All right. I confess. I never liked Michael Jackson. Even at his height, during the 80s, I thought he was an over-rated freak. The sparkly glove, the red jacket, the permed hair, the crotch grabbing, the nasal ‘he-hee’s – I just didn’t get it. He could definitely dance (especially backwards) but his singing left me cold and his songs were either simplistic ditties about a pet rat or over-produced anthems featuring a disjointed montage of shrieks and platitudes.
But now, a week or two after his death, I am forcing myself to reassess my opinion of the gloved one. And you know what? I still think he’s an over-rated freak. Yes, he’s sold a gazillion records but popular success has never been an indication of quality. Yes, he raised the profile of the music video with Thriller and transformed the way the music business promotes its artists, but has that turned out to be such a good thing? And yes, he was ‘the king of pop’ but let’s not forget that he gave himself that particular encomium.
So, I’m not a fan but I still felt sorry for his passing. Why? Well, firstly, he did die prematurely and that’s always sad. A teacher once defined tragedy as a loss of potential and, in that respect, MJ has been a tragic figure for at least the last decade.
I also think that the poor bloke was operating under a huge amount of pressure. Both his career and reputation were in tatters after the various child molestation allegations and he was desperate for a comeback to redeem himself in the eyes of the public.
All in all, it was make or break time. The ‘king of pop’ needed to pull one out of the hat or else risk losing his title (and therefore his identity) forever. And I think that’s what killed him: the pressure to live up to his self-imposed hype. I’ll even go further and state that I believe he committed subconscious suicide; starving himself and knocking back a lethal concoction of pharmaceuticals so that he would burn out rather than fade away.
Think about it. If the London concerts had failed in any way, he would have been a laughing stock and that was a risk that neither his bank account nor his ego could take. Furthermore, he was frail and out of practise – not the kind of person capable of undertaking a gruelling series of 50 live engagements.
So, instead of risking his future on a long-shot concert series, wouldn’t it be better to up and die in a blaze of unconsummated glory? Thus, with one fell swoop, all the sins of the past were washed away and his records leapt to the top of charts once again. It was the comeback that he always wanted and the fact that he isn’t alive to see it doesn’t really matter.
In the final analysis, then, what do we make of this enigmatic personality named Michael Jackson? Will his music overshadow his bizarre lifestyle or will he be remembered as that ‘Wacko Jacko’ who made a bit of music on the side?
Well, unfortunately, I think it will be the latter. I mean, he was one serious looney and Billie Jean was so very long ago. But I do not believe that MJ was an innocent victim in all this. Quite the opposite. I think MJ was an active participant in his own demise. He became so famous and so wealthy that he started behaving as if he was above the rules. He did as he pleased and got irrevocably lost in the stars. Then, when he was held accountable for something, he behaved like a spoiled child who couldn’t believe that anyone would dare to question his decisions.
Apart from this lack of grounding, I think MJ was a deeply conflicted individual. I am reasonably certain that he was gay (which, until recently, was unacceptable for a major music star) and he had a very real problem with being born black. That’s why he went to such lengths to die as a white woman.
Oh, and he was also a junkie and an inveterate denialist. No plastic surgery, a skin lightening disease – oh please! In short, he is a Freudian smorgasbord of delusions, psychoses and neuroses.
In his defence, however, I don’t really know whether he ever molested little boys. I think that he was genuinely naïve and honestly believed that he could make the world a better place by having sleep-overs at his house. After all, this was a man who desperately clung to the concept of eternal youth and, when considered in that light, you could say that his sleeping in the same bed as little boys is simply a matter of Michael hanging out with his peers.
Of course, I never knew the man. Then again, I don’t think many people did. So allow me conclude by offering my sincere condolences to his family and fans. Rest in Peace MJ – you freak. IMHO.
[Originally posted 12/07/2009]