Yesterday, I was listening to some music and I realized… the American economy can all be traced through Michael Jackson. The anniversary of his death is coming up, and since that falls right around my birthday, I thought I’d give this concept a riff. Keep in mind, I’m not backing this all up with refined research. So here it goes…
As the country embraced free thought and expression, a young boy and his brothers were too busy to think about nudity and were singing about his ABCs. All good. Enough said.
The Jackson 5 were making some nice mula and at some point in ’76 or ’77, little Michael said, “Hey people, I’m all growns up and I want to live life off the wall.” Off The Wall was a powerhouse. Pop was looking cooler than groovy and films were changing too. Personal expression was going disco and the war was starting to wear off a bit. Well maybe not totally, but people were digging this MJ dude.
Damn. And then came “Thriller”, the best-selling album of all time. Throw an amazing music video into the mix and there was no doubt this sound was here to stay. The universal adulation made sense. Why wouldn’t we be gathering around him like zombies? He wasn’t really evil, that laugh at the end of the video was rumored to be dubbed anyway. Jacko dominated the 80s, adding “Bad” to the mix. He was bigger than big. And he was creating an endless bubble of money, much like America itself was doing. He single-handedly improved America’s foreign relations every time he appeared in concert. The problem was, that in America it was hard to get tickets to his show. Felt like only the big dawgs got in. But hey, even if you got released on the street with nowhere to go, you could still watch the Moonwalk on TV from a storefront window. Pretty sweet.
Obviously, this is when things got “Dangerous.” …. whoa, wait a second, I have to stop. Has anyone ever really looked at this album cover. I guess I never did. What was with all the golden-trimmed gluttony? It looks like Sergeant Pepper took a Salvador Dali sized crap on Bubbles and the gang. Although Jackson’s music still had its moments, it just wasn’t the same anymore. All the partying was taking its toll, and you could see it on his constantly changing face. There was an explosion of alternate sounds again, as non-pop music was making a semi-comeback. Although Jackson hadn’t lost it yet, he was getting soft. Marshmallow soft. That’s okay, the early 90s were just a hangover from the 80s. Until… shit. 1993. Suddenly the kids who were singing ‘Heal The World’ were being rounded up and questioned about Michael. Were some of them really asked to sing a completely different tune? This Stranger in Moscow ‘was getting lonely, baby.’ Too many hands in too many pies, right America? The sexual accusation charges sealed MJ’s fate as the Gossip Headline King, and there was no going back.
This is where it all gets sad but interesting. As technology began to replace logic, America and MJ formed a partnership, signing a merger to launch a total and complete meltdown of senses. After all, what was there to lose?
Like America itself, it became harder than ever for Michael to keep up appearances. He grew weaker, paler, lonelier, and can I say… naive-er? Even after the market’s second crash and burn, both Jacko and the US relied heavily on borrowed money, severing relationships to get their fix. Anything for comfort. Did you ever see MJ on that ABC special when he walked through Caesar’s Palace and bought up tons of antique furniture, eventually not claiming responsibility for one cent? Yep… priceless.
Sadly, like MJ, we masked our children’s eyes as Wallstreet watched our game from high rise bars, downing shots like water. The market was dangling us like a baby over its ledge in a strangely compulsive way that none of us could yet get a grasp on.
And then, soon after the shit really broke the fan, the great Michael Jackson was gone. As we raced to the TV for details, an intense wave of shock quickly hit us. That’s when we started really wondering about his psychology… or our psychology, all the self-deprecating nostalgia, the years that had passed us by. This created for some, a long delayed affirmation that we had not lost a man, but rather a ghost… the skeleton of a once great commodity.
What if Jacko had lived to premiere that last great concert? Would it have done for him what the Economic Stimulus Bill did for America? Many of Jackson’s longtime fans truly hoped he could fix what was already broken. Instead, the remnants of the footage were quickly liquidated and re-packaged for one last cheap thrill. That’s to be expected. But under the surface, many of us knew the real magic had crashed and faded a long time ago. Luckily, the foundation of the legacy remains intact… moonwalking through our memories. Smooth, invisible, cool.