Monday, July 6, 2009

Michael Jackson - Icon or Ick?

Michael Jackson, 1958-2009

So are you on the fence about how to feel about Michael Jackson’s death? Sure, you tell yourself, he was a musical icon. He was arguably this generation’s Elvis. However, the King of Pop possessed enough eccentricities to make The King of Rock and Roll’s quirks look positively bland. Peanut butter and banana sandwiches? Hah, that’s nothing compared to sleeping in a hyperbolic chamber or buying the Elephant Man’s bones. Bloated and looking goofy in a jumpsuit? How about applying Ted Turner’s controversial movie colorization technique to one’s own skin? Or letting plastic surgeons carve up your face so bad that it looks like your nose was taken out of a Mr. Potato Head set? Shooting television sets? Oh, please. MJ topped the list of celebs not to hire as babysitters. And here’s something Elvis never did – parade a sham marriage to another musical icon’s daughter in front of the world declaring, “nobody thought this would last” – less than two years before proving that exact statement true.

MJ’s fans and staunch defenders would immediately cry fowl to the accusations above. He didn’t really sleep in that chamber or buy those bones. He had a skin condition. Plastic surgery is one’s own business. He really loved Lisa Marie! He was never found guilty of those child molestation charges.

It is all irrelevant. Well, except the stuff about sleeping with the pre-teen set. Did he do it? Did he not? He paid tens of millions of dollars to try to make that problem go away and still went on TV saying he didn’t see anything wrong with it. That behavior made him downright creepy. It showed really poor judgment at best and, at worst, well, it would mean the man who sang for our sympathy in “Childhood” may just show up as the villain in some other future pop star’s lament about his lost youth.

Michael did, in fact, sing for our sympathy. He also sang “Leave Me Alone” and “Beat It” and, in general, begged and pleaded for the tabloids to back off. They never did and, even in death, will still hound him. In the weeks and months to come, astonishing nuggets will explode all over the news that make the MJ we knew in life look tame compared to the one we will come to know in death. And we’ll have no idea what to file under fact and what to toss as fiction.

Toss out or keep what you wish, depending on your blind devotion or abject disgust with the man. But here’s what we can file under fact - MJ was an icon. He taught us the “ABC”s of how to become a child star, showed us how to be “Off the Wall” and still make great music, and taught us that being “Bad” is sometimes just “Human Nature.” There was an ick factor to MJ the man, but MJ the musician more than earned the title of King of Pop. Whether it makes you sad or relieved, there will never be another like him.

  • Michael Jackson’s DMDB page
  • Michael Jackson’s DMDB music maker encyclopedia entry

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