Paul McCartney Collaborations That Stirred Racial Politics

Sources: The Columbian – By Justin Moyer | Edited By – All Things Michael


For at least the third time, Sir Paul McCartney has teamed up with a young African-American man for a hit. McCartney and Kanye West just released “Only One,” a tribute to West’s deceased mother, on iTunes and West’s website.

“Hello my only one, just like the morning sun,” West sings over the former Beatle’s keyboard vamping. “You’ll keep on rising ’til the sky knows your name.”

A somewhat mystical statement issued with the song described what happened when the Walrus and Yeezus teamed up.

“Kanye sat there with his family, holding his daughter North on his lap, and listened to his vocals, singing, ‘Hello, my only one,'” a statement reported by Rolling Stone read. “And in that moment, not only could he not recall having sung those words, but he realized that perhaps the words had never really come from him. The process of artistic creation is one that does not involve thinking, but often channeling. And he understood in that moment that his late mother, Dr. Donda West, who was also his mentor, confidante, and best friend, had spoken through him that day.”

This is arguably the first of McCartney’s duets with young black men not infused with racial baggage, overt or encoded. First, there was “Ebony and Ivory” with Stevie Wonder, released in 1982. Key question: “Ebony and ivory live together in perfect harmony side by side on my piano keyboard —oh lord, why don’t we?”

The following year saw the release of “Say, Say, Say,” McCartney’s duet with Michael Jackson — the video for which, some say, referenced minstrel shows.

One academic thought McCartney and Jackson toyed with blackface without taking it on.


“The sequences of ‘Say, Say, Say’ will initially dismay anyone concerned with the fate of people’s culture,” wrote Smith professor W.T. Lhamon in “Raising Cain: Blackface Performance from Jim Crow to Hip Hop.” “What a loss that the whole cycle of blackface performance should funnel down to these capers in a cross-racial attraction played out among stars ashamed to utter its name aloud in public?”

Though “Only One” is not about race, McCartney’s alliance with West puts him in the studio with a performer whose provocative take on racial politics seems part of a different universe than those of previous collaborators Wonder and Jackson. McCartney, 72, can’t be accused of using young black performers to stay relevant. Even more than Elvis Presley or bandmate John Lennon, the man is arguably one of the most influential performers in the history of pop music, and need not polish his legacy.


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Source: The Frisky – By Rebecca Vipond Bank | All Things Michael


Defamer wrote a post on Michael Jackson’s 17-year-old son Prince Jackson’s apparently totally lame-o lifestyle yesterday, and it strikes me as unnecessarily mean. Here’s a list of everything in that post that made me cringe:

  • “Dumb, embarrassing, fartcloud teenagers”
  • “Swaggy, angsty pubescent boys”
  • “Hanging out with Justin Bieber is much cooler than being the type of teen boy who has a bunch of reptiles in his bedroom.”
  • “Snakes are weird and not actually that cool, and owning them as an adult male is a surefire way to make yourself intensely unfuckable.”
  • “No girls are going to be impressed by a cage of old anaconda skin.”
  • “Posting leg press videos online is inherently uncool for a number of reasons.”
  • “The only people impressed by such videos are fellow macho gym rats, who are in the running for worst group of humans on Earth.”
  • “Prince Jackson’s intense lameness is, of course, understandable.”
  • “Prince Jackson now has a black truck perched up on enormous ‘I believe in the sovereignty of the confederacy’ wheels, with the Money Team logo plastered all over it. Imagine parking that in your high school parking lot. Not cool.”

Yeah, guys, let’s keep telling kids that you have to be “cool” by everyone’s respective standards no matter how diverse and contradictory everyone’s respective standards are! Snakes are dumb and they won’t get you laid, because the point of life for men should be to fuck women!  Exercise is dumb! I don’t like this kid’s car, so I’m gonna mock him for it! Yeah! We’re grown adults!


