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Thread started 02/26/15 1:18pm




Discuss Everything & Anything Michael Jackson

Discuss Everything & Anything MJ

The other thread locked itself ............ Continuing with a new one.

Please use this thread to discuss everything and anything MJ.

Any created threads will automatically get the lock and be directed to this sticky.

NOTE: DO NOT FEED THE TROLLS, REPORT THEM - Trolling will NOT be tolerated on the org


A Liar Shall Not Tarry In My Presence
I will make you cyber shit in your pants!
What's the matter with your life
Is poverty bringing U down?
Is the mailman jerking U 'round?
Did he put your million dollar check
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Reply #1 posted 02/27/15 9:20am



Hi. About the mixes to "Who is it?", What's the difference between The Patience Mix & The Most Patience Mix? They are on the same single CD.

Anybody knows?


[Edited 2/27/15 9:21am]

"America is a continent..."
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Reply #2 posted 02/27/15 12:34pm



How NFL convinced Michael Jackson to perform Super Bowl halftime show

Full size image

Michael Jackson gave one of the most memorable Super Bowl halftime show performances when he rocked the stage in 1993.

But it wasn't easy for the NFL to convince a star like the King of Pop to perform in the middle of a sporting event back then. As this Austin Murphy story about how halftime became "The Halftime Show" details, the league was eventually able to make a convincing argument to Jackson:

For a month they got nowhere. (The NFL's Jim) Steeg sat down with the King of Pop’s manager, Sandy Gallin, 11 months before Super Bowl XXVII. “I remember pitching them,” he says, “and them not really having a clue what we were talking about.” At a subsequent meeting, producer Don Mischer pointed out that the Super Bowl would be broadcast in more than 120 countries. Now he had Jackson’s full attention.

Steeg recalls Jackson saying, “So you’re telling me that this show is going live to all those places where I’ll never do a concert?” A pause. “I’m in.”

“Michael worked harder than anybody [who’s done the halftime show], before or since,” says Steeg, who remembers seeing Jackson still rehearsing his act at seven the night before the game, in a tent outside the Rose Bowl.

And it showed. Jackson, rocking a bandolier-draped frock coat on loan, apparently, from Muammar Gaddafi, was sensational. The final moments of that show were the most viewed in the history of television at the time.

You can read more about Jackson and all the other star-studded performances here. Check out the '93 halftime show below:

"Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything." --Plato
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Reply #3 posted 02/27/15 12:40pm



"Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything." --Plato
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Reply #4 posted 02/27/15 12:43pm



'Motown 25' special with Michael Jackson's first moonwalk to air for first time since 1983

Eric Lacy | <a" />By Eric Lacy |
Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on February 26, 2015 at 6:19 PM, updated February 26, 2015 at 6:55 PM
Motown25.jpgThe Emmy Award-winning NBC Special "MOTOWN 25 - YESTERDAY, TODAY, FOREVER" will air again 8 p.m. Saturday on PBS stations across the country and will be rebroadcasted throughout March.

DETROIT, MI -- An updated version of the "Motown 25" TV special will air 8 p.m. Saturday on PBS stations across the country, including Detroit Public Television WTVS.

The original "Motown 25 - Yesterday, Today, Forever" special aired May 16, 1983 on NBC and introduced the world to Michael Jackson's iconic Moonwalk.

This Emmy Award-winning special also included The Jackson 5's memorable reunion, and performances from The Miracles and The Supremes.

TJ Lubinsky, the show's executive producer, created a 7-CD box set of original Motown hits, classic album tracks and rarities to accompany the special.

The entire CD collection will be available to members that pledge to public television stations during Saturday's broadcast of the revamped "Motown 25" special.

A 6-CD collection (price: $78.88) called Motown: Big Hits & More is currently available at

Motown: Big Hits & More is described in a press release as "a compelling collection of not just 'the same old songs,' but many of the radio hits, regional hits and flip side favorites from the Berry Gordy, Soul and Tamla/Motown labels."

"Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything." --Plato
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Reply #5 posted 03/06/15 10:37am


Jay-Z Speaks On His Favorite Album Of All Time Off The Wall

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Reply #6 posted 03/06/15 2:40pm



"Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything." --Plato
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Reply #7 posted 03/10/15 9:59am



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Reply #8 posted 03/11/15 1:15pm


How tall is the guy? In the WYMMF video he looks average-sized, maybe 5'6/7.. in other appearances/videos he looks maybe 5'9/10... and then we have Howard Stern who claims he's well over 6'0 ..

I guess you know me well, I dont like winter, but I seem to get a kick outta doing you cold
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Reply #9 posted 03/11/15 6:29pm


CharismaDove said:

How tall is the guy? In the WYMMF video he looks average-sized, maybe 5'6/7.. in other appearances/videos he looks maybe 5'9/10... and then we have Howard Stern who claims he's well over 6'0 ..

He is technically 5'9 but depending on shoes or boots he wears, he has been as tall as 5'10, 5'11. Most people who have seen him in person cite him as "tall" though.

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Reply #10 posted 03/12/15 12:51am



MJ ain't getting much love here any more...just like I predicted. sad

"Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything." --Plato
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Reply #11 posted 03/12/15 12:37pm


Finally MJ Fans have a proper podcast to listen to! I really hope The MJCast lasts.

Definitely worth a listen if you guys haven't already.

Prince fans have been spoiled as far as that's concerned!

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Reply #12 posted 03/12/15 2:47pm



purplethunder3121 said:

MJ ain't getting much love here any more...just like I predicted. sad

The "love" is still here. There is just nothing to talk about. Nothing new is happening. Everything has been said already.

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Reply #13 posted 03/12/15 2:53pm



PatrickS77 said:

purplethunder3121 said:

MJ ain't getting much love here any more...just like I predicted. sad

The "love" is still here. There is just nothing to talk about. Nothing new is happening. Everything has been said already.

That's the sad part...

"Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything." --Plato
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Reply #14 posted 03/12/15 4:01pm



purplethunder3121 said:

PatrickS77 said:

The "love" is still here. There is just nothing to talk about. Nothing new is happening. Everything has been said already.

That's the sad part...

If you wanna discuss MJ, this is a great forum:


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Reply #15 posted 03/13/15 5:38pm



purplethunder3121 said:

MJ ain't getting much love here any more...just like I predicted. sad

It's this now pointless sticky that gets no love. Stupid org.

Yeah, we'll, we'll try to imagine what silence looks like.
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Reply #16 posted 03/14/15 6:37am



PatrickS77 said:

purplethunder3121 said:

MJ ain't getting much love here any more...just like I predicted. sad

The "love" is still here. There is just nothing to talk about. Nothing new is happening. Everything has been said already.

I could talk and speculate about unreleased music still in the vaults all day, every day..

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Reply #17 posted 03/14/15 8:40am


Moonwalk in academia (English)

Michael Jackson is not only flourishing on iTunes but also in science. In the past five years, academics have devoted themselves in large numbers to studying the works of the King of Pop. Apparently, Jackson has influenced an astonishing number of scientific topics. But even before his death ‘Dr. J.’ was no stranger to academia.

Michael Jackson receiving a honorary degree from Fisk University

Sticking their necks out

Yale University (USA) was one of the first institutions that stuck its neck out to scientifically approach Jackson’s work. Remarkably enough, the prestigious University did so back in 2004, when Jackson was still alive.

A conference was organised about Jackson’s self-expression with which he had shifted borders related to race, gender and sexuality. The latter was a sensitive subject, to say the least. In the same period, Jackson was under fire because of alleged child abuse. Nobody knew then that he would be fully acquitted one year later. In any case, the choice of topic seemed controversial.

That was also the opinion of the Yale Daily News. Writer James Kirchick accused the organizers of the conference of academic nihilism. Jackson himself was labelled “a disturbed individual who engages in questionable sexual activity.” This alone, Kirchick argued, was reason enough to avoid Jackson as a subject of study.

Of course, when it came to Jackson, objectivity was rarely maintained, not even in academic circles. This was something the university newspaper could not deny. Jackson might have seemed controversial at the time, his work certainly had value as a starting point for an interdisciplinary dialogue.

Michael Jackson books

At a safe distance

In the wake of Yale, other academic institutions followed, but at a safe distance and only after Jackson had passed away. Scientists from, among others, Harvard, Princeton, Notre Dame and Berkeley reviewed Jackson’s origins and artistic choices.

What stood out, both within and outside of academia, was that Jackson was posthumously counted as a black artist. Duke University (USA), for example, offered the study programme ‘Michael Jackson and the Black Performance Tradition’.

This topic was not self-evident. Jackson’s changing skin colour, caused by the skin disease vitiligo, was one of the reasons why his substantial contribution to black music was undervalued for a long time.

It was not until after his death that this perception changed. Instead of a white ‘Wacko Jacko’ – the derogatory nickname with which Jackson was dismissed during his life as an otherworldly eccentric – he was posthumously declared ‘black’ and was called a ‘genius’ and ‘phenomenon’ in symposia titles.

Academic posters with Michael Jackson symposia

In 2015, Jackson – together with the African American writer and poet Maya Angelou – will be the subject of a new study programme. From July 13 to 18, the African American Arts & Heritage Academy in West Virginia (USA) will organise a summer academy on the work of both artists.

Jackson’s business empire

Jackson was interesting for academia not only in terms of race or gender, but also in terms of business, as evidenced by the MBA course ‘Michael Jackson: The Business of Music’. With this course, Clark Atlanta University (USA) drew in students who wanted to learn how Jackson had built up his business and financial empire.

More academic projects followed. Two librarians of the Texas Tech University (USA) compiled a special bibliography, which showed that Jackson’s influence reached far beyond Hollywood. The King of Pop had influenced serious topics such as mass communication, psychology, medicine, chemistry and even technology. “We could do a whole reference book on Jackson resources and still not cover it all,” the researchers wrote in their preface.

One and a half million dollars

Yet, Jackson’s appearance in the world of academia did not come entirely out of the blue. Although he had only completed high school, Jackson understood the importance of a good college education.

For this reason he founded an academic scholarship programme along with his sister Janet and the United Negro Scholarship Fund. The one and a half million dollars that he donated to the programme over the years were strategically invested, allowing the ‘Michael Jackson Scholarship’ to continue to exist to this very day.

Michael Jackson donating to his Scholarship Fund

The new Dr. ‘J.’

Jackson’s philanthropic efforts did not go unnoticed. As a token of recognition, Jackson received an honorary doctorate from Fisk University in New York in 1988 – a great honour, he thought, and the White House agreed with him. President Ronald Reagan sent Jackson a personal message: “Michael, I’m sorry that Nancy and I could not be with you for this very special day, but I want to congratulate you for the honours you are receiving tonight from the United Negro College Fund and the honorary degree awarded you by Fisk University. Let me be the first to call you the new Dr. ‘J.’”

Subtle self-mockery

More than ten years later, the prestigious Oxford Union Debating Society invited Dr. ‘J.’ to come to England. Despite criticism about Jackson’s imperturbable focus on children, he decided to use his visit to Oxford to launch his ‘Heal the Kids’ initiative.

His speech at the debating society was personal. Jackson discussed his years as a child star, the difficult relationship with his father Joe, and his personal experiences as a father of two of his three children at the time. The critical Oxford audience was pleasantly surprised by Jackson’s story, which he brought with subtle self-mockery and sometimes in tears.

Michael Jackson giving his Oxford Union speech in 2001

Still, Jackson did not feel inferior in Oxford. “Human knowledge consists not only of libraries of parchment and ink – it is also comprised of the volumes of knowledge that are written on the human heart, chiselled on the human soul, and engraved on the human psyche,” he said in his speech.

In this regard, with the many highs and lows that Jackson had experienced in his apocalyptic life, few could hold a candle to him. He received a standing ovation that lasted five minutes.

One line in a book

Jackson drew his knowledge not only from life experience, but also from books. “What’s so great about reading is that there might be something that you feel or want to say and you’ll come across it as a line in a book. You can sometimes read in one line in a book something that you’ve spent a lifetime trying to work out,” Jackson once said.

Wherever he resided, stacks of books were always close at hand. The fact that he held an academic honorary degree, made no difference. There was always something to learn, according to the King of Pop.

No one can tell how far Jackson’s moonwalk in academia would have progressed if he had still been alive. But the fact that his artistic and musical legacy resounds loudly in academia is beyond dispute. Many a scientist can only dream of that.

Michael is being studied in the History books B**ches lol

"One day you will his place in World History"

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Reply #18 posted 03/14/15 8:44am


Susan Fast’s “Dangerous”: A Review (Part 1)

I've Been Waiting For The Perfect Occasion To Showcase This Adorable, Rare "Dangerous" Era Photo!I’ve Been Waiting For The Perfect Occasion To Showcase This Adorable, Rare “Dangerous” Era Photo!

“1991’s Dangerous announced the end of Jackson’s innocence and the command of a complicated, conflicted sensibility.”-Armond White.

This quote from Armond White kicks off the introduction to Susan Fast’s Dangerous, the most recent addition to Bloomsbury’s 331/3 music series.

dangerous book coverSince its publication last September, a lot of people have been asking for my thoughts on the book. I will just start off by saying, hands down, this is probably the most comprehensive volume we are ever likely to get on Michael Jackson’s fourth solo studio album, an album that marked a watershed moment in Michael’s artistic maturity and post-Quincy Jones partnership. If you are one of those prone to believing that Michael’s artistic peak was Thriller or Bad, this book will definitely make you rethink your views. And even if you are one of those who are already well aware that Dangerous marked not the end, but the beginning of a whole new epoch for Michael Jackson-one that would see him delve into much deeper, darker, and yes, sexier depths than ever before-you will still have much to learn from this book. It definitely gave me a lot of new insight into the album, although some of Ms. Fast’s views are bound to spark some controversy among fans and critics.

As always when I do book reviews, I will offer not only my reactions to the book but, also, at times, will use the author’s views as a springboard to discuss some of my own opinions on these topics. In other words, those who have been following me for any length of time know that a book review here is as much apt to become an in-depth dialog between myself and the author’s views. So if you just want to know whether the book is worth buying, I will cut straight to the chase for you and say, unequivocally, yes. And if that’s all you want to know, get thee straight to Amazon. But if you are truly interested in a round table dialog about this book and its subject, you’re in the right place.

First off, I can’t discuss this book without discussing the very worthy series that it is a part of. Since 2003, Bloomsbury’s 333 series has been dedicated to the serious academic analysis of the most important and influential music albums of the rock era. That this is a field in which Michael Jackson’s music remains woefully underrated is something Fast discusses in the introduction, but as we know, that is changing and will continue to change in the years and decades ahead. For years, the common narrative among music journalists has been that Michael Jackson’s artistic output peaked with Thriller critically, and perhaps Bad commercially. Although Dangerous received mostly positive reviews upon release and was a mammoth best seller, remaining on the charts for over two years, it didn’t take long for the album’s reputation to become engulfed in a kind of music critic amnesia, the same one that plagued most of his post-Bad work (the fact that HIStory, a #1 and Grammy nominated album that produced two hit singles stateside as well as his UK chart-topping “Earth Song” is also conveniently overlooked). When these albums were acknowledged at all, it was often only to lambast them as self-indulgent works-“whiny,” “paranoid,” etc became favorite descriptive monikers. It wasn’t, of course, that these opinions were entirely without some merit. Michael’s albums from the 90’s on did become increasingly long, often uneven, and with an increasing diversity of styles that often left critics more confused than enlightened. Sometimes this came down to too many producers, too many guest stars, too many collaborators, and an ego-driven star who, yes, felt every note of every track was too important to cut (and,conversely, it was this same drive for perfection that often led to some questionable decisions about what was ultimately left out).

But it also came down to something else. Michael’s 90’s work simply became less “fun”-and that was a bit too much for those who could forgive him most anything as long as he gave us catchy dance grooves. Now he was making artistic statements, and not even the kind of generic, feel good philanthropy of “We Are The World” or “Man In The Mirror.” Instead, he was addressing heads-on issues of racism, poverty, the AIDS epidemic, and other things that many felt should be politely swept under the rug-or at least sublimated to a catchy groove. Michael’s ’90’s work also became by turns both more militant and more intensely personal and introspective-after all, this was the era that saw him become a victim of cruel allegations and a relentless witch hunt, and in which he explored the depths of a soul that had been somewhat cast adrift, for he was still in many ways dealing with his break from the Jehovah Witness faith and coming to terms with what that break meant for him spiritually. This was the era in which he would experience, in short succession, first time marriage, divorce, and fatherhood. In short, Michael Jackson in the 90’s had grown into adulthood. Whatever vestiges of innocence that had given his 80’s image its boyish charm was long gone, replaced by a new sensibility, one that was by turns both politically mature and more self aware than ever before. It made sense that he was evolving on his life path, so his music should evolve with him. Yet it has taken over twenty years for critics to gain the perspective needed to finally start recasting Michael’s 90’s and 2000’s work in a new light.

"Dangerous"-An Era Of Increased Introspection and Political Awareness“Dangerous”-An Era Of Increased Introspection and Political Awareness

Susan Fast’s book is an important step in that direction. But what I got most out of it was a newfound appreciation for the deliberate chronology and cohesive concept of the album. If you’re one of those Jackson fans who, like me, have often found some of his later albums a bit “all over the place” it is quite enlightening to learn how much of this was actually intentional, as Michael’s 90’s work became less about creating albums full of hit singles, and more about creating concept albums. This may be a new revelation for many Jackson fans. For years, most of us have been thoroughly indoctrinated into Michael’s oft-circulated quote that he believed every song on an album should be a potential hit single. The idea of Michael Jackson as a serious musician creating “concept” albums may thus seem foreign to some, but by taking this approach, latter albums like Dangerous, HIStory, and Invincible can definitely be appreciated in a new light. In short, Fast describes Dangerous as an album with a fully realized arc, and once that concept is understood, the sequencing of the tracks makes far more sense.

“…Far removed from the gleaming Off The Wall, the concise brilliance of Thriller, and the clean, theatrical synth-pop of Bad, Dangerous is messy, industrial, excessive on every level. Like HIStory and Invincible, it doesn’t want to stop: the songs are long, there are so many of them, listening leaves Jackson’s guts all over the speakers, yours all over the room. Not that I’m particularly interested in taming any of this wondrous music, but it all makes more sense if it’s thought of as a concept album. Alan Light criticizes the running order, commenting that ‘the sequencing of Dangerous often clusters similar songs in bunches when a more varied presentation would have been stronger,’ but the ‘clusters’ give us a compelling arc and delineate a number of themes Jackson wants to explore.” (Fast 11).

Fast then proceeds to use that arc as the outline for her book. The chapters follow the sequencing of Dangerous‘s arc, of which she has conveniently divided into five sections-Noise, Desire, Utopia, Soul, and Coda. Likewise, I will break down each section of the book by these same labels.


“Press play on your copy of Dangerous and you enter Michael Jackson’s decade of noisy music-making…” (Fast 17).

This chapter is devoted to the album’s initial six tracks, although there will be some back and forth bleeding and overlapping among the sections (especially since many of the tracks will also be discussed at length in “Desire.”). As Fast states, Dangerous begins with the sound of breaking glass, and it is not until the roughly mid section of the album, beginning with “Heal The World”) that we will have any respite from this sensory overload of sound.

Although Fast expends a good deal of effort in analyzing the reasons for all the noise, it might be worth remembering that the 90’s in general was a musically noisy decade. It was the era of the big, industrialized beat. Janet’s Rhythm Nation 1814 likewise kicks off with a cacophony of clangings and what sounds like military gunfire; Nine Inch Nails’s The Downward Spiral starts off with what sounds like heavy, thudding footsteps, increasing to a frenetic march-like gait before exploding into a fusillade of distorted sound, giving its opening track “Mr. Self Destruct” a feeling of being lost in a machine driven age.

And indeed, that seemed to have been much of the calculated reasoning behind the industrialized sound that drove much of the early 90’s. It was the idea that we were becoming products of a militant and industrialized society; the over production of these tracks, especially in regards to non musical sounds, was a part of that dehumanizing process. This was not an entirely new concept. For sure, most of the psychedelic music of the 60’s also relied heavily on its ability to assault the senses with often distorted sound. But the major difference was that the music of the psychedelic era was still relying on mostly musical sounds to achieve this effect. When we listened to Jimi Hendrix creating his sonic “sound paintings” they could sometimes sound other worldly, but we never lost sight of the fact that we were listening to an instrument. The emphasis on non musical, or “object” sounds was indeed a phenomenon unique to the 90’s. And, as Fast notes, hip hop itself would emerge as a musical art form in which “noise” takes front and center.

Michael did tend to follow trends as much as create them (for example, I believe his track “Morphine” owes a heavy debt to industrial bands like Nine Inch Nails)but it does seem that from the very opening of “Jam” there is a a purposeful shift in musical direction. And it goes without saying that Dangerous, an album released very early in the decade, would have had a monumental impact on albums that followed, including The Downward Spiral.

jamBy this time, Michael had established a pattern of kicking off his albums with aggressive. upbeat songs, from his joyous and spontaneous “Ow!” of “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough” to the tight funk of “Wanna Be Startin’ Something” to the street smart taunting of “Bad.” But “Jam,” while similar to its predecessors as an uptempo dance track, clearly has a darker and more troubled edge. His vocals are noticeably lower, and he sings in a tormented voice about his generation-the baby boomers-coming of age and “working it out.” Fast analyzes this as Michael’s statement that his baby boom generation, far from having solved the world’s problems (as they idealistically thought they would do in the 60’s) are actually responsible for much of the state the world is in.

By the way, I love her analysis of Michael’s singing style on this track. Calling his vocals here “wounded” and “terrified” she states:

“…The melody is like a run-on sentence and it sounds as if Jackson won’t have enough breath to get through it-sometimes he just barely makes it to the end of a phrase. And although the rhythm of this melody is made up of straight eighth notes (no swingin’), they’re all sung ahead of the beat, like he can’t wait, he’s in too much of a rush, or maybe even panic, to stay in synch with the music. Adding to the tension is the fact that there’s very little bottom end in the verses-it feels like we’re in suspension.” (Fast 39).

This is the kind of passage where Fast excels most, and throughout the book she painstakingly analyzes Michael’s vocal performances on every track of the album in similar fashion. It serves to remind me that there hasn’t been nearly enough serious and critical attention paid to Michael’s vocal prowess, and how he was able to use his voice as the ultimate instrument.

The back to back analysis of “Jam” and “Why You Wanna Trip On Me” is a passage that I found particularly insightful (for sure, I will never listen to “Jam” quite the same way again). For starters, I never really considered the idea of Dangerous as Michael’s most “black” album (ironic considering the album dropped at a time when Michael was becoming increasingly stigmatized for not being “black enough”). But on hindsight, this is a remarkably accurate conclusion. Both stylistically and in subject matter, Michael was closer to his James Brown roots on those first few tracks of Dangerous than he had, perhaps, been on all of Thriller and Bad combined. Part of this is steeped in the far more politically conscious, anti-neoliberalism of these tracks (which Fast exhaustively analyzes, and in far more depth than I can touch on here) but it’s more than that: It’s in the bottom heavy sound of these tracks, and their visceral assault. There is no pop sheen to these tracks; they are straight up, raw r&b and funk, and as stated previously, it’s an assault that doesn’t let up until “Heal The World” even if, albeit, “Remember The Time” does at least slow the pace a little, allowing for a breather. But even that track is unarguably Michael’s most “black” love song since “The Lady in My Life” on Thriller. Case in point: Today, when most of Michael’s 90’s output is largely ignored on most oldies AOR stations, “Remember The Time” remains a staple on many old school urban/r&b stations (and where it is also not unusual to hear “Scream” and “You Are Not Alone” in heavy rotation). This raises an interesting point. Were Michael’s black fans connecting more with him during this era-a time when he was routinely being castigated by white critics for having “sold out” his black identity? If recent events are any indication-as millions of protesters across the country have embraced Michael’s militant 1996 track “They Don’t Care About Us” and, to a lesser but no less notable extent, “Black or White” as official theme songs-this would seem to be the case. Although it may be only slightly off topic, the recent words of Baltimore Sun writer D.B. Anderson are worth pondering in this context:

On Twitter, #TheyDontCareAboutUs is a hashtag. In Ferguson, they blasted the Michael Jackson song through car windows. In New York City and Berkeley last weekend, it was sung and performed by protesters. And In Baltimore, there was a magical moment when the Morgan State University choir answered protests with a rendition of Jackson’s “Heal The World.”

The price has already been paid, but the check was never cashed. Maybe we just need to finally listen to Michael Jackson.”-D.B. Anderson

By his own admission, Michael had felt so humiliated by the Grammy snub of Off the Wall that he vowed to make his next album something that could not be ignored-something so huge that it would not matter to anyone if he was black or white, In that spirit, Michael’s classic album Thriller was born, and ultimately followed up with Bad which comprised mostly the same formula for success. Perhaps, having proved his point with Thriller and Bad, he no longer felt the need to “prove” himself. In other words, he was Michael Jackson; he didn’t have to kiss butt anymore if he chose not to. Not that he ever had, but if anything, Dangerous does mark the era of Jackson’s independence-and a whole reaffirming of a black identity that narrow sighted critics would continue to deny him for years to come. 130411012913-01-michael-jackson93-0411-story-top

Further elaborating on the “Jam” vocal, Fast states in rounding out her “Noise” chapter:

“This is decidedly not the voice of a ‘man-child,’ as people liked to (condescendingly) call Jackson, nor is it the voice of someone who ‘wanted to be white.’ It’s the voice of an adult man who understood and was deeply connected to his black musical roots.’ Given his upbringing among r&b greats like Brown and Jackie Wilson, he always had a tendency to ‘go raw,’ as Nelson George has expressed it, but this tendency grew more pronounced in his later works, starting here; there’s less and less of that pristine, conventionally beautiful tenor and more grit and roughness. More blackness. More noise. More danger.” (Fast 41).

Indeed, those initial six tracks of Dangerous could almost stand alone as an album in and of itself (at the very least, an EP) and it would have been Michael’s most cohesive album since Off the Wall. Another six tracks or so in the vein of “Jam,” “Why You Wanna Trip On Me,” “In the Closet,” etc and Michael could have easily had the greatest and certainly most pure funk/r&b album of his career. But rather than being content to go that route, Michael clearly had a different vision for this album, one in which in which the mini segments (of which the tightly knit r&b funk of those first six tracks is merely the first of several such unified segments) become part of a greater whole. As powerful, jolting, and sexually charged as those first six tracks are, they are simply one movement of a much bigger symphony-and really, as I have discovered, that is the best way to approach any understanding of Michael Jackson’s later albums. A symphony is often comprised of many separate “movements” within the piece, each movement often having little to do (or seemingly little to do) with the main composition, until everything ties together at the end. We have to trust that the composer is taking us where he wants us to go. Fast’s book is, to my knowledge, the first serious attempt to analyze the compositional journey that is Dangerous and to put it in its proper perspective.

In Part 2, I will take on Fast’s “Desire” chapter and some of the book’s more controversial aspects. Although I love the book. obviously, there are points I disagree on, and some conclusions she draws that I question, so this should get interesting. The series will round out with discussions of “Utopia,” “Soul,” and “Coda” respectively.

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Reply #19 posted 03/14/15 8:48am


Susan Fast’s “Dangerous”: A Review (Pt 2-Desire)


“Michael Jackson’s diffuse expression of sexuality, which so many people found disturbing, because it doesn’t fit into any normative paradigm, is the ‘line of flight’ along which he continued to singularize himself…[It] is the aspect of his persona, or expression, that is least understood today, and that desperately needs to be more fully explored.”-(Steven Shapiro qtd in Fast 42).

Now I am getting into perhaps one of the most controversial; certainly most interesting chapters of “Dangerous” and that is her chapter titled “Desire.” The reason I say “controversial” is because I know already, from the various heated debates we have had here on some of these very topics, that many of these are hotbed issues among MJ fans and critics alike. There is nothing new, of course, in the ever ongoing debates of Michael’s appearance (or more aptly, the reasons why it kept changing) or the issues of his sexuality. Susan Fast certainly offers some interesting perspectives on these topics. As I have stated before, some I agree with and some I question; that doesn’t make anyone “right” or “wrong” but only goes to show that many of Michael’s aesthetic choices regarding his image and appearance (both the things he controlled consciously as well as those, such as his skin color, that he had no control over) are open for many varied forms of interpretation, and perhaps always will be since Michael himself was rarely forthright on these matters. In other words, there is nowhere you are going to find an interview in which Michael explicitly states, in black and white, “This is the statement I wanted to make when I…” so much of his intent has been left for fans, critics, and scholars to unravel.

However, the chapter opens with a topic that certainly no fans will dispute-Michael Jackson was undeniably one sexy mutha, but in one of the greatest and most inexplicable twists in pop music history, there arose a critical paradigm of Michael Jackson as anything but sexual, as it seemed an entire generation of critics sought to emasculate him by whatever means necessary. However, Fast’s theories delve much deeper beyond this seemingly and illogically simple explanation, even examining some of the reasons Jackson himself helped contribute to this rather blurring and confusing paradigm of himself as a “man-child”-one who was a teaser at best, but perhaps had intentionally set himself up to be a non threat (and why this was a necessity, at least in the early days of his solo career, for both his career and survival in the business).

The Annie Leibovitz Photos For "Vanity Fair" Showcased The New, Hyper Sexual Michael Jackson. He Seemed To Have Gotten Well Past Some Of His Early Shyness and Inhibitions About Being Viewed As An "Object."The Annie Leibovitz Photos For “Vanity Fair” Showcased The New, Hyper Sexual Michael Jackson. He Seemed To Have Gotten Well Past His Early Shyness and Inhibitions About Being Viewed As An “Object.”

The reason this is an important topic to discuss in terms of Dangerous is because this was the first album in which Michael, on a serious level, really attempted to shake loose and transcend that “non threatening” image (hence the title, perhaps?). Bad had given us many hints, of course, of a “badder” and tougher Michael. But “Dirty Diana” notwithstanding, a lot of Bad still came across as a bit of over the top posturing, like a child calling attention to himself-“Look how grown up and bad ass I am”-but who, at the end of the day, still goes home to mom and dad. And this is not a far off analogy, because though Michael certainly was flexing both his wings and his muscles on Bad in ways he never had before, in the end he was still living at home with mom and dad, quite literally, and in the studio was still under the tutelage of his “father figure” Quincy Jones.

But the Dangerous era was understandably confusing to loyal fans who had grown up with Michael throughout his Jackson 5, Jacksons and Quincy Jones-era solo career. When the videos for the Bad album started playing on MTV, we noticed that Michael was looking considerably lighter than he had in the past, but for all intents and purposes, he still looked “black.” It became an unspoken consensus that Michael must be “doing something” but we didn’t know what, and because the music was so good, we frankly didn’t really care. But then, with Dangerous and the premier of the “Black or White” video-of all the ironies-we got our first taste of a completely, pale “white” Michael Jackson. (However, it is interesting that in the scene where he rips his shirt and the Royal Arms Hotel sign comes crashing down, the lighting actually makes him appear quite dark in this segment; whether this was an intentional effect I do not know, but have always wondered). And remember that an official explanation for this seeming “transformation” was still almost two years down the road (an explanation that would be mocked and disbelieved even when it came, but for the moment, let’s stay in 1991 and the mindset of the time). The reactions at the time were as varied and complex as reactions of anything relating to Michael Jackson have always been, from enchantment and awe (“I thought he must be magic!” came one memorable quote from a male fan looking back on his childhood reaction to “white” Michael) to bafflement (“what the heck IS up with him?”) to outright hostility (“how dare he?” and “who does he think he is!”).

That Michael Jackson Had Vitiligo Is No Longer Up For Debate. What DOES Remain Debatable, However, Is To What Extent His Appearance Changes Were Aesthetic ChoicesThat Michael Jackson Had Vitiligo Is No Longer Up For Debate. What DOES Remain Debatable, However, Is To What Extent His Other Appearance Changes Were Aesthetic Choices-Or Even If The Disease Itself Somehow Became Accepted As Part of the New “Aesthetic.”

Discussing Michael Jackson’s changes in appearance on any kind of aesthetic level is always a touchy subject because the situation simply can’t be discussed without his changing skin color being an inescapable part of it. And once that subject comes into the equation, it raises many other deeper, controversial issues-ones that have certainly been well debated here, as elsewhere. After all, we certainly aren’t talking mere cosmetic changes here. Many artists routinely change their appearance and image from album to album via conventional means such as hairstyles, makeup, and wardrobe (although Michael certainly played a pioneering role in freeing the male artist to express himself via those avenues as well). But a complete change of skin color can hardly be equated to a change of hair style! This wasn’t a mere cosmetic change, but (for many) a seismic shift in identity. The fact that the issue is still debated at all, over twenty years after the explanation was given, speaks of just how deeply this change resonated with the public, and still does. That Michael Jackson had vitiligo was confirmed in his autopsy. That is a fact that is not up for debate. Therefore, the ongoing speculations about it, including some of the very questions that Fast raises of if, why, or how he applied this transformation to his art (in ways perhaps both conscious and subconscious) are inevitably going to be questions that invoke their share of controversy.

But before wading too deep into those waters, let’s get back to the discussion of desire. Susan Fast kicks off this chapter by raising the very question that I addressed in one of my most popular blog posts: “Why I Love The Mature Face of Michael.”

Fast’s discovery of Michael, both post vitiligo and post cosmetic surgery, as someone who was still invoking “desire” on a mass level echoes my own similar journey. She describes going on Youtube, and being fascinated to see so many fan videos devoted to the celebration of Michael’s mature “hotness.” She concludes that this is not a phenomenon unique to any one demographic, either, but rather, one that seems to be consistent among female fans from all cultures. It is not, of course, the idea of so many fans from so many diverse cultures, ages, races, and backgrounds finding one man so desirable that is the big mystery, but rather, the fact that it is such a persistent view and such a polar opposite view to the image of Michael Jackson that was being sold by the mass media.

“With all the talk of how Jackson ‘destroyed’ his face and became a monster in his later years, often described as ‘an inevitable tragedy to pity and mourn,’ it’s interesting to contemplate this very different discourse. What do these fans find so sexy, so beautiful, when pretty much all we hear from the media is that he was a freak? Some critics have admitted that Jackson ‘[irradiated] sexual dynamism in his performances, but then they’ve knocked the wind out of that claim by determining that it was all show and no action: ‘He might be threatening if Jackson gave, even for a second, the impression that he is obtainable,’ wrote Jay Cocks in 1984. Since when did the obtainability of pop stars have anything to do with them as threatening to society’s mores?” (Fast 43-44).

For the next several paragraphs, Fast goes on to point out and deconstruct many of these ridiculous critical theories. She demonstrates aptly how all of these theories, stretching from the early 80’s when Michael’s solo star first began to rise to the present, when taken as a whole, go well beyond the limits of the absurd and all seem to have one basic element in common-to somehow deny Michael’s sexual presence as a performer (even worse, perhaps, to strip it from him as a human being) or to somehow deflate its power.


The reasons for this are obvious in some ways (blatant racism, no doubt, being the biggest factor) but more troublingly elusive in others. Michael Jackson was hardly the first male black superstar to appeal to women of many races and ethnicities, but he may well have been the first in which so many unique factors-his power, influence, commercial success, and cultural status-combined to create the perfect storm. The words of Jay Cocks, as quoted in Fast’s book, may be worth a deeper examination. He purposely chose the word “threatening” and as quickly did double duty to deflate its meaning when paired in the same sentence with Michael Jackson and sex. Cocks wrote the words quoted by Fast in 1984, which means this was at least a good three years before Michael had even officially performed his first crotch grab on TV, let alone any of the hyped up sexual moves of the Bad tour (and which would become even more blatant by the Dangerous tour). It was long before the era of any controversies surrounding Michael, or talks about plastic surgery (a subject that wouldn’t really become a source of controversy for Michael until later in the decade) or before serious questions of sexuality/gender issues were raised. Yet already, it seems, he was being viewed as someone who was clearly threatening and challenging acceptable sexual norms. Otherwise, why the need to protest so much?

Michael Jackson as I recall him from this early 80’s phase was still very much within the realm of what Fast defines as the “soul man” persona. The early 1980’s was still a time when white girls such as myself, especially those of us living in the Deep South, could still not be entirely open about finding a black performer sexy. When I look back on it now, I find it amusing that I always felt the need to qualify any comment I made about Michael Jackson and “hotness” with the preface, “I could really go for him if I was black girl.” But it was the Deep South, thirty years ago, and social norms dictated what we could or could not find “sexy”-at least, not without being branded a slut or worse. (That the idea of interracial mixing was still a quite sensitive subject in the 70’s and early 80’s was not unique to the South, however. In 1972 when Michael appeared as a guest on the popular show “The Dating Game” they made sure that all three of the “batchelorettes” he picked from were African-American; in 1982, an innocent song like “The Girl Is Mine” could still incite controversy because it featured a black man and a white man arguing over the same girl). Yet I cannot recall, either among myself or my peers, any sort of condescension about Michael’s sexiness or any doubt regarding its authenticity. Perhaps as teenagers we simply weren’t analyzing things that deeply, but for sure, questions of whether Michael’s sexiness was “real” or “feigned” never entered the equation. Which would appear to indicate that none of these ideas of Michael’s “feigned” sexuality were coming from its most rudimentary grassroots level-that is, the actual fans and the kids who were buying his music. So if it wasn’t coming from us-the kids, the giggly suburban white girls who were secretly buying Thriller over parental objections and ogling at the cover, or the black girls who, of course, were still loving him and finding him as “fine”as they always had-then where did it come from, and why?

I Don't Think His Adult Image Was EVER Exactly "Boy Next Door." He Had Always Known How To Mix Innocence And Sex.I Don’t Think His Adult Image Was EVER Exactly “Boy Next Door.” He Had Always Known How To Mix Innocence And Sex.

