There aren’t many sibling duos like Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson. While both had mega-successful careers, they blessed fans with a duet in the mid-90s. “Scream” was a direct shot at the media scrutiny the Jackson family, specifically Michael, had been under. Recording the single was quite the process for the brother-sister duo, as well as the music video shoot.
The song was a response to the child molestation charges against Michael Jackson
“Scream” details frustration with media coverage and paparazzi, so much so that it makes the celebrities want to scream. In the song, Michael sings: “Tired of injustice / Tired of the schemes / The lies are disgusting / So what does it mean? / Damn it / Kicking me don / I got to get up / As jacked as it sounds / The whole system sucks / Damn it.”
The Poetic Justice star told MTV News in 2009 that her brother was inspired to write the song due to the ongoing child molestation accusations against him, which began in the early 90s and was the center of multiple criminal trials. “‘Scream,’ there was so much going on at that time,” she said. “That’s when the — I hate to say this, but — the first allegations [of child molestation] came out and the whole bit. He was very upset and very angry and he had so much pent-up in him that he wanted to get out and say. And when you listen to the lyrics, that’s what it’s about.”
Janet says the lyrics to the song have a dual meaning for her. “I played the role that I’ve always played in his life: his little sister that was there by his side, that had his back no matter what,” she added. “That’s what ‘Scream’ was for me.”
Janet Jackson recorded her parts of the songs in two separate studio sessions
“Scream” is the lead single from Michael’s ninth studio album, HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I. It was released on May 29, 1995.
In a 1997 interview with VIBE Magazine amid the debut of The Velvet Rope, Janet dished on recording the single and admit she did so twice because she was dissatisfied with the first recording. “I recorded my part in New York, and I didn’t like it. So I sang it again in Minneapolis, at Jimmy and Terry’s studio where I felt comfortable,” she said.
“[Michael] was there too because he wanted to re-sing his as well. He re-sang his, but his first pass at it in New York was the s–t,” she added. “I don’t know what happened, but I felt I was mixed down too,” she said, as there was some criticism that it was difficult to hear her on the record. “It sometimes happens, you know. I wish they would have pushed it up a little bit more. I think “Scream” was the best video out. But it didn’t have anything to do with me being in it or anything like that.”
The music video is one of the most expensive ever made
“Scream’s” music video was shot in Black and white. It’s a futuristic theme, with Michael and Janet dancing side by side in spaced-out sequences. The video also features gravity-defying camera tricks, including the two of them upside down and sideways at points.
“It was supposed to only be like a two-day shoot,” Janet told Allure Magazine about the video shoot. “[The video] wound up being seven days.” Because of going over schedule, the price tag was higher. “It was a $7 million video — I didn’t have to pay, Mike did,” Janet added with a laugh.
Unlike having to record her parts of the song twice, filming was a better experience. “It was fun getting in the studio and dancing together because we hadn’t done that since I was kid,” she said. “We used to dance together all the time, that was a great deal of fun.”