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The Misunderstood Power of Michael Jackson's Music
February 13, 2012 7:41 AM   Subscribe


 
Seems like he's the perfect test, as during the second half of his career he had turned himself white.
posted by mcstayinskool at 7:46 AM on February 13, 2012 [7 favorites]


It may be my inner rockist talking, but it seems many of the questions raised in the article are better asked of Prince.
posted by Bookhouse at 7:49 AM on February 13, 2012 [29 favorites]


I always wonder why we feel comfortable mocking Michael Jackson for having vitiligo, lupus and (probably) anorexia. I guess because he was famous and it didn't seem like gossip could hurt him.
posted by muddgirl at 7:57 AM on February 13, 2012 [22 favorites]


(Also, more in line with the article, I think there's definitely a racial component: because Jackson worked so hard to break through as a music artist, we were already primed to see him as an 'upstart' who was 'trying to be white.' The physical changes just confirmed our fears.)
posted by muddgirl at 7:59 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


It may be my inner rockist talking, but it seems many of the questions raised in the article are better asked of Prince. Robert Johnson.
posted by jimmythefish at 8:00 AM on February 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm not sure we can get very far on the race = skin color horse.
posted by Nomyte at 8:01 AM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't think so. I think he was an amazing talent, but he made himself to be a joke with the outrageousness and refusing to seek help for WHATEVER issues he had. I saw pics of his home after a warrant was served. This is not normal.

But that's what he's remembered for. Not the dancing, not the singing....being a freak show by his own hand.
posted by stormpooper at 8:03 AM on February 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


What was his skin colour anyway?
posted by GallonOfAlan at 8:05 AM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh yeah, I forgot to include "mocking his mental illness/instability."
posted by muddgirl at 8:05 AM on February 13, 2012 [7 favorites]


it is worth considering why the media took such issue with referring to Michael Jackson as the King of Pop. Certainly his achievements merited such a title.

But Michael Jackson lost it after Thriller. The problem with this article is that its simply not true. I don't believe M.Jackson was quite as influential as they claim. I really think Prince was a much greater Inovater and had a more lasting impact on Pop music.
posted by mary8nne at 8:08 AM on February 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


I always wonder why we feel comfortable mocking Michael Jackson for having vitiligo [citation needed]

I mean, it isn't as if Jackson's doctors were unimpeachable sources, you know. The vitiligo story always struck me as bogus.
posted by Skeptic at 8:10 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


The 'vitiligo story' is better-sourced than 'skin-whitening creams.' Of course he, like other celebrities, wore make-up.
posted by muddgirl at 8:15 AM on February 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


It may be my inner rockist talking, but it seems many of the questions raised in the article are better asked of Prince.

Lenny Kravitz: Oh, yeah. A radio programmer just said to me, "We can't play the first single because it has horns in it. Is it rock and roll? Yes. But we don't do songs with horn stabs." Now there's instrument bigotry? It's insane. Why have we regressed since the sixties and seventies, when you heard Led Zeppelin then Marvin Gaye on the same station?
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:17 AM on February 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Ugh, I meant to say that he wore make-up to even out his skintone and conceal the vitiligo throughout his career. There are concert shots from earlier in his career where you can see his darker foundation running.
posted by muddgirl at 8:22 AM on February 13, 2012


And, to be fair (as I'm far from a Michael Jackson apologist/fan), if he did have vitiligo it would cause uneven skin coloration. It's hard to imagine any celebrity (or indeed, anyone) that wouldn't be seriously tempted to even out a blotchy appearance.

FTA: But Jaliman said that from the photos, it appears that Jackson used a depigmentating agent on certain parts of his body to even out his skin tone.

That being said, the repeated operations to make his nose appear more caucasoid, together with the lightening skin tone, suggest that there may have been multiple reasons why he may have lightened his skin.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:24 AM on February 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Again, why do we care? Why do we even feel it necessary to discuss whether or not MJ wanted to be 'white'? (which is really impossible - skin tone and nose shape do not determine race)

I think that all celebrities get some unreasonable flak for trying to improve their appearance, especially when it goes wrong as it did in MJ's case with his nose jobs, but the gossip about Jackson seemed particularly vehemenent to me (and this was before the allegations about child abuse).
posted by muddgirl at 8:30 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Now there's instrument bigotry? It's insane. Why have we regressed since the sixties and seventies, when you heard Led Zeppelin then Marvin Gaye on the same station?

That DJ would definitely never play any Mr Bungle songs, some of which have horns, strings, death metal and country & western in the space of 30 seconds.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 8:31 AM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't really mean 'improve their appearance' - I mean when celebrities try to conform to some beauty standard. There are internet niches where people critique every star's plastic surgery, but IMO the general public doesn't care when Generic Caucasian Star #3 gets a nose job.
posted by muddgirl at 8:31 AM on February 13, 2012


mary8nne: But Michael Jackson lost it after Thriller.

No, he did not. Even if that were true, Off the Wall and Thriller alone would be enough to permanently enshrine most white artists' legacy -- even in the minds of oh-so-discerning critics.

Bookhouse: It may be my inner rockist talking, but it seems many of the questions raised in the article are better asked of Prince.

Prince has never been savaged by rock(ist) critics the way that Michael Jackson was. Or at least he hasn't been in the last 30 years.

The same dynamic that Vogel touches on in this piece is also relevant in some current posthumous "appraisals" of Whitney Houston. Per Caramanica in the Times, she was variously: a "cautionary tale" (just like Michael Jackson), someone who "remained in the public eye as something thornier" (also like Jackson), "a freakishly gifted athlete leapfrogging everyone around her" (can't get much more insert-racial-stereotype-here than that repellent phrase), posessed of a "Brobdingnagian voice," "someone more to be admired, like a museum piece, than to be emulated" (dismissing her as irrelevant post-1992, again just like Jackson), and "barely conceding to the changing times" (same thing), unlike her vocal "equal," Mariah Carey (who herself has become the subject of tabloid fodder as she has grown older and past her hitmaking period).
posted by blucevalo at 8:34 AM on February 13, 2012 [9 favorites]


but IMO the general public doesn't care when Generic Caucasian Star #3 gets a nose job.

Judging by the sales of US Weekly magazine every Thursday when it comes out, I'd say the general public does indeed care when Generic Caucasian Star X gets a nose job.

One of those times to feel glad that one isn't part of the general public.
posted by TheRedArmy at 8:42 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is going to be one of those RTFA threads. Hey everyone, I know you are just bursting at the seams with opinions, but ignoring the specific context of the discussion in order to announce them is lazy and rude.
posted by hermitosis at 8:43 AM on February 13, 2012 [7 favorites]


One of those times to feel glad that one isn't part of the general public.

And yet here we are.
posted by muddgirl at 8:44 AM on February 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


The autopsy report confirmed he had vitiligo.

But Michael Jackson won't be taken seriously in the way he deserves because people formed their opinions on him 20-30 years ago and refuse to re-evaluate them. He was--is--influential in a way that will be felt for a long, long time.
posted by girlmightlive at 8:45 AM on February 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Little Michael Jackson was excellent. He didn't know how to turn into an adult, his baggage from childhood fucked him. So yeah, lost the plot after Thriller and not the most important or most influential pop artist.