By the mid 1980’s, there had already been a major shift of perception. Michael was still the biggest pop star on the planet, but it had become fashionable by then to poke gentle fun at his masculinity and to tease anyone who openly declared themselves a Michael Jackson fan. Had the campaign to “desexualize” Michael Jackson taken its toll? Had it resulted in its desired effect? I remember quite vividly that by the time the “In The Closet” video premiered, I just found the whole thing kind of weird and awkward. (Weirdly enough, I now find it one of his most erotic and appealing videos). So when I look back on my reaction to it in 1992, versus my reaction to it today, it is clearly obvious to me that it wasn’t that I really found the video awkward; it was what I had become conditioned to thinking about Michael in terms of sex appeal and eroticism. If you hear something repeated often enough, it’s bound to rub off on you. So when I trace the full arc of my appreciation for Michael’s sexiness, it is interesting that I can pinpoint it to two very distinct eras- the era when I was still too young and naive to care about what critics thought and, likewise after I became mature and aware enough to no longer care.

Fast explores all of these questions in depth, and arrives at some startling insights:

“…[D]enying it [his sexuality] and his masculinity, as well as his maturity, which terms like the omnipresent ‘man-child’ do, demanding reconciliation between his on- and off-stage performances of sexuality and concluding that he became grotesque and therefore undesirable through plastic surgery, works to contain his complex gendered and sexualized self and to police the boundaries of what can be considered desirable, sexy, and masculine. It erases the beautiful conundrum. But it also makes him safer” (Fast 46).

Now, why all of this talk about Michael and sex and/or love and romance is important to a discussion of Dangerous is because those initial six tracks on Dangerous not only represent some of his most politically conscious and “black” music to date, but also his most adult erotic. Again, it’s not that we hadn’t had sexy tracks from Michael before. Long before Dangerous, he had definitely proven beyond doubt-if this was his intent-that he was all grown up and not innocent little Michael anymore (although given the very grown up material he was given to sing even as a child, I am not sure we can ever pinpoint a time when he was allowed to be “innocent little Michael.”). But again, what Fast is arguing is the very purposeful impact that is created by the tight grouping of these tracks. She also makes the very convincing argument that, perhaps for the first time, Michael is targeting these songs at a very specific age group-not children; not older listeners, but to red blooded adults (like himself, we can presume) who are caught up in the tumultuous prime of adult lust, love, romance and all that they imply.

“…It’s a full-on assault of all things sensual, sexual, and romantic like we haven’t seen from him before. While so much of his songs appeal across generations, these songs break away from that; the adult sentiments don’t, significantly for Jackson, speak to children, or perhaps to older fans (like my 87-year-old neighbor, who listens to Jackson’s music all the time, but only through the Bad album, not later work). All in all, these songs suggest that love is complicated and cruel-he’s chasing it (her), but can’t quite get it; he had it, but it slips away; he’s git it-he’s got it bad-but it needs to be hidden. These songs are as much about desires of the flesh as those of the heart…(then, following a passage in which she acknowledges some of his earlier explorations into these territories)…”[B]ut the songs on Dangerous feel more personal, more in the moment, more about a guy who’s wrestling with his libido and his heart. And unlike those earlier femme fatale songs, or songs about romantic love, Jackson is a willing partner, turned on, if never quite getting what he wants or needs. Isn’t that how the most powerful love songs go?” (Fast 46-47).

It is at this point that Fast introduces the concept of this new direction as Michael asserting “soul man masculinity” (a term originally coined by Mark Anthony Neal). In her words, she describes the term as it applies to Jackson as “a version of gritty masculinity that maintained gender ambivalence and that was not, on the whole, violent or misogynistic.” (Fast 47).

But if “soul man masculinity” was a response to the cultural emasculation of the black male, why did Michael so strongly feel the need to reassert it now, at this time? Fast raises one of many interesting, if albeit controversial theories put forth in this chapter when she hints that Michael himself (or his PR?) may have been at least partly responsible for the earlier sanitizing and de-sexualization of his image that would ultimately prove so difficult to overcome.

The theory seems ridiculous unless one takes into consideration the long, complex history of race relations, especially in the United States, and how deeply ingrained was the stereotype of the overly sexualized black male, who in turn was often viewed (by whites) as a threat. Up until at least the 1950’s, all black male entertainers who had achieved any degree of crossover or mainstream success had been those who were thoroughly “sanitized” (i.e, “sexless) and deemed “safe.” Performers like Louie Armstrong and Sammy Davis, Sr. were hardly going to upset the status quo (or threaten the masculinity of the white male); the black male musician was going to be for the most part either the grinning fat guy blowing brass in the band, or the jovial tap dancer (ala’ Bill Bojangles) or the seasoned blues man. There were, of course, always exceptions (the flamboyant, suave, and outrageous Cab Calloway comes to mind as perhaps the earliest example of “soul man masculinity” before the rock era) but in general, it is not until the 1950’s and the rise of performers like Little Richard and Chuck Berry that we first see truly sexualized male black performers who proved that a male black performer could be overtly sexual and, yes, could (heaven forbid!) attract your white daughters. (And yes, I include Little Richard here because then, as now, androgyny usually only added to the appeal of the taboo and the forbidden. Anyone who doesn’t think that boy was getting his fair share of “tutti fruitti” from all sides is sadly deluded).

Cab Calloway, Perhaps One Of The Earliest Examples Of "Soul Man Masculinity" Before The Rock EraCab Calloway, Perhaps One Of The Earliest Examples Of “Soul Man Masculinity” Before The Rock Era

Just as quickly, they made sure to get Elvis on the market. The reasoning was not too hard to figure. He may have been just as sexualized, just as “dirty” and controversial, and most parents still weren’t particularly thrilled about it, but by jove, at least he was white. In that regard, his brand of “threat” was at least somewhat more palatable.

And we don’t even have to begin to enumerate what actually happened to successful male black performers whose sexual appeal crossed racial boundaries. It is a long and already well documented, sad history. And the double standard ensured that a black artist would always be under the microscope of scrutiny, and would always be persecuted twice as hard, and punished twice as much, for any perceived act of sexual deviance. Thus, Elvis could move a 14-year-old girl into his home and Southern society (oh heck, let’s just say American society) barely blinked an eye; Chuck Berry could allegedly transport a 14-year-old girl across a state line and be sentenced to prison.

Where Fast is going with this is to raise the question of whether Michael may have, at least in the earlier phase of his career, purposely presented himself to be as asexual and non-threatening as possible in order to appeal to a broader audience, knowing as he must have that the only way to achieve the kind of huge mainstream, crossover success he craved would be to make himself appear as “safe” as possible. This would have entailed purposely playing down stereotypes of male black artists and presenting a pure, almost “Disney-fied” image (my phrase) in order to court those masses. Just how intentional or conscious this campaign was-if indeed it was a campaign at all-is a matter of debate. And a lot of it, no doubt, was a carryover from his Jackson 5/Motown days, where he had already been thoroughly groomed and had built a successful foundation on being a wholesome act. I don’t think that it was ever Michael’s intention to alienate his original audience; rather, it seemed to me that he was always seeking to widen his audience by maintaining a certain level of what was expected of him (or what he knew his old fans already loved about him) while at the same time constantly pushing the envelope and taking just enough risks to gain new fans. If indeed we can liken it to a campaign, it was a cleverly subtle one; he never gave the appearance of a leopard changing its spots overnight, but rather, took it by degrees, a few steps at a time, until by the end of his career he had amassed a following so huge that he could indulge himself artistically in most any direction he chose, and would still be guaranteed universal adulation and mass record sales. However, that Michael was desperately seeking crossover, mainstream success is not a debatable point; it is fact. He stated himself that it was the main motivating factor behind his desire to create Thriller, an album that, from the very beginning, he vowed would not be ignored at the Grammy’s as he felt Off the Wall had undeservedly been. So the question must be raised: If Michael was keenly aware, as he must have been, of what it took to gain that kind of commercial, mainstream acceptance as a black performer in the late 70’s and early 80’s, did he seek to make himself-or at least his public image-as “safe” and “non threatening” to that audience as possible?

That Michael Jackson was religious; had been raised in a religious home, and would have been taught (at least in theory) that sex before marriage was wrong was no act. But that these beliefs were perhaps “amped up” in a way to make him appear as a “good, safe, wholesome boy” also seemed part of a carefully calculated plan to eliminate part of the risk factor he presented. It might be worth mentioning that at the same time that Michael’s early solo career was taking off, there were artists like Rick James who personified the “pimp” stereotype and certainly were perceived as sexual; Prince, also, was an up and comer whose album cover for Dirty Mind featured him nearly nude in bikini briefs and an overcoat-an image that was not only blatantly sexual, but also one that was already blatantly blurring gender lines. But at the time, acts like James and Prince were still quite marginalized. It was one thing to court a daring, exotic, or controversial image if one was a marginalized artist appealing to a certain demographic; quite another if one’s ambition was to be the biggest selling artist of all time. (Of course, Prince would go on to become a mega crossover star in his own right by mid decade, but arguably, that success may have owed a lot to Michael having already paved that path).

To illustrate the point that African-Americans never totally bought into Michael’s “wholesome” image Fast refers to a funny but scalpel sharp joke made by Eddie Murphy in the 80’s.

“…[Michael] went on television and said, ‘I don’t have sex because of my religious beliefs’ and the public believed it. Brothers were like ‘get the fuck out of here’ and white people going, ‘That Michael’s a special kind of guy, he’s good, clean, and wholesome…” (Eddie Murphy qtd in Fast 48).

The upshot, according to Murphy, was that by the time of the 1984 Grammy’s, Michael could waltz down the red carpet with Brooke Shields on his arm and “nobody white said shit.”

For sure, it must have felt like quite a triumph after having been snubbed as a date for Tatum O’Neal at The Wiz premier back in 1978 because her manager had said she “shouldn’t be seen with a n*gg*r”!

With Brooke Shields At The 1984 Grammy'sWith Brooke Shields At The 1984 Grammy’s

But if this was all a purposeful strategy-and if it did in some ways help him achieve his goal-it was nevertheless a strategy that he as quickly began to dismantle, taking more and more risks both with his image and with his art, until by the premier of the “Black or White” video in 1991 he was smashing car windows and (more or less) simulating masturbation in our living rooms. All, it might be added, while kids everywhere watched and still proclaimed “I love Michael; he’s the best!”

The conundrum that was Michael Jackson, if not born in that moment, was certainly solidified.

In the next installment: Going even deeper into “the closet”…and into “Desire!”

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Reply #20 posted 03/14/15 8:51am


Susan Fast’s “Dangerous”: A Review (Part 3-“Desire”)

in the closet“The first time that noise gives way on Dangerous is at the beginning of ‘In the Closet;’ the calm doesn’t last for long…” (Fast 49).

Indeed, “In the Closet” was such a groundbreaking video for Michael Jackson, in so many ways, that it almost deserves its own chapter within any discussion of Dangerous. And it is now virtually impossible to separate the erotic, visual imagery of the video from the track. However, if we step into a time machine and turn the clock back to November of 1991, when many fans and listeners would have first heard the track after rushing out to buy Dangerous, there was as yet no visual imagery to connect with the song. But even without the well known images of Michael and supermodel Naomi Campbell frolicking in the desert, the composition alone is enough to set an undeniable tone of eroticism. Fast describes the track’s somewhat beguiling, soft opening as a foray into the “feminine,” which then gives way to the industrialized, hard beat, creating the tension and juxtaposition of these forces (the masculinity of the industrial beat and feminism of the spoken sections)that will dominate the track. I find it interesting that she references the song’s distinct Middle Eastern feel. I, too, have often noted that the track has a unique, Middle Eastern vibe. In timbre, it has the feel of an Arabian Beledi number (in common lay terms, that is belly dance!). Such a beat, in and of itself, is more than enough to set a thematic tone of erotic desire. (On more than one occasion, I have heard “In the Closet” referred to as the ultimate lap dance number!). Add to that the element of a forbidden romance, and the dark tension that compels the track is bound to start sizzling.

Although there is nothing really ambiguous about the track, the video, combined with all the usual questions about Michael Jackson and sex, created a lot of speculation, not the least of the controversies stemming from the track’s title.

“People were understandably puzzled by Jackson’s use of the expression ‘in the closet’ to characterize a straight relationship and one has to admit that this is tantalizingly confusing, more so because in a way, this is a kind of ‘coming out’ song for Jackson even as he’s talking, ambiguously, about keeping things in the closet-coming out, that is, as interested not only in romance but sex, as a willing, even aggressive participant, not betrayed by and fearful of some femme fatale and, unbelievably to some, as straight.” (Fast 51-52).

Michael "in the closet"...literally!Michael “in the closet”…literally!

I have often thought that people tried to read too much into the title, especially in trying to equate it to what is only a relatively recent definition of the phrase. The term as used to define a gay person hiding his/her sexual identity has been in use since the 1960’s, according to most etymology sources of the phrase, but the term “in the closet” as used simply in the sense of hiding a dark secret-any dark secret-dates back at least to the 19th century. According to most sources I have checked, the phrase most likely has roots in the even older phrase “skeletons in the closet” which usually refers to some dark, hidden secret or source of shame that a person keeps hidden. Michael is clearly (at least judging by the song’s lyrics and video concept) using the phrase in its original context, to mean a shameful thing that must be kept hidden away. Fast notes that in the video his character wears a wedding ring, which would indicate that he is a married man trying to avoid the temptations of an exotic seductress. Thus, the thing that is “in the closet” is his adultery. Not exactly a deep story line to figure out, although we have to assume that Michael was surely aware of the phrase’s more current meaning and perhaps, thus, intentionally played up that ambiguity. (This would have been in keeping with Madonna’s alleged concept of the song, which would have involved her and Michael role playing as an androgynous couple in drag! And although it may sound ludicrous in theory, this wasn’t too far removed from the concept he would actually use a few years later with his sister Janet in the “Scream” video).

In this 1992 clip on the making of “In the Closet” Naomi Campbell gives Cindy Crawford a pretty straightforward explanation of exactly what the song’s title means:

Although “In the Closet” certainly wasn’t Michael’s first foray into portraying himself as blatantly sexual in a video, it may indeed mark the first time that we see him in what appears to be, on screen, a fully developed, adult, erotic relationship. Remember that even in “The Way You Make Me Feel,” his steamy cat-and-mouse chase with Tatiana ends with a hug. A lot of us were going, WTF? All of that trouble for a frickin’ hug? Whatever one can say about Michael’s romp with Naomi Campbell in “In the Closet,” we can pretty much safely say that these characters are not going to end things with a hug. In fact, at one particularly steamy point in the video, there is even a moment of implied oral sex! If you never noticed it before, watch closely at the 4:53 mark. Clearly, we are to believe that Campbell’s character was up to something “down there” as the camera follows her body on its slow, sensual shimmy upward, and we can probably safely say she wasn’t admiring his boots. (A bit of this shot is also briefly inserted at an earlier point in the video, around 2:37. But at 4:53, when everything stops and slows down to nothing but the sound of that clock ticking, is where it gets really extended, and really sexy!).

We Just Knew Things Were Not Going To End With A Hug...Not THIS Time!We Just Knew Things Were Not Going To End With A Hug…Not THIS Time!

The entire track is built around a series of intermittent moments of building tension and release. “Frustrated desire” and/or “unfulfilled desire” are phrases often used for describing Michael Jackson’s more erotic numbers. Here there is still that element to some degree, because he doesn’t want to “go there” and is fighting it. In that regard, I do not entirely agree with Fast as I see “In the Closet” as being not terribly different from other songs in the Jackson femme fatale category. He is still trying to resist an illicit relationship that he doesn’t want to be in, or at least that he clearly recognizes as wrong. That he’s clearly on the losing side of this battle is no big surprise, either; in the past, it was usually clear that the “Billie Jeans” and “Dirty Dianas” of his repertoire had the upper hand. We always got the sense that, being a man and a vulnerable creature of flesh and blood he was going to give in. But then that moment of “giving in” would be followed by the inevitable “forty days and forty nights” of self-castigation. (I would actually cite “Give In To Me” as perhaps the best example where Michael breaks the lust-followed-by-self castigation cycle, a “desire” track that Fast discusses in depth a bit later in the book).

But perhaps what does differentiate “In the Closet” is the degree of fulfillment as opposed to thwarted desire. Both the music and Michael’s vocal performance leave little doubt that we are meant to interpret this as a fully consummated relationship.

“The chorus collapses twice just, it seems, as it’s about to take off-aborted attempts at fulfillment, joy, release. The third time the music of the chorus takes flight and is allowed to develop, to ‘simmer.’ Jackson’s repeated ad libs culminate in his trademark ‘hee hee’ signifying here in a profoundly different way than it ever has before-as surrender, capitulation, and fulfillment: usually this vocal gesture comes as a sharp interjection, all bravado, control, affirmation of the music’s energy and power. Here, it rounds out his series of ad libs, using his last bit of breath: a haunting, the release of a former, younger self…” (Fast 51).

In her analysis of the video, Fast again aptly deconstructs a lot of the shortsighted nonsense that, for too long, has been the accepted critical narrative, both of this video and most all others that have featured Michael interacting either erotically or romantically with female leads. She is lead at one point to raise the question, in almost perplexed exasperation: “Were we watching the same film?”

Indeed, there is nothing remotely “awkward” about the pairing of Michael and Naomi Campbell. They seemed to have had a natural chemistry that Herb Ritts was able to capitalize on via his beautiful cinematography (and I will have much more discussion of Ritts and his particular influence in just a bit). Campbell was said to have been flirting quite blatantly with Michael throughout the shoot. In the clip posted above, she admitted she wanted to kiss him. And if one story was to be believed, she was willing to take it much further than that!

Back in 2010, I did a post on this video shoot in which I related a story that had been passed down from Michael’s makeup artist Karen Faye. Since those posts are a bit difficult to access directly now, I will reprint that particular part of the post below:

From Allforloveblog, July 3, 2010:
It may have only lasted for as long as the video cameras were rolling, but the chemistry we saw between Michael and Naomi Campbell in 1992’s steamy “In The Closet”-definitely one of the sexiest romps to ever be captured on camera-was very real. At least, we know from Naomi’s end that she would have liked to have carried it “beyond” the cameras. Michael was somewhat more evasive on the subject, but if you observe the photos and body language from the video shoot-well, let’s just put it this way: He obviously wasn’t hating it.

The video conjures up every reason why average people love to hate celebrities. Imagine getting paid big bucks just to romp around in an exotic desert setting with a half-clothed Naomi Campbell, or Michael Jackson at the peak of his sexiest era,and with a bod more ripped than we’d ever been privileged to see before!

It was the one time that Michael actually hit the gym for a video shoot, as well as the studio, and the results were…ooh lala stunning. And with his hair pulled back completely from his gorgeous, chiseled face, we finally got to see some of those fine Native American features that normally our eyes were never drawn to. No wonder Naomi was sprung! And according to Michael, the primitive desert heat was “exciting.” Yes. Especially when you have Naomi sashaying around in that little white skirt!

