Michael Jackson: Bad meaning the best

Music News, Pop Heaven / Pop Hell

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michael_jacksonMichael Jackson died two days ago, so this is going to be a bit of a personal post. Feel free to skip it if you’re not in the mood for a spot of rambling, nostalgic, borderline weepy sincerity.

For me, loving music has always gone hand in hand with loving Michael Jackson. I can’t remember the first time I listened to him – he’s always just been there. And he always will be. His death won’t alter the fact that millions of kids are going to grow up listening to him, because their own parents grew up listening to him.

The last couple of days have felt quite surreal, with every shop and passing car blasting out MJ songs, and everyone I’ve spoken to talking about him. I can’t think of too many other singers whose death would inspire such a reaction, if only because there are so few acts out there who are so universally loved.

The Wacko stuff is always going to be part of who he was, but it’s the infectious music most people seem to want to celebrate, and that’s fine with me. I’m fortunate in that my new day job has allowed me to indulge in this – I floated the idea to have a Michael Jackson singsong at Lucky Voice following the flashmob mass Moonwalk in London on Friday, and it turned out to be a great night.

There was no sense of mourning – there was singing, and dancing, and a weird, infectious jubilation at the fact that songs like “Man In The Mirror” and “Billie Jean” exist. I’d hope MJ would approve of people celebrating his music that way.

I was already a huge fan of Thriller and Bad when a remix of The Jackson 5′s “I Want You Back” hit the UK charts in the late Eighties. I’d never heard it before and quickly became obsessed with it. It blew my mind that the guy who did “Beat It” was singing songs of that quality when he was a kid my age.

Then my Mum told me that she had a 7-inch of the original lying around somewhere which she’d bought on its release, and I begged her to find it for me. Again, I remember being totally awed at the fact that Michael Jackson was around, and a massive star, when my mum was a teenager. It seemed to enforce the sense that he’s always just been there, entertaining generation after generation.

I remember when the video for “Bad” was shown on late-night TV – too late for me, apparently, as I wasn’t allowed to see it. My parents saw it and were very “meh” – they thought it was overlong, and a lot of fuss for what was just a music video.

But Michael Jackson didn’t do “just” music videos. He did sprawling, ridiculous, vainglorious, high-concept blasts of pure entertainment. The fact is he could have just stood in a room and moonwalked and it would have been amazing – but he next-levelled the hell out of the medium by turning into animals, calling on his Hollywood pals to make guest appearances and dancing in a way that everybody – from little kids to grandparents – wanted to be able to emulate.

Anyway, “Bad” was pretty low-key as far as his videos went, but it was still Michael Jackson, somehow managing to look cool as fuck while resembling Diana Ross in leather and zips, singing and dancing. That was always going to be enough.

I have to say if I met someone who didn’t like Michael Jackson’s music, I’d assume they just hadn’t heard enough of it. And if they had, and they still didn’t like it, I would absolutely think less of them as a human being. If you don’t like “Billie Jean”, you’re doing life wrong.

I think if I’d ever have got to meet Michael Jackson I would have wanted to talk to him about the “shamone” thing. Before Bo Selecta started using it I’d always thought of it as “shambo”, mainly because I seem to remember that’s how Smash Hits spelled it.

Why did he just suddenly decide to start pronouncing “come on” that way? What was the thinking behind that? I have visions of Quincy Jones sitting Michael down one day and being like “Michael… what the hell are you doing?” Wherever it came from, you have to admire the fact that if anybody else attempted such an affectation they’d take a lot of shit for it. Of course MJ took more shit than most, but none of it really affected his standing as the greatest entertainer in the world. Like the glittery glove, the Moonwalk and the tape on his fingers, “shamone” was just another element which worked.

It’s as a fan of his music when I say that I’m kind of relieved the comeback shows in London aren’t going to happen. Like a lot of other people I couldn’t see them being anything other than a disaster in one way or another, and to have his legacy harmed like that would have been awful. It’s peak MJ we should be remembering, not the frail, allegedly heavily-medicated one. Having said that, the realisation that I’m now never going to see a Michael Jackson concert is a genuinely painful one.

The “other stuff” is never going to go away, and is almost certainly going to be unavoidable over the next few months as his closet is rifled for further skeletons. Magazines and papers will be creaming themselves with glee, although it’ll be hard for any of them to top OK,

Be the first to comment!

  1. Krystal G. says:

    one word… AWESOME…..

  2. Cat Gee says:

    Cheers for that. Pretty much all my thoughts summed up into words. Nice piece.

  3. Ash says:

    Word. Nice piece. Though I did laugh when I read “Then my Mum told me that she had a 7-inch…”

    Sorry.

  4. Jess says:

    Good stuff Stuart. Said a lot but got it in one line. “If you don’t like “Billie Jean”, you’re doing life wrong.”

    Thanks for writing. I’ve been a bit depressed by the swathes of really unfunny jokes.

  5. Kim says:

    Nice one Wazza!

    It makes me miss Motown Fridays even more :(

  6. Phil says:

    Hoooooooo!!!1 Very nice, shamone, chunowit, cha-nowah…

  7. Rosa says:

    Michael was extraordinary. Period. And to those who question him as a human being. STOP and look at yourself in the mirror. Otherwise, the man in the mirror is going to look at you and it will really scare you. Behind this twisted world that points the finger at Michael Jackson there is an ocean of human beings who will never enchant an audience like this man-child artist could.

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