Michael Jackson had already come up twice yesterday in conversation before I heard the news of his death, via text message, on my way home from work. This is how pervasive he was as an American icon. Even well past his heyday, when his fame sprang more from the eccentricity (or, to be harsher, balls out weirdness) born of a combination of childhood trauma, brilliance, mental illness and drug abuse, he still rode high on the crest of the wave of our collective cultural awareness:
To friends in Chicago a few days ago: “The new Jenny Wilson record sounds a little like Michael Jackson.”
At lunch at work, yesterday: “Michael Jackson is addicted to plastic surgery. There’s a site that details ever surgery he’s ever had and it’s so scary.” (Perhaps in poor taste, but here, if you’re curious).
Or how about the many strange MJ facts I learned from this man, including about how he made his staff sign contracts that stipulated they not speak to each other, a fascinating tidbit? Sean strangely posted this up about a week ago, talk about prophetic.
I also feel like a few people (friends, acquaintances and culture scholars) have surmised so perfectly what is disturbing about our collective loss of Jackson, not just as a boy-genius music innovator or as the “King of Pop,” but also as a physical embodiment of the flaws of our modern culture. Their observations bear repeating:
From Francis, via Facebook: “I'm authentically sad about Michael Jackson. I feel badly about it, how incredibly unwell he was for so many years, how he probably hurt children, and yet we just kept making excuses / indulging / making fun of him as a society.”
From Carrie Brownstein, via Monitor Mix: “…But Michael Jackson was different; his star never wholly faded, nor was it born anew. His light remained aglow, fueled both by his astronomical accomplishments and by our own eager imaginations. And we kept looking in his direction, out of pure love for his music, but also because the glimpses into his life were getting more shocking and bizarre. The glare kept coming back to find him, sometimes out of reverence, but also revealing to us a distortion of the man we thought we knew; an ugliness, a freakishness, a changeling.”
From James, on the morning commute: “America created him, chewed him up and spit him out.”
And so, here is my song. It is one that has been posted, mixtape’d, broadcast thousands of times already, in every possible medium. It is one whose video of a man gliding, almost too gracefully to be human, on light-up tiles I remember watching with a certain previously unknown devotion on an early MTV. It is a song my band played snippets of while goofing off in rehearsal in the Lango's basement. This song was crafted, like all Jackson songs, with an obsessive attention to detail—the kind only a true perfectionist can achieve. It is one that will be reposted countless times over the internet today, tomorrow and as long as the internet continues. For as long as the great power grid fuels our high-tech American culture machine, we will churn out new pop, faster and faster, chew it up and spit it out.
Be careful what you do,
'Cause the lie becomes the truth.