Wednesday, 4 November 2009

My Thoughts on ...."This Is It".

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Today I watched 'This is it' - the documentary tracking Michael Jackson's rehearsals in preparation for his upcoming London concerts, scheduled to begin in July 2009.

I've chosen to speak about this today, because I was moved to do so. Whatever you think about him as a man/human being - his musical genius demands respect.

He comes across as a natural genius, someone whose entire essence is part and parcel of his craft, his music. Unlike many of our recording artists today, Michael wrote 99.9% of his music (lyrics, melodies and music) - he knew each piece like the palm of his hand. He was able to instruct his accompanying musicians on exactly HOW he wanted a piece played, and yet at the same time, he wasn't so much about HIMSELF that he neglected to encourage and even nurture the talents of some of his musicians. He told one guitarist, "This is your time to shine, don't be scared, we'll all be here with you, but this is your time to shine, so take it."

Compare this to a popular female artiste whose concert I attended earlier in the summer, her supporting artists were not allowed the full use of the stage nor the huge projector screens to the rear of the stage. They had no specialist lighting and for the most part could not even be seen/identified due to the fact that their images were not relayed to the huge video screens around the venue. (These were only switched on when the main attraction hit the stage!) . Well ok, maybe the female artiste didn't want her supporting acts to steal her shine, but I honestly don't see how letting them have a lil screen time would've done this, since the main artiste's talents were clearly more refined and definitely better known than the other ladies. She - like Michael - had an opportunity to nurture someone else's talents but chose not to (or maybe she thought allowing them to share her platform was sufficient).

Back to the movie. Watching it made me smile, and at times laugh, but mostly I sat in reverent silence, reflecting on both the highs and the lows that troubled this genius.

Make no doubt about it - the man lived a troubled life. The recent revelations (accusations??) about his alleged substance abuse, his continuous pain, his addictions - the accusations of paedophilia that he never quite managed to shake... falling album sales, media attacks, financial troubles... you name it, he went through it. And yet, on stage, he put on a smiling face and became someone else, something else.

I admire that ability - to leave all your pain and troubles at the door and dance, sing, perform for those who loved you regardless of what everyone else thinks, reluctant to let them (your friends, family and fans) down - so you push yourself harder (possibly to your own detriment, it's unsettling to think that all the while he was dancing and smiling he could have been in incredible agony!)...

Ever a perfectionist, he demanded nothing less from those he worked with. Anyone who had a ticket to one of his shows would have been thoroughly entertained. The dancers, musicians, technicians were all some of the best in the world. It would truly have been a spectacle.

I feel sad and sorry for those incredibly talented dancers and musicians, who will never get to shine the way they would have at a 'Michael Jackson concert'.

How many 'big breaks', hopes and dreams shattered when that ambulance wheeled him away... I feel a sense of loss for them. They were all so excited, what happens to them now? I'm sure many will continue to be successful but I don't think it's the same. I do wish them the best though.

At 50,  this man was still creating, choreographing, demanding, challenging, rising to the occasion. That inspires me. He'd had  break from performing (like Whitney) and yet, when you hear him sing, it is unmistakably the voice of Michael Jackson: the SAME voice, he could have been 20 or 30 yrs old, he sounded the same. He sounded good. I love Whitney and how she has fought to overcome her own troubles but honestly, the sound of her voice is not the same (or maybe she was slightly hoarse when she went into the recording studio). She's still Whitney - just different. Michael was still Michael.

So often (and for so many years in this case), the media reported the negative aspects of his life; his bizarre antics, the accusations, the weirdness... we started to forget how much charitable good he did, we forgot about his work as a philanthropist, we forgot his music, we forgot him and saw him only as the troubled 'Wacko Jacko'. It was hard enough for me to deal with losing my hair to alopecia areata for almost 2 yrs, how would I have coped had my skin started changing colour too? I dunno...  it's just amazing how the 'Message' - totally good and philanthropic - can get missed amidst all the hype. Integrity of character is important.

Anyway, I'm not here to debate whether he had vitiligo or bleached his skin, or whether he was insane or genius, whether he had a thing for lil boys or whether he was a lil boy himself.  I just wanted to acknowledge that we lost a really talented guy.


ps for those of you interested in his charitable work, click here.  The list includes his work with underprivileged children and children affected by disasters, visits to hospitals, and work with organizations such as the Jane Goodall Institute, the TJ Martell Foundation, the United Negro College Fund, the Michael Jackson Burn Center for Children, the Prince’s Trust, the Great Ormond Street HospitalChildhelp USARonald McDonald House CharitiesMake-A-Wish FoundationBoys’ and Girls’ Clubs of AmericaChildren’s Defense Fund, Elizabeth Taylor’s AIDS Foundation and many more. It also details Jackson’s efforts to airlift 60,000 doses of children’s vaccines to Tblisi, Georgia, and his donations to hundreds of charities.


Mr Farrell said...

Only an "article" written by you can hold me @ this hour of the night...
needless to say well spoken as I hear your voice in my head while reading...
can't disagree with a word and can only give thanx to have seen the man perform live in my lifetime. Upset you didn't invite me to watch with you though. Who was the female artist if I dare ask? I can take a wild guess though

Al said...

Lily, you said it perfectly!!! why don't you write? This was a most moving article.

I was so touched by the movie I'm goin to see it for the third time, maybe tonite, wish you were here.

Mark said...

I start this off by saying I am a huge MJ fan, and have been lucky enough to have seen him perform live twice.

Whilst I admire MJ, for his music, his interpretation of other people's songs, and his vision in terms of utilising the media to promote himself and his music, and also his ability to identify the true power of music to obtaiin wealth, power and fame.

