michael jackson, 1958-2009
But Dangerous...that's the real Chinese Democracy. Michael Jackson invented the blockbuster album the way Jaws invented the summer movie. It's no wonder he was obsessed with stardom, his records weren't records but stuffed boxes. Madonna floated from cultural meme to cultural meme but compared to Jackson's time-capsule monoliths, her persona's lukewarm. The way people joke about Brian Wilson's grandeur is the way he put his life together. Not drums go here, guitar goes there--McCartney goes here, new jack swing under that, Eddie not available? Get Slash, get those Biggie tapes, get Elvis' daughter in the bedroom. By right, he should have died five years ago.
This is a man who, whatever his personal misgivings, stretched himself beyond the limits of already unreasonable celebrity living. Forget everything-to-everyone; he didn't have time for rock vs. pop, disco vs. rap, funk vs. metal...if he couldn't be the nexus of all of it, it wasn't worth it. Dangerous has a dark, paranoid edge because that's where pop was going, but also because he was imploding by 1989. For funk he wanted factories of industrial clanks, for ballads he demanded no less than a choir and pews. No emotion went un-dubbed over 100 times moreover, and what a mess of emotions. Imprison "his love" in the closet? Because he "can't let her get away"? Because she may be fucking his brother? That is dangerous. And then it shifts into the Free Willy theme. Most tragically, by abusing children he was abusing his celebrity, the most dependent drug for someone with no real friends, only signifiers of fellow fame (and for the record: I blame the parents. Who leaves their child alone with an adult celebrity? This isn't a daycare worker or babysitter, it's a pop star of significant eccentricity and alienation. I call it starstruck neglect, and don't think the ones who came forward were the end of the story when you have that much available to pay off the starstruck.) Sick or not, as a culture we brutalized and cannibalized and consumed him far ahead of Princess Di or Britney Spears, and he did not know how to get better (or if he ever was to begin with). He simply became rich enough to afford to not think about consequence. He was lonely, obsessed with fame, obsessed with childhood, it's a wonder he was able to spin music from this emotional purgatory at all, much less strong, iconic, funny and danceable music. It's difficult to fathom, but I hope he is finally at peace.