Here is where he shines:posted by Meatbomb at 8:47 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Anyone who say Michael Jackson wasn't influential or important post-1985 wasn't paying attention.
posted by girlmightlive at 8:50 AM on February 13, 2012 [11 favorites]


Oh, yeah. A radio programmer just said to me, "We can't play the first single because it has horns in it. Is it rock and roll? Yes. But we don't do songs with horn stabs."

Huh. I'm guessing that programmer was lying and just didn't want to have to tell Lenny Kravitz that he didn't want to play a Lenny Kravitz song. After all, Aerosmith is basically an all-horns band, with the guitars often mixed so low under the horns that they might as well not even be there. (Seriously, force yourself to listen to Dude Looks Like A Lady and marvel at the glorious/terrible horn section.) And I'm guessing that programmer wouldn't say no to the Rolling Stones because their songs have horns.
posted by The World Famous at 8:51 AM on February 13, 2012


I find myself disagreeing with the entire premise of this piece. Michael Jackson was completely huge. Stuff from Off The Wall still gets played in clubs without a trace of irony and people love it. Thriller was my favorite album for most of my childhood. Bad was also totally huge. And I could be wrong but I remember the "Black or White" video premiering after the Simpsons at the height of its popularity. Later in his career his music fell out of fashion somewhat and he was involved in a bunch creepy paedo scandals. That will tarnish a legacy.

I always wonder why we feel comfortable mocking Michael Jackson

Can't speak for anyone else, but for me it's because he was tremendously and deeply weird.
posted by Hoopo at 8:51 AM on February 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


screwed up my italics.
posted by Hoopo at 8:53 AM on February 13, 2012


But Michael Jackson won't be taken seriously in the way he deserves because people formed their opinions on him 20-30 years ago and refuse to re-evaluate them.

Even if every other crazy thing about Michael Jackson didn't exist, the compulsive crotch grabbing and heavy breathing was more than enough to overshadow the undeniable genius of his songwriting and arranging on a couple of albums. At the time, it was enough to make me change the channel. But now, as a parent of small children, I watch Michael Jackson videos and have the almost uncontrollable urge to ask him if he needs to go potty.
posted by The World Famous at 8:55 AM on February 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


(Seriously, force yourself to listen to Dude Looks Like A Lady and marvel at the glorious/terrible horn section.)

And "Rag Doll."
posted by blucevalo at 8:56 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is the world seriously at risk of understating Michael Jackson's influence? I mean, my god, he's the freaking King of Pop already. I remember the first time I was taking a ferry from Gibraltar to Tangier and they were playing his music on the PA system. I've seen Tunisian street urchins wearing frippe-bought MJ t-shirts depicting him recumbent in his white Billy Jean jacket and smoldering gaze.

The dude was amazing. But honestly, how much attention does his legacy really require of the world?

/not a MJ hater, but c'mon

p.s. A more frequent shout-out for Bob Fosse's dance innovations would be nice. Maybe if Fosse had a mental illness, had mutilated his face in an effort to appear as a different ethnicity and suffered a series of extremely awkward public interactions, folks would be talking about how he needs to be appreciated more.
posted by darkstar at 8:57 AM on February 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


Is the world seriously at risk of understating Michael Jackson's influence? I mean, my god, he's the freaking King of Pop already.

From the article:

"In 2003, Rolling Stone went so far as to ridiculously re-assign the title to Justin Timberlake."
posted by hermitosis at 8:59 AM on February 13, 2012


At the time, it was enough to make me change the channel.

Reminds me of this.

Which is really amazing to me because, in my house, with my somewhat prudish parents, that was never an issue. I always loved it and felt it added to what he was doing.
posted by girlmightlive at 9:03 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I do find it interesting that everyone is going "Oh, poor Whitney Houston" but never gave MJ that sympathetic attitude. They were both drug addicts, and they died from drugs. And so did Bob Fosse, to a big extent.
posted by Melismata at 9:06 AM on February 13, 2012


I do find it interesting that everyone is going "Oh, poor Whitney Houston" but never gave MJ that sympathetic attitude.

Huh. I saw and read a lot of people giving MJ that sympathetic attitude.

I always loved it and felt it added to what he was doing.

Can you explain that? What is it you always loved about the penis grabbing, and what did you feel it added to what he was doing?
posted by The World Famous at 9:09 AM on February 13, 2012


I don't think the horns comment was the takeaway, it was this:

Why have we regressed since the sixties and seventies, when you heard Led Zeppelin then Marvin Gaye on the same station?

Genrefication of music, which was kind of cool and fun in the '90s when we had industrial, darkwave, rockabilly, space lounge, ska, big beat, alt.country, etc, etc, etc... has now ossified into a structure where music must meet certain prerequisites to be properly categorized and marketed to the appropriate demographic.

I'm kind of concerned this trend is being reinforced with online music services, iTunes, Amazone, Last.fm, Pandora, etc, recommending only similar music... they'll never toss a curveball your way deliberately to see if you'd like to explore other directions.

A lot of this genrefication comes down to ethnic and gender stereotypes.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:10 AM on February 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


I find myself disagreeing with the entire premise of this piece.

But the replies in this thread completely illustrate his point. There have already been a couple people who say he made himself white, and then the vast majority of the responses are "I liked him (when he was black) but then get really weird, etc." and I agree with Vogel that that is a lazy way to evaluate his career.
posted by girlmightlive at 9:17 AM on February 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


But Michael Jackson lost it after Thriller.
Indeed. Bad was an embarassing commercial failure for Jackson, only selling 30 million copies worldwide.
posted by Critical_Beatdown at 9:19 AM on February 13, 2012 [10 favorites]


the compulsive crotch grabbing and heavy breathing

I interpreted these as a child star trying to recreate his image and be recognized as an adult and a sexual being and overdoing it. Lots of child stars go through this, and none of them ever seem to fully recover. See Britney and Christina.
posted by yeolcoatl at 9:21 AM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


and then the vast majority of the responses are "I liked him (when he was black) but then get really weird, etc.

Where?
posted by Hoopo at 9:21 AM on February 13, 2012


Also, in the world of dance Bob Fosse is one of the MOST celebrated legends. So not only does he NOT suffer from a lack of appreciation, but except in terms of sheer influence, his career had practically nothing in common with MJ's. Apples and oranges.

But by all means, let's leap into a thread about the devaluation of black artists with complaints that some white guy doesn't get enough attention.
posted by hermitosis at 9:22 AM on February 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


Indeed. Bad was an embarassing commercial failure for Jackson, only selling 30 million copies worldwide.

Yes, because we all know that huge commercial success in entertainment is a clear indicator of artistic merit.
posted by The World Famous at 9:23 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Melismata: I do find it interesting that everyone is going "Oh, poor Whitney Houston" but never gave MJ that sympathetic attitude. They were both drug addicts, and they died from drugs. And so did Bob Fosse, to a big extent

I think there's a perception that Whitney Houston was dragged down that path, at least at the beginning, by her abusive partner, whereas Micheal Jackson constructed his own network of enablers who allowed him to destroy himself.

