Weekend Listening: Michael Jackson
Listen while you read (volume may be loud):
My interest in Michael Jackson started with “Billie Jean”.
I had the misfortune of being born late enough that I didn’t clue into Michael Jackson until the media had turned him into a freakshow. (No, I don’t want to hear your opinions about what MJ may or may not have done–I read through the case files and I’m satisfied in my own opinion and his acquittal.) I was born the year after Thriller came out and went to kindergarten the year after Bad came out; by the time I started to notice music in any real way, “Black or White” was his hit single and that wasn’t enough to engender a lifelong love of Michael Jackson’s music in me.
It wasn’t until college when I worked at Starbucks that I really noticed his music. “Billie Jean” was on our music rotation and I grooved on it. A lot. I acquired the mp3 and it regularly featured in playlists and mix tapes–but because I’m a weirdo about music, I never took that song as an opportunity to listen to his other music. I was content with my one nugget of MJ for over a decade.
(I know. I’m really bizarre about new-to-me music. I don’t even know how to introduce new music to myself. It takes an alchemy that I don’t have the formula to.)
I think the bridge for me was getting into post punk and new wave, even though MJ’s music obviously isn’t in either of those categories. Specifically New Order, who I got into because my husband played them all the time and who, like Michael Jackson, have a lot of disco influence underlying their early work. I loved New Order from the start; the mix of electronic music and guitar was what I always wanted electronic music to sound like. It was a sound I had been seeking for a long time. My tastes changed pretty hard during this process–I used to listen to Dylan, James Taylor, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles (all of whom I still love). Now I am waist-deep in New Order and Echo and the Bunnymen, David Bowie and The Velvet Underground.
It’s been 13 years since I left college. I’ve gone from folksy art rock to funky, disco-y, punky rock as my musical mainstay. I was ripe for a conversion, and a conversion I got from out of the blue: one day recently, I was telling a friend on Twitter to indulge in a food thing. I linked her the video for “Eat It” by Weird Al. Then, I watched the video. “Hm,” I thought. “I wonder how close that is to the actual ‘Beat It’ dance sequence.” So I clicked over to “Beat It” for comparison.
This was (checks Twitter) on Feb 2 and I have been listening to Michael Jackson every day since then. To the point that my husband is making fun of me.
Those bass lines. Those beats. Jackson’s dance moves. That red jacket. The West Side Story influence (it was his fave movie). I was entranced as fuck. It only took me 33 years to see what all the fuss was about, but I get it now.
(Also, how cute is young MJ?)
I know I’m probably one of the last people who was alive in the ’80s to have gotten on this train, but I’m glad I finally found my ticket. So join me–have a listen to the playlist that I’ve been obsessed with, or listen to your favorite MJ album. If you have a favorite MJ album, let me know in the comments.