Can this nation sink any lower? In the same breath it is demonizing Iran it tries to apotheosize a second rater like Jackson, a man who's been the butt of talk show comedians and the whipping boy of piss pious journalism for twenty years. Suddenly he's a genius, "Thriller" is a great work of art and, as Baloney Ciccone, AKA Madonna, put it, "his music will live for ever."
Forever? Like dogs, American "gods" age differently than we do, so we have to adjust for the material girl's somewhat skewed frame of reference. Being on the shady side of fifty herself, she can be forgiven for making a vicarious grab for immortality via the brief candle that Jackson represents. "Forever" in America equals about a decade in human time. Just as "genius" in the States factors in as "nicely talented" in the real world.
Ciccone can pump Jackson because both she and Jackson were cut from the same see-through fabric. Coming in the wake of the last universal entertainers, they and many like them tried to make up in sales what they could never garner in respect. By universal, I mean those whose names and work were known universally, by young and old, black and white, cool and uncool, in America and world wide. This means Sinatra, Presley, Beatles and ...??? Exclusive the list definitely is. Isn't that what genius means in the rest of the world? Many, many people, maybe a good majority couldn't name a Michael Jackson song except "Thriller" if their life depended on it. Just as Ciccone tried to pass herself off as an avatar of the blonde bombshells of the forties and fifites, Jackson tried for the flaming mantle of Elvis and the other Adonises of that age. But no soldier, you can bet, ever put Ciccone's dull centrefold on his barracks wall. And as for Elvis' mantle, Jackson got the sequins but Elvis kept the flame.
I myself may have heard around five or six of Jackson's hits: "Beat It" and "Thriller" are just about the only ones that come to mind, both more for the visuals they connote than the notes themselves. The first has our frail freak rhythmically banging on his bony crotch - typically to the ecstasy of eleven year old girls in tow with their approving mommas- while the latter comes via the elaborate staging of a movie short. The eyes have it but the ear goes hungry."Billy Jean" appears to be the hit that his present beatifiers like best. Rolling Stone spent a lot of ink praising its bass line. Jackson, alas, couldn't play bass, or any instrument as far as I know. Nor did he write the music. Maybe Rolling Stone should hold off on beatification till the bass player dies.
As for the absurd claim that he opened up the music industry to black performers, let him try selling that to the ghosts of Ray Charles and dozens of other famous blacks right back to Scott Joplin. They'll tell him to beat it.
Jackson will be remembered more for his dancing and sartorial grandiloquence than for his singing. His voice was as skinny feminine as his frame - one of the reasons he couldn't hold the young males in his contemporary audience who typically looked upon him with bewilderment or hostility- and none of his hits ever rivaled in either tonal or emotional range those of the three universals listed above. Compare him to Elvis, who could, in his prime, span two octaves and a bit more, and whose baritone notes could be as smoky as his tenors were fiery, and you'll see Jackson for the clown prince he really was. Will there be Jackson impersonators thirty years from now? Only in freak shows.
Great singers don't grab their crotch, they grab us, body and soul. May Jackson's own rest in peace.