Saturday, June 27, 2009

Can we be honest about the King of Pop?

It's doubtful that I'll be able to say anything regarding Michael Jackson that hasn't already been said, but I'm going to give it a go anyway.

I'm not sure when the first time I was when I saw Michael Jackson, but I do have a lot of memories of him from when I was a little kid. I remember seeing him moonwalk and being amazed. I remember seeing the "Billy Jean" video where things would light up around him. Of course, I also remember the "Beat It" video. Now, I didn't have MTV when I was a kid, so I must have seen these on Solid Gold when they'd show music videos.

Oh, and I'll embarrass myself enough to admit that I got really scared when I first saw the "Thriller" video. I remember that quite distinctly, as we were at my uncle's house and we were watching a show called "Friday Night Videos." When he turned into a werewolf, that scared the bejeezus out of me. (What can I say? I had a very active imagination, and I honestly believed that scary things were "demonized". Thank the Jehovah's Witnesses for making me such a wuss when I was a kid.)

I'll also never forget when a radio station played both his Off the Wall and Thriller albums in their entirety. I had my mono tape recorder where I made my own copy that I'd listen to over and over again, despite the fact that the reception was really bad, and you could hear snippets of other stations randomly interspersed throughout the songs.

For some reason, when I was in about third or fourth grade, I arbitrarily decided that I didn't like Michael Jackson anymore. I hate to admit it, but it probably was due to the fact that most of the kids at school didn't like him for some reason or another. Go figure.

Yeah, so that means that I really missed the boat when Bad and Dangerous albums came out. When I hear most of his now (along with his stuff with the Jackson 5) I realize that it's really pop music at its best - catchy but not dumbed down. However, when I got into my later teen years and early twenties, I think that my dislike of Michael Jackson was a little bit more justified.

Let's face it, the man became a joke. I'm not even going to go into the child-abuse stuff, even though I have some pretty strong feelings about that. I'm just talking about his artistic career. Every time you'd see the guy on TV, he'd always be lip-syncing. I remember him on some awards show where he simply lip-synced a medley of his greatest hits and did his tired-old crotch-grabbing and moonwalking. (The effect had worn off on me.) What's worse, when they interviewed people about his performance afterwards, people kept talking about how "great" it was. However, I specifically remember Billy Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins pointing out what a joke it was, saying something along the lines of how he couldn't understand how people could call that great.

I honestly don't recall any of his post-Dangerous stuff. I looked him up on Wikipedia, and I vaguely remember the video for "Scream". It didn't leave a lasting impression. The only song that really did was "You Are Not Alone", which I will continue to declare untill I'm on my deathbed is one of the absolute crappiest songs ever written. The melody is annoyingly simplistic and the lyrics sound like they were cobbled together by pulling a bunch of cliches out of a hat.

Did the man leave a lasting impact on the music world for the better? Absolutely. The reason why some of Justin Timberlake's songs sound so good is because they're obviously influenced by Michael Jackson, and I'm sure Timberlake would take that as a compliment. Of course, his influence goes beyond that, but that's the first one to pop into my head. I also really like Chris Cornell's version of "Billy Jean" and Alien Ant Farm's version of "Smooth Criminal".

But let's face it, the man wasn't doing anything worthwhile artistically, and it was unlikely that we'd see anything good come from him anytime soon. And no, that doesn't mean that he deserves to die - duh. I suppose that this was true for Elvis as well, but I don't remember his death. And you can probably also say the same for a lot of influential artists.

There's just something about the reaction to this death that's getting to me. As others have pointed out, everybody's suddenly acting like they're a huge Michael Jackson fan now. His album sales have spiked from what I hear. No doubt there are people who have never met him who are crying their eyes out. Me? I never knew the guy. But I do know that if I had kids and he asked me if it was okay to have them sleep in his bed with him, I'd punch him in the face. (Oops - said I wasn't going to go there, and I just did!)


Eileen said...

You can get the Alien Ant Farm "Smooth Criminal" on Rock Band. If you do, lemme know how it is, because I've been considering it.

Lance Christian Johnson said...

I just might. Thanks "Eileen".