Wednesday, July 01, 2009

One Man's Michael Jackson

First, I guess I need to apologize to myself and anyone who reads this for letting the blog field go fallow for so long. I've been working pretty hard and more or less solely on this, ahem, you know, kinda, well, uh thing, and it hasn't left much time for blogification. And actually I probably wouldn't have posted this today if I hadn't been prompted by a friend's email. So I apologize for the vacation. I think I'll post a couple more times before the summer's out. Or maybe not. Fuck off.

For the past several years, whenever I've been at a party, and there's been an untended iPod hiccupping one, like, Portishead song after another, I am usually the one to commandeer it, drunkenly and without asking its owner or the party host, who are usually the same person.

And the first name I usually spin the wheel towards is Michael Jackson's.

He is the egalitarian party starter of the century; he is Jesus of the iPod-based dance party: a savior. Forever and ever. Amen. I've only been to one party where the detonation of "P.Y.T." didn't cause hysteria, and that's because the people at the party were all from Greece and probably forgot who Michael Jackson was, stuck as they were in whatever weird, trance bullshit they'd been listening to all night.

And actually that party really disturbed me for many days afterward, and I said to the friend who'd dragged me there something that I think is as true today as it was back in March: "One man's trash is another man's Michael Jackson."

Because he was already a fixture of every single birthday playlist I've ever had--and usually timed for the apex of the night--and because his musical career had more or less ended, for me at least, after that song, "Butterflies," the only thing MJ's death does for me is make him dead.

There was a period growing up when hip-hop was the only thing I listened to--TLC, Arrested Development, Outkast, Biggie, Jay-Z, etc. I had more or less forgotten about MJ. But then, somewhere in my early twenties, I probably heard some DJ at some club spin "Rock With You" during a set, and I remembered.

Movie Flashback: Boston in the early 80s, the smell of our apartment on Beacon Street, a time when my parents were young, happy, and their friends would force me to do my lame moonwalk at parties, and which I'd readily perform.

For me, it's always been about his music. And maybe a good bit of nostalgia. I'm sure the creepy stuff is still haunting some people, most of all those kids, if it actually happened (and maybe more so if it didn't). It is haunting. But we wouldn't even know about it if it weren't for his Truman Show-esque, perpetually spotlit life, lack of childhood, some foul shit Joe said and/or did to him, etc.

I'm not saying I think Mike is innocent because he created great music. He created great music, and he was a flawed person, who led (in the words of Obama) "a sad and tragic life." Two separate statements. But his person must be punished for the flaws. Not his music, which still seems, after all these years, bigger, more expansive and more important than the sad, doomed brother that produced it.


Anonymous said...

I think James Baldwin said it best in a piece titled Here Be Dragons -

"The Michael Jackson cacophony is fascinating in that it is not about Jackson at all. I hope he has the good sense to know it and the good fortune to snatch his life out of the jaws of a carnivorous success. He will not swiftly be forgiven for having turned so many tables, for he damn sure grabbed the brass ring, and the man who broke the bank at Monte Carlo has nothing on Michael.

All that noise is about America, as the dishonest custodian of black life and wealth; the blacks, especially males, in America; and the burning, buried American guilt; and sex and sexual roles and sexual panic; money, success and despair–to all of which may now be added the bitter need to find a head on which to place the crown of Miss America.

Freaks are called freaks and are treated as they are treated–in the main, abominably–because they are human beings who cause to echo, deep within us, our most profound terrors and desires".


Mik A. said...

Damn, thanks for that. That hits the head of a nail I didn't even see before, but was obviously at the heart of MJ's "freakishness." He kind of was the man in the fucked up mirror.