Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Death of MJ Four Years On

Four years since the "king of pop" died. Only the most jaded would deny that it's still a little hard to grasp. But we should never underestimate just how many jaded people there are in the music industry.

Before the body was even cold there were those both in the alternative and mainstream press who insisted there wasn't all that much substance to him. That he was pure spectacle repackaged in a way made to seem "edgy" but not really subversive at all. The racial dimension made it even more complicated, with many commentators (white commentators predominantly) insinuating that MJ's fading skin color reflected the fact that he had "left the streets behind."

It is certainly true that an artist's legacy can be "kept alive" in a way that is, for lack of a better term, artificial. By that I mean a figure that has large segments of the media and cultural industry keeping their ghost alive for sake of both cash and cache. They've done it to Jackson's memory without a doubt, though cobbled together anthologies and the very fact that Michael's kids are made into regular tabloid fodder.

Leaving it at this, however, forgets a lot of the story. As matter of fact I'd say it drops about ninety percent of it and does half the industry's work for them in turning Mike into a one dimensional figure. Some readers may remember I wrote as much right after his death four years ago. It may be possible to have a culture that is greatly made of up of fluff, but until they find a way to breed basic emotion out of us then there will never truly be such a thing as a homogeneous culture in the literal sense of the word. Which means that on some level, the music released has to relate to our struggles, our hopes, our anxieties and our world. A career like Jackson's -- spanning forty years -- can only be made of so much fluff if he's going to endure through his lifetime.

Let alone beyond his lifetime. And he has done this. Hands down. Example: think of the Supreme Court decision's shameful decision today, on Michael's birthday, striking down the heart of the Voting Rights Act. Think of the ways that the "New Jim Crow" may be giving way to just plain old Jim Crow. Now watch the video below.

Timelessness. This is what it looks like. Equal parts thrilling and tragic.

No comments: