Monday, November 09, 2009

Michael Jackson - This is it...

I was a huge Michael Jackson fan in school.  I was crazy about everything he did: his songs, his dancing, his videos, everything.  I remember coming back from school every afternoon and playing Beat It 4 or 5 times and dancing around the room like an idiot.  My mom used to almost roll on the floor laughing!  I knew so many of his songs by heart.  I couldn't understand many of the words then, and since that was the pre-google era, i used to make up non-sensical words trying to make them sound similar to what he was singing.

Over the years as my music taste evolved (i moved on to stuff like Eagles, GnR, The Beatles, Pink Floyd, REM, Cold Play, etc) and as his career graph plunged, i lost touch with his music.  But every now and then whenever i chanced upon his songs i would listen with glee.

I saw This Is It in pune.  As i feared, less than 5% of the cinema hall was occupied, and that too mostly by middle-aged firangs.  I ensured that i sat in the middled of a large unoccupied space, not wanting any stupid noisy non-fans spoiling my experience by rustling plastic bags or jabbering away on their mobile phones.

I was blown away.  This documentary is basically created from bits and pieces out of hundreds of hours of footage during the rehearsals of his come back tour This Is It.  50 shows, to be performed in London, had been sold out.  Had those shows happened, they would have been absolutely MJ style; larger than life.  Unfortunately he passed away weeks before the first scheduled concert.  He and his crew had been working on the concept and execution for more than 4 years...

MJ became a star at the age of 6 as the lead singer of the Jackson 5.  His solo albums Off the Wall, Thriller, Bad, Dangerous and History were all best sellers.  Thriller remains the best selling album of all time, spending 37 weeks at the top of the US Billboard chart, and selling 110 Million copies (the 2nd best sold 49 Million copies), easily beating other greats like Pink Floyd, AD/DC, Meat Loaf, Eagles, Bee Gees, Guns n roses, Dire Straits, Led Zeppelin and The Beatles.  He won 13 Grammy awards (7th highest ever) and 22 American Music Awards, gave the world 17 No.1 singles, and achieved estimated sales in excess of 500 Million copies (different sources peg these anywhere between 200-750 million).

He changed the whole concept of music videos, delighting fans with terrific videos like Thriller, Beat it, Billie Jean, Smooth Criminal, Bad, Black or White, Remember the Time, Earth Song, and many more...

From the mid-80's onwards his skin colour and facial structure started changing, leading to rumours of numerous skin surgeries, reconstruction, and bleaching.  It was said that he was suffering from a severe psychological disorder called 'body dysmorphic disorder' causing obsessive dissatisfaction regarding his appearance.  There were reports that his nose had once fallen off.  Some attributed these problems to an abused childhood (he publicly admitted on Oprah's show that his father Joseph used to regularly beat him up as a child).  Then came the child sexual abuse allegations.  People were quick to label him a freak, and he gradually regressed into solitude, for many years making news only for the various controversies surrounding him. 

This Is It was the return he planned.  Despite the years of absence and deteriorating health, he remained an awesomely talented musician and singer.  And this documentary also shows the perfectionist that he was.  His selection of dancers, stage props, moves, lights, visual effects, sound effects, etc, were all fine tuned to the smallest detail.  And unlike many popular musicians, he had an amazing control on his music, hearing and correcting even a single stray note played by any musician around him. 

Though it is immediately noticeable that he wasn't dancing as much (supposedly weakened by years of addiction to painkillers and valium), his trademark moves were as smooth.  His lead guitarist, the blonde Orianthi Panagaris, was simply amazing.  I was screaming along all the songs i could remember, not giving a shit about whether other people could hear me or not.  How i wish atleast one of these shows had happened...

MJ remained a crowd puller till the end.  There is endless footage of fans screaming, weeping, fainting during his performances.  There is no doubt that there would have been similar frenzy had these last tours happened.  I just hope that now that he is gone, people slowly forget the controversies, and remember him for his music.  The one and only King of Pop.

7 comments:

Minal said...

Vivek,
Haven't yet seen the documentary but heard good reviews about it! And after reading yours need to see it!
Yes, MJ will remain the King of POP for our generation atleast. We grew up watching his songs attempting the famous moonwalk! Those were not the days of MTV and Channel V - my friend had got hold of the videos - Bad, Beat it, Thriller and The Way you make me feel - we watched endless re-runs!

His music was magical - for all the controversies and freakiness - his talent has ensured he will remain unassailable in the Music Hall of Fame for eternity!

enbiem said...

True. I watched it too. To some extent, to relive those growing -up moments of MJ following and euphoria. The film is pure MJ energy. The reverb totally takes you in.

quasi said...

Could not agree more. About your craze, I mean. heh. I remember, those long years ago when we were young(er)(grin), the time we acquired that 'bad' album. How dad was pissed about how a 'bad' album could be 'good'. You used to be mad about him. You used to sing a lot too. Me, I hardly liked or listened to music at that time. I was so daft - a daft with a crows voice. :)

Dude, I feel like in the daily grind, I have lost the memory of those days .. and whenever someone reminds me of that time, that golden time in retrospect, suddenly I realize the meaning of words like nostalgia. I guess we should make it a habit to once-in-a-while ruminate on our pasts and keep those memories alive least we forget who we were and were we came from.

Vivek Rao said...

hehehe

Dad really used to hate MJ and the others. Remember how he exploded when we had played Chok There by Apache Indian? Shit man he'd really lost it...

Yeah dude, those were the days. No stress, no responsibility, no 'need' to do anything... And i was so thin then!!!

Yeah, it is really important to remember our roots...thats what grounds us to reality...

Ashish said...

Even though I never quite kept track of his music since the release of Dangerous, I have fond memories of his earlier work. It was compulsory to have at least an album of his in your collection. Bad was the first record I owned. Discovered Thriller later. Great stuff.

Rashmi said...

I am not much into English music. Whatever I hear is only because of Vivek. I remember him singing a couple of MJ's songs, all lyrics by heart.

The best of his collections (whatever limited knowledge I have abt his work) was the Earth song. The video of that song in his Documentary film is ammmmmazzzzzzzing. I remember the first time I had listened to the song while reading its lyrics (I have great difficulty following western music on my own), I was so touched, I had goosebumps..

In fact, I wasn't quite sure I would enjoy that film (like the one on Ray - I found it damn boring). But on the contrary, I loved it... All said and done, he seemed like a great guy.

Unmesh said...

U should be writing a book on MJ.
Very nicely concluded.
Bravo!!