Even with his never-ending kinetic energy, his desire to explode in every moment, Michael Jackson also knew the value and beauty in subtlety. Probably one of his most poignant songs came from his most personal album and definitely proved that he was a man with an eye and a heart for the truly stunning.
“Stranger in Moscow” is a study in stillness. It’s neither a song nor a video that purports to be anything more than a quiet work of art. It isn’t grand or over the top, its sole “special effect”, such as it is, is the slow motion enlisted to expand the movement of everything around him. However, it’s that simple technique — something that’s not exactly groundbreaking in music video — that gives the song even more depth than Michael was able to muster with his own lyrics.
Frame by frame, this video is a piece of photographic genius, each moment, each heartbeat, each inhalation of breath extended to give our protagonist an elongated sense of isolation. It’s a video that takes pleasure in the simplicity of a raindrop, exposing the emotion in the sky itself. The textures in the video help to further give meaning to the loneliness of a wandering soul, the dryness of withered flesh encasing a still-beating yet very weary heart. When the rain drops down, adding moisture and nourishment to the thirsty body, the heart can learn to mend, to accept beauty even in greyscapes, and smile even when it hurts to do so.
Nick Brandt took the heartache that Michael poured into this song and painted a sleepy LA city with that throbbing pain. This is truly one of Michael’s most gorgeous pieces of work.