, building to a dramatic call-and-response finish with the Andrae Crouch Choir".[9] Contra Costa Times's review called it "a bit sappy and overblown" but also acknowledged that it was "epic" and destined to be a "massive smash hit".

COMMERCIAL PERFORMANCE

"Earth Song" remains Jackson's best selling single in the UK, where it sold more than one million copies. It debuted at number one, where it remained for six weeks throughout December 1995—beating the U2/Brian Eno project Passengers in competition to win the Christmas number one spot—and into the new year.[19][20] During its stay at number one, "Earth Song" kept the first single released by The Beatles in 25 years, "Free as a Bird", off the number one position. In early December, bookmakers correctly predicted that Jackson would keep The Beatles off the top position and go on to attain the Christmas number-one single.[21][22]

The song also took the number one position in Spain and Switzerland, peaking within the top five in almost every European state.[23] The song was only released to radio in the U.S., appearing on the Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart.[24] In 2006, "Earth Song" reached number 55 on the Eurochart Hot 100 Singles chart, following the Visionary: The Video Singles campaign, whereby 20 of Jackson's hit singles from the 1980s–1990s were reissued in several European countries.[25]

ENVIRONMENTAL RECOGNITION

Jackson received the Genesis Award: 1995 Doris Day Music Award, given each year for animal sensitivity.[19] In 2008, a writer for the Nigeria Exchange noted, "'Earth Song' drew the world's attention to the degradation and bastardization of the earth as a fall out of various human activities".[26]

The music video for "Earth Song," directed by fine art photographer Nick Brandt, was expensive and well-received; it gained a Le Film Fantastique: Best Video Award in 1996, the 1995 Doris Day Music Award at the Genesis Awards and a Grammy nomination for Best Music Video, Short Form in 1997. The production had an environmental theme, showing images of animal cruelty, deforestation, pollution and war. Jackson and the world's people unite in a spiritual chant—"Earth Song"—which summons a force that heals the world. Using special effects, time is reversed so that life returns, war ends and the forests regrow. The video closes with a request for donations to Jackson's Heal the World Foundation.[19][27] The clip was shown infrequently in the United States.[28]

The video was filmed in four geographic regions. The first location was the Amazon Rainforest, where a large part was destroyed a week after the video's completion. Natives of the region appeared in the video and were not actors. The second scene was a war zone in Croatia, with residents of the area. The third location was Tanzania, which incorporated scenes of illegal poaching and hunting into the video. No animals were harmed in the making of the "Earth Song", as the footage came from documentary archives. However, a poacher killed an elephant within a mile of the shot. The final location was in Warwick, New York, where a safe forest fire was simulated in a corn field.

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