Saturday, June 27, 2009

Michael Jackson - Black or White

This may feel a bit like a corny pick for us, but honestly it's a pretty solid reminder of what it is that made him the King of Pop. By the eighties, rock and roll was essentially controlled by white artists, and hip hop was becoming the new music for the black community. The industry had become extremely racially balkanized since the late 60's, and it took a young black man to remind everyone that great music could be enjoyed across color lines.
It's also significant as one of Michael's several impressive music videos. It was still a pretty disrespected art form, but Michael got big directors to use his videos to do more than sell the song; he gave them the freedom to tell full stories, including dialogue before and after the song, almost like mini-musicals; this would eventually pave the way to the medium's golden age of the 90's, when aspiring directors used the medium to experiment with style and work their way toward film.
This video, as well as any other, and better than most, shows a man who was not just an extremely gifted musician, but also an enormous phenomenon. It's easy to forget Michael Jackson the Movement, especially when these issues persist in Iran. Anyway, just enjoy:


Craig said...

It's not a bad song, per se, but as with a lot of Michael's latter-day work it suffers because of his public persona. Not the run-of-the-mill weirdness that was the fodder for a million tabloid stories, but the underlying weirdness of Michael's life, the fact that he remained aggressively seuxally nonthreatening. In a vacuum, I actually like the song "In The Closet", but with Michael singing it it's just kind of a joke, because his public persona is so creepily asexual. The "Guardians of the Culture" act like they want pop stars that appeal to kids to remain desexualized forever, but Michael taught the world how terrifying that actually is. It's an object lesson for pop stars - eventually, if you don't pose some sort of sexual danger (the normal kind, not the criminal kid-touching kind), your music will cease to be relevant.

Benjy Stone said...

That's a really interesting point, but I don't really see that in Michael. In his public persona, certainly, you got the idea that we was an asexual robot, but watching him dance, you can't help but be a little bit aroused. I think, to some degree (stop me if you've heard this one), he was just most comfortable singing and dancing, so the version of him we see in the videos (bumping and grinding with air, having sex with the whole world all the time) is closer to his inner self that the increasingly adorned version of him that appeared on talk shows. But really, you make a very interesting argument.

Sycophantman said...

Does anyone remember the controversy that erupted when this video premiered? I mean the non-musical segment after the video, with the long closeups of his crotch grabbing and randomly screaming and smashing things. That always felt like a direct answer to the questions of his asexuality. I don't think he ever really addressed that inexplicable clip as anything but 'artistic statement', but felt very personal. It might be one of the most personal expressions he's made, in hindsight.