Michael Jackson is Not Back - He's Bad
- written and compiled by tflickr
Thursday, Mar. 12th 2009
As you have most likely learned, recently in the news, singer, song writer, and motion picture director, Michael Jackson announced that his last show is to occur in London by July of this year. Of course, no person can confirm whether or not it will be his final show, because even I personally have racked my brains, searching the web to find out. Though, all that I know is that Michael boasts that he will play his final show in London (belfasttelegraph.co.uk/).
In his years as an entertainer and humanitarian, Michael spanned the globe with his talent and his mission. Of his first projects, you might recall the time when he united the spirits of the good-hearted people across the globe with the song, We Are the World. He co-wrote this significant piece of music with prodigy, Lionel Richie, singer and songwriter of such hit songs and gems of their time as Stuck on You, Say You, Say Me, and All Night Long.
Following the production of We Are the World came a remarkable benefit concert. Michael campaigned along with star-studded British music group, Band Aid, to raise funds for feeding the starving children of Africa. To rush to the aid of African third-world countries, Michael and Lionel featured themselves alongside a hoard of talent veterans and good friends: Dan Aykroyd, Ray Charles, the epitamy of political poetry in the 60's and 70's, Bob Dylan, Sheila E., Al Jarreau (Lean On Me), Billy Joel, and, well, you would simply faint if I listed the artists stretching from across different generations and genres, in addition to the fact that the event was coordinated by ingenius record producer, Quincy Jones. Michael is a born leader, but we have not seen (nor heard) from him as much lately.
With that being said, what type of words have we thought of when seeing the letters, MJ? Do we think of Michael Jordan, Mary Jane (from Spider Man), or even the Steve Miller Band... but wait, Michael Jackson is back? I cannot say too much for his legal engagements, nor for his personal life, but as for his music, it has affected many people in a positive way. The very first image that jumps to my memory is an album cover that captures the glowing white light behind Michael Jackson in a dark room; he dons his white sport coat with a loosely fitted black button-up shirt, and as he casually and suavely lays back on his left elbow, his head tilts up and he mischievously glares directly into the camera: ah, yes, Thriller.
I can travel to the musical era of the 80's and see the cover of the Bad album: I recall how much of an influence Mr. Jackson had on R & B, soul and funk artist, Prince, also a favorite of hard rock and ballad fans, due to his practice of what I can only call theatrical jazz fusion. The most recognizable value to the music of Prince as well as of Michael Jackson, is that both artists highlight their guitarist's ability to perform 80's progressive rock solos. For a short time between the late 1980's and mid 1990's, it seemed to me, as a guitarist, that pop stars focused on vocals alone with mostly piano or rhythm bass lines. However, Michael kept his doors opened for us guitarists, just as well as for vocal performances, which everybody loves.
While recalling Michael's respect for the diversity of musicians, many people also admire his passion to act in his profession as an auteur, by the true measure of the word, as a storyteller who ventured far deeper, at every production angle, than the Man In the Mirror. When Michael sang, all the way from his youthful and upbeat ABC song and dance in 1969, to and through the Dangerous album in 1991, he really wanted his audience to know his feelings in every dimension and sense, dark to light, and light to dark. Any artist can recognize a messenger who, within reasonable respect to the environment, focuses on feeling over content, instead of content over feeling, because that is the true message: a man who is not afraid to grab his crotch during the time of a conservative president is surely a messenger of free speech.
All the way from Michael's first performance he has also bared a great influence on artists and musicians of this world and time. You see and hear them everywhere - other bands that formed during his career, ranging from heavy metal to R & B, who have imitated or expanded on his signature sounds and theatrics. These range from the "nyah (!)", to the poppin' jazz and blues blended with a soft high baritone voice, to the vivacious slap bass dance grooves, and to the detailed mixes of big Quincy Jones sounds that include background foley, much like a narrative.
We have witnessed such signature stereo mixes featuring a thick and punchy kick drum on both sides; to a mix dominated by dynamic and funky stereo vocals that seemed to dance and waltz between left and right; to many intricate layers of street foley sounds, like kids playing in the background of Street Walker; to doors screeching from closed to open, like in Thriller. Calm down, and turn down your Michael Jackson radio, because that's not even considering the dance moves that inspired today's top performers, or the fact that he revolutionized the world of music video with the very first graphic digital morph from a black panther into himself as a pop singer in Black or White.