Well, there’s a funny story I heard that I’m going to relate to you, and no, I cannot verify it with a link-sorry. Just trust me on this. I heard it from a reliable source, and there has been some debate as to whether the story was true or exaggerated. But regardless of whether you believe it or not, the story is hilarious. It goes like this:

Michael comes off the set of In The Closet and into the makeup trailer. He seems very agitated; a little embarrassed and upset. Karen Faye asks what’s wrong.

“Naomi,” Michael says. “She keeps talking dirty to me.”

Karen: “Tell her to stop.”

Michael: “She won’t.”

Karen: “Tell her again.” She goes on to tell him he has to be more aggressive and forceful.

A little while later, Michael is back again. Still upset with Naomi. “She won’t stop. She keeps talking dirty.”

Karen: ‘Well what exactly is it she’s saying?”

Michael: “I can’t tell you. It’s too bad to say.”

At this point (again, I’m merely repeating the story as it was told) Karen is almost amused and making a joke of it. She tells Michael he’s a big boy and should be able to handle the situation. “Tell her to stop doing it.” Sometime later, Michael is back again, still complaining about Naomi and her “nasty” talk. Again, Karen asks what exactly is it that she’s saying. Finally badgered into confessing, Michael looks very embarrassed and says, “She said she wants to suck my dick.”

Karen: “Well you tell her I said she can’t.”

Personally, I don’t know what to make of the story. It’s funny, but I have a hard time buying that Michael would have been too awkward and naive to handle the situation himself. Nor do I particularly buy that he would have been that offended at the idea of being talked dirty to by a woman (I frankly don’t know many men who would be). It is possible that, with his sense of humor, he enjoyed the prospect of pitting the women against each other, just to watch the cat fur fly! In all of the “making of” videos, his body language with Naomi seems very relaxed, playful, and naturally flirtatious-not exactly the body language of someone who is feeling sexually harassed. But whatever the case-whether it was mutual attraction or one fueled by unrequited tensions, the chemistry between them was very real, and very palpable on camera.

It is also interesting to note that in the video clip I originally posted with that piece, the reporter who was covering the shoot had absolutely no qualms and no reservations about stating it as Michael’s “sexiest video ever.”

“Michael is generating more heat than the desert sun in his sexiest video ever…”-Media reporter covering the “In the Closet” shoot.

Fast also credits much of the video’s eroticism to the vision of director Herb Ritts. Stylistically, “In the Closet” bore similarities to other sexy videos Ritts had directed, including Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game.”

Since Fast devotes a good deal of space to discussing the role of Herb Ritts’s vision and his contribution to the shoot, the discussion here likewise cannot be complete without it. Ritts not only specialized in erotic visual imagery, but seemed to have a knack for bringing out a special kind of sensuality in his male subjects. It may be worth noting that many of Michael’s most alluring videos and photo shoots through the years were either those done by women, or by gay male photographers, so it may not be entirely surprising that Ritts, a gay man, was able to bring to the table an especial awareness of Michael’s erotic the closet2

It was Ritt’s vision, after all, that dominated much of the video’s storyline and imagery, including the new, exotic look that Michael sported for the shoot (the pulled back hair; the wife beater t-shirt; jeans and boots instead of the usual floods and loafers).

However, regardless of how much of the video’s vision may be credited to Ritts, there is one thing that remained a constant pattern throughout Michael’s career, and that was the fact that whenever he had a serious point to make, or really wanted to call attention to himself, things always went down. That probably sounds confusing right now. But allow me to explain. Most of Michael’s career and public persona was built around the idea of things that were high-the voice, for prime example, and the pants for another. So over the years, we started to learn that when Michael wanted to get serious-that is, when there was a serious point to be made, or when he wished to break away from his characteristic mold-things came down. The voice would drop several octaves, to a deeper and more natural tone. The pant hems came down. His hair, often worn tied back during performances, was allowed to fall loose during numbers that required a special kind of of kinetic, flowing energy (a kind of Samson-like effect).

In between takes, the flood pants and loafers came back out, lol!In between takes, the flood pants and loafers came back out, lol!

So for “In the Closet” the pants came down (figuratively, at least!). Though his hair remained tied back, the braid was a definite departure from any previous look, and as already noted, since he knew this video was going to call for his body to be exposed as it never had been before, he actually hit the gym and beefed up a bit (not overly doing it, but just enough to give his pecs some real definition). Indeed, the whole idea, as articulated by Herb Ritts, was one of redefining himself once again. Fast refers to Ritt’s desire, for this video shoot, to remove Michael from all of his usual trappings of “dandyism.” But whether this was mostly Ritts’s concept is really beside the point. The fact is, Michael would never have gone along with these choices if he hadn’t felt right doing them (just as he outright rejected Madonna’s concept for the video!) so he must have felt that it was a vision and an image that encapsulated what he wanted to do with the song.

But Fast dips into controversial territory again (as she acknowledges) when she ponders on the “Oriental fantasy” aspect of the video. While many fans appreciated what seemed as Michael’s celebration and embracing of the black woman (all of the love interests portrayed in his videos from Dangerous are black women; Naomi Campbell in “In the Closet”; supermodel Iman in “Remember the Time”) Fast raises the idea that perhaps the casting of these women had as much to do with the desire to exploit the idea of exotic “otherness,” especially given the fact that Michael, by this time, was so “white” in appearance as to give the false impression that he could easily pass for a Caucasian male. Personally, I never bought into the idea that Michael Jackson ever looked “white.” Even during the eras when his vitiligo was most evident-if one didn’t know he had a skin disease-he looked, at the very least, biracial. As the disease progressed, he began to take on a kind of albino, pigment-less appearance. Other African-Americans who have completely lost skin pigment due to vitiligo have a similar appearance, whereby their features remain distinctly African-American even though the skin no longer has the distinguishing pigment that defines one as “black.”

A Sexy Black Couple...Or Something Else? Shots Such As This DID Seem To Emphasize The Stark Contrast Between Their Skin Tones, Raising The Possibility of ITC As An "Orientalist Fantasy."A Sexy Black Couple…Or Something Else? Shots Such As This DID Seem To Emphasize The Stark Contrast Between Their Skin Tones, Raising The Possibility of ITC As An “Orientalist Fantasy.”

Even though much of “In the Closet” was in sepia, it is apparent that Michael wasn’t exactly pale. Indeed, just as with so many factors of his appearance in this video, it seemed some lengths had been taken to make him look even healthier and more buffed than usual, and it actually looks like he is sporting a suntan (makeup, of course, could have achieved this effect; people with universal vitiligo cannot tan, as prolonged sun exposure can be deadly). Still, I “get” what Fast is saying in the sense that Michael and Naomi could certainly appear as an interracial couple, with Michael’s appearance as closer to Hispanic than African-American, and paired, of course, against the contrast of the very exotically dark Naomi Campbell.

“Often in Orientalist fantasies it’s the dark-skinned woman who’s exoticized, who’s portrayed as some kind of ‘forbidden fruit,’ and Naomi Campbell is so dark next to Jackson that he might be thought of as racially other to her, a potentially controversial idea, I know, given that Jackson’s increasingly lighter skin led to him sometimes being called a ‘race traitor.’ I don’t mean to buy into those narratives here: only that there appears to be, on the level of skin color, a substantial racial difference between Jackson and Campbell, and that Campbell is treated as a hypersexualized ‘exotic’ woman in a way that plays right into the stereotypes.” (Fast 53).

This is similar to the debate that has often been raised with discussions of the “Remember The Time” video, where it is believed by some that Michael intentionally set himself up, surrounding himself with an all-black cast, in order to further emphasize the contrast of his “otherness.” And, in fact, Fast does touch on this later in the chapter when the discussion turns from “In the Closet” to “Remember The Time” although her discussion of Michael’s “otherness” and the contrast of himself against the other cast members, particularly the other males in the cast, goes far beyond simple issues of race or appearance. I love her theory of Michael as a trickster figure in the video, which I would agree with (like a real life Bugs Bunny, he manages to outwit his adversaries even though far outnumbered and outbrawned; but also, like the best trickster figures, he is not entirely guiltless, and his adversaries not entirely unjustified in their pursuit-after all, he has flaunted his affair with the queen, as well as her attraction for him, and has rubbed it in the king’s face-yet like the best tricksters, he is so wily, charismatic, and endearing that we are rooting for him, rather than his justified pursuers. Indeed, cultural trickster figures such as Africa’s Esu are discussed at length in conjunction with this video).

"Leave It To Michael Jackson To Reclaim A REGAL African Past"-Susan Fast

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According to Fast, Michael’s intentional “otherness” in the video (the contrasting of himself against the cast and, especially, other male cast members) may have more to do with class differences.

“Even in this setting, Jackson challenges class power through his clothing from the moment we see him: the gold metal plate across his chest is called a gorgerine, worn by the Pharoahs of Egypt as a marker of their regal status. Jackson also sports a formal starched kilt worn by noblemen and officials in ancient Egypt. The other entertainers aren’t dressed in this fancy garb…” (Fast 60).

However, as Fast goes on to note, what Jackson ultimately pulls off is a hybrid style that combines ancient Egyptian regalness with modern 90’s hipness, connecting the ancient, royal history of blacks in Egypt to himself in the present. “Leave it to Michael Jackson to reclaim a regal African past.” (Fast 60).

It made perfect sense, of course, that Michael should go to some lengths to set himself apart from the other cast members of the video. After all, he was the star of the piece, and as such, the concept was naturally to keep him as the center of attention. The choices of hairstyle, makeup, and wardrobe were all intended to emphasize a sense of his “otherness” as compared to the other male cast members, who of course are portrayed as more traditionally “masculine.” Yet the “feminism” that his character invokes is undeniably a source of appeal. The queen desires him above all others, even her own husband.

My Personal Favorite RTT Moment...Breaking Into That Impish, "Trickster" Grin As His Pursuers Overtake HimMy Personal Favorite RTT Moment…Breaking Into That Impish, “Trickster” Grin As His Pursuers Overtake Him

Fast delves into yet another controversial aspect of Michael’s aesthetic (as well as part of his appeal for many) with the topic of gender ambiguity and how Michael actually used the blurring of traditional gender lines to great effect. While this is often a hotbed topic among fans, it is nevertheless a topic that bears discussion because, for starters, it goes to the very heart of what has already been acknowledged as one of the most complex issues of Michael Jackson’s sex symbol status-why critics and the media so often resisted it; why fans embraced it. According to Fast, Michael became a master of how to blend both the masculine and feminine. I have excerpted below a few of her quotes that best illuminate this discussion:

“During the Dangerous era, Jackson started wearing his hair longer and more loosely curled. The jheri curl had morphed into several strands that hung over his eyes and reached his chin. It’s during this time that he also first straightens, rather than relaxes, his hair…As he ages, from Dangerous onward, his face becomes increasingly ‘feminized,’ exaggerated through the use of heavy make-up, including heavy eyeliner, mascara, and various shades of lipstick…(Fast 55-56).

However, in quoting Meredith Jones and others, Fast goes on to state that Jackson’s modus operandi, if you will, had little to do with any “trans” tendencies which we as a society might normally associate with a male who goes the route of increasingly feminizing his appearance. Rather, she states, Jackson seemed more interested in combining feminine and masculine traits to create a kind of ambiguous middle ground between them.

“This analytical specificity begins to get at how Jackson’s intriguing performance of gender really works: the features don’t ‘add up’ to one gender or another, nor can they be be ‘reconciled.’ Markers of masculinity do not disappear. In fact, these characteristics, particularly the square jaw-line and cleft chin, became more pronounced as he aged, perhaps through procedures, perhaps through fluctuating weight, or perhaps, again, simply through the natural process of aging.” (Fast 56).

In quoting Judith Peraino, she arrives at perhaps the most apt phrase to describe it: “Coming out into the middle.” (58).

But the discussion of Jackson’s “gender ambiguity” cannot end with his face alone. It incorporates many other factors-his body, wardrobe choices, etc. And this is where the lines often became even more blurred.

“His body was slight, without developed muscles, but straight, angular, and strong-not a feminine thing about it, including the way he moved, right down to his walk…” (Fast 56).

This is followed by a discussion of some of his onstage wardrobe choices, particularly the Dangerous-era gold fencing shirt, purposely designed to draw “attention to his bulging groin.” (56-57).

The First Half Of The Dangerous Tour Concerts Emphasized The "Masculine"The First Half Of The Dangerous Tour Concerts Emphasized The “Masculine”

What Fast is discussing in this section is a phenomenon similar to one I discussed a few years ago in analyzing the concept of Michael’s live performances. It was during the Dangerous era that Michael seemed to solidify the concept for his live performances which often began with the “masculine” (he would come on tough, as a persona who was very masculine, angular, and hard, with military-esque trappings) and, over the course of the performance, would evolve to a more feeling, flowing, ethereal “feminine” persona (a transition that, like the Dangerous album’s concept, usually transpired with the performance of “Heal the World,” “Will You Be There” and the other spiritual “message” songs). Michael’s onstage persona during the first half of his Dangerous tour performances was always somewhat distant and cold; he would often wear a perpetual sneer. The moves are often blatantly sexual (a lot of crotch grabbing, etc). By the time the metamorphosis is complete, he is smiling, interacting with children onstage;the fencing shirt replaced by a flowing white shirt that accentuates his ethereal quality. His dance moves have become fluid and graceful, rather than angular and hard.

Michael's Onstage Transformation From The Dangerous Tour Onward Emphasized A Shift From The "Masculine" Persona At The Beginning, To A More Graceful, Flowing "Feminine" PersonaMichael’s Onstage Transformation From The Dangerous Tour Onward Emphasized A Shift From The “Masculine” Persona At The Beginning, To A More Graceful, Flowing “Feminine” Persona

It is interesting that this metamorphosis in his live performances (which would also carry over to the HIStory tour as well) mirrored the similar transformation that takes place on the album, as the initial industrialized, new jack swing tracks (“Noise”) eventually give way to what Fast describes as the album’s “Utopia” and “Soul” sections.

These discussions may be better served in the next posts that will look at those chapters in more detail. However, it may help to illuminate some of the reasons why the purposeful blending of masculinity and femininity became so important to Michael’s aesthetic. Fans often get defensive about any insinuation of Michael as anything less than 100% masculine, but sometimes I think for the wrong reasons (often, such defensiveness is simply a kneejerk response to years of defensive conditioning that have been wrought by the media’s attempt to somehow “emasculate” Michael or to cast him into the realm of “weird otherness”). What Fast does is to go beyond the mere simplifications of either approach. For sure, there can be no honest dialog of Michael Jackson-much less an honest appreciation of his art and his place in the cultural pantheon-without acknowledging that he did challenge conventional ideas of masculinity. And we also cannot deny that, for some, at least, this made him both a source of controversy and, as someone who-whether intentionally or unintentionally-challenged those norms, perhaps a source of discomfort.

"He Didn't Like The Line Drawn Between What's Allowed For Men And What's Allowed For Women"-Karen Faye, Qtd in "Dangerous" by Susan Fast“He Didn’t Like The Line Drawn Between What’s Allowed For Men And What’s Allowed For Women”-Karen Faye, Qtd in “Dangerous” by Susan Fast

According to Karen Faye, Michael’s longtime makeup artist, Michael believed that a man should be entitled as much as a woman to be able to use his face as a canvas; to reinvent himself, and to have the same freedom to experiment with different looks and, yes, to use makeup to enhance features or play them down, just as women do, to present a more beautiful or attractive face to the world. He reportedly loved women’s perfumes, preferring them over the often harsh masculine scents packaged and commericialized for men. But the important factor that underlies these preferences is a desire for sexual equality in cosmetic preferences (which we might reasonably assume would spill over to other areas as well). So in that regard, we might say such choices had nothing to do with wanting to be a woman or to be “transgender” (as some falsely surmised) so much as simply being a liberated man who felt that being “pretty” should not be the exclusive right of women. Certainly we could argue as to whether a preference for pink lipstick makes one any less “masculine” than a woman who prefers wearing slacks to dresses makes her any less “feminine.” But I think it is naive to assume that Michael made these choices with no idea that he was going against the grain of cultural norms of masculinity. In making such purposeful aesthetic choices-which he had to have known as surely as he knew that wearing straightened hair, makeup and a gold gorgerine would set him apart from the other males in “Remember The Time”) he was clearly intending to draw attention to himself as someone who was testing cultural boundaries and limits in terms of gender norms.

One reason why it is important to honestly address these matters is because we have to consider not only the fans’ perception of Michael Jackson, but also how he is still perceived culturally at large-and how the public often distorted their perceived ideas of Michael and gender. For example, I have told the story before of a male friend of mine who was convinced that Michael Jackson wore womens’ clothes. I asked him where he got such a ridiculous notion-if anything, Michael’s public style, including his vast array of military jackets, were the epitome of “masculine.” He continued to argue lamely that Michael wore women’s blouses. So I put him up for a challenge. If he could produce one photo of Michael wearing a woman’s blouse (that was authentic and not photoshopped!) I would concede he was right; if not, he would have to concede to me. After going through literally hundreds of photos on the internet, he had to reluctantly concede that I was right. His idea of Michael as a “cross dresser” had come about due to a distorted kind of cultural perception, based on both media stereotypes and misconceptions of Michael’s gender ambiguity.

There Was Nothing "Gender Ambiguous" About His DressThere Was Nothing “Gender Ambiguous” About His Dress

This example underscores the importance of examining how Michael both challenged and defied these cultural norms and expectations-in surprising ways. Fast wisely sidesteps the temptation to draw any definitive theories or conclusions about Michael’s aesthetic choices, especially in regard to whatever “statement” he was making, intentionally or otherwise. Her theories are steeped neither in fan adulation nor the kind of critical disdain/dismissal of many earlier critics and scholars; thus, she is able to bring a refreshing honesty and candor to these discussions, successfully bridging the admiration of a fan with the objective perspective of a cultural scholar and critic.

The only thing that really bothers me in this discussion is that, while she refers many times to the controversy of Michael’s “lightened” skin color, she always seems to lump it in with his other cosmetic choices, I am not sure if this is an attempt to simply avoid the whole “did he or didn’t he have vitiligo” issue, or if, indeed, Fast even believes he had vitiligo. I am not sure of her position on this, since she never states it explicitly (indeed, the word “vitiligo” is never mentioned once in conjunction with these discussions) and I find this omission problematic, as it could leave the uninformed reader with the opinion that Michael simply controlled/manipulated his skin color change as he did so many other aspects of his appearance. The reason it is problematic and inexcusable is because the issue of whether he had the disease is, as stated in my previous post, no longer up for debate. But while the autopsy results should have definitively settled the debate, there still remains in some circles, apparently, a lingering and disturbing notion that he must have, somehow, induced his own vitiligo through some chemical means-which, again, would go back to the notion of some cosmetic desire to appear lighter-a desire that tragically, ended up with a horribly botched result. I need not enumerate that there is still a very large faction who simply can’t put the notion to rest that Michael either did not have vitiligo, or if he did, that he must have somehow brought it on himself.

