I've got too many people associated with the Jackson family beaming into my consciousness through my TV. In an effort to free up some of the brain cells taken up by Jackson-related trivia, I'm attempting to dump all of it here. Here's how it breaks down:
The Good - Janet
It's Black History Month, a time to recognize and celebrate the cultural, political, and scientific contributions of African-Americans in the history of the United States. Somehow, HBO decided that one of their contributions to Black History month (in addition to re-broadcasting movies about the Tuskegee airmen, Martin Luther King and the bus boycott, and Adam Clayton Powell Jr.) needs to be Janet - Live From Hawaii, a special whose opening montage features Janet Jackson topless.
Let me be clear, "good" here is a relative term. Janet does seem to be living a relatively normal, successful life by Jackson clan standards. Still, even a casual viewing of Live From Hawaii makes it clear that Janet uses what Britney Spears calls "help" in her concerts during the more intricate dance numbers. Isn't this precisely the sort of thing that Milli Vanilli got tossed out of the recording industry for ten years ago? Has pop music really fallen that far?
My other major complaint about Janet is one I could easily level at any number of female celebrities these days -- I'm tired of seeing so much skin. Yes, I know, you all think you're all being such good post feminists by putting your sexuality out there, front and center. You know, "I am woman, these are my breasts, here me roar!!" It just all feels so calculated to be titillating. Flirt with ideas of bisexuality. Get something provocatively pierced. Be seen wearing lots of lingerie. Show up naked on the cover of Rolling Stone. Do a pictorial in a "lads" magazine like Maxim. It's all formula and with each step designed to be more outrageous than the last, what's going to be next? Soft core porn?
I also have the sneaking suspicion that the public would be a little less interested in celebrity post feminist impulses if they weren't impossibly tanned, toned, and surgically augmented. Doesn't that make it just all a little less revolutionary, and a little more superficial?
The "Bad" - Michael
Here's my take on the solo career of the King of Pop so far:
- The early 80's - key album: "Off The Wall". Michael was comparatively normal. Yeah that mirrored suit in the "Rock With You" video was a little over the top, but, we'd just escaped from disco and it is important to make allowances.
- The mid 80's - key album: "Thriller" His most ground breaking period. Breaks the color barrier on MTV. Makes biggest selling album of all time. Gets John Landis to make a short film of Thriller and even the "making of" video is a hit. Things start to get weird though -- some of those uniform-like outfits look like a cross between costumes from the drag queen revue version of "Babes In Toyland" and "Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band" with Peter Frampton and the Bee Gees. He also starts sporting a pet chimp named Bubbles and it is obvious that he's had some plastic surgery.
- The late 80's - key album: "Bad" Like its title, things go a bit bad. Lots of leather. A bit of crotch grabbing in the "Bad" video, where he tries to convince us all that he's somehow got street cred and deserves his props. Still, "Smooth Criminal" is perhaps his best video ever, though it borrows much from the Fred Astaire/Vincente Minnelli collaboration "The Band Wagon". Plastic surgery now very apparent.
- The early 90's - key album: Dangerous Michael starts to drop off my musical radar screen. Grunge has arrived. Still the "Black or White" video introduces the word "morphing" to the world. It unfortunately also introduces an extended video montage of Michael grabbing his crotch, zipping his fly, and vandalizing property. Very weird. Also shows an odd interest in Macaulay Culkin. His skin color starts to lighten, prompting suggestions of bleaching, though he says it's a skin disease.
- The mid-to-late 90's - key album: who cares? Michael marries Lisa Marie Presley and then divorces her. Michael is charged with spending a little too much time in bed with young boys. Very troubling. He gets married to his dermatologist's nurse assistant. She has his kids and then he divorces her too.
- The new millenium - key album: Invincible The album sells so poorly that The Onion cracks "King of Pop dethroned in bloodless coup". Michael himself publicly calls Sony CEO Tommy Mattola a "racist devil" in part because he thinks Tommy didn't promote the album hard enough. Critics say instead that Invincible is simply expensive and mediocre. Rumors circulate the Michael is going broke based on expenses for travel, his large staff and retinue, and the maintenance of his zoo/menagerie at the Neverland ranch.
All this has been dredged up in my mind, of course, by the recent two hour interview special airing on ABC and VH-1. My major opinion on what I saw of the interview? It wasn't as strange as it could have been. I got the definite sense that Michael lives an extraordinary life... and that life has extraordinary consequences for him.
With that said, the interview was also very troubling. He seems to be determined to be Peter Pan, living as an eternal child. He's clearly living a rather Howard Hughes-esque existence. The image of him feeding his child Prince Michael II (aka "Blanket") and saying his name over and over again haunts me. I'm still not sure how he thinks that sleeping in the same bed with young boys (including both Culkin brothers) is not going to be seen as almost criminally weird. He clearly doesn't live in the reality with which I am familiar on a day to day basis. I wonder if a life of fame and infamy since early childhood has left him with the tools to live what others would call an ordinary life.
The Ugly - Lisa Marie
I almost had a cerebral hemorrhage last night when I saw that Michael's ex-wife, Lisa Marie Presley Jackson Cage, is going to release an album on April 8 entitled To Whom It May Concern and that VH-1 is premiering its first video tonight. I'm not expecting great things. Who sits in meetings and comes up with this stuff? Is Lisa Marie out of money or something? Or is she just tired of being known as someone's daughter, someone's wife, or a prominent member of the Church of Scientology? Either way, she needs to head back to the Scientology temple and get an audit and some purification rundown. I can feel the enturbulation from this album all the way over here!
Can I have my brain cells back now please?????
on 2003-02-25 at 10:18 a.m.
The Wayback Machine - To Infinity And Beyond