I still think he's pretty sympathetic, because his health problems and his horrible parents probably had a lot to do with him basically losing his mind, but I'd guess that's why the difference in attitudes exists.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:25 AM on February 13, 2012


I think he was an amazing talent, but he made himself to be a joke with the outrageousness and refusing to seek help for WHATEVER issues he had.

You're right. Weirdos should stop being weird if they don't want to be mocked.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:26 AM on February 13, 2012


Can you explain that?

I was never offended by it. It's a dance move that I loved for being aggressive and sexual. Michael was always grinding his hips and thrusting his pelvis, even back in the late 70s. He got much more pronounced with it during Bad.

In This Is It there's a dance rehearsal scene where they're slowly walking through a crotch grab, going through the mechanics of it. One of the instructors grabs her crotch and says "this is ballet. Except Baryshnikov does it like this"--and she puts her hands on her thighs and slowly moves them up along her body--"and you do it like this"--and she grabs her crotch.

And that's how I look at it, just another dance move.
posted by girlmightlive at 9:26 AM on February 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


I feel like people like Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson get drawn into this abusive celebrity machine at ridiculously young ages, then have all kinds of scurrilous abuse thrown at them about their race, whether it's about "trying to be white" or "not being black enough" or crappy anti-black racism from white people. Like a lot of celebrities, whatever secure, ordinary community they might have had gets ripped away. They're always positioned as abnormal, even if they are "abnormal" because of their fame and extraordinary talent. Community, equality and unconditional love are what people need in order to be their best selves, and music celebrities almost always loose that.

And of course, everyone looks on in gleeful horror if they embarrass themselves or make a mistake - there's no room for them to sincerely work through anything because their whole lives are on a very big stage. People use celebrities to make themselves feel emotions, mostly unrelated to the celebrities' actual artistic production. And while there's a certain degree of foolishness in signing up for that kind of fame, just because someone is vulnerable doesn't mean you have to exploit them.

And I think this stuff is times ten for famous people of color.

Then everyone wonders why they're messed up, why they turn to using drugs, etc, why any kind of genetic vulnerability to mental illness or addiction gets 100% expressed.
posted by Frowner at 9:28 AM on February 13, 2012 [12 favorites]


I was never offended by it. It's a dance move that I loved for being aggressive and sexual.

Yeah, that makes sense. I was never offended by it, either. I just found it to be overwrought and painfully non-sexual, like a really unfortunate attempt at sexuality that completely misses the mark. Just another dance move, but one that looks like he really has to pee or something.
posted by The World Famous at 9:30 AM on February 13, 2012


The autopsy report confirmed he had vitiligo.

Did that also cause him to self-mutilate his face with repeated plastic surgery? Purchase the bones of the elephant man? Have extremely questionable private relationships with children? Shroud his children in burka-like clothing, and occasionally hang them out of windows? Create that crazy compound outside of Santa Barbara?

Whether this is mocking his clear mental issues or not, I don't see how you tease out this aspect of MJ from his race in how his "impact was minimized" (which I also think is a crock; his impact was and is ginormous).
posted by mcstayinskool at 9:30 AM on February 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


No, he did not. Even if that were true, Off the Wall and Thriller alone would be enough to permanently enshrine most white artists' legacy -- even in the minds of oh-so-discerning critics.
Indeed. I love MJ's music (and I'm a fan of Madonna too) but there's no justification for Madonna having over twice as many Rolling Stone covers as MJ. I'm not saying she didn't deserve 20 covers - her career is quite remarkable - but as a MJ contemporary, it's hard to argue directly he wasn't the bigger star, and that she deserved that many more.

It's also impossible to argue that Britney Spears deserves 13 to his 8. That, combined with their general embracing of black music if and only if white people perform it, is damning proof of racism on RS's part.

Which makes me wonder if that's why everybody's talking, yet again, about how weird MJ was.
posted by Critical_Beatdown at 9:32 AM on February 13, 2012 [9 favorites]


Where?

His skin began to noticeably lighten post-Thriller. Many people don't think he did anything worthwhile post-Thriller and some feel there is a correlation. Even the first comment says "during the second half of his career he had turned himself white."
posted by girlmightlive at 9:32 AM on February 13, 2012


The whole premise is ridiculous. Michael Jackson is one of the most overrated musicians ever. How could his contributions possibly be minimized?

Allen Toussaint? Sure. Michael Jackson?! You must be joking.

Jackson managed to leave behind one of the most impressive catalogs in the history of music.

This blog post is like an Atlantic self-parody.

I don't think so. I think he was an amazing talent, but he made himself to be a joke with the outrageousness and refusing to seek help for WHATEVER issues he had. I saw pics of his home after a warrant was served. This is not normal.

the gossip about Jackson seemed particularly vehemenent to me (and this was before the allegations about child abuse

Before he became famous for sleeping and showering with young boys, he was known for trying to buy the bones of John Merrick.

After 1990-whatever, "race" was not even a consideration for people when they thought of Michael Jackson. He was a unique case.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:33 AM on February 13, 2012 [7 favorites]


Yes, because we all know that huge commercial success in entertainment is a clear indicator of artistic merit.
If I wasn't talking about a wildly popular, critically successful record from a musical legend...
posted by Critical_Beatdown at 9:37 AM on February 13, 2012


Lots of child stars go through this, and none of them ever seem to fully recover. See Britney and Christina.

Did they recover or not? I thought they both had ... Christina's show seems to be doing OK ... Britney is ... back?
posted by mrgrimm at 9:38 AM on February 13, 2012


Did that also cause him to self-mutilate his face with repeated plastic surgery?

He thought he was ugly, the way millions of people think they're ugly. I disagreed with what he did but I don't understand why he needs to be villanized for it. And many people don't think he was mutilated, anyway.

Purchase the bones of the elephant man?

Ridiculous. I can't believe people still think this is true.

Have extremely questionable private relationships with children?

He had many families around, many children, he was never secretive about it. There was no evidence and no conviction of a crime.

Shroud his children in burka-like clothing

He said why he did this, and his children have explained as well. it's not something I would do.

occasionally hang them out of windows?

He did this once and he apologized, but I know that's not good enough for some people.

Create that crazy compound outside of Santa Barbara?

Many people, adults and children, have talked about how much fun they had at his ranch. I don't see what's so offensive about it.
posted by girlmightlive at 9:43 AM on February 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


In addition to a flood of ridicule regarding his intelligence, race, sexuality, appearance, and behavior, even his success and ambition were used by critics as evidence that he lacked artistic seriousness.

I read the article last week and was not entirely convinced, but this thread has made me reconsider that opinion. For everyone who keeps saying that he lightened his skin=he wanted to be white, please explain this quote from Jackson in 2002:

"All the forms of popular music from jazz to hip-hop, to bebop, to soul [come from black innovation]. You talk about different dances from the catwalk, to the jitterbug, to the charleston, to break dancing -- all these are forms of black dancing...What would [life] be without a song, without a dance, and joy and laughter, and music. These things are very important but if you go to the bookstore down the corner, you will not see one black person on the cover. You'll see Elvis Presley, you'll see the Rolling Stones...But we're the real pioneers who started these [forms]."
posted by oneirodynia at 9:43 AM on February 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


I meant to link that first italicized quote. They are both from the linked article.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:45 AM on February 13, 2012


If I wasn't talking about a wildly popular, critically successful record from a musical legend...