While Fast never states that she believes those rumors, she never exactly denies them, either, and in so doing, leaves that door open for interpretation and speculation. Like I said, I don’t know whether Fast believes he had vitiligo. I have not yet had an opportunity to personally ask her that question, and do not know if she has addressed it elsewhere. It would be interesting to know. But I think it would be important to any honest discussion of Michael’s appearance to at least acknowledge the existence of this disease; otherwise, it is leaving a bit of a skewered perception of his appearance changes, assuming that all of them stemmed purely from personal or artistic choice.

However, that isn’t to say I do not believe that, once he realized the disease’s inevitable course, that he purposely reworked a new aesthetic for himself based on the new possibilities that this “look” now opened for him. Indeed, it’s naive to assume that Michael Jackson wasn’t acutely aware that he was within a “new skin,” so to speak-and how that would affect the world’s view of him, for better or worse. This is a subject that has also been addressed in some depth by Willa Stillwater and Susan Woodward, author of “Otherness and Power: Michael Jackson and His Media Critics.” In a recent blog post on the “Dancing With the Elephant” website, Woodward used a 1995 photo from the shoot for the “Earth Song” single sleeve, which she cites as “reminiscent of Italian Renaissance portraits,” as an example, using both the terms “ethereal” and (quoting Willa Stillwater from “M Poetica”) “luminous” to describe his mid 90’s persona.


As Woodward describes this quality in the post, it is a kind of transcendence “of the bonds of gender, time, and maybe even human flesh.” Below are a couple of other pics that are apparently from that same photo shoot. They both would appear to strengthen the theory that Michael was indeed going for an intentionally “ethereal” and “luminous” appearance that often characterized Italian Renaissance art:

earth song11

earth song13

Typical Italian Renaissance Portrait, "Child Crowned With Flowers," Circa 1466-1516Typical Italian Renaissance Portrait, “Child Crowned With Flowers,” Circa 1466-1516

To quote those who knew him best and/or those fortunate enough to have met him, his appearance post vitiligo was not really “white”-certainly not Caucasian-but rather, the appearance of someone who was translucent. This description makes sense. After all, vitiligo destroys the cells that produce melanin. leaving the victim, in effect, “colorless.” Did Michael, perhaps, come to view his new, “colorless” body as a kind of blank canvas, one on which he could now reinvent himself in ways that would never have been imaginable to him before?

Portraits Like This-A Favorite Of Mine, BTW-Often Portrayed Him During His Post Vitiligo Era As Both Ethereal and "Angelicized." For Sure, They Heightened The Idea of "Gender Ambiguity"Portraits Like This-A Favorite Of Mine, BTW-Often Portrayed Him During His Post Vitiligo Era As Both Ethereal and “Angelicized.” For Sure, They Heightened The Idea of “Gender Ambiguity” In Ways Not Entirely Coincidental

These are all ideas that Michael would have never been able to discuss openly in the press, without inviting undue controversy and having his words misquoted or taken out of context (as inevitably, they always were) and so, again, it is largely left up to us to interpret. It is no secret that, culturally, he still identified himself as a black American. The disease didn’t change who he was or his racial identity. It would also be naive to think that he welcomed the havoc the disease wracked on his life and personal appearance, all in the name of “art.” The disease left most of his body horribly splotched, a condition he was so self conscious of that he spent most of his remaining years wearing clothing that concealed his body. He couldn’t enjoy simple pleasures, such as a day of swimming at the beach. But it is well within the realm of possibility that, in learning to adopt, he found ways to make the idea of being, literally, a black man inside a colorless body, work for him.

By The Time Of "They Don't Care About Us" An Even Angrier And More Defiant Michael Seemed Finally Willing To Show The World That There Was Nothing "Pretty" About The Disease That Had Turned Him "White"By The Time Of “They Don’t Care About Us” An Even Angrier And More Defiant Michael Seemed Finally Willing To Show The World That There Was Nothing “Pretty” Or Ethereal or “Angelic” About The Disease That Had Turned Him “White.” For The First Time, He Allowed His Splotched Body To Appear In Its “Untouched” State For A Video Shoot.

they don't care about us2

Rather than dwelling on himself as a “victim” he chose another path, presenting an image of metamorphosis rather than of victimhood. PR wise, the decision may have been questionable. But it also enabled him to maintain the illusory aura that was such an important element of his appeal. Had he chosen the more outspoken path-allowing the public to see his blotched body; doing the talk show circuit on TV about being a vitiligo sufferer, etc-he might have won more public sympathy, but the price for that was in putting the spotlight squarely on HIM as a public figure with a disease, rather than as an artist. It was not a role he felt comfortable with, nor one he felt particularly obligated to perform.

But whatever conclusions can be drawn about Michael’s use of style, cosmetics, performance, etc in blurring gender lines, no such discussion would be complete without also considering the traditions that he was a part of. In many fan discussions, it has often been noted that it wasn’t an issue of whether Michael was “masculine” but that his was a masculinity out of step with the current times. There is, of course, a lot of observational truth in those statements and Michael was hardly the first or last male artist to circumvent the stringent defines of masculinity that have been in place, in Western culture, at least, since the Victorian era. Prior to the Victorian era, it was not at all unusual for men to wear long, flowing hair, makeup, and clothing that might be considered highly feminized by today’s standards (ruffled shirts and lace, etc). The fop, or the dandy, became a highly romanticized figure, and then as now, it was not at all unusual for women to be attracted to these men. It was only during the Victorian era that the rigid lines between what could or could not be properly considered as “masculine” became drawn (not coincidentally, these lines became more rigidly drawn as Western society’s homophobia increased).These Victorian ideals prevailed into much of the twentieth century, with no real challenge until the 1960’s and 70’s (though even in the 1920’s and earlier, movie idols such as Rudolph Valentino and Douglas Fairbanks, Sr, began to challenge these notions and to revive the concept of dandyism, and writer F. Scott Fitzgerald, hardly the most masculine looking of dudes, nevertheless made women swoon and was embraced for his “feminine sensibilities.” However, by the 1930’s, the macho man was back in vogue-“virile” leading men like Clark Gable, Gary Cooper, and Humphrey Bogart defined masculinity, and it would be many decades before the rock era, again, challenged these notions). But though we have seen some considerable loosening of these ideals, even in the twenty-first century any full throwbacks to those earlier eras of “dandyism” have been mostly confined to artists. In the music world, particularly, male performers caught on early that the most guaranteed way to drive women wild was to…well, employ some feminine wiles.

Speaking of the historical context of the “dandy” figure and how male artists have used “feminine” sexuality to enhance their own appeal, here is an interesting clip that I ran across on Jim Morrison, lead singer of The Doors-who, of course, was as famous for his drop dead gorgeous looks and legendary sex appeal as for his music. In this documentary, chronicling Morrison’s final 24 hours, note what Steve Harris, former VP of Elektra Records, says at the 6:03 mark:

“Jim had this love for movies, and so he would emulate Greta Garbo, he had the look in his eyes of Marlene Dietrich staring you down, shaking his hair and his head like Marilyn Monroe did. He had those masculine traits with the feminine wiles, that’s what made Jim unique.”

It is interesting that when Harris mentions all of the models of sexuality that Morrison emulated for his “unique” persona, every one just happens to be a famous female performer of the past. And yet Morrison’s status as a heterosexual sex symbol and rock god who drove women wild has never been questioned.

Perhaps Morrison was, as Harris states, “unique” for the time. That as part of his self styled image (and indeed it was self styled, for The Doors early on had no PR team) he chose to emulate and combine traits of glamorous women probably had much to do with the fact that, until then, there hadn’t really been much in the way of sexual male role models-that is, without pretty much circumventing the last century (which Morrison did) and returning to models of ancient classicism. Similar to what Michael would do two decades later, Morrison was incorporating elements of feminism to create, if not exactly a morphology, at the very least a new kind of masculine ideal. As the 60’s gave way to the 70’s, we saw many rockers such as David Bowie, Marc Bolan, and others carrying this new brand of androgynous “dandyism” to even further lengths.

So why, then, did this similar brand of gender morphology become so upsetting-or perhaps more threatening-to some when it was Michael Jackson? There are many theories, but most scholars and cultural analysts are in agreement that it was, perhaps, the combination of both racism and homophobia (“homophobic” in the sense that any male who is perceived as overly sexualized in a traditionally non-masculine way is deemed threatening) that made Michael Jackson such a potent combination for many.

“To this extent it [dandyism] might also involve the appropriation of traits of femininity as a form of rebellion. This is in part what glam rockers were doing in the 1970’s; both Kobena Mercer and Michele Wallace made a comparison between their gender play and Jackson’s and noted that while it seemed alright for the likes of Bowie, it was, apparently ‘intolerable’ for a black man to experiment with gender and sexuality in this way.” (Fast 65).

However, this may be an overly simplified approach. It would fall short, for example, in explaining why Prince-the perfect 80’s embodiment of “dandyism” if ever there was one-still did not raise as much controversy as Michael, but instead, was given pretty much the same artistic pass as Bowie and others. As has been discussed here before, much of it may have had more to do with the general acceptance of avant-garde artists as opposed to “pop” or mainstream artists. We had watched Michael grow up as a beloved child star and as a member of the wholesome Jackson family act; therefore, his actions were always going to invite more scrutiny, and tongues were bound to wag when “little Michael” came out wearing lipstick and eye liner and grabbing his crotch. Most adult artists have the luxury of being able to evolve quietly, behind the scenes, for years before unleashing their persona on the world stage. Michael was never afforded that luxury. His artistic evolvement, just as with everything else in his life, had to be carried out within the metaphoric fish bowl of his existence.

Also, I don’t think we can entirely separate Michael from the context of his time. If there was ever a ripe time for “dandyism” in popular music, it was the 1980’s, the era in which Boy George became an international superstar, Duran Duran was the leading boy act of the day, and hardcore rockers like Motley Crue wore more eyeliner and lipstick than their female groupies. By the time Michael entered his metal/power ballad phase with “Dirty Diana”-replete with tumbling hair past his shoulders, open white shirt rippling in the wind machine, tight spandex pants, and more eyeliner than Apollonia-he was as much a product of his time and era as an innovator-indeed, so much so that “Dirty Diana,” in particular, is often cited as a parody of typical metal hair band videos of the day, which may be true.

We Had Never Seen A Display Of Male Auto Eroticism Quite Like ThisWe Had Never Seen A Display Of Male Auto Eroticism Quite Like This

If so, this may also go far in explaining at least “some” of Michael’s overly sexualized antics during the Panther Dance segment of the “Black or White” video. Fast also spends a considerable length of time analyzing this segment, for no discussion of Michael and sex (or his sexual persona, at least) can be complete without it. Unlike the eroticism of “In the Closet” or even “Remember The Time,” where he is at least interacting with a partner in a traditionally erotic sense, this segment is pure auto eroticism-and not only that, but pure auto eroticism that seems to come from totally out of left field (given that the song’s content has nothing to do with sex!). Looking back in hindsight, long before we had two decades’ worth of critical analysis of the “Black or White” video-including all of the various theories regarding the symbolism of the emasculated black male, etc-it’s easy to see why so many viewers at the time were genuinely confused (that is, when they weren’t brushing it off as Michael “simply being Michael” and, as usual, doing whatever it took to generate controversy). Michael said in his press statement, released within the hour of the controversial broadcast, that he was only attempting to “interpret the animalistic instincts of the black panther into a dance.” Clearly, the panther’s mating ritual must have been part of that interpretation!panther dance3

However, the whole idea of “gender morphology” becomes interesting when looking at the controversy this segment aroused. In essence, Michael was not doing anything that was any more auto erotic in nature than what many female “video vixens” had already been doing in music videos for years at that point. Indeed, Tawny Kitean’s famous romp on the hood of a Jaguar XJ was every bit as sexual, but as always, women have had far more leeway-certainly far more freedom-in the realm of sexual self expression. For a woman to caress her body in a sensual manner was considered sexy. For a man to do it was just…well, for many at the time, awkward and weird.

80's Video Vixens Like Tawny Kitean Made Auto Eroticism The Norm...But Not For Guys. Michael's "Panther Dance" Broke Down That Barrier.80’s Video Vixens Like Tawny Kitean Made Auto Eroticism The Norm…But Not For Guys. Michael’s “Panther Dance” Broke Down That Barrier.

To Michael’s credit, he was at least able to pull it off far more successfully than poor Billy Squirer, whose disastrous romp in pink sheets in the “Rock Me Tonight” video cost him a legion of male fans and proved such a career setback that he never fully recovered! Perhaps the major difference was that Squirer, who had built a solid reputation as a typical, macho rocker in an already sexist genre, had never tapped into the traits of femininity that would enable him to get away with such a display. Although there are a lot of misguided theories about the intent of the “Rock Me Tonight” video, I have always believed that the concept was simply a misguided PR attempt to make Squirer appeal to female fans. They, perhaps, forgot one major factor: To successfully pull off male auto eroticism in a video, a male performer HAS to be able to embrace a certain amount of femininity, and to be able to do so naturally and comfortably. It can’t be something that is faked.

Hence, Billy Squirer failed miserably; Michael Jackson succeeded spectacularly, controversy notwithstanding.

In analyzing this segment, Fast hits on something that explains both why the segment worked, and why it invited so much controversy:

“In the ‘panther dance’ the crotch grab becomes a rub-sometimes he only uses his middle finger, and he rubs his hand down his chest into his groin too. All this rubbing, if we have to bring things down to their conventional binaries, is much more associated with female masturbation, less with jerking off…” (Fast 57-58).

Precisely why I love this book is for these moments when Fast nails concepts that I have often found myself struggling with for years, trying to pinpoint exactly why something I had seen Michael do a hundred times either unsettled, disturbed, tantalized, or aroused me-sometimes all in one fell swoop. I was not alone in that department, for across the globe, millions of women (and I would imagine many male fans as well) were reacting to those gestures the same way. The excessive “body rubbing” was something I had noticed, but had never thought to articulate it in the way that Fast does here, although I had long noted that what Michael does in the “Black or White” video certainly goes well beyond his (by then) usual crotch grab. This was something else, less stylized, more “in your face” and certainly more explicitly erotic than anything he had done thus far. But I think Fast hits on exactly what I found so simultaneously unsettling and arousing about this segment-it’s not just that these are explicitly auto erotic sexual gestures, but explicitly feminized sexual gestures. In the final segments of the sequence, just before morphing into a panther again, there is more of the kind of sensual, feminized auto eroticism that Fast refers to-he rubs both hands from chest to groin while throwing back his head in sensual ecstasy, a pose long associated with images of female orgasm.panther dance2

Again, I think what we can take from this sequence is that Michael may not have been so much about pushing gender lines as simply a liberator for the rights of a man to be able to express himself as a sexual being, apart from the repressions of conventional male sexuality. When we look at how women responded intuitively to Michael’s sexually suggestive onstage moves (the caressing of his chest; the suggestive finger wag, the hip thrusts, etc) it was because his female fans genuinely believed he was conveying how “he liked it done” and would do, in turn, to them. The simulations sparked fertile imaginations; yes, it was at least part showmanship but, like the best performers, Michael was literally making love to all of us in those moments-and leaving precious little to our imaginations. Just as actors can cry on cue, we nevertheless know that in order to cry on cue, they must be able to connect with something that triggers that emotion. Sometimes it’s a memory; sometimes they are simply so involved in the role and the storyline that the situation has become real for them. Tears can’t be faked. Thus, even though an actor may be crying “on cue” the performance stems from a very real human emotion-a trigger. In much the same way, Michael’s onstage sexual “performances” had to have at least been some extension of his ability to tap into his own sexual feelings, whether invoked by the music or the crowd’s energy. We responded because we knew he was tapping into those triggers, and it couldn’t be faked. It’s difficult to imagine why a generation of critics found this such a difficult concept to comprehend. Like Morrison (who, in quoting Willie Dixon, aptly summed up the whole phenomenon: “The men don’t know, but the little girls understand”) and the entire legacy of hyper sexualized male performers who had learned to emulate/incorporate female eroticism to maximum effect, Michael had learned intuitively what women respond to, which for us (if we are honest with ourselves) often has more to do with an inherent, genetic attraction to our sensual, seductive, feminine selves than to the “brute strength” of traditional masculinity. Even the most casual internet search will justify this claim, for if you type in “why women love effeminate men” the hits are mind boggling, as article after article will attempt to explain, in some way, or to arrive at some answer, of why this strong mirror attraction for the feminine exists-even in women who are, by all definition, “straight.”

Fast does an excellent job of exploring how Michael Jackson both fit into the long tradition of “dandyism” and, also, in many ways, defied it. The history of black dandyism, in particular, is illuminated quite well, with Fast discussing how Michael in many ways fit the historical prototype of the “Pinkster king,” an African American man who would be elected to a prestigious position and allowed to emulate the dress (and all other pomp and circumstance) of a white elected official. The discussion of Michael’s “syncretic” style of dress and its historical context is, alone, one of the most fascinating passages in the chapter. My male friend whom I referred to earlier in this post would have done well by reading the following passage:

“Hard fabrics were used. The jackets were always short to the waist to meet his form-fitting pants…the broad chest tapering to the waist in a classic V shape is characteristic of a classically normative male form and signifies male strength; his ‘effiminacy,’ with very few exceptions, did not extend to his dress.” (Fast 67).

The “Desire” chapter focuses on many aspects of Michael, sex, and gender. In exploring all of these controversial issues, she offers no hardcore theories or “answers” but manages to successfully examine Michael’s sexual persona both within its historical context and in looking at why these have become such hot button topics, both in the past and present. Their relevance, of course, is due to the fact that the first six tracks of Dangerous (as well as their accompanying videos) solidified the adult image of Michael Jackson as both “soul man” and as a newly liberated, libidinous performer who was exploring his adult sexuality in ways he had never dared to before.

But the temptations of the flesh, as it turned out, was only one facet of Dangerous‘s many moods. In the next installment, I will look at “Utopia” and, finally, rounding the series out, I will explore what Fast has to say about Dangerous and “Soul.”

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Reply #22 posted 03/14/15 9:11am


Susan Fast’s “Dangerous”: A Review (Part 4-Utopia)

Superbowl Time Always Brings A Resurgence Of Interest In Michael's Legendary Superbowl Performance-And No Discussion Of It Can Be Complete Without Acknowledging That Astounding Finale Performance of "Heal The World"Superbowl Time Always Brings A Resurgence Of Interest In Michael’s Legendary Superbowl Performance-And No Discussion Of It Can Be Complete Without Acknowledging That Astounding Finale Performance of “Heal The World”

“Black dreams are not about utopia-how could they be?” (Elizabeth Chin qtd in Fast).


Since it has been so very long since my last post, and because all of the attention to this weekend’s Superbowl has (as it inevitably does this time of year) brought a resurgence of interest in Michael Jackson’s legendary Superbowl performance, this seemed an especially timely opportunity to turn the discussion to another of Michael’s most endearing yet often most maligned and misunderstood tracks-“Heal The World.” After all, no discussion of Michael’s 1993 Superbowl performance can be complete without also remembering that jaw dropping finale. And the fact that all of this Superbowl timeliness just happens to also coincide with my review of Susan Fast’s “Utopia” chapter from Dangerous is, well, too good and too convenient to pass up. So even though the post is not “as” complete as I would like it to be at this time, which will no doubt necessitate extending it to another post, I would at least like to get the topic rolling without further ado.