MJ was flawed - of that there is no doubt - but from a personal perspective I don't care. I look at what he was trying to achieve for the common good of the world, whether or not he was misguided makes no difference to me. I am all about people doing good for each other and for the betterment of the planet. That is what made MJ special for me.

In terms of the movie/documentary This Is It - I left feeling .... let-down, disappointed, embarassed, sad, robbed ... and several other emotions ....


To me as a fan - i accept that as an entertainer MJ was boss, he was by no means my favorite performer, as he lip-synched, his shows were too choreographed, lacked spontonaiety, too many special effects ... i like my live concerts raw, fresh, audience specific ... that's just me. However going to an MJ concert was an experience, you knew what you would get and how it would be - much the same as going to a West End / Broadway Musical. The Movie - reinforced this .....

Watching the movie I saw little I didn't know or had not seen before, his performances from the rehearsals were repetitive, boring and lacked any excitement - I've seen it all before, it seemed as though special effects and the whole stage show were in place to save the day .. he would clearly lip-synch as he had done on previous concerts for certain songs.

To me This is It was made purely for the opportunity to make more money for someone - and I like a fool spent my hard earned money to pay for it, to make matters worse I will buy the DVD when it comes out ..... why because I am a fan.

What did I get out of the movie - honestly nothing, i wanted more initimate footage, something tangible I could take away and feel like I really got close to him ... all I saw was a mish-mash of stuff quickly put together to rip people off ....

However - that is not MJ's fault - it was someone elses.

Ardith said...

Excellent article Annette even though you penned it as your "thoughts" and as a fan of Michael I concur with everthing you have written, including what you said about Whitney. Her voice is NOT the same but Michael was Michael. Period.
I remember owning the black jacket with all the zips (see the Thiller video) the summer that album dropped. It was amazing how people around the world wanted to sing, dance and perform like him. He was truly annointed where those giftings were concerned. Without a doubt, we all have to RESPECT the sheer genius of man. Whether you liked him as a person is totally irrelevant.
We see his influence STAMPED all over the entertainment industry. Our generation probably won't live to see another one like him

Bajan Lily said...

Thanks for all your comments.
Mark - I totally take on board what you're saying - a very well written response. However, (u knew that was coming lol), if you've never seen Michael perform - the movie doesn't disappoint (regardless of whether it was just a cash cow for his estate etc).

I agree that there is a disjoin between the beginning portions and the latter stages of the film: it began as what I expect was going to be a 'special feature'/added extra to the This Is It Tour videa (because surely a video would have followed)... but then as you say - it became a 'hastily threaded' series of his best rehearsals. I still didn't mind, because unlike you - I had a glimpse of him (and the way he worked) that I didn't have before.

Not sure I agree that he'd have lip synced his shows (but again I've never been to one so don't really know what he did); and I also was thoroughly entertained by the special effects and gismos (but then I'm a bit of a technical geek lol).

Bajan Lily said...

Since I never saw him do his thing, and I appreciate the creativity of the man and his supporting teams (musicians, singers, dancers etc) - I'd be inclined to go watch the actual 'concert' if they had it and used an MJ hologram to host it! Just bcos I'd want to see the choreography and special effects etc, to get a feel for how the whole thing put together might have looked. But then - some might call me crazy lol.

Oh yeah - and I don't think for a minute he'd have been able to complete 50 shows. 10 maybe 15 even, but I think he would have been too exhausted to continue.

The whole thing made me wonder whether genius is always accompanied by 'flaws' you know? personal issues... is the human being basically imbalanced so that it cannot be 'perfect' in every aspect of interaction? If you're a math genius - are you doomed to also be a wife beater? Nobel prize winner but suffering from halitosis and body odour? Hmmmm

Mark said...

I think you're right, there is a distinct link between genius and madness.

Think of any fabulously talented entertainer, dare I say Prince, Beethoven, Bing Crosby, Fela Kuti, Elvis ... not to mention any fabulous artist, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Picasso ...

We can all create a list of genii, and there is a common theme throughout - (excuse the Bajanism) but they all mad as shite! ... eccentricities, excessisms, megalomaniacs ... all ... but why?

Where does it stem from?

I actually lied - well made an error before - I've seen MJ 3 times I forgot about 96 Brit Awards where we were part of the security, and MJ did the famous 'I am Jesus' performance .... didn't see all of it as I was working .... but that was so unsettling for me - if you've never seen it - it's here .
Watching it the following day .... I was amazed at his audacity and disturbed by the symbolicism ... there is no way he was naive in this performance - because MJ is all about symbolism and imagery - he is brilliant at it. This performance was about MJ become the messiah to save the world ... I am not comfortable with that.

Some geniuses - will often take themselves out of the realm of the normal person and place theirselves in an elevated state because of the adulation and sycophantic behaviour from their followers ... we can not begin to imagine what their lives must be like to be surrounded by such.

Some geniuses are just mad from day one and because of their 'insanity' are able to experience life on a different plane and therefore are able to interpret life, music, art in different ways and then express it to us in a unique and dynamic way .... we as people love the new and the fresh ... same can be said of all those 70's psychodelicis songs when they were written and composed by bands high on LSD - think Lucy in The Sky with Diamonds, Whiter Shade of Pale etc .....

MJ was - and will remain - a genius in my book, I have nothing but respect for him and his music, and his legacy as the King of Pop and the World's Greatest Entertainer, that will never change, i admire his attempt to try and get us to stop and understand what we are doing to the world ... I am a believer in focussing on the positive people have done!


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