I know that the Gawker/Kinja network is pretty huge and has a diverse staff on diverse blogs with diverse messaging, but one of the things I love about a site like, for instance, Jezebel is that their anti-bullying stance is pretty unequivocal, and they criticize bullies and defenders of bullies regularly. Same goes for io9, which frequently publishes stories on bullying in the context of geek and nerd culture, pop culture, movies, comic books, and sci-fi. Lifehacker has posted stories about adult bulllying at work and in parenting. The fact that a sister site is actively engaging in bullying a 17-year-old for doing regular 17-year-old stuff, no matter how wealthy and well-connected that 17-year-old happens to be, is disheartening.

And yeah, Defamer is a celebrity gossip blog, but isn’t there a line? I mean, I’ll take shots at James Franco (while alternating with admiration ranging from reluctant to enthusiastic), but at least he’s a grown man.

Oh, and by the way, having an anaconda is f****** cool. It’s a motherf****** anaconda.

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Sony Hack Re-ignites Questions About Michael Jackson’s Banned Song

Sources: Perceptive Ninja – DB Anderson | All Things Michael


As the Black Lives Matter movement grew in reaction to the lack of indictments in the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, Michael Jackson’s 1995 song “They Don’t Care About Us” was resurrected at the grass roots level in many cities including Ferguson, New York, and California.

“They Don’t Care About Us” was denounced by The New York Times even before its release, and did not reach much of its intended audience because the controversy caused by the New York Times article would go on to overshadow the song itself. Radio stations were reluctant to play it and one of the short films Jackson created for the song was banned in the U.S.


All Jackson’s frustrations seem to be on display in this raw and angry performance. Behold:


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Michael Jackson: Posthuman

Sources: The Conversation – By Susan Fast | Edited By – All Things Michael

Mark Ryden’s art for Michael Jackson’s 1991 album Dangerous. Augusto Podrido/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND

Mark Ryden’s art for Michael Jackson’s 1991 album Dangerous. Augusto Podrido/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND

The album cover for Michael Jackson’s album Dangerous was painted by American pop-surrealist artist Mark Ryden. In it, he depicts a world in which the boundaries between human and animal, living and dead, whole and part, and celestial and terrestrial have been crossed and fused.

Surrealist painters like Ryden often aim to collapse such categories – to reconcile, in their art, what seems to be irreconcilable in life. But actually, this boundary-crossing doeshappen in life – increasingly so – and corresponds to what some have called posthumanism.

Cary Wolfe, an English Professor and author of the book What is Posthumanism, writes that we are “fundamentally prosthetic creatures,” that we rely on entities outside the self – other humans, animals, technology – in order to function and thrive.

In other words: the boundaries of our bodies and intellect are not as firm and finite as we want to believe.

Posthumanism also argues for the dismantling of the hierarchy that puts humans – largely because of our ability to “reason” – above other forms of life and technology.

Both of these ideas were central to Michael Jackson’s life and art.

It’s somewhat surprising that so few have considered him through this lens; instead, many have simply labeled him as weird or eccentric.

Yet Jackson’s entire career was defined by his rejection of normal boundaries. This includes not only the most obvious of these (race and gender) but also generational barriers, the limits of his physical body, and divisions among real and fictional species – not to mention the seamless way he could fuse artistic genres.

Jackson celebrated the prosthetic idea of the human in a number of ways. For example, through plastic surgery, cosmetic procedures, make-up, hair styles and costumes, he asks us not only to reconsider gender binaries (that’s the relatively easy part), but to question prevailing ideas about aesthetic beauty and what can be called “normal.” Our appearances are all products of outside intervention (even face creams and nail files count); Jackson’s extreme modifications could be thought of as a commentary on this.


Jackson’s was posthumanist, blurring traditional boundaries. In Moonwalker, he appears as a cyborg: half human, half robot.