So, after six tracks of some of the hardest hitting, angriest, sexiest, and street savvy songs of Michael’s career, the pendulum abruptly takes a far right swing with “Heal The World.” Such an abrupt shift of tone, mood, and subject matter is exactly the very thing that led many critics, as well as a lot of fans, to label Dangerous as an uneven album. But this was a trend that Michael would continue to pursue-almost with a vengeance, it seemed-on every subsequent album thereafter. Since this seemed such a purposeful pattern, perhaps it is high time we stopped being so quick to rush to judgment (assuming this was all merely part of some ego-driven desire to stuff an album with everything but the kitchen sink) and take a closer look at the album’s overall concept; the master’s design, if you will.

Fast refers to “Heal The World” as the beginning of Michael’s “Utopia” segment of Dangerous. Whereas the album’s first six tracks hit like a harsh, brazen dose of reality, this track is a throwback to escapism, or what Fast refers to as a utopic desire for a better way. It is escapism in the sense that it is presenting an ideal, rather than “what is.” And this is true regardless of whether we are talking Michael Jackson’s “Heal The World” or John Lennon’s “Imagine.” I choose those two songs to juxtapose in particular because, while critics often praise the Lennon composition, Michael’s “Heal The World” has traditionally been derided as nothing more than sentimental pap. Yet they are both espousing the same idealistic and escapist view, asking the listener to envision what “could be” if we all worked together to make it so. In fact, I would go one better and say that Michael’s composition actually has the upper hand, since he is advocating real action (even if albeit non-specific action) rather than merely daydreaming, or “imagining” that better world.

heal the worldBut this goes right back to the point Fast is making, or at least the point that dominates much of this chapter’s opening. While critics often lambasted Michael’s music as serving no artistic purpose other than “escapism” they seem to have been conveniently forgetting just how deeply rooted those ideals of utopic escapism are in both pop culture and, indeed, our human psyche. The artificial divide between art and entertainment as an “either/or” (that it must provide either escapism on the one hand, or have a social conscious on the other, and that both must be somehow mutually exclusive) is, perhaps, the very barrier that Michael most sought to eradicate-and which, for that effort, he was most unforgiven. That the desire to be swept away to a “better place” is a basic fundamental human drive, perhaps one that is vitally necessary to our mental and spiritual health, is something Michael definitely recognized.

“Where would be without a dance, a song?”-Michael Jackson, Harlem speech, 2001

Of course, it’s not that I don’t entirely “get” why some critics may have had a hard time warming up to “Heal The World.” It’s straightforward earnestness and even simplistic (though purposely simplistic) structure immediatly put it at odds with a very jaded and cynical culture, and as Joe Vogel and other music critics have already pointed out, the 90’s in general was not a time openly receptive to earnest messages. Personally, I prefer the much darker, baroque, and dystopian vision of “Earth Song.” However, perhaps in keeping with the vision that Michael had for Dangerous, it becomes easier to understand why “Heal The World” ultimately became the album’s centerpiece, and not “Earth Song” which would eventually find its home on the much darker themed HIStory album instead.

I often find it somewhat puzzling, in both a sad and ironic kind of way, that as a Michael Jackson fan my probably least two favorite compositions by him are the ones he seemed most personally proud of-“Childhood” and “Heal The World.” As a critical music fan, I know that Michael composed songs that were far superior to these, both lyrically and musically, so sometimes it’s hard to fathom why Michael seemed to view these as superior to all the rest.

In that regard, Susan Fast and I are very much on the same page as she writes in this passage:

“…Jackson claimed in an internet chat with his fans in 2001 that if he could only perform one of his songs for the rest of his life, this [“Heal The World”] would be it. And the trouble is, it doesn’t sound like an ironic statement. Really, out of all the astonishingly good music, this takes pride of place? My take is that ‘Heal The World’ serves as an important thematic pivot point on Dangerous, moving the listener from the wordly, noisy complications of the opening tracks into a somewhat troubling vision of utopia.” (Fast 77-78).

But Michael did seem to feel that these kinds of songs came closest to capturing the essence of who he was, and that is no small thing to overlook. “Heal The World,” if anything, most represented Michael’s ideal of himself and of the world-the best of what both could be. It makes sense, then, that if he could only perform one song for the rest of his life, which would he prefer? Something that took him to some very dark and troubled place, or something that reminded him of everything he most yearned for, and that could likewise empower others to strive for a perfect world? Given the option of only one song to perform for eternity, would you prefer bliss or torment?

Michael's Social Commentary Songs Represented The Best of Himself-The Ideals He Strove For In Himself, And UsMichael’s Social Commentary Songs Represented The Best of Himself-The Ideals He Strove For In Himself, And Us

It reminds me of a very enlightening debate I once read between a Michael Jackson critic and a fan. The critic was going on and on about how, in his view, Michael was a hypocrite who didn’t exactly walk his talk. He went on about how Neverland was basically a carbon footprint on the land; how many resources were actually used in shooting the “Earth Song” video, how Michael was whisked around the world on private jets, and so forth. In other words, he didn’t exactly give up the superstar lifestyle to become a farmer grubbing in the dirt (but then again, could we not apply the same argument to all the celebrities who are involved in environmental causes?). Anyway, the fan managed to come back with a very good point, that while it may be easy to beat Michael up for his very human flaws (which, perhaps, sometimes did conflict with his idealistic, utopian views) what ultimately matters is not what Michael did or didn’t do. It was the ideals he set for himself-and the idealistic vision he strove to achieve for humanity-that defines who he was, and why he remains so universally loved, with millions of fans all over the world striving to live by his example. It’s not because he was perfect, or expected/demanded perfection in us, but rather, because he showed us the best in ourselves and what we are capable of being.

This was the message I took from his piece “That One In The Mirror,” in which he seems to recognize that the “one” in the mirror doesn’t always live up to his ideals. It is actually one of my favorite pieces by him because I think it is one of his most brutally honest:

“Wishing wouldn’t make it so-I knew that. When I woke up the next morning, that one in the mirror looked confused. ‘Maybe it’s hopeless,’ he whispered. Then a sly look came into his eyes, and he shrugged. ‘But you and I will survive. At least we are doing all right.'”-Michael Jackson, excerpted from “That One In The Mirror.”

As the piece progresses, he acknowledges a kind of separate detachment from himself and the image in the mirror. One feels the problems that are “out there”; the other merely “sees” the problems that are “out there” but doesn’t wish to acknowledge them.

“That one in the mirror winced and squirmed. He hadn’t thought so much about love. Seeing “problems” was much easier, because love means complete self-honesty. Ouch!”-Michael Jackson, excerpted from “That One in the Mirror.”

Here Michael seems to be facing and acknowledging multiple truths about himself. One seems to be a recognition that he has, perhaps, been more caught up in a faceless ideal-“I’m going to heal the world”-rather than honestly addressing his own needs for love, nurturing, and fulfillment. (You know the old adage: You can’t help others until you can help yourself. This seems to be a variation of that theme). Also, it appears to be an honest admonition of taking up causes, perhaps, for the wrong reasons, because it’s the “trendy” thing to do, perhaps, or enhances his own image. But that is only one side of the duality, as he is examining two halves of himself-one is an image that is being looked at from within; the other, an image that is being looked at from without. One acknowledges that what he feels for the world-its pain, its suffering, is all too real.

“He’ll get along. But I don’t feel that way. Those problems aren’t ‘out there,’ not really. I feel them inside me. A child crying in Ethiopia, a sea gull struggling pathetically in an oil spill, a mountain gorilla being mercilessly hunted,a teenage soldier trembling with terror when he hears planes fly over: Aren’t these happening in me when I see and hear about them?”-Michael Jackson, excerpted from “That One in the Mirror.”

B8dfVv1IIAENWXsEventually, in the poem, the image and the man merge as one. This, too, of course, is a representation of an ideal. The reality is that, as human beings, it is a day to day struggle to live to our fullest potential, or even to those ideals we set for ourselves. But I think what we have to keep in mind is that this ideal is sincerely who Michael wanted to be; what he strove to be, and, ultimately, wanted to be remembered as-not as some deity, saint, or martyr; not as some perfect man who healed the world with a song and a dance (and a few generous checks), but as a human being who dug deep within, who suffered much and sacrificed much, to give the world the best part of himself, even if he occasionally fell short.

But to return to the topic of “Heal The World,” the Dangerous album and Fast’s book, it is interesting that she chooses to refer to the tracks analyzed in this chapter (“Heal The World” and “Black or White”) as Michael’s “somewhat troubling vision of utopia.” Within the larger context of the album, however, this description makes sense. These tracks are placed squarely at the center of the album, a jarring and disconcerting shift (especially “Heal The World”) from the six tracks that have gone before, and only a momentary respite before we are plunged again into soulful despair with “Who Is It” and “Give In To Me” and the album’s coda which takes us back to the beginning. And, as we know, even the somewhat beguiling optimism of “Black or White” turns into a kind of false utopia, as it seems to acknowledge that racial harmony is really only an ideal (the catchy chorus aside, we know that by the time we get to the KKK references that this is no song about merely joining hands and singing “Kumbaya” but rather, a brutally honest statement about the ugly realities that will never allow this ideal to be fully realized).

Fast is probably correct, then, that “Heal The World” is meant to serve as both transition and respite. It is a momentary break from the world’s ugliness and reality, and also a momentary break from the more mundane and selfish concerns that have dominated much of the album-including love and sex, though one could certainly argue that even those themes could be utopic as well (for they are still representing a kind of escapism to some ideal place or state of being, at least in the “desire” songs that dominate much of the album’s first half).

Nevertheless, this transition represents the pattern, or motif, that will dominate most of Michael’s albums and all of his live performances thereafter, where the fun and good times eventually gives way to the serious, and where hard-bitten, human and personal emotions like anger and lust transcend to concern for the planet and humanity in general.

However, it is interesting that on Dangerous, at least, this transcendence is fleetingly brief. In performance, Michael often capped with “Heal The World” and “Man In The Mirror,” the tracks working together to create a kind of ultimate pinnacle for the audience, so that in the end, the concert becomes a truly uplifting and transitory experience. On record, however, Michael chose not to make “Heal The World” its closing track, but rather a song squarely in the middle. This would indicate that the intended arc of the Dangerous album is not one that is intended to take listeners to that pinnacle (as in the case of the live performances) but, rather, to offer it to them only as a kind of teasing interlude-a temporary oasis of hope in a world otherwise gone mad.

A pattern Fast establishes throughout her book is to begin every chapter with an appropriate quote. For this chapter, she chose the Elizabeth Chin quote which does seem fitting when we consider why Michael’s utopian segment of Dangerous also happens to be its shortest segment. After all, when John Lennon urged us to “Imagine” he had never lived a day in a black man’s shoes. Michael had-his entire life, in fact, and therein lies a crucial difference between the two artists that cannot be ignored, no matter how much modern scholars and revisionists may try to equate them. On Dangerous, at least, there emerges a somewhat disconcerting realization that any concept of “healing the world” may be a temporary and fleeting ideal, at best. It also raises an interesting question: Could it be that the pairing of “Heal The World” and “Black or White” are actually much more pessimistic representations of utopia than have been presumed?

To even raise the question is problematic because it seems that “Heal The World” is a track operating on two distinct levels of meaning-one as a separate track unto itself, and the other it may have as part of the overall context of the album and the album’s concept. A lot may depend, ultimately, on how one interprets the remaining tracks that follow “Heal The World.” However, with perhaps the exception of “Keep the Faith.” the remaining tracks, rather than offering the easy transcendence of having found “a better way,” instead plunge us back to the depths of individual despair. Even “Keep The Faith” seems to be a message about holding on and “keeping the faith” that things may turn out better, rather than expressing any idealistic belief that they are better or likely to be better. In both “Keep The Faith” and “Will You Be There” the theme seems to be more about coping than, as we say, “rising above.” Faith can indeed help us to cope with suffering; to become stronger so that the suffering doesn’t pull us under. But faith, in and of itself, can’t “fix” what the problem is.

The Tracks That Follow "Heal The World" Seem To Hammer Home One Essential Point-Faith Can Help One To Cope, But It Cannot "Fix" The Problem.The Tracks That Follow “Heal The World” Seem To Hammer Home One Essential Point-Faith Can Help One To Cope, But It Cannot “Fix” The Problem.

So where does that leave us in regard to “Heal The World?” This is an interesting question that I will continue to delve into in the next installment.

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Reply #23 posted 03/14/15 9:18am


Susan Fast’s “Dangerous”: A Review (Part 5) Utopia, Soul, and Coda

"Dangerous"-An Album That Took Us Through The Bowels of Hell To The Pinnacle of Heavenly Glimpse“Dangerous”-An Album That Took Us Through The Bowels of Hell To The Pinnacle of Heavenly Glimpse

This post will mark my final installment of my discussion of Susan Fast’s Dangerous. I realize it has been a long stretch since I started this series in December, so it’s about time to wrap this discussion up and move on to other matters. However, these final chapters of the book contain some of Fast’s most interesting insights into the Dangerous album, and as such, deserve just as much attention as I have given to earlier segments of the book. First, let’s pick up where I left off with the discussion of “Utopia” and “Heal The World”:


“[Jackson’s] after something purer and better than the childish, rockist idea of pop rebellion. Jackson knows culture is more than that.”-Armond White, qtd in Fast (80).

In my previous discussion, I had reflected on Fast’s quote of both “Heal The World” and “Black or White” as Michael’s “troubled vision of Utopia.” Taken out of the context of the album, “Heal The World,” at least, seems to represent an idealistic view that utopia can be achieved. But within the context of the album, it seems to be merely a brief window of hope that is eclipsed as the album loops thematically back to its beginning.

On the Dangerous album, “Heal The World” serves as a respite in another significant way as well. According to Susan Fast, it is also the most conventionally “white” song on the album, which is doubly interesting when we consider its immediate juxtaposing with “Black or White” (not to mention that, as Fast had already stated, this was squarely in the middle of what she deems as Michael’s “blackest” album). On an album where Michael seemed more acutely and politically conscious of his “blackness” than ever before, “Heal The World” emerges as an even stranger anomaly. Before this, his greatest and most inspirational “message” song had been “Man in the Mirror,” a song undeniably steeped in the roots of black gospel tradition-and which served as a true showcase for Michael’s skills as a gospel singer (even if, as a Jehovah’s Witness, he did not have a gospel background in the way that many successful mainstream black artists have had).

“…It’s one of the whitest sounding songs Jackson ever made. He was certainly capable of taking white forms and making them sound blacker, but he doesn’t do that here. The conventions that I’ve talked about all point in the direction of musical whiteness: the key (this isn’t a modal piece), the regularity-even musical squareness-the near absence of improvisation or call and response; there isn’t a blue note to be found. The timbre of Jackson’s voice. His uncharacteristically bland emotional palette also points to a particular idea of restraint and respectability in mainstream white pop music, a reflection of the desirability of these characteristics in middle class white culture. Indeed, even the little girl speaking at the beginning of the song sounds white.” (Fast 84-85).

I had never really thought of “Heal The World” in terms of being a “white” song. But I realized that this seeming “blandness” which Fast refers to may have much to do with why “Heal The World” for me, personally, falls short of Michael’s other great message songs. I miss the powerful and soulful gospel improvisations of “Man in the Mirror,” for example, or the evocative call and response of “Earth Song” which never fails to send chills down my spine, no matter how many times I hear it. For a singer who was certainly capable of bringing so much raw power and intensity to a track, it really begs the question: Why did he not want this effect with “Heal The World?”

Clearly, “Heal The World” was never meant to be a song in the same category as either “Man in the Mirror” or “Earth Song” (and it would probably be fair to acknowledge that Michael also did not write “Man in the Mirror,”, either; still, one can’t deny that in performance, he certainly made the track his own). In both of those songs, Michael is putting himself at center stage as a kind of unheralded “messiah” or messenger of the piece. But the message of “Heal The World” is different; less about the messenger and more about the collective importance of the message. Fast goes on to note how Michael purposely puts himself in the background of the song, allowing the children to take center stage.

“Receding into the background of the song could be said to demonstrate the idea that unity and healing require selflessness: let the choir take the utopian moment by themselves; let the child’s voice take over near the end of the song. In fact, let Michael become the child, let his voice melt into that of the child’s, let him become as the child-another of his many physical transformations and perhaps the one he would have liked best. This too symbolically removes the child from the idea of futurity and strengthens the idea that adults become as children (as Christ suggested) to ‘solve the world’s problems.’ We could understand this song in those terms and it would still be revolutionary, wouldn’t it? It would still be a bold statement to make in the middle of a gritty and musically complex record.” (Fast 85).

On that note, this would be a good time to pause and go back, again, to “Man in the Mirror.” It seems this was not an entirely new concept to Michael because, just as he takes a backseat in “Heal The World” he also opted out of appearing in the “Man in the Mirror” video, an unusual endeavor considering that this was at the height of the video era and Michael was at the height of his solo superstardom. Instead, the official video featured a montage of world events (mostly depicting the suffering of the world) while also serving as a homage to selfless heroes like Mother Theresa and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Perhaps for this reason, the original 1988 video of the song fell a bit off the radar for me, as it did for many fans (I have to admit, I am selfish: When I watch a Michael Jackson video, I want to see Michael). For this reason, also, the video received a fair amount of scathing criticism from critics who simply either didn’t get it or evidently didn’t buy it as a sincere message (the video, if not the song). Instead, Michael was accused of simply being too lazy to do a “decent” video for the song, while, sadly, the actual message of the song and its connection to those visual images-not surprisingly-sailed right over their heads. As always, Michael was caught in a “no win” when it came to reconciling his superstar status with a genuine desire to inspire world change. If he appeared to make it all about himself (as he was accused of doing in his “Earth Song” performances) he was labeled as an egocentric with a messiah complex; if he stepped back and took himself out of the picture completely, as he did with the “Man in the Mirror” video, he was accused of being lazy. Perhaps for this reason, the original 1988 video of the song has long been eclipsed by his many great live performances of the song,including Wembley and, most notably, his powerful 1988 Grammy performance . So watching the original video again really gave me a fresh perspective.

Aside from the obvious fact that Michael isn’t in the video, my biggest beef with the video (a belief I had held fast to for many years) had been that the images seemed contrived, rendering the powerful message of the song to a kind of trope cliche’. Perhaps it was the nature of the times. In the 1980’s we had become almost numb to the images of starving children in Africa, violent montages of war images and clips of rioting from the Civil Rights era. By the late 80’s, there was nothing especially fresh or revolutionary in such images, and most of us sat through the entire five minutes or so thinking, “Okay, so…when is Michael going to appear?” Re-watching it again in its entirety, however, for the first time in many years, I was struck by the way that Michael-as early as 1988-was already touching on many of the world themes that he would return to again on both Dangerous and HIStory. Additionally, the images of the video are truly graphic. We are seeing live children reduced to a skeletal state. In one image, a child’s stomach is painfully and hideously bloated (the telltale sign of starvation). In another scene, a child has died and is covered by a blanket. The song’s message is rendered as even more powerful when one realizes how many times we sat watching this video on MTV in our comfy living rooms and actually having the gall to complain because Michael Jackson wasn’t performing in it! Talk about being “too blind to see!”

