dispatches from the pop scene...minus the corn syrup.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

R.I.P. Michael Jackson

Having a music blog, you feel sort of obligated to write about Michael Jackson's passing today. But truth is, I can't really add any more to what we're all going to hear over and over for weeks to come.

All I'll say is that I feel a little lost. I called my mom tonight and she told me about the first time she heard Michael on the radio—on the Jackson 5 single "I Want You Back"—40 years ago this fall, while driving to her freshman college classes.

She told me she was thinking, "Who's this little kid singing? I can't believe I like this—I'm a Beatles fan!"

In a lot of ways, for many folks—despite all the controversy—Jackson was and remained that kind of guilty pleasure.

Anyway, the following is from a column I wrote on Towleroad, back in February 2008. Truthfully, it's probably my favorite of the pieces I wrote there over the past two years:
"[Thiller's] centerpiece (and master stroke) is the one-two punch of 'Beat It' and 'Billie Jean'—two brilliant pop achievements that sound as cinematic today as Jackson probably initially imagined them and then brought to life with their videos. Half these emo boy bands should be grabbed by the scruff, sat down and scolded with Eddie Van Halen's guitar solo from 'Beat It' over and over again. Some of today's radio-friendly young poppets would also do well to toss out their cookie cutter ballads and use 'Human Nature' as a template, the complicated layers of which I'm realizing initially escaped me at age nine.

"Whether he grasped that it was going to happen or not, Michael Jackson caught lightning in a bottle with Thriller in the early '80s. In a time before the mountain of career-destroying weirdness consumed him, he stepped through the pop culture window opened by E.T. and Pac Man and sent millions of suburban kids off dreaming. While I wanna think, Never say never, it's pretty much safe to assume a mega-selling phenomenon like that record could never happen again."

Goodnight, Michael. I have many fond childhood memories from 1983 through '84, which Thriller soundtracked.

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  • At 6:49 PM, Blogger Keith a.k.a. K j A M said…

    I guess I'm just ambivalent. Here was a guy that was a hero to millions in the 80s and had quite possibly the most important pop album of all-time. He was rich beyond his wildest dreams. However, the eccentricities that followed and the accusations of child molestation brought him down. If his kids are lucky, there might be something left over after his family get's hold of his fortune. Not likely.

  • At 10:39 PM, Anonymous Jacko's Lament said…

    What fortune? He was living off other people and was so far in debt that there was no way he'd ever pay even a fraction of it off.

    His family will probably just continue to leech off anyone who will let them, just as Jacko himself did.

    I wouldn't be surprised if we never hear about the kids again--they'll get shuttled off somewhere quiet.

  • At 1:44 AM, Anonymous ndrew said…

    Michael Jacksons'artistic contributions to music, dance, videos and entertainment are imeasurable. All the bizarre stuff that came later in his life,I am sure were a result of the abuse he endured from his dysfunctional father and loss of the normal childhood he was deprived of. I for one will focus for now on the love he gave and positive part of his life which was his talent.

  • At 5:22 AM, Blogger Moogaboo said…

    Michael was so overexposed for so long that it's hard for me to feel much about him, one way or another, but he did leave behind the classics. Of course Thriller was the background sound to many childhood memories and it still sounds great today. I think Off the Wall is an underrated gem, too, and if I had to choose a favorite -- "Rock With You" all the way.

  • At 10:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Wow, other than "ndrew"... what a bunch of sad, pathetic haters. Bunch of bitter queens, no doubt.

    Shut the fuck up and RESPECT!

  • At 12:37 PM, Blogger Keith a.k.a. K j A M said…

    Hey Anon, well stated by one of those dumbass freaks without a life whose probably crying in their Cheerios. Get a life.

  • At 12:46 PM, Blogger D'luv said…

    well, count me among those who need to get a life

  • At 1:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    If you do have a life, "Keith", then why aren't you out there living yours instead of trolling blogs?

    I'm gonna call Amber again so she can shut down your blog, "Party Favors" again.

  • At 1:26 PM, Blogger Keith a.k.a. K j A M said…

    I for one have no sympathy for child molesters. That's not to say his contribution to music and the barriers he broke through for other African-American artists is not notable, because it is. He opened the door for other black artists to receive airplay on MTV. If it wasn't for him, Prince may never well have achieved the level of success that he did.

