Disc one: HIStory Begins
1. "Billie Jean"
2. "The Way You Make Me Feel"
3. "Black or White"
4. "Rock with You"
5. "She's out of My Life"
7. "I Just Can't Stop Loving You"
8. "Man in the Mirror"
10. "Beat It"
11. "The Girl Is Mine" Ft Paul McCartney
12. "Remember the Time"
13. "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough"
14. "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin"
15. "Heal the World"
Disc two: HIStory Continues
1. "Scream" Ft. Janet Jackson
2. "They Don't Care About Us"
3. "Stranger in Moscow"
4. "This Time Around" Ft. The Notorious B.I.G.
5. "Earth Song"
8. "Come Together"
9. "You Are Not Alone"
10. "Childhood (Theme from Free Willy 2)"
11. "Tabloid Junkie"
12. "2 Bad"
13. "HIStory" Ft. Boyz II
14. "Little Susie"
The first disc, (HIStory Begins) is a fifteen-track greatest hits (which was re-released in late 2001 as an only-compilation project, entitled Greatest Hits - HIStory Volume I). The tracklist included fourteen U.S. Top 10 singles (nine of which were number-one hits) plus the worldwide top 5 hit "Heal the World". The selections was criticized due to the fact that it includes only songs from Jackson's four albums with Epic. The second disc, (HIStory Continues) contains fifteen previously unreleased recordings, five of which were released as singles. The original projects for HIStory had been more modest: the intention was to release a single disc of Jackson's greatest hits back in late 1994 to be called Decade. However, that "best-of" album was cancelled and released along with the new studio material as a double-album in 1995. The versions included on HIStory Begins are the same as those on the studio albums.
HIStory was nominated for several 1996 Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year, which it did not win. It debuted at #1 in several countries, including the UK and the U.S. In America, HIStory had the best sales debut of 1995, selling over 390,000 copies in its first week. In October 1999, the RIAA certified HIStory at 7x Platinum, for shipments of 3.5 million in the United States. Thus far, HIStory has sold an estimated 18 million copies worldwide (36 million units) and is the greatest selling multiple-disc album of all time. The first disc of previously released hits was re-released in 2001 selling an estimated 3 million.
Despite the relative top 5 failure of the first single, "Scream", initial sales were strong, with the album debuting at #1 in most countries around the world. In the U.S., it outsold Dangerous's first weeks total with 391,000 copies sold as compared to 326,500. In the UK, it sold 100,000 in its first 2 days making it at that time, the fastest-selling album ever. It did not keep up these initial good sales figures however and only remained at #1 in the U.S. for 2 weeks and in the UK for 1 week. It remained at the top of other album charts around the world for an average of 2 weeks. Sony USA were hoping the album would stay at #1 all summer and the press started to brand it a flop.
Sales in the UK picked up during the huge success of the second single "You Are Not Alone" and particularly the only-European hit "Earth Song". Sales by the end of the year were just over 1 million copies making it triple platinum. The other successful HIStory singles and the tour helped HIStory to go onto sell over 1.5 million copies during its promotional period. This was not as good as Dangerous but in revenue terms much higher due to HIStory's price. In fact, HIStory was the second highest-grossing album during 1995 in the UK.
Sales in the U.S. picked up during the success of "You Are Not Alone" but the decision by Sony USA to not release a follow up single caused sales to start a decline from which it would never recover. "This Time Around" and "Earth Song" were released to radio instead in an attempt to get people to buy the album. The fact that Michael cancelled his One Night Only concert in New York City due to a health scare was a major set-back also. Nevertheless, the album would go on to be awarded a 7x Platinum award for 3.5 million copies sold by the RIAA. This was just over half of Dangerous's total sales of 7 million. In the UK, the album grossed more in revenue terms than Dangerous and most other albums released during 1995.
Worldwide, the album sold well in Asia, Africa, Europe and Australia - where it was certified 7x platinum (490,000 copies) in Australia by ARIA. It was Michael's best-selling album ever in Denmark, Switzerland, Holland and Belgium. With sales increased by the HIStory World Tour and successful singles, it went on to sell 10 million copies outside the UK and U.S. Total European sales as of late 1996 were 6 million copies. This was a similar figure to Bad but not as good as Dangerous.
Facts to note:
- If each disc was counted separately, it would be counted in the top 20 best-selling albums of all time.
- In revenue terms, it was the second highest grossing album after Thriller for Jackson.
- Executive producer: Michael Jackson
- Recorded and mixed by Bruce Swedien
- Additional Recording and mixing by Eddie De Lena, Steve Hodge and W.J.R.
- Technical directors: Matt Forger and Brad Sundberg
- Additional engineering by Eddie De Lena, Bill Bottrell, Matt Forger, Brad Sundberg, Dan Wallin, Andrew Scheps, Steve Hodge, Peter Mokran, Rob Hoffman, Bobby Brooks, Felipe El Gueta, John Van Nest and Harry Maslin
- Assistant engineers: Rob Hoffman, Brian Vibberts, Tony Duino-Black, Gus Garces, Carl Nappa, Jeff DeMorris, Jeff Taylor, Trini Alvarez Jr., Glen Marchese, Chris Theis, Jim Champagne, Joshua Shapera, Ron Lowe, Calr Glanville, Ryan Arnold, Jamie Seyberth, Stephani Gylden, Ben Wallach, Rick Dasher, Gabriel Sutter, Bill Easystone, Peter Germansen, David Nottingham, Chris Roberts and Julie Last
- Production coordination: Rachel Smith
- Mastered by Bernie Grundman
- Computer programming and technical direction assistance by Craig Johnson
- Additional synthersizer programming and sound design by Michael Boddicker, Chuck Wild, Scott Pittinsky, Bobby Brooks, Roberta Swedien and Darry Ross
HIStory was the first album where Jackson showcased his instrumental abilities, playing keyboard and synthesizer, guitar, drums and percussion on the album, as well as lead and backing vocals. He was also more involved in the production of this album, collaborating with producers Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Dallas Austin, Bill Bottrell and R. Kelly.
Sony Music backed the album's promotion with a 30 million dollar promotion and marketing campaign, the largest budget set for an album at that time. The campaign included a full set of singles and music videos, television and radio advertising, an 82 concert world tour, and eventually a remix album. Reviews were mixed and Jackson was ridiculed in the press for his promotional campaign of erecting statues of himself around Europe and floating himself down the River Thames.
For the first time in his career, Jackson significantly utilizes coarse language on this album, the majority of which are still not allowed on network television in the United States. Michael also experimented with more genres on HIStory than on any other album, ranging from orchestral to adult contemporary rhythm and blues to "Gothic pop".