Fictional boundary-crossing was also a characteristic of his artistic practice – where, at various points, he presented himself as a werewolf, a zombie, and a panther. In the film Moonwalker he morphs into a spaceship; in Ghosts, he becomes a dancing skeleton, a grotesque monster, and a gigantic face that blocks a doorway.

Ghosts, in fact, is a film in which he addresses the perception that he is a “freak” and “abnormal” directly. It’s remarkable that so much of his morphing in this film is focused on his face – an object of constant scrutiny and derision in the media.

(In Ghosts, Jackson directly confronts his critics. Who has the authority to declare what is normal, and what is not?)

In both his life and his art, he held out his body as a work in progress, fully open to and trusting in limitless experimentation. There’s quite a long tradition of artists who have engaged in body modification as a means through which to test the limits of the flesh, like Orlan and Stelarc.

Perhaps the most controversial aspect of Jackson’s physical changes was the lightening of his skin. We should keep in mind that this was the result of the skin disease vitiligo. It’s thought, erroneously, that his skin color simply got lighter, but it actually fluctuated – so much so that his intent was certainly far from wanting to “be” white, as many have concluded.

Instead, it’s possible that vitiligo – painful as it must have been for him – served as an opportunity to start a conversation about race and skin color. He wanted to challenge the idea of race as fixed or linked to biology, rather than socially constructed.

Jackson’s boundary-pushing extended to his notion of family, which can be described as a sort of “queer kinship.” This has nothing to do with sexual orientation, but with how he challenged normative ideas about what constitutes family. His family included animals (Bubbles the chimp, yes, but also Muscles the snake and Louis the llama). It included children (Jackson could still play like a child, with children, when he was an adult, testing ideas about the normal, linear progression from childhood to adulthood). It included older Hollywood starlets, like Elizabeth Taylor and Liza Minnelli (again breaking the boundaries of normative generational affiliation); and it included Frank Cascio’s middle-class family from New Jersey, which Jackson adopted as his own, regularly showing up and spending time at their home, where he vacuumed and made beds with Cascio’s mother.


Much of this has been viewed as pathological because it’s a way of building family that does not conform; it crosses boundaries not normally crossed.

This makes many people uncomfortable.

But Jackson’s vision of the body and of kinship were actually forward-looking, a kind of reaching beyond societal norms that is often celebrated in other artists and activists, but still viewed with great suspicion in Jackson’s case. Elsewhere, I have argued that this is because Jackson crossed so many boundaries simultaneously. It was the combination of social transgressions that caused people to fear – rather than celebrate – his difference.

It was also that he truly lived these transgressions: there was nothing to mitigate Jackson’s differences. When other mainstream artists, like Lady Gaga, transgress boundaries on stage, the impact is often lessened by their private lives, which conform to societal norms.

In a 1985 essay about Michael Jackson, James Baldwin wrote that “freaks are called freaks and are treated as they are treated – in the main, abominably – because they are human beings who cause to echo, deep within us, our most profound terrors and desires.”

Michael Jackson – gender ambiguous; adored and reviled; human, werewolf, panther; black, white, brown; child, adolescent, adult – shattered the assumptions of a society that craves neat categories and compartmentalization.

Order and normality are illusions, he said though his life and art.


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Happy Anniversary to the Dangerous album! On this day in 1991 Michael Jackson’s “Dangerous” album was released. Hundreds of fans lined up at stores nationwide to buy it on the first day.

Elvis As A Hologram? The Future Of Technology In The Music Industry

Sources: Adweek | All Things Michael

Hologram - All Things Michael

Elvis is back in the building, sort of.  Authentic Brands Group, which manages Elvis’ estate, and digital production company Pulse Evolution will bring the King back to life as a hologram. The companies plan to have Elvis shake, rattle and roll in live shows, commercials and movies.

