Friday, June 26, 2009

The King of Pop

As I'm sure all of you have heard, Michael Jackson died yesterday afternoon at the age of 50. I spent some time online, watching music videos on Youtube, perusing Facebook, and reading news, and people seemed to fall into two camps with regards to their response to the news of Jackson's death.

The first group lamented the passing of a music icon. There were a lot of fond memories, people talking about how they look forward to a bump in his radio play over the next few days, and more than a few people saying "rest in peace" (or "rest in piece").

The second group took the opportunity to get one last jab in and try to make some snide comment about Jackson's past. The most common "joke" (I put it in quotes because it doesn't really show any creativity, and isn't particularly funny) was that, now that Michael Jackson is dead, children can sleep easily at night. Because, you know, pedophilia is a riot.

Some people do fall into both categories, and it's not surprising that they produce some of the better jokes. They're able to be in touch with the fact that Jackson was a cultural giant, while still wanting to make some jokes.

You guys know me. You know I don't really get offended ever, and this isn't really an exception. I'm not offended that people are taking this person's death and making fun of a possible trauma that a child or children may have gone through. But when I see people my age making these comments, it strikes me as a very sincere form of pandering.

People want to be perceived in very specific ways. These people, the people making these jokes, are unwilling to acknowledge the value that Michael Jackson offered. They won't admit that, for a time, they really liked Michael Jackson (which is a fair guess, because fucking everybody liked Michael Jackson). They'd like to be perceived as above nostalgia, above the sentimentality of those times. Over time, it became "cool" to make fun of Michael Jackson. But in my mind, today, and going forward, it's particularly "uncool."

People know Ray Charles was an addict. People are pretty sure that Tupac was a killer. And yet, both of those artists are mostly remembered today for their accomplishments and their talents, and their shortcomings are only remembered as part of the whole picture. My guess is that five years down the road, Michael Jackson will be remembered most for creating some of the finest music in the past quarter century, and his missteps will be looked upon as just a part of the tragic figure who touched our lives for so many years.

In honor of the King of Pop, my All-Time Top 5 Favorite Michael Jackson Songs:
  1. The Way You Make Me Feel (1988)
  2. Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough (1979)
  3. Human Nature (1983)
  4. You Rock My World (2001)
  5. Black or White (1991)

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