|Song by Michael Jackson from the album HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I|
|Released||December 2, 1995|
|Format||CD, digital download|
|Genre||Hard rock, funk|
|HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I track listing|
"D.S." is an album track by Michael Jackson from his 1995 double disc record HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I. It is track six on the second disc, one of the three songs from that disc whose lyrics are printed in the album booklet, and is four minutes and forty-nine seconds in length. The song is often cited as a derogatory reference to Santa Barbara County District Attorney Tom Sneddon, whose name is similar to the subject of the song, Dom Sheldon. When Jackson was accused of child sexual abuse in 1993, the investigation was controlled by Sneddon, who also ordered that Jackson be strip searched. The criminal investigation was subsequently closed due to lack of evidence and Jackson was not charged with a crime. Jackson was angered by the allegations, his perception of being mistreated by the police and media, and the negative effect on his health.
Shortly afterwards, he began work on HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I. The track "D.S." is written, composed and produced by Jackson and includes a guitar solo by Slash. It is a rock song that conveys themes such as bitterness, mistrust and corruption within law enforcement. There was no major critical analysis of the song from mainstream reviews when HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I was issued, but the song's connection to Tom Sneddon was widely reported in the media. Jackson was subsequently involved in projects that made coded references to Sneddon and the 1993 investigation.
HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I, its album tracks such as "D.S." and corresponding music videos are heavily influenced by the 1993 child sexual abuse accusations made against Jackson, the reaction to the allegations and the effect they had on the singer. The album acts as Jackson's response to the media and the public. In 1993, Evan Chandler and his son Jordan Chandler accused Jackson of child sexual abuse. Jackson agreed to a strip search of his body at Neverland Ranch; the strip search was ordered by Thomas W. Sneddon Jr., the district attorney of Santa Barbara County, California. Sneddon was in charge of the investigation as a whole. The accuser gave a detailed description of what he alleges were Jackson's genitals, also giving details on patches of vitiligo on the singer's body, but eventually the description was proved wrong. In an emotional state, Jackson stood on a platform in the middle of the room, took off all his clothes and was examined for approximately twenty-five minutes; he was never physically touched.
The media coverage of the allegations was criticized for using sensational headlines to draw in readers and viewers when the content itself did not support the headline, for accepting stories of Jackson's alleged criminal activity in return for money, for accepting confidential leaked material from the police investigation in return for money, for deliberately using pictures of Jackson's appearance at its worst, for a lack of objectivity and for using headlines that strongly implied Jackson's guilt. At the time, Jackson said of the media reaction, "I will say I am particularly upset by the handling of the matter by the incredible, terrible mass media. At every opportunity, the media has dissected and manipulated these allegations to reach their own conclusions".
The entertainer began taking painkillers, Valium, Xanax and Ativan to deal with the stress of the allegations made against him. A few months after the allegations became news, Jackson had lost approximately 10 pounds in weight and had stopped eating. Jackson's health had deteriorated to the extent that he cancelled the remainder of his tour and went into rehabilitation. Jackson booked the whole fourth floor of the clinic, and was put on Valium IV to wean him from painkillers. The singer's spokesperson told reporters that Jackson was "barely able to function adequately on an intellectual level". While in the clinic, Jackson took part in group and one-on-one therapy sessions.
Jackson was not charged with a crime and the police closed their criminal investigation citing lack of evidence. With his health improving, Jackson then began work on a new album called HIStory, and commenced recording in 1994. The song "D.S." included in the album contains lyrics about a cold man called Dom S. Sheldon, which, when sung, sounds similar to Thomas Sneddon. Some media sources, and Sneddon himself, believe the song is directed at him.
