Friday, June 26, 2009

Pop's Dangerous Child-King

Like two-thirds of the planet, I didn't fully 'register' the death of Michael Jackson upon first hearing it. Like the 9/11 attacks, we'll find it hard to forget 'where we were' when we got the news.

I was in the car driving to KL, looking forward to listen to Edward de Bono speak at the conference. I got an SMS saying the King of Pop had died. About 4.5 seconds later I must've told myself it was a prank. Then I reread the message again and my friend texted that the radio was playing MJ's hits throughout the whole morning. I turned the radio on. Sure enough, You Rock My World was playing. The rest...well... the rest didn't matter.

I recall the first time I watched the Beat It, Billie Jean and Thriller videos. A part of me was simply awe-struck with the energy, the passion, the rhythm and the sheet power of this pint-sized black guy burning up the screen. If anyone could make a non-pop fan go WOW, he could. (Check out the video above, which came out barely 10 years ago, and try to imagine that this was a guy in his forties!)

To this day, MJ's steps with the zombies in the Thriller video ranks up there with the best of the best. I even tried to teach my aunt and her friends the first few steps! Other recollections:
  • listening to his brand new single (after many years) I Just Can't Stop Loving You on the way to Primary 4 (or was it 5?) in the morning and thinking, "MJ's singing again!"
  • watching my cousin, Derek, practise MJ moves in his Singapore apartment!
  • waiting anxiously for the new MJ video, "Bad" (and being somewhat shocked with his crotch-grabbing)
  • watching my classmates do the Beat It dance moves at a school concert
  • trying to memorize the final poem from Thriller which starts with, "Darkness falls upon the land...midnight hour's close at hand...."
  • watching closely every MJ video that came out over the years (you don't just 'glance away' when MJ is on screen with something new!)
  • a friend telling me that songs like Dirty Diana were unique and it's because no one sang this way that MJ was a star
  • putting up music videos of Earth Song and They Don't Really Care About Us for my students at Fairview
In 2001, I did something I've done only once: Buy a CD in Singapore. MJ's Invincible album. I remember browsing through the cover on the plane back being quite moved by his passionate 'Thank Yous' and 'I Love Yous' sprinkled all over the place. He even included a note of thanks to Chris Tucker saying, "I love your art".

My take on him and the little boys he allegedly molested? Not guilty.

So he sleeps with boys in his bed? I've never been convinced about the bad-ness of this. I mean, c'mon, don't all loving dads allow their sons to share beds with them? And don't brothers share beds as a form of loving support and embracing warmth? Why did the media have to make it sound like Michael took a shower with them?

Farewell, Pop's dangerous Child-King, the thriller who never grew up, Mr.Bad who created some of the most popular songs of goodness (Heal the World, Earth Song, Man in the Mirror), the MoonWalker, the Gloved One or just - to the many fans of his who grieve and are half-hoping this is all one big hoax - Michael Jackson.

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