    The way I see it, there are four parts to his story. 1) the Jackson 5 era 2) the Thriller age when he was still black starting with the amazing Off the Wall and ending with We are the World 3) the Bad era or late eighties when his peculiarities began to surface; Bubbles the chimp, Hyperbolic chamber, Never Never Land (or as I like to say BoyLand) 4) The 90's Lisa Marie, then divorced, 2nd wife two kids through in vitro fertilization, then divorced, then surrogate mother for third child which he dangles from the balcony of a hotel and two, yes two accusations of child molestation for which he was acquitted because he settled to the tune of a combined $35 million dollars. His highly publicized interview where he admits to sleeping with young children in the same bed...do I need to say more?

    I'm sorry, but this whole saga is so predictable and can easily be compared to Diana vs. Mother Theresa. Only this time it's Michael vs. Farrah. I predict the fallout, the funeral, the lawsuits over the children which is easily tied to whatever his monetary value is worth, the endless books by self promoting skanks, the continuous speculation about his death, who was feeding him all the prescription pills and quite possibly another We Are the World pt. 2 by the end of the year. The only thing missing would be for Elton to recycle one of his old songs and dedicate it to Michael so it can reach #1 on the charts and stay there for months on end while radio plays it ad nauseam. Heck, we already have the conspiracy theories that he really isn't dead. Can you say Elvis? So yeah, try a little harder to put this in perspective.

    In short, had he been anyone else without the talent and the money, he would've been just another child molester rotting in jail and nobody would give a flying fuck.

  • At 1:31 PM, Anonymous oPaul said…

    This is a really sad day, but in a way, it almost feels like he died years ago. The way he transformed his face into that of an alien and the way he disappeared from view for years...and when you did see him he seemed like a zombie.

    He was probably the biggest star the world's ever going to see. Everything is so fragmented now -- there's no mainstream. No one's ever going to top his success.

    Maybe Lady Gaga, right?

  • At 1:36 PM, Blogger Keith a.k.a. K j A M said…

    >>I'm gonna call Amber again so she can shut down your blog, "Party Favors" again<<

    OMFG! It would figure that you're one of the little Amber demons from last year. Apparently you weren't following the thread. She publicly apologized and later Facebooked me and is now on my friends list. Like I said, grow up and yeah, get a life.

    BTW, instead of hiding behind an anonymous moniker, why don't you have the balls to put yourself out there? You didn't have them last year and apparently still don't.

    One last question: Are you going to roll up and cry like a baby when Madonna or Britney dies? Do you live your life precariously through your heroes? How truly sad for you.

  • At 1:38 PM, Blogger xolondon said…

    haha oPaul!

    True story: A friend of mine worked in the Peace Corps in a small town in Africa (don't remember the country). One day she decided to talk about the success of black people throughout the world. And the kids got all confused when she brought up Michael and said, "Michael Jackson is white." Sigh. His later life really undid a lot of his legacy.

    At the end of the day,I think all this speaks to having good people around you. Michael apparently always had shysters around him - even his doctor is missing right now!

  • At 1:40 PM, Blogger xolondon said…

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • At 1:40 PM, Blogger xolondon said…

    PS: I just saw the comment above my previous one. I will probably freak out when Madonna dies.

  • At 1:47 PM, Blogger Moogaboo said…

    Anon, of course I think it's sad that a talented person died, but I can't really get emotional over it. He was a brand -- a big, impersonal, corporate brand that churned out the glitz and the fireworks and the "It's a Small World"-esque kiddie parades. I mean, how corny and annoying those moments were. Should I insincerely say I was touched by them now?

    When Coke goes down the tubes and Disneyland closes, I probably won't cry then, either.

  • At 2:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I gotcha, Moogaboo. You don't have to say something you don't feel. Your post was respectful though.

    But the others... the guy have just died. He has family and kids. If you have nothing nice to say, then say nothing at all.

    It's funny to see all the haters judging from their high horse, as if they were God.

  • At 3:43 PM, Anonymous The Gospel Of LaToya said…

    Death is funny in a bizarre way, especially when it happens to a whisper-voiced, white-faced sentient piece of wax who achieved his biggest fame by becoming a nightmarish ghoul.

    Whether or not he molested kids, he had an impact on everyone who cared enough to a) read this post and b) respond to it, no matter what they said.

    That alone deserves a little consideration, whether that be respectful comments, honest emotion, uptight policing of someone else's blog or additional jokes.

    After all, we've all been fucked by the same smooth criminal. WOOO!!!!!

  • At 3:51 PM, Anonymous Annie said…

    Just for the record: I am not okay, and, apparently, neither is Jacko.


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