Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Michael Jackson RIP: "I Want You Back"

"The End of Pop", looking at the story and legacy of Michael Jackson one song and video clip at a time.


It seems appropriate to start at the beginning; the first single from The Jackson 5 on Motown, "I Want You Back". A song about the most human of emotions: regret. And not regret for a loss that seems preordained by god, but human error. This isn't a hurricane that tore through town. It's not an accidental car crash. It's not having to leave abruptly for an unexpected job opportunity or to serve in the Army. It's the concession of a proactive conscious mistake: I was an ass, I fucked up, I'm sorry, I want you back.

regret is a funny emotion, it appeals to what presumably distinguishes us from chimps. we have ambition. we dream. we aspire. we try to understand love.

this was the sentiment mined by Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, one of the most emotionally resonant movies of me and MJ's lifetime. "The world forgetting, by the world forgot." Or Nietzsche's, "Blessed are the forgetful, for they get the better even of their blunders."

Knowing how things turned out, now, we can wonder what Michael might have given to forget. But what would he/we have lost if he forgot? in the case of love, and specifically, relationships, there's something that feels so inevitable about remorse. we regret doing. we regret not doing. what can ya do? would you rather be a chimp? (well, maybe, if it's Bubbles)

When MJ passed, I'm sure so many of us wanted to reach out to friends and family. To try and avoid that inescapable regret. To share the love and connection that Michael was obviously, desperately searching for at some point, until the wall he built around himself was too strong, too impenetrable, too high to get over (*yeah, yeah*).

Michael's story speaks to me in a profound way: he's the ultimate symbol of human-imperfection -- specifically our inevitable "wanting the moment back", he had so many regrets -- yet it was all mulch for this robust, blooming brilliance. We vaporized his essence as product, consumed it, and kept it moving once the buzz faded. His narrative leans toward tragedy because everyone's feeling regret now. There were many conscious mistakes made along the way. but still, the high was incredible. so maybe it was worth it.

Wiki fun notes:
song samples: kriss kross, Jay-Z

(next up: 1.2: the empty precociousness of "ABC")


  1. bloos singer7/01/2009

    the high was worth it for the rest of us, but what about for him? the king of pop becomes a martyr for art? well not art necessarily, because its not his art that lead to his demise.
    as an artist i can say that i probably would not mind being consumed by my art but lets not kid ourselves, that's not what happened here.
    the product that his parents, corporations and the audience turned MJ into was unsustainable as an autonomous entity.

  2. Thanks for finding and sharing this video. I was stunned, and I went looking for MJ videos and most had the embed disabled. I appreciate this one; it's actually my favorite song ever.


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