Michael Jackson’s Human Nature

Michael Jackson vs. The King of Pop

Michael Jackson vs. The King of Pop

I’m three years older than Michael Jackson.   I grew up listening to him.   I bought his albums.   Both of us grew older but only one of us seemed to ever grow up. 

When I heard Jackson had died I wasn’t shocked or even that surprised.   He had seemed to be fading away for a long time. 

 MJ was the man-child who had spent the majority of his life growing up in public.   First as the most talented member of the Jackson 5 and then as the young man who broke away from Motown, his family and everyone’s expectations of him by becoming the biggest and best known entertainer (and eccentric)  in the world.

It is not only entirely possible to admire and enjoy the music of Michael Jackson the Artist while still being disturbed or disgusted by the life of Michael Jackson the Man,  it’s the only honest way.

Still bad, but not yet dangerous.

Still bad, but not yet dangerous.

If there was ever a more suitable candidate for intense psychological therapy than Michael Jackson, I don’t know who it would be. If he seemed trapped in perpetual adolescence even at age 50, it was because he was so terribly abused as a young boy.

You can’t grow up in public the way MJ did and not carry some deep scars into adulthood.

His skin grew paler, his nose thinner and his body thinner and frailer.  Jackson morphed into some bizarre reverse caterpillar.   He went from a precocious and cuddly-cute child to a fit and handsome young man and ended up a pale, sickly, wig-wearing androgynous freak.

He made great music and did some terrible things. He brought joy and happiness to thousands of children but was accused of destroying the childhood of others.

Was he The King of Pop or Wacko Jacko?  Like most men, he was a little more complex than simplistic labels. He was smarter and more sophisticated than his carefully conceived image revealed. The perpetual Peter Pan persona aside, Jackson was known as a savvy businessman who worked hard to get and stay on top.

The thing is nobody stays on top forever. While Thriller made him the biggest star in entertainment, it also forced him to chase its success. Bad wasn’t as big as Thriller. Dangerous wasn’t as big as Bad. Invincible wasn’t as big as Dangerous.

MJ caught lightning in a bottle once in 1983 and spent the next 26 years trying to repeat the feat.

Taken in totality, Michael Jackson ranks right up there with The Beatles and Elvis Presley in his impact on music and if you doubt it, just ask Justin Timberlake whose moves and act he stole.

It’s quite easy to both love the music Michael the Artist and loathe Michael the Man.   After reading the transcript of his 2003 60 Minutes  interview with Ed Bradley it’s damn hard to come away from it without feeling at least a little sick.   The indelicate truth is despite being acquitted in 2005 on 10 counts of lewd conduct with children,  procuring alchohol for children and conspiracy, there are reports the singer paid millions to settle other  lawsuits of improper sexual relations with young boys.

Off-stage and behind closed doors there was a unsavory side to Jackson that tarnished his stardom.   To be certain, Jackson was hounded mercilessly by the media, but having lived his entire life in the spotlight, he seemed determined to cater to the weirdness by way of his appearance and the oblivious response to the many controversies.

But there’s a time for those who hated the bad decisions made by Michael the Man to air their grievances and it’s not while he’s lying on a cold metal table in the Los Angeles Coroner’s office.

I always thought that “King of Pop” tag was really jerky.   It was also inaccurate.   At his peak, Michael Jackson was the King of Music.   Nobody was bigger than he was after Thriller.    A lot of other artists have made hit albums and better albums than Thriller.   But at sales between 100 and 109 million copies sold, nobody made a bigger album.    

Was Thriller’s success the final straw in Michael Jackson’s downward spiral?  Somebody that knew the man can answer that question.   I was never more than a fan so I’d only be making a wild guess.

The man is gone.   The deconstruction of his carefully crafted image will be relentless.  The music is immortal. 

Sha-mone. Hee-heee. Woo!

And what would his people back home want if they ever learned just how far from them he’d really gone? He broke from them, and then he broke from himself. I’d never seen a man so broken up and ripped apart.

 

~ Captain Willard/Apocalypse Now

Please Stop ‘Cause I’ve Had Enough

 He’s filthy rich.  He’s flat broke.  He’s a Black Muslim.  He’s still a Jehovah’s Witness.  He’s a child molester.  He’s a innocent man.    

It’s the Dangerously Bad Thriller, but is he Invincible or just Off the Wall?

He’s Michael Jackson and he’s baaaaaaaaack.  

Once a Jacko but still a Wacko.

Once a Jacko but still a Wacko.

At least he is if you live in London.  The 50-year old “King of Pop” emerged from his seclusion to announce he would be performing 50 concerts at the  O2 arena in London.

The concerts begin on July 10 and end February 24, 2010.  The arena seats 23,000 and estimates are over a million people will see Jackson perform.

The Wikipedia entry for “This Is It,” the title of what Jackson is calling his “final curtain call” breathlessly exclaims    Sales of Jackson’s albums increased following the press conference. Overnight, sales of Off the Wall  rose 200%, Bad rose 110%, Dangerous rose 165% and Thriller rose 155%

Well, la-di-da.  I’m not mad at Michael J. for moving some of his back catalog, but  the most recent of those albums, Dangerous, is 18 years old.

Jackson’s last release of new material was 2001’s Invincible, a double-platinum seller, but one without a Number One single for the self-proclaimed King of Pop.

I never bought or listened to Invincible because by 2001, I was totally burnt out on Michael Jackson’s non-musical antics.  Just as Tom Cruise’s couch-jumping and Scientology rants had turned off his fans and his subsequent movies underperformed, I was so sick of Jackson I didn’t even want to hear his music anymore.   I didn’t care if he was innocent or guilty.   All I wanted was him to get his decaying face out of mine. 

The tour organizers promise, “dramatic shows [that] promise an explosive return with a band of the highest calibre, a state-of-the-art stage show and incredible surprise support acts.”   It’s that last part that grabs me.  “Incredible surprise support acts.”  Who’s going to open for a 50-year-old Michael Jackson?  The even more ancient Rolling Stones or The Who?   Well, Mick Jagger is a whore for money.   Maybe Mick and Michael can revive their “State of Shock” duet?

Ugh.  Maybe not.  More like “State of Suck.”

But if I were living in London and the ticket price wasn’t too outrageous, I’d probably go to what might be my last chance to see Jackson performing live.  

Mostly because I don’t think he can.  We’re talking about a scary-skinny, sickly and increasingly fragile pop star i with a surgically enhanced hip who hasn’t performed live on a major level since the HIStory tour in 1997.  Jackson has too much pride and ego ever to go the route of a oldies act playing at state fairs and frankly he’s still big enough of a star to command (and get) millions to go onstage.

But really the desire to see Jackson performing  after all these years and facial surgeries is the perverse pleasure of sitting in the front row and catching his nose when it flies off after he does a quick spin.   He may still be able to moonwalk,  though not very far or very long and he probably needs a good eight hours of sleep afterward.

I don’t wish bad on Michael Jackson.  In his time, he gave me a lot of enjoyment and his first four solo albums still sound  pretty good even now.  Nobody stays on top forever.   It just takes some guys longer to realize it’s time to get off the stage. 

Even writing about Jacko makes me feel old.   Once upon a time it was  “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough.”  Now it’s “Please Stop ‘Cause I’ve Had Enough.”