the first time a remember really listening to a michael jackson tune was probably in 1987. our neighbor jörg völker was listening to “i just can’t stop loving you”, and i guess some not so conscious memories came back. i’d known michael’s music since my year in the us, but it was only then that i became a fan. a fan of a musical genius, unique in any way, even musically speaking. with the help of his “big brother” quincy jones, he set new standards in pop music, with incredible grooves, great singing and dancing quality, and a creativity almost unlimited; this is hard to understand today, because so much in the music and entertainment industry has used michael jackson’s legacy as a draft – but when he came up with the stuff, there was no one doing it before.
to me, his death is kind of strange, as was his life. strange in the sense that it was tragic, just as his life – he was about to do shows called “this is it” to end his career, maybe even on a high note. just the way he started it, back in the jackson 5 days, literally with high notes and a beautiful voice. his solo efforts at the time, like “ben”, “music and me” and “got to be there” were even more successful than the gig with his brothers, so nothing more natural than going solo all the way, with the career starting “off the wall”, at the age of 19. i discovered this album for real only in the early nineties, more than a decade after its release. the first track, “don’t stop ‘til you get enough”, is already a show cast of his talent to make danceable music – and always so well sung, with lots of energy. his romantic side is displayed in the ballad “she’s out of my life”, where he started his tradition of crying in at least one track of each album. my personal favorite of this album is “i can’t help it”, really well sung and groovy as only he can be.
and then came thriller. near to 60 million copies sold, making this the most selling album of all times. and never was it more deserving: starting out with another long dance track, “wanna be startin’ somethin’ ” – no one could do that, make it groove the way it does. mamassê mamassa mamacussa, bmfd! then, after two tracks i’m not too fond of, comes maybe the best sequence ever in a recorded album: “thriller”, best and most groundbreaking video of all time. “beat it”, where the still black king of pop puts in new elements that are so no motown, like eddie van halen’s guitar solo. “billie jean”, which besides being a great tune was also the basis for the first moonwalk in history (1983), followed by “human nature”, great song and always superb interpretation. it closes with “lady in my life”, a song which reminds me of my summer crush priscila reis, new year’s eve 1992.
when i started listening to michael, “bad” had been out only a few months. “liberian girl” ironically will always be connected to a girl i really liked in 1990, jana deutsch. ironic because she looks as german as it can get, and even has “german” in her surname. “the way you make me feel” with the famous line “you knock me off my feet now baby, hiiiii” is a classic, just like michael’s high pitch voice, heavy breathing, “hick-ups” and “hi-his” – and let’s not forget the “hooooos”. “another part of me” and “dirty diana” (another rocky song), in which he sings really well (imagine him singing that in the studio) will always remind me of my good friend raphael sanz; my favorite song of the album and his whole work is track seven: “man in the mirror” with it’s incredible ending. “anna are you okay” has one of the greatest videos ever.
i watched the live premiere of “black or white” on mtv, and wasn’t too impressed by the track, after so many years of waiting for my first new michael jackson album. but “dangerous” proved to be the album i’ve most listened to, to date. thanks to tracks like “jam” and “dangerous”, on the dancy side, “remember the time” and sometimes even “heal the world”… and i even got used to “black and white”. but my favorite part of this album is the latter part, starting right after the hit song about races: “who is it”, just michael jackson at his best, and unique to him; “give in to me”, great guitars (slash) and singing; “will you be there”, the first of two gospel-like songs, and my favorite track on this album. “keep the faith”, with an incredible ending part; and the beautiful ballad “gone too soon”.
i don’t want to go into the controversy so much. just want to put on record that he is solely responsible for all the gossip and scandals, because of his always more than peculiar behavior and clear strangeness – in short, the genius was and has always been a perfect nut job. he did not take advantage of any kids, that’s for sure, at least to me… he’s just crazy enough to think that everything is and was totally innocent. it is also a shame that musically, he didn’t produce much good, although i know my brothers will disagree with me here. his next cd, “history” (i mean, come on, what a name!), very well produced as all of his work always was, always the highest quality possible and mostly defining what that was for musicians to come. i like “stranger in moscow” and “little susie”, basically. and i haven’t even listened to “invincible”, didn’t give it a chance.
but he is still the greatest, not because of his impressive 750 millions of albums sold, but because of his unique style, bold creativity – just for being michael jackson.
his death to me is different than some other famous deaths (senna, diana, etc.), because michael, the human, was never very real to me anyway. it is michael, the musician and entertainer that is a legend of his own, and that michael will never die. so, even finishing up with the biggest possible cliché at this point: the king is dead, long live the king!