Tuesday, June 30, 2009


I liked Michael Jackson. I mean, really, who didn't? And it makes perfect sense that the mourners have come out of the wood work in droves lamenting over a tragic life ostensibly ruined by eccentricities and deviant behavior.

It's also inarguable that there was some genius there and yes, records like Thriller, and chunks of Off The Wall and Bad, respectively, are nostalgic wonders. But while thinking about it--and how could you not think about your personal relationship with the self-anointed King of Pop--I don't think I had ever owned a Michael Jackson record until a few years back when I had received some remastered promos while running my university's radio station. And I wondered about this. If everyone in the world bopped to school with an MJ cassette in their Walkman, then why hadn't I?

While many are categorizing his music as R&B, Jackson interestingly never referred to himself as the King of that silky smooth genre. He wanted to tackle pop, an aesthetic that both supersedes race and age and also intentionally defies substance. Pop is not the chosen outlet for the politically outspoken nor is it it heady or divisive. It is mass culture, it is mainstream, it is a hit, a song for the world. When he was at the top of the charts, Jackson was quite possibly the most popular person in the world, and at the time, it would have been unfathomable that one day he would take a sharp left turn off of Normal Road and wind up being the butt of our mean-spirited pedophile jokes. And so, way back in the 80's, Jackson was the furthest from being the underdog and this was something I could not relate to. I couldn't imagine being that popular, being that universally acclaimed, existing as a brand almost as ubiquitous as Coke. It seemed overwhelming and huge and stressful and abnormal. Like a modern day god, mythology, worshiping, surreal pedestal high and tall. Perhaps I'm giving myself too much credit, but in a way, I may have predicted his bizarre downfall. I may have wondered about just how long MJ could handle this unprecedented level of fame (I would venture to say that he is and was more popular than Elvis) when especially considering his ostentatious lifestyle. And through this, maybe I distanced myself. Why invest in a personality doomed for self-immolation?

Or maybe I was jealous that I couldn't dance for s***.


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