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Saturday, 24 September 2011


"Black or White" is a single by American singer-songwriter Michael Jackson. The song was released by Epic Records on November 11, 1991 as the firstsingle from Jackson's eighth studio albumDangerous. It was written, composed and produced by Michael Jackson and Bill Bottrell.

"Black or White" was written, composed and produced by Michael Jackson and Bill Bottrell,[2] and was picked as the first single from the album Dangerous. An alternate version was first heard by Sony executives on a trip to Neverland, as the third track of the Promo (Flight Only) CD Acetate. It began to be promoted on radio stations the first week of November 1991 in New York and Los Angeles.[2][3] "Black or White" was officially released one week later, on November 5, 1991.[3] The song has elements of dancerap and hard rock music such as Bill Bottrell's guitars and Jackson's vocal style.[4][5][6][7][8][9] The song's main riff is often falsely attributed to Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash. His guitar work is featured in the opening skit for the song's track on the album.[10]

"Black or White" entered Billboard's Hot 100 at number thirty five.[11] A week later it shot up to number three and on its third week, December 7, 1991, it ascended to number one, making it the fastest chart topper since the Beatles' "Get Back" also won the Hot 100 in just three weeks in 1969.[11][12] It achieved the year at number one, and remained at the top of the singles chart into 1992, for a total of seven weeks, making Michael Jackson the first artist to get number one popular hits in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.[12] In the UK, the single became the first single by an American to go into the singles chart at number one since 1960, when "It's Now Or Never" by Elvis Presley did in the same manner.[11] Around the world, "Black or White" hit number one in the US, UK, Canada, Mexico, Cuba, Zimbabwe, Australia, New Zealand, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Israel, Italy, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the Euro Chart Hot 100, number two in Germany and number three in Holland.[11][12] The single was certified platinum in the US, selling over one million copies.[12]

Reviews of the song varied. Rolling Stone's Allan Light in his Dangerous review, compares the song unfavourably to "Beat It": "Neither this slow-burn solo nor the Stones-derived riff on 'Black or White' offers the catharsis of Eddie Van Halen's blazing break on 'Beat It'".[10]

The music video for "Black or White" was first broadcast on MTVBETVH1, and Fox (giving them their highest Nielsen ratings ever)[14] on November 14, 1991.[15] Along with Jackson, it featured Macaulay CulkinTess Harper, and George Wendt. It helped usher in morphing as a new technology in music videos. The sequence begins with extra, Let Mon Lee, and features supermodel Tyra Banks and actress Cree Summer.[16] The video was directed by John Landis, who previously directed Thriller. It premiered simultaneously in 27 countries, with an audience of 500 million viewers, the most to ever watch a music video.[17]

The first few minutes of the video featured an extended version of the song's intro, during which a 10 year old kid (Macaulay Culkin) is dancing to rock music in his bedroom at night. This attracts the attention of his father (George Wendt), who furiously orders him to stop playing the music and go to bed. Culkin complies by setting up large speaker cabinets behind his father's reclining chair, donning leather gloves and sunglasses, and playing a power chord, setting on an electric guitar.[14] The sound then shatters and destroys the house windows and sends his father (seated in the chair) halfway around the world, where the actual song begins.[14] The kid's mother (Tess Harper), comments that his father will be very unhappy when he gets back. The album version of the song does not feature Culkin's nor Wendt's voice; they are replaced by voice actors performing a similar intro. Wendt crashes in Africa, and Jackson sings "Black or White", surrounded by various cultures scene-by-scene.[15]

The video shows scenes in which African hunters begin dancing using moves from West African dance, Jackson follows their moves and then they mirror his; as do, in sequence, traditional Thai dancersPlains Native Americans, a woman from India and a group of Russians.[14] Jackson walks through visual collages of fire (defiantly declaring "I ain't scared of no sheets; I ain't scared of nobody"), referring to KKK torch ceremonies before a mock rap scene shared with Culkin and other children.[15] The group collectively states, "I'm not gonna spend my life being a color." The final verse is performed by Jackson on a large sculpted torch, which the camera pans out to reveal as the Statue of Liberty. Jackson is seen singing on Lady Liberty's torch surrounded by other famous world edifices including The Giza SphinxHagia SophiaThe ParthenonTaj MahalSt. Basil's CathedralPyramids of GizaGolden Gate BridgeBig Ben and the Eiffel Tower. At the end of the song, different people dance as they morph into one another (shown as "talking heads"). This technique, previously executed without digital assistance in the Godley & Creme video for "Cry", known as morphing, had been previously used only in films such as Willow and Terminator 2. The morphing visual effects were created by Pacific Data Images. Jackson's niece, Brandi Jackson, daughter of Jackie Jacksonmakes a cameo appearance in the video.[11] Wade Robson also makes an appearance in this music video as well as Another Bad Creation's, Mark and Dave.

The music video of the song appear on the video albums: Dangerous - The Short Films (long version), Video Greatest Hits - HIStory (long version), Number Ones (short version), and Michael Jackson's Vision (long version).

Controversy was generated concerning the last four minutes of the original music video. Jackson walks out of the studio as a black panther and then morphs into himself.[15] Then he walks outside to perform some of his most physically complicated dance techniques, in a similar way to "Billie Jean". This part contained sexually suggestive scenes when Jackson starts to grab his crotch,[14] and then zips his pants up. In the original version, Jackson is seen smashing windows,[14] destroying a car and causing an inn (called the "Royal Arms") to explode. Jackson later apologized saying that the violent and suggestive behavior was an interpretation of the animal instinct of a black panther, and MTV and other music video networks removed the last four minutes from subsequent broadcasts.[15] To make the vandalism and violence more understandable to viewers, racial messages were digitally added using CGI graffiti to the windows that Jackson smashes. They are, "Hitler Lives" on the passenger window with a swastika on the driver's window, "Nigger Go Home" (the 3 G's form the 666) on the car's back window, "No More Wetbacks" on the windshield, and "KKK Rules" on the store door. The version included in the boxset "Michael Jackson's Vision" is the original uncut, uncensored version without the digital graffiti, and does not include the "prejudice is ignorance" title card.

To date, the uncut version has generally been seen in the United States on MTV2 only between the hours of 01:00 and 04:00, as part of their special uncensored airing of the "Most Controversial Music Videos" of all time. The extended version is also available on Jackson's DVDs. The original version (without graffiti) is available on the VHS and Laserdisc releases of Video Greatest Hits – HIStory with the DVD release containing the "racist graffiti version", and online at MTVMusic.com. On Sunday, November 29, 2009, the FUSE cable channel aired the original version of "Black or White" (without graffiti) on its two-hourRemember His Time tribute wherein most of Jackson's music videos were played.

It was still shown in its entirety for some years in Europe. Indeed, UK channel MTV Classic aired the full video at 14:00 in the afternoon on April 11, 2010, including the brief cameo by Bart and Homer Simpson before the "prejudice is ignorance" image. The version available in the iTunes Music Store contains neither the panther scene nor the Simpsons cameo, and is cut after the morphing sequence.

Starting in 1992, Nocturne Video Productions began playing the "Panther Segment" of the video as an interlude during Michael's Dangerous World tour. The clip is 20 seconds shorter than the original with all the violence and the sexually suggestive scenes removed.[15] However, the part where he re-zipped his pants was kept in. On March 28, 2009, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's music video program Rage aired the uncensored, non-graffiti original version in its entirety in a 720p digital broadcast. In January 2011, FUSE on Demand has the full video (without graffiti) for Comcast On Demand until February 28, 2011. Even though the short, censored version continues to air periodically to this day, some television channels still air the complete version but with the racist graffiti in it.

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