Nowadays, whenever you see anybody wearing a sparkling vest and sporting one white glove, then you know that he or she is not trying to impersenate George Washington. His precedence is undeniable: you can only assume that judging by wardrobe a person knows who Michael Jackson is. He has been everywhere and has done everything, and in his works, he has expressed his tender concern for the importance of youth, and as a black man, for the fair treatment of humanity:
In 1983, just two short years before he bought the rights to all of the Beatles' songs, Jackson shared a duet with Paul McCartney, The Girl is Mine (Law Offices of Gary L. Wolfstone).
And we all should remember his movie role as Scarecrow in the famous African-American rendition of The Wizard of Oz, titled, The Wiz (1978).
We have seen ups and downs from the controversy surrounding his unfortunate case pertaining to child molestation. Of the citizens in the world, if you ask around, then aside from some extremists who become excited at hype, you may find that each person is cooly confident that he is either innocent or is an okay guy. The torturous and blinding buzz of media can bend a human being out of proportion, just to feed its frenzy, even though we all make mistakes. It seems that the citizens of the United States wish to enter into a panic whenever they are instructed to, all the way from wars to pop stars - about the same thing - but Michael has always remained cool and expressive of his deepest emotions.
From the year of 1988 to 2008, to signal his appreciation for the youth and their families, he created and defended the excitement of Neverland Ranch, a tourist attraction, which adjoined to and complemented his home in Los Olivos, California:
"The King of Pop’s 2,800 acres worth of bumper cars, carousels and Ferris wheels now looks like a ghost town and Jacko has less than 3 months to make good on a $23 million loan. Neverland Ranch once gave jobs to dozens of servants and groundskeepers but now seems like a barren land while the supposed near-bankrupt singer rents an expensive home in Washington, D.C. (welcome to michaeljackson)."
You might say this is the appropriate time for a now-and-then follow-up about Mr. Michael Jackson. I do have to admit my guilt for not following the path of Michael Jackson's start in the business, the Jackson Five, but I cannot blame myself for not subscribing to cable TV, nor for being born in the wrong decade. However, there are tender and crunchy morsels, gems of my generation that I hung onto, like the attitude of his musicality.
My generation, the 80's, knows the sounds of electronic fusion, and the licks of an electric jazz bass. I would have to say that the first and most bad bass I can remember hearing radiates from Michael Jackson records. The first song that comes to mind is Speed Demon, which Quincy Jones describes as "killer". It has a bassline riff that bangs out the theme of hard-tuned street cars throughout the entire song. Songs like Michael's rest as a benchmark for both worlds, for the musician and for the fan. Each song contains such enthusiasm for the musician, challenge of playability and distinction of imagery, and also delivers support for its yelling and screaming fans who just want to hear his heart-gripping inner-city stories delivered through his convincing voice.
Maybe the real reason why I refer to Michael as Bad, rather than back, is because I see him as the Michael Jackson of my childhood, the artist and performer displaying true grit in every dance and an explosive perspective in every story. This iconic influence that he caused is transformational for the youth of my time, aspiring to enter the field of entertainment, or even to enter the workday, or just the weekend party. I can easily bet that every person who ever heard any recording or radio knows at least three of his tunes.
I see him for the audio and visual inspiration that he was for the rock and roll icon, Prince, which is one of my icons as a guitarist. And for others, and for you, it is a wonder that his voice can calm you from the roots of We Are the World, or can entice you from the touch of a long-lost Liberian Girl, or can excite you from the frightening graveyard of Thriller. From any view that you percieve the great Michael Jackson, I think you should always remember him how he was in his best days, and honor the time that you can spend watching his "last shows..."
Oh, and one last point - pun - though I wanted to elaborate on it more, it does deserve more mention: Quincy Jones rules! You know what I am saying!
"I love you! I love you! I love you!"
| image courtesy of allmichaelmackson.com