Themes and genre
"D.S." has very similar themes to the rest of HIStory, creating an atmosphere of paranoia. The album's content focuses on the hardships and public struggles Jackson went through just prior to its production. In the new jack swing/funk rock efforts "Scream" and "Tabloid Junkie", along with the R&B ballad "You Are Not Alone", Jackson retaliates against the injustice and isolation he feels, and directs much of his anger at the media. In the introspective ballad "Stranger in Moscow", Jackson laments over his "fall from grace". "D.S." contains an excerpt from the Yes hit single "Owner of a Lonely Heart" composed by Trevor Rabin, Jon Anderson, Chris Squire and Trevor Horn. The lyrics describe the subject of the song as a man who wants him "dead or alive" and "really tried to take me down/By surprise". The track ends with the sound of a gunshot.
The song has a distinct rock feel to it, with a guitar solo performed by Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash, who had previously worked with Jackson on his Dangerous album. Jackson screams the name "Slash!" immediately before Slash's part in the song. Jackson has previously made a number of successful rock songs, including; "Beat It", "Dirty Diana", "Give In to Me" and "Scream". In his HIStory album review, Entertainment Weekly's Jackson Browne musically defines "D.S." as a hard rock song.
Excerpt of the album track "D.S.". In the excerpt Jackson accuses "D.S." of being politically motivated, having a poor social life and a bad childhood upbringing. The song has a distinctive rock edge.
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Although the album HIStory was nominated for the Grammy Award for Album of the Year and had additional related Grammy nominations, hardly any mainstream music reviewers provided a critical analysis of "D.S." in their reviews of the album. Analysis of the song usually only covered the connection to Tom Sneddon and the song's genre. However, Fred Shuster of the Daily News of Los Angeles described "D.S." as a "superb [slice] of organic funk that will fuel many of the summer's busiest dance floors".
Many news organizations reviewed the piece in connection to Sneddon. Fox News Channel and CNN expressed the opinion that the "cold man" of this song's lyrics is Sneddon, as when sung, "Dom S. Sheldon" sounds very close to "Thomas Sneddon". The BBC suggested that the lyric's reference to a "B.S.T.A." sounds similar to "S.B.D.A.", meaning "Santa Barbara District Attorney". The Guardian and The New York Times expressed the view that Jackson suggests "Sheldon" has links to the CIA and the Ku Klux Klan and he just "wants your vote". Sneddon's own work website indicates that he believes he is the subject of the song, stating, "He's the only DA in the nation to have an angry song written about him by pop megastar Michael Jackson". Of the song, he said, "I have not—shall we say—done him the honor of listening to it, but I’ve been told that it ends with the sound of a gunshot".
Other works and aftermath
Although there was no music video made for "D.S.", the song's subject was referenced in the short film Ghosts. Released in 1997 and premiering at the 1996 Cannes Film Festival, it was written by Jackson and Stephen King and directed by Stan Winston. The story was based loosely on the events and isolation Jackson felt after he was accused of child sexual abuse in 1993. In the plot, the Maestro (played by Jackson) is nearly chased out of his town by the mayor (who deliberately looks very similar to Sneddon) and the residents because they believe him to be a "freak". It features many special effects and dance moves to original music, composed and choreographed by Jackson. The film includes several songs and music videos from the albums HIStory and Blood on the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix. The video for Ghosts is over thirty-eight minutes long and holds the Guinness World Record as the world's longest music video.
The child sexual abuse allegations of 2003 resulted in a long trial two years later. Sneddon was the lead investigator again, as well as the trial prosecutor. The trial ended with Jackson being acquitted on all counts. The two investigations being controlled by Sneddon have led to complaints that he was motivated by a "vendetta" against Jackson. Evidence to support these claims include Sneddon joking about Jackson's greatest hits album being released on the same day as his arrest and sarcastically saying, "Like the sheriff and I really are into that kind of music". He then preceded to call Jackson "Wacko Jacko" and shouting "we got him, we finally got him" to the media when he had only just begun an investigation and had gathered limited information or evidence. "D.S." was sung outside the courtroom by a group of Jackson's fans every day the trial took place.
- Written, composed, produced, vocal arrangements, lead and background vocals by Michael Jackson
- Arrangements by Michael Jackson, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis and Dallas Austin
- Keyboards and synthesizers by Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis
- Lead and rhythm guitars by Slash
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