Since digital Elvis will involve 11,500 moving parts, Authentic Brands Group CEO Jamie Salter said he won’t be available for projects until spring 2015 or live performances until fall 2015. But, Salter hinted that the King has a commercial deal with a Fortune 500 company. He’s also is in talks for four-night-a-week residencies in Las Vegas and Macau, and may even do special performances with a hologram Michael Jackson in the later location.

“We want you to go to the show and say, ‘Wow, oh my God! I saw Elvis 30, 40 years ago, and this is exactly the same thing,’” Salter said.

This isn’t the first time deceased musicians have been brought back using holograms. Tupac reappeared in 2012 at Coachella, and more recently, Michael Jackson hit the stage at the Billboard Music Awards in May thanks to Pulse Evolution’s technology. (Like Adweek, Billboard is owned by affiliates of Guggenheim Partners.)

Any hologram deals will have to go through the family’s final approval before being inked, but both Pricilla and Lisa Marie are completely behind using the technology, according to Salter. They’ve supported posthumous performances in the past, including when Lisa Marie sang a duet of Daddy Don’t Cry with Elvis in 1997 that used the original vocals and a video featuring her and her father.

Consultant David Deal said performances generate the most money for musicians today, and a hologram in the repertoire may significantly increase revenue for the deceased. It’s the perfect way to capture the stage charisma these artists were known for and to connect with a visual generation. “I think the only thing that needs to be in place is that the names have to be strong brands with a strong global following,” he said.

Gartner’s Andrew Frank added there’s tons of money in celebrity endorsements, considering that advertising budgets are on the rise. As the hologram technology gets better, he expects that we’ll see these digital counterparts directly interacting with people, including having them sing a personalized song or talk to a consumer on behalf of a brand.

The technology may even open doors for the living, argued Forrester senior analyst Anthony Mullen. Artists could virtually perform in multiple places simultaneously, solving a distribution problem similar to how MP3s have spread music faster than CDs and vinyl records.

Then again, musicians may want to read their contracts more carefully, he pointed out. This could mean the music industry may begin to negotiate for after-death digital image ownership while the artist is still breathing. “People talk about musicians selling their souls to the devil when they sign a deal with the record label. This could be a posthumous issue if today’s musicians agree to it,” Mullen said.

Mullen is also concerned that these singer spokespeople will be made to talk about products they never tried or endorse politicians they never would have voted for, while Frank is worried about fans accepting posthumous declarations of support. “We’re pushing the envelope for how much synthetic personality people are willing to go for,” Frank admitted.

Read more at Adweek

5 Reasons Why the VMAs No Longer Matter

Sources: Huffington Post – By Mark Carpowich


If video really did kill the radio star, MTV may have in turn killed its own creation: the video. For years, of course, the network has seemingly been video-phobic, devoting nearly all of its time to reality shows, scripted dramas and other programs that beg the question of why the letter “M” still appears in its name. Once a year, though, MTV remembers that videos still exist (even if they air primarily on other cable networks and internet sites) and celebrates them.

But if 2014’s show is any indication, the party is over.

The Video Music Awards have become a halfhearted, one-dimensional, and quite frankly inexplicable use of airtime, and in the post-TRL years have become about as relevant and vital as the music video itself. Once an important date on every celebrity’s calendar, the VMA broadcast has outgrown its purpose. TruTV doesn’t blow the cobwebs off of old Court TV shows once a year, so why does MTV continue pretending to care about its legacy by holding an event that celebrates the videos it no longer even shows? Here are five reasons why, as its 2014 broadcast showed, the Video Music Awards no longer matter.

1. Lack of interest. MTV’s biggest night of the year kicked off with a high-octane performance by Nicki Minaj that featured a lot of booty-shaking, crotch-grabbing and floor-grinding, but perhaps more shocking than any of that — because let’s face it, what part of that hasn’t been done on the VMAs before? — was the wide shot that revealed a large number of empty seats in the Forum’s lower level. True, some fans were still filtering in from outside when the show started, but the fact that they were in no rush to get to their seats only shows how missable this show has become, even for live attendees. Plus, the Forum was hardly a sellout — the day before the show, plenty of seats were still available through Ticketmaster, including entire rows. Even MTV itself seemed to not care that much — as soon as the live show had ended, the network immediately showed it again. No post-show interviews, no analysis of the winners, nothing. The next day, entertainment giant TMZ had hardly any VMA coverage that didn’t involve a pre-party shooting that had occurred the night before.