Again, "wildly popular" is irrelevant. And, frankly, so is critical success, and so is "musical legend."
posted by The World Famous at 9:46 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's also worth pointing out that he was no longer a fashion leader after "Bad" in 1987. That's 30+ years where was following trends, not setting them. His music basically emulated contemporary popular trends, with saccharine "Heal The World" motivational-poster ballads mixed in. It was not good for a long time, and hasn't aged well either. His contributions are almost entirely from his early, pre-"Dangerous" career.

there's no justification for Madonna having over twice as many Rolling Stone covers as MJ.

I disagree. Michael Jackson was into a family-friendly Disneyfied phase when Madonna was doing sexy sex. Also keep in mind he released all of 3 albums since 1987. The justification is selling magazines and interest from their readers.
posted by Hoopo at 9:46 AM on February 13, 2012 [7 favorites]


What is musically wrong with the Bad album?
posted by girlmightlive at 9:46 AM on February 13, 2012


Michael Jackson just didn't really have songs that lasted that well (post Jackson 5) of the 3 albums: Off the Wall, Thriller and Bad, that are the only decent ones there just aren't that many great time-less lasting hits - not in the league of say The Beatles, or even Madonna a contemporary.

Today, which of his post Jackson 5 songs are actually still ok? Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough, Bille Jean, Thriller, Beat it, and maybe Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'. about 5 songs? Bad is like a horrible Novelty song.

And where is this so often cited 'ínfluence' to be illustrated in contemporary culture? Really show me where I can see MJacksons fingerprints on musicians today?
posted by mary8nne at 9:47 AM on February 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


And here I thought his contributions were minimized because his fame came from a compilation of borrowed traits from other acts (James Brown's dancing, Little Stevie Wonder's music and act, later Diana Ross's look...) formulated and churned out from an industrial Detroit pop music factory as opposed to an original creation carved from virgin marble.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:52 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


(that should be 20+ years. Man I suck at typing)
posted by Hoopo at 9:53 AM on February 13, 2012


Oh, yeah. A radio programmer just said to me, "We can't play the first single because it has horns in it. Is it rock and roll? Yes. But we don't do songs with horn stabs."

Did anyone decipher the rockist nonsense David Grohl was spoouting last night? Real music isn't computers? Is he pissed off at protools or just use of electronic instruments in general?
posted by Artw at 9:55 AM on February 13, 2012


One person cites one song, Heal the World, to criticize over 20 years of music. Amazing.

which of his post Jackson 5 songs are actually still ok?

My personal favorites:

The Way You Make Me Feel
Speed Demon
Another Part of Me
Man in the Mirror
Dirty Diana
Smooth Criminal
Jam
In The Closet
Remember the Time
Can't Let Her Get Away
Who Is It
Give in to Me
Will You Be There
Dangerous
Scream
They Don't Care About Us
Stranger in Moscow
This Time Around
Earth Song
Come Together (Beatles cover)
History
Smile
Break of Dawn
Butterflies
Whatever Happens
Threatened
Ghosts

...are all excellent. Especially Who Is It.
posted by girlmightlive at 9:55 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


His influence today proves him to be one of the greatest creators of all time, but Jackson's art--like that of many black artists--still doesn't get the full respect it deserves.

There you go, the Atlantic, fixed that for you.
posted by Bovine Love at 9:56 AM on February 13, 2012


Michael Jackson's treatment to me indicates a clear prejudice against artists who fail to drop dead after producing their best work. Probably, with time, people will just pretend he did.
posted by Artw at 9:56 AM on February 13, 2012


Really show me where I can see MJacksons fingerprints on musicians today?

Kanye West references Michael constantly and can barely stop talking about how important he was to Kanye's life. R. Kelly's most recent album had a song that he'd written for Michael in anticipation of a collaboration before Michael died. Here's LMFAO talking about how much they love Thriller. More examples upon request.
posted by Copronymus at 9:57 AM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


One person cites one song, Heal the World, to criticize over 20 years of music. Amazing.

20 years that span 3 albums that I thoroughly dislike. Not sure why that's a problem
posted by Hoopo at 9:59 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Plus this insistence to ignore his non-musical contributions which, in many ways, rival the musical ones.
posted by girlmightlive at 10:01 AM on February 13, 2012


I think the evaluation of his career is blinkered somewhat by racism, certainly. But I don't know how you separate the effects of that from what could charitably be called his eccentricities. He was not a well man and people found him creepy as hell. There were reasons for why he turned out the way he did, but regardless of them, behaving as oddly as he did is going to have an effect on how people regard you. Howard Hughes was a tremendously powerful and influential industrialist for a period, but when you read about him now his OCD and weird Mormon bodyguards get top billing.

So while I think the article has a point in that Jackson did not perhaps receive the full recognition he was due, I don't think you can solely blame racism for that. And while Bad was huge and I think some of his latter records sold well, I don't think he was the king of pop in 2003. Artists shaped by his legacy were what was influential at that time, including, perhaps most egregiously, Justin Timberlake. Madonnas at least has had new albums that produced current hits within the last decade, and has fought hard to stay current. He was the icon of an era, and tremendously influential, and I think people recognise that. For the last decade or so I don't think his work was central to shaping what was going on in pop.
posted by Diablevert at 10:01 AM on February 13, 2012


I disagree. Michael Jackson was into a family-friendly Disneyfied phase when Madonna was doing sexy sex. Also keep in mind he released all of 3 albums since 1987. The justification is selling magazines and interest from their readers.
Michael was still hot stuff until after Bad had run its long and complete course. And don't forget the cover count includes the time he was a child star signed to Motown(!!!) during it's heydey, yet couldn't get more covers than someone who started releasing records in 1983? Maybe you don't remember Thriller, but it was a cultural phenomenon. If the "interest of their readers" is the yardstick you're using, he should have had 8 covers in that time period alone.
And, frankly, so is critical success
So what are you saying? That Bad had no "clear indicator of artistic merit", despite having every conceivable indicator of artistic merit?
What is musically wrong with the Bad album?
Nothing. Quincy Jones still had it. So did Michael.
Today, which of his post Jackson 5 songs are actually still ok? Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough, Bille Jean, Thriller, Beat it, and maybe Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'. about 5 songs? Bad is like a horrible Novelty song.
I think we need to agree to disagree over this....
posted by Critical_Beatdown at 10:02 AM on February 13, 2012


Really show me where I can see MJacksons fingerprints on musicians today?

First two that came to mind were Usher and Justin Timberlake. Dudes rippin' off MJ like crazy.
posted by Edison Carter at 10:03 AM on February 13, 2012 [7 favorites]


What is musically wrong with the Bad album?

It's going through the motions, trying to recreate the magic of Off The Wall and Thriller. The lyrics are terrible (though, in fairness, a lot of the Thriller lyrics are terrible, too), the "ooh, aah" thing has become too over-the-top, the melodies are boring, the song structures are predictable and cliche, and it's just generally too "safe." I'd do a song-by-song review, but that'd require me to listen to Bad and spend a bunch of time explaining it.

Did anyone decipher the rockist nonsense David Grohl was spoouting last night? Real music isn't computers? Is he pissed off at protools or just use of electronic instruments in general?

