Here’s a response I was working on to this stupid post. I’m not satisfied with it, but it’s been so long since Jackson died that I don’t really care enough to work on it anymore. Plus, I’m not a huge Michael Jackson fan. Sure, he was very gifted, but I don’t even own “Thriller.”
Without further ado:
“the very young Jackson sang age-inappropriate love songs in a shuck-and-jive style that brought to mind vaudeville blackface.”
“The young Jackson was, to most white Americans, like a singing version of Buckwheat from Our Gang.”
Now I may be a young(-ish) white male, but this is the first comparison I’ve ever heard of Jackson and Buckwheat (or Jackson and vaudeville blackface). If most white Americans saw this, I – and everyone I’ve spoken to about Michael Jackson in the past 30 years – somehow missed it.
“Jackson, whose vocal range was limited and who sang often insipid pop songs that rarely ventured outside of a basic pentatonic scale, was no musical genius.”
“As a culture, it appears that we have accepted the lowest common denominator as the highest we ought to aim. We are told Michael Jackson is the King of Pop”
“To compare Michael Jackson’s twitchy, strange pop singing to the accomplishments of people such as Pyotr Tchaikovsky or Charlie Parker is downright insulting; it is rather like saying the guy who designed the Tilt-a-Whirl is on par as an architect with I.M. Pei.”
I think we’re confusing “pop” with “quality.” He was the King of Pop, not the king of vocal range, instrumentation, or musical improvisation. Last week, he was on 9 of the top 10 albums in Billboard’s Top Pop Catalog Albums chart. The same thing will not occur when, for example, Huey Lewis dies. You can argue that Jackson wasn’t a musical genius, but you can’t argue that he wasn’t the most popular singer in the world for years. And if Jackson isn’t the King of Pop, who is? Justin Timberlake?
PS: The “guy who invented the Tilt-a-Whirl” is named Herbert Sellner. Time it took to research this fact: 10 seconds. Time it takes to realize that sitting on a SUPERAMAZING I.M.Pei building with cotton candy in your hand isn’t all it’s cracked up to be: 2 seconds.
“Did white people like Jackson’s music? Sure. But they came to love him not in the respectful way audiences came to love, say, a young Wynton Marsalis, which is to say observing his unmistakable genius in stunned silence.”
Let me get this straight: since white people were silent at intimate Wynton Marsalis shows, therefore cheering for Michael Jackson at a huge arena showed a lack of respect and love?
Also, I have seen people sit in stunned silence when they watched Jackson dance. And they were even *gasp* white! And Iowan!
“lowered expectations lead teachers to praise mediocrity in black students. I believe something similar is going on in the US media regarding Michael Jackson. ”
“If Jackson is a musical genius, one realizes, it is not such a great leap to imagine Sarah Palin as presidential material, Lauren Weisberger as a great author, or Lou Dobbs as a substitute for real reporting and news.”
Those other people aren’t black, which kind of undermines the racial component of her earlier arguments.
“(I hold a bachelor’s degree in performance from Berklee College of Music)”
So do half the waiters and waitresses in Boston.
“True musical variety has died with the radio monopolies of Clear Channel and others, as we are force-fed the same Lady Ga-Ga tune until we Lady Ga-GAG. Our standards, in other words, have sunk to new lows, and not just in music”
…but in lame puns of current singers’ names, as well.
“Jackson worked very hard not to be black. He hated being black. His self-hatred was deep and public. “
“I’m a black American, I am proud of my race. I am proud of who I am. I have a lot of pride and dignity” — Michael Jackson to Oprah Winfrey in a 1993 interview.
“But did he singlehandedly change music? Nope.”
Tell that to the myriad current artists (black and white, good and bad) who were influenced by him or first interested in music by him. Thriller is the best selling solo album of all time. Jackson’s solo albums have sold over 200 million copies. That’s a big enough influence to change music, whether you like it or not.
“Now, we pretend we care about his music when the truth is more about the selfish communal realization of mortality among Generation X, who in Jackson lost their first big star.”
1958 is rarely considered part of Gen-X. And I seem to remember a Gen-X fellow who died in 1994 that was a pretty big star. Last name Cobain.