Granted, I don’t know how much artistic control Michael actually had over the video or the clips and images chosen, but considering that the montage featured most of his personal heroes, as well as motifs that we know he returned to time and again, I can only assume that he had to have played a crucial role in those decisions. One thing that struck me on re-watching the video is just how prominently images of the KKK are featured (a theme he returns to again in this “Utopia” section of Dangerous with “Black or White) as well as clips of Hitler and the Nazi imagery he would delve into in more depth some years later on HIStory. So it is clear that, even many years before Dangerous and HIStory, he was already focusing on racial issues as a major source of the world’s problems. Another prominent motif of the video is both as a celebration of the great peacemakers of the world, but also as a grim reminder of the price most of them paid. The references to John Lennon are especially interesting. Lennon was not a politician, but at the time, in the late 1980’s, he was probably the closest thing we had to a true messianic pop figure. It’s hard to say whether Michael was already envisioning himself among that rank, but clearly it was an ideal he wanted to aspire to.

Michael With Yoko and Sean LennonMichael With Yoko and Sean Lennon

However, taking himself completely out of the video (and thus completely off of center stage and, indeed, out of the picture) served the same function as it seems to do, again, on “Heal The World.” The careless dismissal of a few ignorant critics aside, ultimately we can view this as a selfless act that was purposely done so that the focus could be on the message. And, dovetailing off the discussion of both “Heal The World” and “The “Man in the Mirror” video, I don’t think we can put this in the same category as, say, the “Cry” video many years later, in which Michael’s non-involvement was simply due to his dispute with Sony (and which resulted in the all-time lamest MJ video ever, a sad capstone to a remarkable and innovative video career). I’m sure they must have been thinking, “Well, it worked okay for ‘Man in the Mirror.'” Yes, but…if we go back and look, it becomes clear that “Man in the Mirror” wasn’t just a random montage of images, nor was it a simplistic “Hands Across the World” message (“Cry” is actually a pretty amazing song, but the video was pure crap slapped together by Sony).

Michael Was Always Caught In A "No Win"...If He Put Himself Front and Center, He Was Being "Egocentric." If He Removed Himself Completely In Order To Make It About "The Message" He Was Accused Of Being Lazy.Michael Was Always Caught In A “No Win”…If He Put Himself Front and Center, He Was Being “Egocentric.” If He Removed Himself Completely In Order To Make It About “The Message” He Was Accused Of Being Lazy.

So one might argue that at least part of Michael’s intent with “Heal The World” was similar, in that the idea was to make it as less about himself as possible, and to give it over to the world stage.

Right before Fast’s passage where she refers to “Heal The World” as Michael’s “whitest” song ever, she also says this, which I think goes far in answering the very question she herself poses-why does Michael seem to hold back so much on this track, giving such a restrained and utterly conventional delivery (when we know he is capable of so much more?):

“It’s significant that in his central utopian song on Dangerous, he recedes to the background, letting children and the chorus (the community) present the vision…” (Fast 84).

The second track of the “Utopian” section is “Black or White.” While Fast gives the track as thorough and insightful an analysis here as all the others, I won’t dwell on it too much simply because “Black or White” is already a track I have discussed here at great length, and I don’t wish to sound like a broken record by repeating much of what I have already discussed about the track in previous blogs. So I will just hit on what I consider the high points of her analysis of the track as it applies to the overall concept of Dangerous.

The most interesting to me was the discussion of “Black or White” as an example of musical code switching. This is especially worth noting on a track whose entire theme is centered on the idea of racial harmony as a utopian ideal (if not entirely a realistic ideal, considering the song and video’s already well known undercurrent of racial tension).

That “Black or White” boasts a very distinct Stones-like riff has long been noted, but did you know exactly which Stones song boasted the riff that later evolved into “Black or White?” It was a song called “Soul Survivor” from Exile on Main Street! You can hear it pretty clearly by about the 1:03 mark on this video, and by the end of the track, it is quite clearly the same riff-or at least close enough that the organic evolution of “Black or White” can certainly be traced back to it.

But before the rock purists start howling, let’s put this in check. It’s a known fact that the Stones, like most blues based hard rock acts, had been appropriating black music for years. (It may also be worth noting that the Stones, who are notoriously one of the most vigilant acts when it comes to taking action against younger artists ripping them off-even down to the most miniscule riff- never raised a stink about this one. Perhaps they knew best to let sleeping dogs lie! This seems to have been a case quite similar to ZZ Top’s “La Grange,” whose riff borrows blatantly from the Stones’s “Shake Your Hips” which, in turn, was a cover of Slim Harpo’s 1966 version, which borrows heavily from a John Lee Hooker riff and…well, you get the idea.

As Fast states, this has more to do with “re-appropriation” than appropriation, and it was very purposeful on Michael’s part. But that’s far from the whole picture.

“In contrast, one of the two middle sections of ‘Black or White’ belong to rap. What’s perhaps less often noticed is that the bass line is indebted to funk, not rock; that the music played underneath the opening dialogue is MOR rock, and that the middle section borrows stylistically from metal. ” (Fast 86).

This fascinating discussion of “musical code shifting” goes on at some length. Among the more interesting was Fast’s analysis of how Michael, as a black man, appropriates the predominantly white genre of heavy metal music to showcase rage. By contrast, the rap section of the song-performed by the very white Bill Bottrell (who never intended that his version would be the ultimate version used on the album)-seems curiously watered down and almost purposefully corny, as if to emphasize that this is white rap in all its unadulterated cheesiness.

Clearly, a big question hovers over this artistic decision. Why? It wasn’t as if no black rappers were available to do the segment, and on an album where Michael had used black rappers to great effect on other tracks, such as “Jam” and “She Drives Me Wild,” why was this historical segment left, as Fast says, to the voice of the “oppressor?”

In The Video, At Least, It Was Meant To Be Cheesy...That Was Part Of Its Charm!In The Video, At Least, It Was Meant To Be Cheesy…That Was Part Of Its Charm!

It is an interesting question that is really left for us to interpret. Fast notes that it may represent that “Jackson liked the idea of upsetting the generic apple cart” but if we look at the video (and consider that even at the recording stage Michael was surely thinking ahead to the video concept) we could, perhaps, put it down to nothing more than Michael’s famous (and sometimes infamous) sense of humor. That particular segment of the video is portrayed in a very tongue-in-cheek and humorous way, as the “white kid” Macaulay Culkin lip synchs the rap segment. It is clearly intended as a light hearted moment in the video, in which we see what Barbara Kauffmann has stated as Michael’s allusion to “Kid Power” and the kind of rainbow unity that “Kid Power” represents. In the video, it is clearly intended to be funny and a bit cheeky when Culkin’s “rap” begins, a kind of brief respite from the video’s darker and more serious undertones (within the space of a few seconds, we go from “I ain’t scared of no sheets” and images of burning crosses, to white and black kids singing and dancing together on a street corner). Not only would much of the intended humor of that moment be lost if Culkin were lip synching to a black artist’s rap, it would even be, perhaps, outright insulting. Long before the era of Eminem, Kid Rock, and other artists who would bring white rap to the mainstream, this was the era in which Vanilla Ice had made white rap into a bad joke (though I have to confess, “Ice Ice Baby” was and is still a guilty pleasure of mine; white or black, that song was just too darn catchy to not be a hit!). The point, however, is that I think on some level this may have been Michael’s way of taking a little wink and jab at the ludicrousness of white rap. At the same time, however, the song’s bigger message seems to be not so much a melting pot effect (as Fast notes, this is not a seamless blending of musical styles, but one in which attention seems to be unduly drawn to the blend) so much as it is a statement about musical brotherhood and its myriad possibilities.

There is much more, including a detailed analysis of the “Black or White” video but again, it is mostly ground that has been covered before, so in the interest of time I am going to move forward to the “Soul” chapter. However, it is worth noting that, in quoting Elizabeth Chin, Fast puts Michael’s Panther Dance sequence into the same tradition as black dream ballet.

“Chin’s argument is that black performers often ‘refrain from exploring their own versions of escape and wish fulfillment, versions that are likely to be at odds with those imposed by dominant society.’ They entertain for the pleasure of white audiences, setting aside their own dreams, tempering their artistry, or shaping it to please the audience. One of the functions of the black dream ballet is to offer the black artist a space in which s/he can express and dream on their own terms. The ‘panther dance’ is such a moment for Jackson.” (Fast 93).

Katherine Dunham’s dance sequence from Stormy Weather:


“The quartet of songs that follow ‘Black or White’ trace a path of torturous personal struggle and quasi-redemption; for me, this ‘cluster’ forms the heart and soul of the record. There is a profound turning inward. No more moralizing about the state of the world, no soul man machismo, no fraught utopias, no children-well, at least not until later. No noise, either. The first three songs display unmitigated and unhinged loneliness, despair, and longing, for which there appears to be little remedy.” (Fast 108-109).

This chapter opens with a curious, but relevant and important detour from the music as Fast analyzes the artwork of the Dangerous cover. For sure, Dangerous definitely boasts the most cryptic art work of any Michael Jackson album. It was the first album which didn’t feature Michael on the cover, at least not in a typical and recognizable form. Whereas past albums had always featured a typical “star” photograph, the Dangerous album featured only the intense, staring eyes of Michael from behind a mask. Of course, his eyes were such an iconic feature that no one could mistake whose eyes were peering from behind that mask. But why?


Even by the time of Bad it was apparent that Michael’s presentation-both of himself and his music-was changing. We can practically gauge where he was “at” in his solo career just by looking at the album covers. For Off the Wall he was clearly selling himself, as a fully grown and adult artist who was in control. “Joyful” and “exuberant” are adjectives often used to describe the Michael Jackson of the Off the Wall era and those descriptors are not wrong. On Thriller, it was still evident that Michael was selling and promoting Michael. The album cover is simple, gorgeous, and iconic. It needed no embellishment, of course, because the music sold itself. By the time of Bad, the cover still features Michael but there is a marked change. He isn’t smiling and joyful, as on Off The Wall, and although he wasn’t smiling on the Thriller cover either, it was still in most regards a very stereotypical artist portrait. The message of those albums was clear: They had a good looking package to promote, and it made sense to promote it.

But along comes Bad and now it is clear that Michael is going “artsy.” He’s dressed in black leather, and not only is he not smiling, but is wearing a tough, staring-you-down scowl. No longer exuding “exuberance” or “joy,” now Michael was “Bad” and wanted us to know it.

By The 1970's, Cryptic Album Covers Had Become A Rite of Passage For Most Artists. It Was A Sign Of Having Evolved From Commercial Artist To "High Art."By The 1970’s, Cryptic Album Covers Had Become A Rite of Passage For Most Artists. It Was A Sign Of Having Evolved From Commercial Artist To “High Art.”

By the time of Dangerous, Michael could pretty much indulge in whatever cover art he chose, and no one was going to be stupid enough to argue against what he wanted. Clearly, as the pattern of rock cover art has shown throughout the decades, the more artistic the content, generally the more cryptic and artistic the cover art. By the mid 70’s, most artists who took themselves and their music seriously were eschewing the idea of cover photos altogether-or at least photos of themselves. Never again would a Michael Jackson album boast a simple photo of the star. With Dangerous, Michael had entered the realm of artistic hipness.

But what exactly did the cover art mean? For sure, we can glean a lot of interesting clues about Michael’s intended arch with the album by viewing the cover. Though Fast’s analysis of the cover art is rather exhaustive, her entire analysis can probably best be summed up by these lines:

“It’s meant to be read left to right, beginning in paradise and ending in hell, with a mass of humanity in various states of suffering.” (Fast 98).

Interesting. I am not quite sure that Dangerous exactly begins in paradise, but its arch is definitely a descent into both personal and global suffering.

Of the four tracks discussed in this section, I found the discussions of “Who Is It” and “Give In To Me” most fascinating, at least in terms of forcing me to think about the tracks in new ways. Again, we get the very detailed breakdown of each segment of the track, but what I especially like is how Fast is always examining how each track fits into the bigger piece, that being the album’s overall concept.

Far From Being A Tender Love Ballad, "Give In To Me" Is A Song That Advocates Inflicting Pain For Pain; More Rape Than SeductionFar From Being A Tender Love Ballad, “Give In To Me” Is A Song That Advocates Inflicting Pain For Pain; More Rape Than Seduction

Taken back to back, “Who Is It” and “Give In To Me” are collectively the darkest relationship songs Michael ever recorded (although Fast offers a very interesting interpretation of “Who Is It” and “Give In To Me” which may take both tracks far beyond the realm of being just songs about a love gone bad). Michael had written dark songs about relationships before, but these go several steps beyond those of his usual “femme fatale” repertoire. In these songs, he is going far beyond merely casting himself as either the spurned lover or the usual kind of self castigating that comes with doing penitence after committing a sin of the flesh (both of which had become common tropes for him by this point). In these songs, he represents a protagonist who has suffered to the point of brutal retaliation. Even if we take “Give In To Me” literally as a song about a relationship between the protagonist and a woman, it is no simple love song. And though Michael’s many legions of female fans may swoon at lines like, “Give it when I want it/Quench my desire/because I’m on fire,” a deeper reading into the song reveals its brutal nature. This is a man who wants to hurt and abuse the woman who has hurt and abused him. Let’s look at the lyrics in their entirety (emphasis are mine):

She Always Takes It With A Heart Of Stone
‘Cause All She Does Is Throw It Back To Me
I’ve Spent A Lifetime
Looking For Someone
Don’t Try To Understand Me
Just Simply Do The
Things I Say

Love Is A Feeling
Give It When I Want It
‘Cause I’m On Fire
Quench My Desire
Give It When I Want It
Talk To Me Woman
Give In To Me
Give In To Me

You Always Knew Just How To Make Me Cry
And Never Did I Ask You Questions Why
It Seems You Get Your Kicks From Hurting Me
Don’t Try To Understand Me
Because Your Words Just Aren’t Enough

Love Is A Feeling
Quench My Desire
Give It When I Want It
Takin’ Me Higher
Love Is A Woman
I Don’t Wanna Hear It
Give In To Me
Give In To Me

You And Your Friends
Were Laughing At Me In Town
But It’s Okay
And It’s Okay
You Wont Be Laughing Girl
When I’m Not Around
I’ll Be Okay
And I’ll, I’ll Not Find
Gotta, The Peace Of Mind No

Don’t Try To Tell Me
Because Your Words
Just Aren’t Enough

Love Is A Feeling
Quench My Desire
Give It When I Want It
Takin’ Me Higher
Talk To Me Woman
Love Is A Feeling
Give In To Me
Give In To Me
Give In To Me

Love Is A Feeling
I Don’t Wanna Hear It
Quench My Desire
Takin’ Me Higher
Tell It To The Preacher
Satisfy The Feeling
Give In To Me
Give In To Me

I Don’t Wanna
I Don’t Wanna
I Don’t Wanna
Hear It
Give It To The Fire
Talk To Me Woman
Quench My Desire
I Don’t Like A Lady
Talk To Me Baby
Give In To Me

Give In To The Fire
Give In To Me
Give In To Me
Give In To Me…

This is no tender seduction, but a desire to rape. He wants the satisfaction and feeling of sweet revenge that comes from having physical power over her; to subdue her to his will. Sex is being used as a weapon. Of course, if we look back to many of the romance novels of an earlier time, long before the rise of feminism and political correctness, the “seduction by rape” had long been a popular and very romantic trope. It was ideally believed that women secretly loved and responded to such brutality; it was a way to “win” a woman when all else had failed. Hollywood films, from Rudolph Valentino’s The Shiek to the famous scene of Rhett Butler carrying Scarlett up the stairs in Gone With the Wind, played on this theme. Just prior to the climactic rape scene in 1926’s The Son of the Shiek, Valentino’s character sneers to his female captive, “I may not be the first victim, but by Allah, I’ll be the one you remember.”

In the case of Gone With the Wind, Rhett Butler made his intentions very clear. He felt justified in the moment after suffering years of emotional abuse from Scarlett, who was still holding on to the idea that she loved Ashley Wilkes, and had added further insult to injury by banishing Rhett-her husband-from the bedroom. Rhett tolerates the abuse for a long time, but one night, in a drunken rage, decides he wants to “hurt her as she has hurt me” (he confesses later when he is sober and contrite over his actions). Strangely enough, the rape, a brutal action, nevertheless serves as an important turning point in their relationship. Scarlett actually enjoys it (but feels guilty about it) and desires afterwards to become close to her husband again; Rhett, on the other hand, becomes so consumed by guilt after that night that he pushes her even further away.

However disturbing it may seem by today’s standards, the idea that a woman could be submitted to a man’s will by sexual submission seemed to hold a romantic sway over public imagination. In popular culture, through songs, plays, books, and films, society seemed to condone rape as an acceptable means of breaking the will and spirit of a “difficult” woman. (Of course, the fact that women swooned over the idea of being “ravished” by handsome swashbucklers like Valentino and Gable certainly didn’t do anything to dissuade that idea!). This similar desire to hurt and brutalize-to punish-through physical submission is also at the heart of “Give In To Me.” And again, just as in those earlier versions, it is somewhat difficult to actually appreciate the brutality that is being advocated when those words are being crooned by the very wounded but drop dead sexy Mr. Jackson! Of course, what we don’t know is whether the protagonist is actually committing the action in the song, or only fantasizing about it.

If we consider the track as a direct sequel to “Who Is It,” however, the protagonist’s torment is easy to understand, and as he slides deeper into his bitterness and personal despair, it becomes easier to understand how he might lash out in dangerous and unhealthy ways.

Fast puts “Give In To Me” squarely within the tradition of the metal power ballad, but with a decidable twist. While the track maintains all of the surface conventions of the genre, she goes on to state:

“But his aim is to mock the conventions of the genre, to, in his deep disillusionment, to spit in the face of its treacly sentiments. The woman in his lyrics is brutal; she’s not a source of comfort; doesn’t represent ‘home,’ doesn’t teach him the wonders of romantic love, doesn’t tame his machismo or quench his desire. He’s done nothing wrong, it seems, has nothing for which to repent (one of the things that women certainly responded to in other examples of this genre). There’s heartache but no sentimentality. There’s longing, but for sex, not romance. His grief and anger cause him to lash out-this is not supposed to happen in a power ballad.” (Fast 114).


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Reply #24 posted 03/14/15 9:18am


As I was re-watching the “Give In To Me” video to refresh my memory for this piece, it occurred to me just how comfortably Michael seems to meld into the metal genre, and how seamlessly he blends in with the metal musicians around him. In fact, if one didn’t know better, it could easily be assumed that this was any typical, hair metal band of the day with Michael as its lead singer. And, except for a few very subtle spins and a quick, Michael-esque “frisking” of himself, he really plays the part straight here, toning down his usual, familiar Michael Jackson moves to literally become an almost different persona (in a way that feels even more authentic to me than on “Dirty Diana” from four years before). Of course, the decision to film the video as a straight performance piece, while certainly a beautiful performance to watch, serves the purpose of watering down the song’s actual storyline (perhaps making it a bit more palatable) with all inferences to rape reduced merely to a few, cliched’ erotic images of a couple whom we see fleetingly (capped off by climactic, pyrotechnic explosions at the end just in case we still haven’t “got” that this is all about sex!). The erotic but simmering, brooding hostility of the storyline is actually conveyed here through the sheer power of Michael’s body language and expressions-perhaps in the end a very smart move, allowing the song’s message to be conveyed metaphorically rather than literally.