No, he's just excited to have made an album using analog equipment with people he loves and then have it be commercially successful. And he was pointing out that quantization does tend to suck the soul out of music in a way that is hard to replace in other ways. And he was correctly pointing out that making great music really is hard - regardless of what instruments and instrumentalities are employed. It takes tons of practice and dedication, and it takes musicianship. Behind every one of the shiny pop singers with dancers and lights and whatnot are teams of brilliant, dedicated, hard-working real musicians who have spent their lives dedicated to a craft that simply cannot be replaced by technology. The tech is a tool, not a shortcut. And when it is used as a shortcut, it fails.
posted by The World Famous at 10:03 AM on February 13, 2012


(Seriously, force yourself to listen to Dude Looks Like A Lady and marvel at the glorious/terrible horn section.)

And "Rag Doll)."


Hey, Rag Doll is pretty cool. There's not a lot of pop songs that start with a chorus.

I would argue that Christina Aguilera's career never really stopped, she's just taking a break. (I do think her attempt to clone Britney's sort of "Toxic" video style for that whole Xtina-does-electronica record was a giant waste of her talent, however, and a mostly junky record.)
posted by bitterkitten at 10:04 AM on February 13, 2012


So what are you saying? That Bad had no "clear indicator of artistic merit", despite having every conceivable indicator of artistic merit?

First, no, I'm saying that commercial success is not an indicator of artistic merit. Sometimes there is a correlation. There is rarely causation.

Second, the BAD album does not have every conceivable indicator of artistic merit.
posted by The World Famous at 10:05 AM on February 13, 2012


I believe the pederasty and body modifications had more to do public attitudes towards MJ than did is race or ethnicity.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:08 AM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


BAD still holds up on the strength of it;s good tracks, it has some stinkers though. It probably does mark the beginning of his need to dress up like a gimp and/or God Emperor of Candyland and start turning into panthers and all of that stuff as well, which may give it a bad rep.
posted by Artw at 10:10 AM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


For the last decade or so I don't think his work was central to shaping what was going on in pop.

I wish he were central because the majority of pop music out today is terrible.

But it seems as if you're setting up an impossible standard. His influence is there, but since it's not obvious, what, it doesn't count?
posted by girlmightlive at 10:10 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


And where is this so often cited 'ínfluence' to be illustrated in contemporary culture?

I'm just going to point out that Jackson had a huge influence on music video and the power it had (at one time) to drive a career. His videos were among the first to be polished productions with a narrative arc. (Not to mention: hat other black performer was regularly in rotation on MTV at the time? Pretty much no one). In turn, MTV hugely influenced the style and techniques used in TV and movies. This is part of what makes him important- I'm not a fan but even I can see that his influence goes beyond making good music and really drove a lot of creative innovation.

As far as musical influence... are you serious? This is a question easily answered by google. One of the many that come up:

"I think one thing that people have to recognize is the fact that he had Eddie Van Halen play on a song when those were two worlds that never collided before." Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong said, noting Jackson's ability to reach across many musical genres. "I remember being in the fifth grade when Thriller came out, and Off the Wall is a great record. ... We've been playing a song off it for our pre-show every night."
posted by oneirodynia at 10:10 AM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


> He had many families around, many children, he was never secretive about it. There was no
> evidence and no conviction of a crime.

He had boys who were under the age of consent in bed with him overnight, while he was in loco parentis. Nothing else he did excuses that.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 10:13 AM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


God Emperor of Candyland

Ha, this is very accurate. Our sons love MJ, by the way, especially Thriller and whatever the name of the last posthomous movie was.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:13 AM on February 13, 2012


I'm just going to point out that Jackson had a huge influence on music video and the power it had (at one time) to drive a career. His videos were among the first to be polished productions with a narrative arc. (Not to mention: hat other black performer was regularly in rotation on MTV at the time? Pretty much no one). In turn, MTV hugely influenced the style and techniques used in TV and movies. This is part of what makes him important- I'm not a fan but even I can see that his influence goes beyond making good music and really drove a lot of creative innovation.

Two words: Smooth Criminal.
posted by Talez at 10:17 AM on February 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


First, no, I'm saying that commercial success is not an indicator of artistic merit. Sometimes there is a correlation. There is rarely causation.
That first sentence contradicts the second: where there is indication there is correlation. Yes, the Village People sucked and they still sold a bunch of albums. But strong sales and good critical reviews are still indicators of artistic merit. This is the case with Bad.

And who was arguing causation?

Regarding the general dissing of Bad in this thread: Look, I'm not a MJ fanboy. I'd argue that most everything he did after Bad ranged from very occasionally enjoyable to somewhat listenable to consistently sub par, which is why I didn't buy any of it.

But Bad itself kicked ass. Quincy Jones produced an album that was a worthy followup to Thriller.
posted by Critical_Beatdown at 10:19 AM on February 13, 2012


Two words: Smooth Criminal.

I've been known to go on at length at how Smooth Criminal is one of the only truly postmodern pop songs. I mean, look at the lyrics and the disjointed narrative and then the bass line... it's amazing and I've yet to hear anything *that* popular that's also as artistically ambitious.
posted by sonika at 10:23 AM on February 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


But it seems as if you're setting up an impossible standard. His influence is there, but since it's not obvious, what, it doesn't count?

Yeah, I realised after I wrote that that it could be interpreted more than one way. When I say his influence, in one sense I think that that was obvious and everywhere --- look at Timberlake, or as others have said Usher. What mean is more that the music he himself was making for much of the 2000s and 1990s was not dominating the airwaves the way his 80s work did. There are some lucky artists that can produce a steady stream of songs throughout their career that are interesting and which break through --- U2's probably a good example. Most artists, though, even gigantic, trail-breaking, era-shaping ones, have a period where they're dominant and then they fade. And I'd say that was his case. So while I think he was tremendously influential I terms of his legacy, I don't think there were many people in 2003 going, "holy shit, the new MJ albumn drops on Tuesday, I'm gonna skip class and wait in line at Tower" you know? I mean, even Elvis was like that --- aside from the remix of A Little Less Conversation, he had about 15 years of dominance, mid-50s to comeback concert in 68.
posted by Diablevert at 10:24 AM on February 13, 2012


he lost me at "abc, it's easy as 123..."
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 10:24 AM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Hell, *I*'m a musician who was influenced by Michael Jackson. I use his songs as samples, I've copied movements in my dancing, I've taken cues from his songwriting: and I'm not that big of a fan. But to deny his influence is to fuck up.

IMO.
posted by Edison Carter at 10:25 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


He had a couple of not-great songs on every album. People ignore them on the early work but use them to completely write off later stuff he was doing that was very interesting. I don't really see people doing that with other musicians.
posted by girlmightlive at 10:27 AM on February 13, 2012


But strong sales and good critical reviews are still indicators of artistic merit. This is the case with Bad.

I disagree. Strong sales and good critical reviews are indicators of successful marketing. Any correlation between commercial success and artistic merit - ever - is a happy coincidence. A commercially-successful, critically-acclaimed album is, in my estimation, no more likely to also have artistic merit than an album that has no commercial success or even critical acknowledgement.

But Bad itself kicked ass. Quincy Jones produced an album that was a worthy followup to Thriller.