2. Lack of diversity. Among the biggest knocks on MTV’s early years was that, until Michael Jackson broke its unspoken color barrier with “Billie Jean,” the network was almost exclusively a celebration of rock music. In 2014, the closest that the VMA broadcast came to the network’s flagship genre was what it teased as “a rockin’ performance” from Australian boy band 5 Seconds of Summer, which turned out to pretty much be a ballad that happened to feature a couple of guitars. Still, they should be commended for at least playing something — other than Maroon 5 and Usher (who briefly held a bass that he may or may not have actually even been playing), none of the night’s performers even touched an instrument. On a night when current or former judges from The Voice, American Idol, and The X Factor appeared as presenters or performers, MTV showed that the only type of musician that still matters is the female pop vocalist who can sing while backed by a prerecorded track and scores of dancers.

3. Lack of credibility. The only thing weaker than the field of nominees in some categories were the winners themselves. Drake picked up a Moonman for Best Hip Hop Video for “Hold On (We’re Going Home),” a song that features no rapping and, since the show doesn’t offer an award for R&B videos, was probably better suited for inclusion in the Pop category. (See number one above for why Drake didn’t even bother showing up to accept his award, despite having a four-day hole in his tour schedule.) Best Rock Video, meanwhile, went not to a legitimate rock nominee like Linkin Park or the Black Keys, but rather to Lorde’s “Royals,” which is the 2014 equivalent of Jethro Tull defeating Metallica for the Grammy for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance. And the Artist To Watch trophy, as voted on by fans — at least those in the nation’s time zones that saw the show live — went to Fifth Harmony, a Simon Cowell creation that, based on the response by the crowd inside the Forum every time the award’s nominees were shown, were only a fraction as popular as fellow nominees 5 Seconds of Summer or Sam Smith.

4. Lack of celebrity. The Video Music Awards used to be a huge event that drew not only the biggest names in music, but also hip, young stars from film, TV, standup comedy and sports. In 2014, among the non-music stars who appeared on stage were nearly 40-year-old comic Chelsea Handler and nearly 60-year-old actor Jeff Daniels. Sure, they tried to shoehorn Robin Williams into the show, but his tribute segment was so arbitrary and awkward, it might as well have not been part of the broadcast at all. Hey MTV, want to pull in more TV stars? Don’t hold your broadcast the night before the Emmys.

5. Lack of purpose. Short of serving as a glorified twerk-off, what did the 2014 Video Music Awards actually contribute to popular music? Is anyone discussing the show’s winners? (Is anyone discussing the show at all?) Self-promotion was a big part of the evening: presenters Jason Derulo and Demi Lovato used their stage time to mention their own upcoming concert tours while introducing Maroon 5; Miley Cyrus, meanwhile, won the once-coveted Video Of The Year award for “Wrecking Ball,” and allotted her acceptance-speech time to someone who spoke about homelessness, which was admirable… until he got to the part about having to go to Miley’s Facebook page for more information.

Celebrating music videos should have been the purpose of the show, but Beyonce won the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award — named for a guy who not only carved out a spot for African-American musicians on MTV, but also revolutionized the music video itself — and gave a nearly 20-minute concert, yet made no mention of the videos that won her the award to begin with. Worse, “Single Ladies” — the song that served as the basis for what Kanye West infamously proclaimed during the 2009 VMAs as “one of the best videos of all time” — wasn’t even part of her medley of hits.