I also enjoyed Fast’s analysis of both videos, and agree with many of her assessments. Back to back, both “Who Is It” and “Give In To Me” present an unusually subdued Michael, which is perhaps in keeping with the darker tone of both videos. It was unusual to get a Michael Jackson video with no dancing; now we suddenly had two in succession! I agree that, as far as the great canon of Michael Jackson videos go, “Who Is It” is certainly among the weaker offerings. It’s not a bad video by any means; just rather bland coming from the artist who was known for his groundbreaking videos. What Fast laments in this chapter-a sentiment in which I heartily concur-is that it was a shame that one of Michael’s most outstanding tracks on Dangerous did not really get a video that was worthy of its stark power. Michael looks great in it, of course, but he doesn’t dance and, what’s more, the storyline seems vague and disjointed. Again, it’s not bad; it’s just that there is nothing about the video that really stands out from hundreds of other similar videos of this ilk. Yet, as I was watching it again, I did notice some really interesting touches. For example, notice how we are introduced to Michael (from the woman’s perspective) at the :042 mark. We only see a glimpse of an unmistakably identifiable pair of black loafers, white socks, and high water pants. Traditionally, any glimpse of Michael’s feet has always been symbolic of magic and dance. But here the sight takes on a more ominous meaning. From the woman’s perspective, it means trouble, as one foot ominously taps to the beat (indeed, the scene invokes the feeling of stumbling upon a hit man who is patiently waiting). Throughout, his understated performance beautifully captures the moral dilemma of a soul in torment, pushed to the brink:

But is it possible that these two tracks, taken in sequence, could represent something much more than romantic/sexual angst? Fast offers an interesting interpretation that puts both squarely in line with the metaphysical themes of this “Soul” section.

“‘Who Is It’ and ‘Give In To Me’ are only about love and betrayal by a woman on the surface; the lyrics are sufficiently vague to call the identity of Jackson’s subject into question; ‘she’ and ‘woman’ can be viewed both as literal and metaphorical, about intimate relationships or relationships with the divine (I take this cue from Bono, who’s often said that ‘she’ in his lyrics refers to the Holy Spirit). I’ve wondered, for instance, if the ‘she’ in ‘Who Is It,’ the ‘she’ by whom the protagonist has been betrayed, is meant to signify the earthly church, by which promises were made and broken. I’ve wondered if the burning desire felt in the chorus of ‘Give In To Me’ is like that love the medieval mystics felt for Christ, described by them in erotic language (burning desire was not an unusual metaphor) that tried to capture how powerfully they felt.” (Fast 110).

Whatever One's Opinion Of The "Who Is It" Video, It Can't Be Denied That Michael's Beautifully Understated Performance Captures  The Intensity Of A Soul In Agony, Wrestling With Moral DilemmasWhatever One’s Opinion Of The “Who Is It” Video, It Can’t Be Denied That Michael’s Beautifully Understated Performance Captures The Intensity Of A Soul In Agony, Wrestling With Moral Dilemmas

As I was reading the above passage, I immediately thought of the myriad of examples of poets who have described their relationship with God in erotic terms. An obvious example is John Donne’s “The Good Morrow,” in which he awakes with God in his bed as his “trothed”:

The Good-Morrow


I wonder, by my troth, what thou and I
Did, till we loved? Were we not weaned till then?
But sucked on country pleasures, childishly?
Or snorted we in the Seven Sleepers’ den?
’Twas so; but this, all pleasures fancies be.
If ever any beauty I did see,
Which I desired, and got, ’twas but a dream of thee.
And now good-morrow to our waking souls,
Which watch not one another out of fear;
For love, all love of other sights controls,
And makes one little room an everywhere.
Let sea-discoverers to new worlds have gone,
Let maps to other, worlds on worlds have shown,
Let us possess one world, each hath one, and is one.
My face in thine eye, thine in mine appears,
And true plain hearts do in the faces rest;
Where can we find two better hemispheres,
Without sharp north, without declining west?
Whatever dies, was not mixed equally;
If our two loves be one, or, thou and I
Love so alike, that none do slacken, none can die.
I also thought immediately of Gerard Manley Hopkins, the Jesuit priest who wrote his beautiful poems in secret and who often used erotic language to describe his relationship with God:

Let me be to Thee as the circling bird,
Or bat with tender and air-crisping wings
That shapes in half-light his departing rings,
From both of whom a changeless note is heard.

I have found my music in a common word,
Trying each pleasurable throat that sings
And every praised sequence of sweet strings,
And know infallibly which I preferred.
Let me be to Thee as the circling bird.

The authentic cadence was discovered late
Which ends those only strains that I approve,
And other science all gone out of date
And minor sweetness scarce made mention of:
I have found the dominant of my range and state —
Love, O my God, to call thee Love and Love.
Yes, other science all gone out of date
Love, O my God, to call thee Love and Love.

So let me be to Thee as the circling bird,
Or bat with tender and air-crisping wings
That shapes in half-light his departing rings,
From both of whom a changeless note is heard.
Let me be to Thee as the circling bird.-Gerard Manley Hopkins

And in “At the Wedding March” Hopkins, like Donne, uses the metaphor of marriage to describe his union with the divine:

God with honour hang your head,
Groom, and grace you, bride, your bed
With lissome scions, sweet scions,
Out of hallowed bodies bred.

Each be other’s comfort kind:
Déep, déeper than divined,
Divine charity, dear charity,
Fast you ever, fast bind.

Then let the March tread our ears:
I to him turn with tears
Who to wedlock, his wonder wedlock,
Déals tríumph and immortal years. -Gerard Manley Hopkins

And then, of course, there is Walt Whitman’s famous, erotic romp with the divine in Part 5 of “Song of Myself”:

I believe in you my soul, the other I am must not abase itself to you,
And you must not be abased to the other.
Loafe with me on the grass, loose the stop from your throat,
Not words, not music or rhyme I want, not custom or lecture, not even the best,
Only the lull I like, the hum of your valvèd voice.
I mind how once we lay such a transparent summer morning,
How you settled your head athwart my hips and gently turn’d over upon me,
And parted the shirt from my bosom-bone, and plunged your tongue to my bare-stript heart,
And reach’d till you felt my beard, and reach’d till you held my feet.
Swiftly arose and spread around me the peace and knowledge that pass all the argument of the earth,
And I know that the hand of God is the promise of my own,
And I know that the spirit of God is the brother of my own,
And that all the men ever born are also my brothers, and the women my sisters and lovers,
And that a kelson of the creation is love,
And limitless are leaves stiff or drooping in the fields,
And brown ants in the little wells beneath them,
And mossy scabs of the worm fence, heap’d stones, elder, mullein and poke-weed.-Walt Whitman

If God Can Be A Lover, Then How Does One React When The Relationship Has Been Betrayed? When It Has Gone South?If God Can Be A Lover, Then How Does One React When The Relationship Has Been Betrayed? When It Has Gone South?

It would stand to reason that, if poets have been using erotic language and romantic metaphors to positively describe their relationships with God for over seven hundred years, that the same erotic language and romantic metaphors could be applied to the relationship in negative terms. If God can be a lover, then how does one react when the relationship has been betrayed? When it has seemingly gone south? While I am not sure that I entirely buy this interpretation as it applies to “Who Is It” and “Give In To Me,” it is admittedly very interesting food for thought, especially as these tracks serve to set the stage for Michael’s great spiritual set piece of the album, “Will You Be There.”who-is-it(30)-m-2

“Will You Be There” is in many ways the capstone piece of the album’s arch (from here, it begins its loop back to the coda section of the album). Taken together, “Will You Be There?” and “Keep The Faith” represent the pinnacle pieces of this spiritual journey. If these songs are, as noted earlier, more about coping than overcoming, at least there is finally some resolution; some sense that the bitter struggle is at its end.

It Was The Moment When Despair Turned To Hope...Or Something Like ItIt Was The Moment When Despair Turned To Hope…Or Something Like It

Fast notes that Michael’s quote from Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” at the beginning of “Will You Be There” “may be ‘audacious but it is not gratuitous.'” The quoted words from Beethoven, inserted before Schiller’s poem, offer an interesting clue, according to Fast, into Michael’s artistic process and the very conscious decision to place “Will You Be There” at this juncture of the album:

“Oh Friends, not these sounds. Let us instead strike up more pleasing and more joyful ones.” (Beethoven qtd in Fast 117).

This is truly interesting when we consider the “sounds” that have preceded much of “Will You Be There” on the album, especially the two tracks immediately preceding it! “Not these sounds” implies an almost outright rejection; a refusal to accept what has gone before in search of perhaps a more enlightened; certainly a more joyful, path.

In an article on the website, taken from a Fidelio article published in 1993, I also found this quote:

Beethoven had finally found exactly the right line of music to express the developmental possibilities of Schiller’s concept of joy. Like the folk-tune which he had earlier adapted for the great choral finale of Fidelio, the melody is one of the utmost “popular” simplicity. By using such simple material and weaving it into higher and higher orders of complexity spanning the entire universe of human thought and feeling, Beethoven unfolded the message of human redemption which is implicit throughout Schiller’s Ode to Joy, and carries us, together with the cherub at the climax of the finale, until we “stand before God.”

And note this line from the English translation of Schiller’s poem:

Fire drunken we are ent’ring
Heavenly, thy holy home!

Clearly, not only the entire composition of “Will You Be There” but its very purposeful placing at this precise juncture of Dangerous indicates that Michael had studied these pieces deeply. After all of the agony, the darkness, the soul searching, we seem to be entering the “holy home.” According to Fast, Michael reinforces this theme with the return of a black gospel choir-the Andrae Crouch singers-and a return to the black gospel roots that seemed, for all practical purposes, to have been abandoned on “Heal The World.” The return to these roots, after all of the experimentation with “the high art tradition” is no doubt symbolic, representing a spiritual homecoming of sorts. This homecoming is intensified, not only by the presence of the choir, but by Michael’s most dramatic use yet of modulation. Fast notes that the song rises dramatically “from D major, to E, to F# and, finally G# (A flat). That’s a lot of rising up. And that is where the song ends-we don’t come back to the beginning, we’ve landed, fully, in this new key, this new territory. Risen up to it.” (121).

The song ends with a spoken prayer. Fast notes that not only is it highly unusual to hear Michael speaking on a record. but that the prayer itself indicates that, despite the high spiritual plane the song has risen to, he still “has not yet found comfort.” It is, as Fast notes, an acknowledgement of the singer’s humanity. But more than that, it serves as an acknowledgment of both the frailty and violence of that humanity (a nod, perhaps, to where he has been at previous points in the journey?). Throughout the prayer, Michael speaks in a low voice that is much closer to his natural tone, without the affections of artifice (as Fast states, he also sings much of the song in this lower register) and as I have stated before, we know that this was Michael’s way of signaling to us a kind of earnestness. While Michael could, at times, be guilty of treacly sentimentality, something in the stark and honest power of this prayer defies the kind of cynical criticism often heaped on him, for example, for crying during “She’s Out of My Life” (personally, I believe the sob was genuine on the record, but that he later learned how to milk it for dramatic effect). But this moment in “Will You Be There” strikes a very genuine and honest chord; indeed, that genuine honesty is its power. By the time his voice cracks at the end, it feels truly earned because you know he has lived those words, and that the fear of both spiritual and personal abandonment is very real.

Fast also spends a good deal of time analyzing the visual performance of “Will You Be There.” This piece became essential to Michael’s live performances during the Dangerous tour, as it represented his transition from the machismo persona of the show’s first half to the more spiritual/angelic and “feminine” persona of the second half. This persona seemed to signify the idea of spiritual awakening.

If Michael had chosen to end the Dangerous album here, with the spiritual zenith reached by “Will You Be There” and “Keep The Faith” that arch alone would have rendered Dangerous as a powerful spiritual journey. But instead, on an album that has been filled with unpredictable twists and turns, we do not end on this high. Instead, the artist plunges us back into the despair of loss and, finally, brings the journey full circle back to “noise.” Why is that? The answers, of course, are not clearcut, nor are they intended to be. But as she has done throughout the book, Susan Fast gives some very thought provoking insights that can, at least, help to decipher part of the question.


As discussed previously, “Will You Be There” and “Keep The Faith” do not so much offer true resolution as simply a ray of hope. If we have to endure terrible things in this life, it’s at least good to know that we’re not fighting alone. However, that doesn’t mean the fight is necessarily over, let alone won. In quoting Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” Michael reminded us that this was a respite so that we might partake in “more pleasing and more joyful” sounds. This is essentially the high art equivalent of Monty Python’s famous line, “And now for something completely different!” The tracks bring our thirst ravaged bodies to the trough to drink, but just when we are falsely lulled into a sense of Edenic security, we are gently (with “Gone Too Soon”) and, finally, rudely (with the title track “Dangerous”) brought back to the reality of a spiritual abyss.

Fast equates “Gone Too Soon” to a kind of surrender, and listening to it with her analysis fresh in my mind, I understand where she’s coming from. If “Gone Too Soon” seems to get a little short shrifted when compared to the vast amount of time spent on discussing other tracks in this book, there may be good reason. Just as the simplest poems can sometimes be the most challenging to analyze (due to the fact that their very simplicity and straightforwardness renders the very idea of analysis absurd) “Gone Too Soon” doesn’t seem to offer much beyond what it is on the surface-a simple and beautiful lament to the idea of loss. But what exactly is the loss? Because the song became early on almost synonymous with Ryan White (due to the video which featured him) it may be difficult now to separate that association to look for additional layers of meaning.

Michael and Ryan WhiteMichael and Ryan White

Its very laidback quality, however, may offer the most telling clues as to why it was placed chronologically after the very upbeat “Keep The Faith” and just prior to what Fast describes as “the sharp left turn” of the closing, final track. Just as Michael often sang in his lowest and/or grittiest ranges when his emotions were most raw and intense, he tended to sing at his most conventionally sweet (as he does here) when the purpose is to convey either acceptance, surrender, or a feeling of being at peace (which naturally comes both with acceptance and surrender). For example, Fast equates Michael’s vocal performance on “Gone Too Soon” to “She’s Out of My Life.” If we think back to “She’s Out of My Life” and the emotional state of the protagonist in that song, we recall that he, too, had arrived at a state of both acceptance and resignation. He is not fighting the fact that his lover is out of his life; he has accepted it, however begrudgingly, and however much it hurts. He is also using the song as an honest reflection of himself and his own actions-the things that led to her being out of his life.

In that same vein, “Gone Too Soon” has the same feeling of resigned acceptance; acceptance of what cannot be changed. Death is as inevitable as the rising moon; as the coming of night. In the context of Dangerous and all that has gone before, it could also represent an acceptance of spiritual death as well. At the very least, it is, as Fast suggests, a kind of “letting go.” As morbid as it sounds, the song conjures up a feeling of the kind of peaceful resolve that comes with greeting death after the agony and struggle of the fight, or the kind of eerily peaceful resolve that a person contemplating suicide often feels once the struggle of that decision has been made. The song is bittersweet in the sense that there is no comforting hint at a life beyond, in Heaven,something that even the most morbid hymns and Appalachian death odes almost always offered, with the idea being that even as we shake off our mortal coil, there is another home and another existence awaiting us, one where the hope of being reunited again can at least sustain us. But “Gone Too Soon” offers a much more secular, and perhaps, realistic view of death-we are born, we live here on earth for a brief while, and then we’re simply gone.

If this track was meant to end the main narrative of the record, as Fast theorizes, then it is indeed a downer. In a spiritual journey that has taken us through the bowels of hell to the pinnacle of a heavenly glimpse, we end it all with neither hope nor despair, but simply…surrender.

But surrender to what? To an inevitable and indifferent fate, in the best Darwinism fashion? To the darkness that has consumed us? To a world gone mad?

The title track returns us abruptly to the chaotic, industrialized world of “Noise” that opens the album. In taking this turn, Michael ends Dangerous on an upbeat note-with what is perhaps one of his greatest “femme fatale” songs-but at what cost?

“Musically, the reappearance of noise and a heavy, industrialized groove signals a return to the fight, to disruption, to agitation of the status quo; his breath is part of the noise-growling, grunting, sharp exhalations of breath. Who needs words to convey the idea that you’re out to create trouble?”

So perhaps, on that note, Dangerous does not so much end with apathy and surrender, as with a return to the fight. Another possible interpretation (if I may be excused my venturing ou

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Reply #25 posted 03/14/15 9:35am



MattyJam said:

purplethunder3121 said:

PatrickS77 said:

The "love" is still here. There is just nothing to talk about. Nothing new is happening. Everything has been said already.

That's the sad part...

If you wanna discuss MJ, this is a great forum:


I registered last night but I can't access anything because I still haven't received the email to verify my account for some reason. What gives?
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Reply #26 posted 03/14/15 11:11am


MotownSubdivision said:

MattyJam said:

If you wanna discuss MJ, this is a great forum:


I registered last night but I can't access anything because I still haven't received the email to verify my account for some reason. What gives?

I registered weeks ago and had the same problem. I see some new users posting there, so evidently not everyone has this problem. It seems there is no way to request a re-send except by e-mailing the site. I haven't bothered, so I don't know if they would repsond.

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Reply #27 posted 03/14/15 1:21pm



CrabalockerFishwife said:

MotownSubdivision said:

MattyJam said:

If you wanna discuss MJ, this is a great forum:


I registered last night but I can't access anything because I still haven't received the email to verify my account for some reason. What gives?

I registered weeks ago and had the same problem. I see some new users posting there, so evidently not everyone has this problem. It seems there is no way to request a re-send except by e-mailing the site. I haven't bothered, so I don't know if they would repsond.

How do you email the site?
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Reply #28 posted 03/14/15 3:27pm


MotownSubdivision said:

CrabalockerFishwife said:

I registered weeks ago and had the same problem. I see some new users posting there, so evidently not everyone has this problem. It seems there is no way to request a re-send except by e-mailing the site. I haven't bothered, so I don't know if they would repsond.

How do you email the site?

'Contact Us' at the bottom of the page links to an email address.

If you do email them, tell them that other people are having this problem, so hopefully they will fix it.

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Reply #29 posted 03/14/15 5:19pm



CrabalockerFishwife said:

MotownSubdivision said:

CrabalockerFishwife said:

I registered weeks ago and had the same problem. I see some new users posting there, so evidently not everyone has this problem. It seems there is no way to request a re-send except by e-mailing the site. I haven't bothered, so I don't know if they would repsond.

How do you email the site?

'Contact Us' at the bottom of the page links to an email address.

If you do email them, tell them that other people are having this problem, so hopefully they will fix it.

Thanks! Just emailed them and am presently awaiting a response.
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