I'm listening to BAD right now, and I respectfully disagree, except to the extent that Thriller really has some stinkers on it, as well. But that's more a matter of songwriting than production. The production on Thriller is amazing. On BAD, it's, well, bad. Sorry QJ.
posted by The World Famous at 10:28 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


He had a couple of not-great songs on every album. People ignore them on the early work but use them to completely write off later stuff he was doing that was very interesting. I don't really see people doing that with other musicians.

Yeah, it's like saying because "Silver" was an odd, hard-to-listen-to song, somehow Doolittle isn't an amazing album otherwise.
posted by Edison Carter at 10:30 AM on February 13, 2012


The production on Thriller is amazing.

Seriously. Listen to it on a even a semi-decent pair of headphones and your mind will be blown.
posted by entropicamericana at 10:32 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd probably stab myself rather than listen to Liberian Girl or Man in the Mirror again, TBH. But come on - Bad the song is great, even given (or possibly because of) the utter ridiculousness of MJ trying to be some kind of street tough in the video, leading to some West Side Story style dance fighting nonsense.

IIRC it was originally going to be a duet with Prince - can you imagine?
posted by Artw at 10:33 AM on February 13, 2012


Yeah, it's like saying because "Silver" was an odd, hard-to-listen-to song, somehow Doolittle isn't an amazing album otherwise.

You realize you just compared "Silver" by the Pixies to "The Girl Is Mine," right?
posted by The World Famous at 10:33 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


You realize you just compared "Silver" by the Pixies to "The Girl Is Mine," right?

Yep. It's a shit song. They can't all be winners.
posted by Edison Carter at 10:35 AM on February 13, 2012


I've been known to go on at length at how Smooth Criminal is one of the only truly postmodern pop songs. I mean, look at the lyrics and the disjointed narrative and then the bass line... it's amazing and I've yet to hear anything *that* popular that's also as artistically ambitious.

The bass line. Oh my god the bass line. Right up there with Under Pressure, Go Your Own Way, Paperback Writer and Philadelphia Freedom.
posted by Talez at 10:35 AM on February 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


On the subject of MJ's legacy:

50 Cent, Aaliyah, Big Punisher, Biz Markie, Blackstreet, De la Soul, DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince, Ginuwine, Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five, Ice Cube, Kanye West, LL Cool J, Ma$e, Mary J. Blige, Master P, MC Lyte, Mobb Deep, Monica, Nas, Naughty by Nature, NWA, ODB, Public Enemy, Puff Daddy, Raekwon the Chef, SWV and Tupac Shakur have all outright jacked his beats through sampling.

I'd call that varied a range "influence".
posted by Critical_Beatdown at 10:35 AM on February 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


Yeah, it's like saying because "Silver" was an odd, hard-to-listen-to song, somehow Doolittle isn't an amazing album otherwise.

"Silver" is my second favorite song on Doolittle. But I grew up being dragged to bluegrass festivals by my parents, and so any eerie, morbid, high lonesome sound pushes all the right buttons.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:37 AM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


He had a couple of not-great songs on every album. People ignore them on the early work but use them to completely write off later stuff he was doing that was very interesting. I don't really see people doing that with other musicians.

Seriously? You must not read/listen to any kind of opinion on other musicians, then. "The early albums were the best" is practically scripture for any artist/group.

Ask mefites about BEP.
posted by Bovine Love at 10:39 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am amazed that people are unaware that MJ has had a huge influence on music, let alone that anyone would assert that he actively has not had a huge influence on music. That is honestly one of the most bizarre things you could say with regard to pop music.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:39 AM on February 13, 2012 [9 favorites]


TBH The bits I like least on Doolittle are all the shouting on all the tracks that are not Silver. Which probably makes me some kind of philistine, I know.
posted by Artw at 10:43 AM on February 13, 2012


Maybe you don't remember Thriller, but it was a cultural phenomenon

Yes I do, it was my favorite album for many years as I mentioned up thread. IMO Bad was his last album worth listening to. But it looks to me like I'm dealing with hardcore MJ fans who really don't want to hear it. This "number of Rolling Stone covers" standard is pretty bizarre BTW. He had 2 covers after Thriller and another after Bad. I fail to see how that's nto enough, but you're entitled to your opinion I guess.

I don't really see people doing that with other musicians.

You're not paying enough attention. "They were better before _________ came out" is practically a cliche. People even do this about Elvis.
posted by Hoopo at 10:43 AM on February 13, 2012


U2's probably a good example

With all due respect to U2, Zooropa and Pop were fucking garbage.

There's a reason why they said they were "reapplying for the best band in the world" with All That You Can't Leave Behind.
posted by Talez at 10:43 AM on February 13, 2012


"The early albums were the best" is practically scripture for any artist/group.

Except the Beatles.
posted by Edison Carter at 10:43 AM on February 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


I wish I could know what popular music would be like today without Michael Jackson, and then choose between the two worlds with eyes open and get to live my life in whichever I liked better.

Because I really, really hate almost everything he ever did, himself. I'd give a lot never to have to hear any of it again and have it all magically scrubbed from my brain. But if some of my favorite artists are somehow mystically influenced by him and wouldn't be around if it weren't for him, then maybe it wouldn't be worth it.
posted by gurple at 10:44 AM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


TBH The bits I like least on Doolittle are all the shouting on all the tracks that are not Silver. Which probably makes me some kind of philistine, I know.

Humanity. Always be throwin' me curve balls n' shit.
posted by Edison Carter at 10:45 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


It probably doesn't help that it starts on Debaser, the worst offender.
posted by Artw at 10:47 AM on February 13, 2012


It probably doesn't help that it starts on Debaser, the worst offender.

HEY NOW WE HAVE PROBLEMS
posted by Edison Carter at 10:48 AM on February 13, 2012 [10 favorites]


Except the Beatles.

Do we count Yellow Submarine in this theory or is this "the exception that proves the rule"?
posted by Talez at 10:48 AM on February 13, 2012


HEY NOW WE HAVE PROBLEMS

Would totally listen to a mix of it without the shouty bits, or proper vocals instead.
posted by Artw at 10:49 AM on February 13, 2012


Do we count Yellow Submarine in this theory or is this "the exception that proves the rule"?

Well, technically, the Beatles' contribution to this was an EP's worth, not an album. So.
posted by Edison Carter at 10:50 AM on February 13, 2012


Would totally listen to a mix of it without the shouty bits, or proper vocals instead.

Well, that certainly wouldn't be the Pixies, now would it? I MEAN REALLY, ART.
posted by Edison Carter at 10:52 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Diablevert, I get what you're saying but I don't think it really works. He released 6 proper solo albums over a span of thirty years. I think the Black Eyed Peas release that many albums per year. It was about 5 years between the releases of Bad and Dangerous. And yet he was expected to be at the peak of pop culture relevance in the years he didn't even have new music out?

"The early albums were the best" is practically scripture for any artist/group.

Of course I know that. But I don't really same the same vitriol and I do think people are much more willing to completely write off the later stuff.

Like the person above who said there were 5 good songs post-Jackson 5. I don't get that at all.