If MTV were to set aside even an hour or two of its daily schedule for airing videos, the Video Music Awards might still have a chance. The landscape has changed, however, and while there is still a need for a fun music-awards show that can balance the uptight Grammys broadcast, the VMAs are no longer it.


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Michael Jackson And Vitiligo

Source: The Examiner – By Deanna Brownlee / All Things Michael


Michael Jackson, the late King of Pop, was a powerful force within the music industry. He will forever live on as the man behind The Moonwalk, Neverland Ranch, and raw, unstoppable talent.

With fame, though, came some of Michael’s darkest days. As his success grew, people began to criticize every moment of the performer’s life. Once his skin changed, the world descended upon him like a pack of wild animals.

Under the watchful eye of the world, Micheal’s skin rapidly went from rich ebony to porcelain white. Not surprisingly, people had a lot to say:

  • He’s trying to be white!
  • He’s ashamed of his race!
  • He bleaching his skin!
  • He brought this on himself!
  • He’s doing it on purpose!
  • He’s crazy! What a weirdo!

The simple truth is that Michael Jackson had an autoimmune disease called vitiligo. You can’t cause it, you can’t catch it, and you can’t cure it. The few treatments that are available can be expensive, time-consuming, and ineffective with unpleasant side effects. The most practical solution is usually to just cover the lightened areas with makeup.

Vitiligo happens when your own body attacks the cells that produce your skin color. These cells then malfunction or die off. The result? Your skin loses color in patches. These patches can grow larger and larger until there is no unaffected color left. While vitiligo is not painful, it can be extremely distressing.

Micheal’s longtime makeup artist, Karen Kaye, remembers how he struggled with the disease:

“The beginnings of the vitiligo started happening relatively early. You know, he even was trying to hide it from me. He tried to hide it for quite a while. You know, he’d always try to cover with makeup and even out his skin tone and everything until it just got so extensive . . . I mean it’s all over his body. We were always trying to hide it and cover it for the longest time until he just had to tell Oprah and the world, ‘Listen, I’m not trying to be white. I have a skin disease.’ You know, in the beginning, I tried to cover the light spots to [match] the darkest part of the skin, but then it became so extensive that we had to go with the lighter part of the skin, because his whole body was reacting. He’d have to be in complete full body makeup – every inch of his body. You know, so it was easier to make the transition to him being to the lighter shade that he is.”

Michael is not the only person with vitiligo. JD Runnels, Lee Thomas, Tamar Braxton, Joe Rogan, and a host of other celebrities have the disease. It can affect anyone of any race, too. “Vitiligo affects up to 2% of the population,” says WebMD.

Next time you see someone whose skin looks different, don’t just assume that it’s from skin bleaching. Don’t just assume someone has some contagious disease. People with vitiligo aren’t “gross.” People with vitiligo are just that – they’re people. They’re moms, dads, sisters and brothers. People care about them, and they care about other people. In the end, isn’t that what really matters?


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Michael: Despite The Scandels, “In The End, It’s The Music That Counts”

Source: -iGroove Radio – By Raymond Bola Browne / All Things Michael


It’s been nearly five years since the death of Michael Jackson on June 27, 2009. During the last decade of his career, the King of Pop, who had once ruled the charts and MTV during the 1980s, now made more headlines with his personal life than with his music. There was the much-publicized baby-dangling incident in 2002 and the circus-like child-molestation trial in 2005 (which ended in an acquittal for Michael). Then there were the plastic surgeries and rumors swirling around them. On the musical front, almost any other artist would have been delighted with the level of success that MJ’s Invincible album achieved in 2001, but by Jackson’s standards it was a disappointment, causing him to complain publicly that the release had not been promoted properly by his label, and to suggest that racism played a role in the neglect. Taken together, it seemed like Michael’s career was in decline, a familiar tale in the entertainment business, and especially in Hollywood. Revelations about indulgent spending amid mounting personal debt only reinforced the image of a superstar in a downward spiral.

