Originally created 06/19/97

Michael Jackson's latest album no thriller among buyers



NEW YORK (AP) - The thriller is gone for Michael Jackson.

Maybe the years of tabloid headlines caught up with him, or he made one squeal too many. But the self-proclaimed King of Pop's new album is in unfamiliar territory - sinking down the charts past dozens of hotter stars.

The numbers aren't pretty. "Blood on the Dance Floor," which was released May 20, debuted at No. 24 on the album chart and sank to No. 43 its second week. This week, it's at No. 65.

The album has sold 79,000 copies in the United States, according to Soundscan, a New York company which tracks record sales. The singer's quasi-new album contains five new songs and eight remixed songs that first appeared on the 1995 disc, "HIStory: Past, Present and Future - Book 1."

And the first single, "Blood on the Dance Floor," was only Jackson's second song in the past 15 years not to make the Top 40.

It's a long tumble from "Thriller," the album that sold 24 million copies in the United States and made Jackson's moonwalk and sequined glove cultural touchstones of the 1980s.

Jackson, who's a lot more successful overseas these days, blames radio stations and MTV for abandoning him and not giving his new music a chance, his spokesman, Kevin McLin, said.

"It frustrates an artist, as far as not being able to exhibit his talent," McLin said.

Compare Jackson's slump with the successes of his contemporaries, like the Wu-Tang Clan, the Staten Island rappers whose double album sold 612,000 copies in one week earlier this month. Jackson trails the Spice Girls, teen-age Jackson 5 imitators Hanson, the Bee Gees and Squirrel Nut Zippers on the chart.

Even Paul McCartney, Jackson's former duet partner on "The Girl is Mine," has been in the Top Ten for two straight weeks with his new album.

All the weirdness has been too much for many customers, said Eric Keil, an executive for the New Jersey chain Compact Disc World.

There were the accusations of child molestation, the plastic surgery, the quick marriage to - and speedy divorce from - Lisa Marie Presley, the hasty marriage to nurse Debbie Rowe and equally swift birth in February of their son, Prince Michael Jackson Junior. And at some point during the pregnancy, Jackson was left to deny a report in a London tabloid that the couple used artificial insemination and that Mrs. Jackson was paid $528,000 to carry the baby.

Keil expects to return many unsold copies of Jackson's new album to Epic Records.

"The negative publicity that he's been suffering from over the past several years has really hurt him," Keil said. "It's hurt his credibility, it's hurt his public image. It's just caused people to turn off to him."

The young fans who bought "Thriller" grew up and Jackson didn't grow with them, said Stanley Goman, senior vice president of the 97-store Tower Records chain. Jackson needs new teen-age fans - and they're more interested in the Spice Girls, Goman said.

Jackson's fans would return if the music were good enough, said Melinda Newman, senior talent editor at Billboard.

"The title certainly wasn't very appetizing and the song - he's basically blaming a woman for something again," she said. "It's a retread of `Dirty Diana' and `Billie Jean.' It just wasn't anything particularly exciting musically. To my mind, that's what people are responding to more than anything else."

Instead of hyping Jackson, Epic has kept quiet about this album. Many fans don't even know the album's out, Newman said.

Jackson, meanwhile, has turned into something of an expatriate.

He's spending his summer on a concert tour of Europe, where "Blood on the Dance Floor" hit the top of the charts. He hasn't performed in the United States for several years.

The "HIStory" album sold 3 million copies in the United States and 25 million elsewhere.

McLin sees the overseas performance as an indication that people like Jackson's new music if they get a chance to hear it.

"The powers that be have decided that they don't want his records to be played," he said. "I guess because of all the adverse publicity he's had, they made a decision that he shouldn't receive airplay."