The Jacksons, not the Jackson 5, are fairly underrated I think. A friend of mine thinks their album Triumph is better than Off The Wall. I'm not prepared to make such a bold statement but it's certainly up there.
posted by girlmightlive at 10:52 AM on February 13, 2012


For some, it's the company they keep.
posted by artof.mulata at 10:52 AM on February 13, 2012


For 20 years i have held my silence on this...
posted by Artw at 10:52 AM on February 13, 2012


For some, it's the company they keep.

/clicks pic of Yoko Ono, Elizabeth Taylor, Liza Minnelli, Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston

/thinks

OH SHIT, LIZA'S NEXT
posted by Edison Carter at 10:54 AM on February 13, 2012


And, to be fair (as I'm far from a Michael Jackson apologist/fan), if he did have vitiligo it would cause uneven skin coloration. It's hard to imagine any celebrity (or indeed, anyone) that wouldn't be seriously tempted to even out a blotchy appearance.
The prosecution showed his autopsy photos in court, and experts have said he shows vitiligo
Jaliman said the photos show a loss of pigmentation consistent with vitiligo, a chronic disorder that causes depigmentation in patches of skin.
"From looking at the photographs, it looks like Michael Jackson does have vitiligo," Jaliman said, pointing to the uneven discoloration of his skin.
Anyway, it seems obvious that 1) He was a huge star at one point, from what I understand and 2) He was a seriously weird guy and had lots of pedophile rumors going on. How many white celebrities that were also thought to be pedophiles are there out there? That's obviously going to put a damper on anyone's career. Look at what happened to George Michael, for example and that had nothing to do with little kids.

Even after all that, he was still highly influential, look at Justin Timberlake, for example.
I do find it interesting that everyone is going "Oh, poor Whitney Houston" but never gave MJ that sympathetic attitude. They were both drug addicts, and they died from drugs. And so did Bob Fosse, to a big extent.
How many times was Whitney Huston prosecuted over child molestation accusations? I can't believe how little mention that's getting in this thread. If it's mentioned at all its' "questionable relations with children"
I interpreted these as a child star trying to recreate his image and be recognized as an adult and a sexual being and overdoing it. Lots of child stars go through this, and none of them ever seem to fully recover. See Britney and Christina.
Dude, Britney was sexual from the getgo. At least as a pop star, anyway.
Which makes me wonder if that's why everybody's talking, yet again, about how weird MJ was.
Because people are asking why he wasn't more famous and the obvious answer is that he was a freakazoid who everyone thought was a child molester? MJ didn't seem like a "normal" black person or even a normal person at all.
He had many families around, many children, he was never secretive about it. There was no evidence and no conviction of a crime.
He was prosecuted twice. And sorry, the question is about people's impressions of him and whether they wanted to recognize him or whatever, the fact he was charged and prosecuted for child molestation twice, and the fact that it was something that everyone who wasn't a super-fan thought was true obviously had a huge roll in his relative lack of popularity. Plus the fact he was super weird in general.
And he was pointing out that quantization does tend to suck the soul out of music in a way that is hard to replace in other ways.
That's ridiculous.
posted by delmoi at 10:56 AM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


This "number of Rolling Stone covers" standard is pretty bizarre BTW. He had 2 covers after Thriller and another after Bad. I fail to see how that's nto enough, but you're entitled to your opinion I guess.

I think that plays into the discussion in an interesting way. Like I said, I think MJ did suffer from racism in his career, and to some degree the rolling stone cover count puts a bare number on that's hard to rebut. On the other hand, while I think it's true that MJ was probably owed a few covers he didn't get in the 70s and 80s, it hard to think of too much he'd done in the past fifteen years that would warrant it, up until his recent comeback attempt and death. Whereas Madonna, who started a lot later than him, has had comeback albums and collaborations with other artists over the past 15 years that have kept her marginally relevant. There's a number of excuses to have her in the cover during the past decade. Less so with MJ. Though on the other hand, if Paul McCartney farts Jann Wenner's happy to put it on the cover. In many respects RS is still the bastion of old white rocker dudes.


With all due respect to U2, Zooropa and Pop were fucking garbage.

Eh, I'm not a big enough U2 fan to argue the case. But that kind of goes to my point --- even I, a non-fan, can think of a couple hits of theirs from the past 5 or 10 years, and they broke through in the early 80s.
posted by Diablevert at 10:57 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


We have a Rolling Stone subscription mainly because door-to-door salesmen with hard luck stories keep selling it to us and we keep falling for it. I mainly read it to see how many pages in it is until U2 is mentioned.
posted by Artw at 11:02 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


With all due respect to U2, Zooropa and Pop were fucking garbage.

Eh, I'm not a big enough U2 fan to argue the case.


I'm not a big fan either but Zooropa had it's moments and by no stretch was it garbage. I won't argue with the assessment of Pop though.
posted by Hoopo at 11:02 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


"The early albums were the best" is practically scripture for any artist/group.

Except the Beatles.


And the Stones.

But a lot of that has to do with the fact that they bridged the gap between an era where artists released albums entirely consisting of covers and one where they led the way in releasing ground-breaking original material. Recording and production technology also grew by huge leaps during the first few years of the Beatles and Stones' existence.

I wish I could know what popular music would be like today without Michael Jackson, and then choose between the two worlds with eyes open and get to live my life in whichever I liked better.

It's hard to understate his influence. But I think that's primarily a function of his commercial success and mainstream popularity, more than any unique aspect of his musical sound that people have copied since then. Without Michael Jackson, music would likely have drawn on the same contemporary influences as MJ - Stevie Wonder, James Brown, Giorgio Moroder, etc. Notwithstanding the brilliance of the arranging and production on Off The Wall and Thriller, I don't know that much of it was really groundbreaking. Some of it, probably. And I have always liked that he and Quincy Jones were able to get such an organic sound (on those two albums) out of the terrible "new" technology of the time. But still, he was mostly bringing to the masses a sound that had been forged by others. An alternative universe without James Brown and Stevie Wonder would sound a lot weirder than one without Michael Jackson.

But in terms of stage and video performance, MJ's influence would be hard to replace. Would there have been another pioneer in making big dance numbers a central part of pop video and performance? I'm not sure.

And Artw, I'm not sure he's done a version of Debaser, but this guy does some incredible things with Pixies songs.

And he was pointing out that quantization does tend to suck the soul out of music in a way that is hard to replace in other ways.

That's ridiculous.


If you say so. You have a lot of experience with it, I take it?
posted by The World Famous at 11:03 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


/vaguely remembers that Doolittle had a faux-reggae number as well, or at least a track that started that way.
posted by Artw at 11:03 AM on February 13, 2012


He was convicted in the court of public opinion and will be for all time. Everyone knows that. Many people, myself included, choose not to be part of that, and we're not all super fans. I'm not like that with anyone. I think it's wrong to treat people who were acquitted as guilty.
posted by girlmightlive at 11:04 AM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Dr. Michael Motherfunkin Jackson to you, sir.
posted by artof.mulata at 11:04 AM on February 13, 2012


Eh, I'm not a big enough U2 fan to argue the case. But that kind of goes to my point --- even I, a non-fan, can think of a couple hits of theirs from the past 5 or 10 years, and they broke through in the early 80s.

