MJ Studies Today XXXI


Column by Kerry Hennigan, editor of the monthly newsletter, A Candle for Michael, and administrator of the widely-subscribed Facebook group, Michael Jackson’s Short Film ‘Ghosts.


REFERENCE AS:

Hennigan, Kerry. “MJ Studies Today XXXI (16-07-2018).” The Journal of Michael Jackson Academic Studies 5, no. 4 (2018). http://michaeljacksonstudies.org/mj-studies-today-xxxi/.


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“This is delicious”: Michael Jackson’s “Blood on the Dance Floor” – Twenty-One Years On by Kerry Hennigan

It’s no secret to folks who know me as a Michael Jackson fan that I love “Blood on the Dance Floor” – the album, the single, the short film and, especially, the artist himself at this mature age and stage of his career.

In recent years I’ve written a bit about “Blood…” and on revisiting those words, I realize that little has changed, except that my feelings have been enhanced with age and a bit more insight into the recording process for the song and filming of the video. [1]

In an article published in The Atlantic in 2012 Joseph Vogel looked at the song itself on the 15thanniversary of its release (May 1997). He noted that while the single made the Top Ten in 15 countries and No. 1 in three (including the UK) it wasn’t even promoted as a single in the US.  According to Jackson collaborator Teddy Riley, Michael wasn’t worried about it. “He figured people in America would find it if they really wanted it.” [2]

It is inexplicable to this MJ blogger and researcher that a song as sensuous and provocative as “Blood…” wasn’t promoted as a single in the US, where surely it would have enjoyed some of the success achieved overseas.  “It was just a direct, aggressive sound for Michael,” says Riley as quoted by Vogel.  “He always pushed for something stronger.”

Originally worked on by Riley for the “Dangerous” album, the song was revisited and re-recorded during a break in Jackson’s HIStory world tour, when he and his four-man recording team worked at Mountain Studios in Montreux, Switzerland. Because they had no way of mixing Riley’s original 2-track recording, it had to be completely re-created as a big multi-track, Brad Buxer (a member of MJ’s recording team) reveals.  When Michael first heard the new version, he commented “This is delicious!” [3]

“Blood on the Dance Floor” is, indeed, a full-blooded assault on the senses, its impact enhanced by the short film that was created for the track.  Jackson is famously said not to have liked the “Blood…” video because it did not tell a story.  Yet, to this fan at least, it is obviously another of Jackson’s “femme fatale” pieces, with Suzie a woman of deadly reputation, on the prowl for her next “victim”.  She flirts and teases, and Jackson responds, being drawn into the dance with her, risking a broken heart – or a knife in the back (figuratively or literally).

“Blood on the Dance Floor” remains one of my favourite of Michael’s short films and comes from the decade that brought us so many memorable ones – for songs from the “Dangerous” and “HIStory…” albums, and not forgetting my favourite spook fest, “Michael Jackson’s Ghosts”.

The “Blood…” video was directed by Vincent Paterson, who worked with Jackson as choreographer, performer and tour director (on the Bad world tour) over a period of 17 years.  Paterson has said that Jackson was the best male dancer that has ever appeared on music videos. “Michael would work a move 20 to 100 times nonstop, repeatedly… until it was so in his body that he never had to think about it and consequently when it came out it always looked like it just flowed and his energy when he moves – it’s sort of like when you’re in the room with him and he moves you get — look, I have goosebumps right now just talking about this… it’s something that you don’t quite know until you experience it.” [4]

Paterson’s intention for the “Blood” video was to create a dance piece emphasizing the sexiness of the mambo, with “Michael giving a vulnerable performance. Fresher, more honest, easier, sexier. Go for the man, not the mysterious unapproachable MJ,” he wrote. “Present the side of him that illustrates a more masculine present-day MJ.” [5]

Jackson’s appearance and performance attitude in the video duly mocks any suggestion that he was “asexual”.  We know he was a master at playing to his audience; an audience he had come to know very well over the years he had been performing live.  So, with regard to his dislike for the completed video, perhaps on this occasion he neglected to monitor its impact on some of that audience.  Michael just didn’t get the fact that he was “cooler than cool” according to Brad Buxer. [6]

If there is a video capable of pushing up temperatures and quickening pulse rates, it’s “Blood on the Dance Floor”.  For some of us, our unabashed enjoyment of the song and its short film hasn’t lessened, even twenty-one years on.

Sources:

[1]  Hennigan, Kerry “What is it about ‘Blood on the Dance Floor’? or Michael Jackson as alpha male” (2015) https://kerryhennigan.wordpress.com/2016/06/30/what-is-it-about-blood-on-the-dance-floor-or-michael-jackson-as-alpha-male/

[2]  Vogel, Joseph “Michael Jackson’s ‘Blood on the Dance Floor,’ 15 years later (2012) https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2012/03/michael-jacksons-blood-on-the-dance-floor-15-years-later/254877/

[3]  Hennigan, Kerry, My personal notes from Brad Sundberg’s “In the Studio with Michael Jackson” seminar at Thriller Villa, Las Vegas, 10 October 2015, with guests Brad Buxer and Michael Prince.

[4]  “Vincent Paterson – Choreographer for Michael Jackson” interview blogged by MJJ Justice Project (2013) https://mjjjusticeproject.wordpress.com/2013/12/03/vincent-paterson-choreographer-for-michael-jackson/

[5]  Paterson, Vincent.  Production notes depicted on http://www.onmjfootsteps.com/archives/2016/12/02/34635904.html#c71021626

[6] Hennigan, Kerry, My personal notes from Brad Sundberg’s “In the Studio with Michael Jackson” seminar.

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