When news broke of Michael’s death just as he was rehearsing for a series of much-anticipated concerts, fans were shocked. Following a pattern that had developed around Jackson, the news soon focused on scandal. Some claimed that MJ was so weak and emaciated that he was barely able to perform. The release of the concert film This Is It proved otherwise: Michael was as good as ever at the end. When the cause of death was determined to be a hospital-grade anesthetic propofol, Jackson’s doctor was charged with involuntary manslaughter. At about the same time, Jackson family members sued concert promoter AEG Live for wrongful death. Five years after Michael’s passing, Dr. Conrad Murray has been tried, sentenced, imprisoned, and released, and the Jackson family has lost its case against AEG and been denied appeal.

In the wake of his death, Michael Jackson’s albums sold in record numbers, as fans rushed to find some last connection with the star and the music they loved. It was soon learned that Michael had always written — and often recorded — many more songs than he needed for most of his albums; this seemed to mean that fans could expect the release of “new” material for years to come. As it turns out, the recordings that remained were mostly demos and clearly unfinished in terms of production — tracks many felt Michael would not have wanted fans to hear. The first posthumous album was released in 2010; the idea of Michael was that producers would finish off these demos as Jackson would have intended. The recent album, Xscape (2014), is the second posthumous album and employs a different approach; a small group of top producers used only the vocal tracks from the demos and created new musical settings for each demo. While the musical results of this recent collection are interesting, they don’t really tell us much about Michael Jackson. They are a series of “variations on a theme by Michael Jackson” and, as such, serve more as showcases for the producers than as new tracks by Jackson. In terms of hearing Michael in the music, the approach of the first collection from 2010 is preferable, though the results are probably less commercially promising. Fortunately for historians and historically minded fans, a deluxe edition of Xscape includes the original demos for each of the songs. As stunning as some of the production on the new “variations” tracks is, I prefer Michael’s demos, even if they are plainer and unfinished.

Whatever one’s views about these posthumous releases is, however, once we start debating these albums, we are also turning our focus back to the music, back to what made us really care about Michael Jackson in the first place. It will be Michael Jackson’s music that endures. Celebrity has a short shelf life, and the public memory of scandals soon fades. How many still remember the last couple of years of Elvis Presley’s life when they think about the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll? Elvis’ decline before his death in 1977 was fodder for late-night comedians and newspaper cartoons; no longer the slim and sexy man he once was, Presley had become paunchy and puffy, a relic of rock’s past. By contrast, only a few years after his death — and the scandals surrounding it — Elvis’ image was no longer that of the overweight Las Vegas singer: He was the lean, young Elvis of the 1950s, or the leather-clad Elvis of the 1960s comeback special, or the jumpsuited Elvis of 1973′s Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite. Graceland became a popular tourist destination, and album sales soared (and remain healthy).

Now that the scandals concerning Michael Jackson’s personal life and tragic death have mostly run their course, his legacy will be defined primarily by his music, and by the ways he impacted the history of pop — the rise with the Jackson 5 as part of the Motown empire, the partnership with Quincy Jones on those iconic albums that they produced together, and the astounding, mesmerizing dancing. Long after the scandals have been forgotten, people will remember Thriller. The success of two Cirque du Soleil shows devoted to MJ and his music suggests that this transformation is already well underway. Admittedly, elements of scandal continue to cling doggedly to the Jackson legacy: There are fresh child-molestation charges, a class-action suit over three songs on the Michael album was recently filed, and the Jackson family continues to consider further legal action against AEG. But while there will be more of these kinds of extra-musical eruptions in the years to come, this part of the story is mostly over. Fifty years from now the details of Jackson’s personal life will be relegated to the footnotes of his career. Increasingly, the Michael Jackson legacy will be defined by the music, as well as by the dynamic performances of it that he delivered. Michael Jackson’s place in the history of popular music is secure. In the end, it’s the music that counts.


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