“Is It Scary”: How Michael Jackson Thrives on Your Hate #BOTDF25

Chris Lacy
5 min readMay 9, 2022

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Happy 25th Anniversary to Michael Jackson’s remix album, ‘Blood on the Dance Floor,’ originally released on May 20, 1997.

Photo Credit / Art Direction: Bill Nation, Will Wilson; Nancy Donald and David Coleman

Hello, my name is Hate. You know me well. Thanks for creating me!

I’m here today to talk about Michael Jackson. You know, that guy. The one who keeps me alive because of how y’all feel about him.

And since Blood on the Dance Floor is turning 25, I’m back again, making my presence felt. Let’s talk!

What do you see when you see Michael Jackson? An entertainer with no peer? An alleged child abuser? A shy kid from Gary, Indiana, who changed pop culture forever? A tortured soul deformed by surgery and dependent on painkillers?

It’s almost impossible to separate any of those strands from the tapestry of his public image. For every fan who held up a “KING OF POP” poster at his concerts, another feels betrayed by him. It’s as if God bestowed His greatest gifts on an unworthy soul.

Outside Neverland’s gates, my favorite people stretch across the globe: the Haters. Population in the millions! And the funny thing about me is that I live rent-free in their heads for this reason:

“The minute I started breaking the all-time record in record sales, they called me a freak. They called me a homosexual. They called me a child molester. They said I tried to bleach my skin. They did everything to try to turn the public against me.” — Michael Jackson

Now that is hate. That’s me on another level!

Photo Credit: SingleWhiteGlove

Michael couldn’t even enjoy the fruits of his labor without me dominating people’s feelings. What did I do to make people hate me this much? That’s what he asked me behind closed doors. He had a hard time understanding why I was always around.

All he wanted to do was reach every demographic he could through the love, joy, and simplicity of music. He thought that if he “studied the greats and became greater,” the world would appreciate him, but it didn’t.

Michael was sometimes childish and stubborn. But he was always beaming with talent and chasing greatness. I didn’t like that at all, and the Haters followed my “S.I.G.N. language” playbook to the letter: (s)hame, (i)nsults, (g)uilt, and the (n)eed to be right.

Here’s the problem: The more you threw me in his face, the stronger I made him.

Photo Credit: SingleWhiteGlove

Michael loved turning your hatred into creative fuel. Forget about his talent for a moment. His ability to focus made him a liability at times, isolating himself from the real world. But by this time, it was his secret weapon. He learned to filter out all the static and fight back with his art.

Video Source: YouTube

Tortured yet blissful, “Is It Scary” is the sound of a man battling the voices in his head. With a lifetime spent under the spotlight, his creeping anxiety from the 1997 hit Ghosts haunts the first half of each verse:

There’s a ghost out in the hall

There’s a ghoul beneath the bed

Now it’s coming through the walls

Now it’s coming up the stairs

There’s a spirit in the dark

Hear the beating of its heart

Can you feel it in the air?

Ghosts be hiding everywhere

Without warning, he reveals the source of all his trauma in the second half of each verse:

I’m gonna be exactly what you wanna see

It’s you who’s haunting me

Because you’re wanting me

To be the stranger in your life

Am I amusing you?

Or just confusing you?

Am I the beast you visualized?

And if you wanna see eccentric oddities

I’ll be grotesque before your eyes

Let them all materialize!

He invites Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis back into the mix, who also co-produced “Scream” with his baby sister, Janet. Equal parts Gothic pop and new jack funk, “Is It Scary” fires another creative middle finger with the force of a blowtorch. It’s easy to imagine this song thumping in a secret, dungeon-themed nightclub. The crowd’s dressed in black, dancing to the sinister groove as charred spirits float above them with jagged lightning in the sky.

Video Source: YouTube

And thanks to you, Mike upped his game for the 39-minute short film, Ghosts. He spent five years crafting what he hoped would be “very scary, but at the same time, fun.” With a Stephen King script and Stan Winston in the director’s chair, he made a fascinating sequel to Thriller.

It has everything that made him an MTV-era pioneer: big-budget special effects, masterful dancing, screams for vengeance, and fierce glares at the camera. But it’s the more moving human elements that make this a new kind of Hollywood musical.

The heart of the film is a duel between the two main characters. The Maestro (read: Michael Jackson) wants to be part of a world that’s rejected him. When cornered, he lashes out because they see him as less than human. Meanwhile, the Mayor (read: the Haters) doesn’t realize that every time he points a judging finger at the Maestro, three more point back at him. It takes a hard look in the mirror to reveal his selfish pride (2 Bad), bigotry (“Is It Scary”), and jealousy (Ghosts).

You see I, Hate, come in many forms. I motivate you to look for flaws in others. It’s a coping mechanism, a dark one. Your prejudice seems legitimate until you find out you’re dead wrong. But you don’t care about the truth because the lie is more entertaining.

Go ahead, love him or hate him.

It’s one or the other, always has been.

Hate that Michael had a kid’s heart and the mind of a genius.

Hate that he turned his pain into music that made the whole world dance.

Hate that Blood on the Dance Floor is still the biggest-selling remix album ever.

Hate it with all your heart.

And hate that he’s loved for the same reasons.

Photo Credit: SingleWhiteGlove

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Chris Lacy

I aim to write stories that move you today and stay with you forever.