Not really. You said they put out a steady stream. U2 have their lulls. You know why you don't hear anything from Zooropa on the radio? Because people in their great numbers don't want to listen to Numb. And I don't blame them because it's fucking terrible.
posted by Talez at 11:10 AM on February 13, 2012


Not gonna lie, I haven't read the article yet. But if what it says is that MJ is disproportionately admired for his performing abilities and not given enough credit for his traditionally "artistic" (rockist) skills like songwriting, I totally agree with that.

Anyway, regardless of Bad's flaws, I fucking love The Way You Make Me Feel. I feel like, in love with Michael Jackson every time I listen to that song.

I also really like Say, Say, Say, and I don't know why people always focus on the admittedly chilling The Girl is Mine wrt MJ/Paul McCartney duets.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 11:11 AM on February 13, 2012


Say, Say, Say (which I like, too) fell off the cultural radar because it was on a forgotten Paul McCartney solo album, whereas The Girl Is Mine is on Thriller. So everyone who listens to Thriller gets reminded of The Girl Is Mine, but nobody ever gets reminded of Say, Say, Say.
posted by The World Famous at 11:14 AM on February 13, 2012


I fucking love The Way You Make Me Feel

That funky synthy solo break is killer.
posted by Hoopo at 11:16 AM on February 13, 2012


The Girl is Mine was the first single from Thriller and the critics said the album would prove to be an enormous flop.

The weakest song on Off the Wall, Girlfriend, was written by Paul McCartney. Hmm.

But Say Say Say is excellent, and they had another duet around that time, The Man, which was pretty good, too.
posted by girlmightlive at 11:16 AM on February 13, 2012



/vaguely remembers that Doolittle had a faux-reggae number as well, or at least a track that started that way.

I'm guessing "Mr. Grieves"? I suppose the beginning is sort of reggaesque... Though I could see "Here Comes Your Man" fitting the bill.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:20 AM on February 13, 2012




(also "Say Say Say" is awesome)
posted by Joey Michaels at 11:30 AM on February 13, 2012


I'm guessing "Mr. Grieves"?

/listens

Yeah, that's the one. Actually not entirely horrible as that sort of thing goes, somehow I'd imagined it as this long Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da type affair and not just a brief intro.
posted by Artw at 11:37 AM on February 13, 2012


So Artw, EVERYTHING WAS ALLRI-HI-HI-HIGHT, then?
posted by Hoopo at 11:38 AM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'd say the problem with Michael Jackson is that he was too talented.

He was a singer/songwriter of the highest caliber. He’s being compared to the Beatles in this thread because he’s one of the very few pop stars who’s comparably influential. Yes, he went downhill, as did Paul McCartney, and they celebrated their mutual decline by singing together.

The problem is that he was also a legendary dancer and choreographer. As I understand it, he’s somewhat revered in the dance world. Thriller is probably the greatest music video of all time.

Why that’s bad: since Jackson, pop stars have often been graded more on how they look than on how they sound. It’s hard to imagine that pre-Jackson pop stars could have gotten away with autotuned ghostwritten drek, but being a pretty boy/girl and dancing well seems to be enough to get the music industry machine behind you. Jackson created an expectation that pop stars would look amazing, an expectation that not every great-sounding musician can meet.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 11:39 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


since Jackson, pop stars have often been graded more on how they look than on how they sound.
Meh. I'd blame MTV for most of that. You're right through, "Thriller" was awesome in and of itself, but like N.W.A. (and to a great extent, the solo Dr. Dre) it sure did fuck things up with it's legion of inferior clones.
posted by Critical_Beatdown at 11:43 AM on February 13, 2012


There were vapid, pretty pop stars and dance fads long before Michael Jackson. Either way, almost every great achievement or career triggers legions of less-successful followers. Such is life.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:49 AM on February 13, 2012


girlmightlive: "Michael Jackson won't be taken seriously in the way he deserves because people formed their opinions on him 20-30 years ago and refuse to re-evaluate them."

I would argue exactly the opposite: that in the last 20-30 years a lot of his personal life shenanigans have made people re-evaluate their opinions of him in ways that are largely negative. Had he simply faded into quiet obscurity post-Bad - with no "Wacko Jacko" headlines and no "did he or didn't he?" molestation debates and no plastic surgery gone wrong photos in the tabloids and no creepy Peter Pan obsession etc. etc. etc. - without all of that, public opinions of him would quite likely be very different than they are now. I liked his music back in the 80's. But even with the nostalgia factor, and even being able to concede that some of his music still gets me (Smooth Criminal? Come on, there's nothing bad I can say about that song) - despite all that, I can't help but feel uncomfortable about the man. Because of the "did he or didn't he" stuff, the endless tabloid headlines, the surgery obsession, the descent into faux-childhood, and the fact that nobody close to him was able or willing to help him in the way he must have needed.

You might get crowned King of Pop by releasing an album like Thriller. But you don't keep that crown by resting on your laurels, and you certainly don't keep it by making your former fans feel uncomfortable with who you become as time marches on. It doesn't have anything to do with his race for me. It has everything to do with everything he chose to do during his weird downward spiral. That colors my opinion of him a lot more than his ethnicity.

I'm not saying one can't make the case that his legacy is downplayed because of his ethnicity, but it's awfully hard to argue that his personal life played no part in how we view him today.
posted by caution live frogs at 11:51 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I understand your point, caution live frogs, but it doesn't seem fair. Basically, no modern artist living in the eyes of the tabloids, without a studio system to protect them, can live up to artists (like Elvis or the Beatles) who didn't.

The Beatles, at the height of their success and even after, were exceedingly cruel to their wives and girlfriends. Nowadays, this behavior would be all over the tabloids, and I wonder if we'd be talking about how the Beatles can't be the Kings of Rock 'n' Roll because they 'made their former fans feel uncomfortable with who they became as time marched on.'
posted by muddgirl at 12:02 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Beatles, at the height of their success and even after, were exceedingly cruel to their wives and girlfriends.

Yes, but you have to admit it's getting better all the time.
posted by The World Famous at 12:04 PM on February 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


I don't think Vogel or anyone is saying that his personal life played no part in how people see him.

It didn't start with Bad. MJ was marginalized and criticized as an artist and a person from basically the start of his solo career, but he was always popular. That's one of the things he was criticized for.

And I understand if you feel uncomfortable, but why does that have to be how everyone is supposed to talk about Michael Jackson or look at his career? Because I don't really care that he lived at an amusement park or that he had plastic surgery or that he was in the tabloids. Many people don't, and they aren't all crazy superfans. I would absolutely be concerned if he hurt children, but there's no evidence he did, no matter what people feel about it.

He was weird but that never bothered me. He's worthy of study and honest assessment, like any other great artist, and it has nothing to do with feelings.
posted by girlmightlive at 12:12 PM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


MJ got a lot of attention, mostly because he allowed himself to be made into this sort of pop spectacle. There's no denying his talent, but I fail to see how he was that much greater than, say, Stevie Wonder. Or any other great pop musician, really.

So, if anything, I'd say people make too much of a big deal out of him.
posted by Afroblanco at 12:22 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Where is all this evidence he was marginalized? It really seems like one big strawman to me. What, Rolling Stones covers? First of, as noted, the covers tend to be tied to album releases, and MJ didn't to a lot of them. Secondly, we don't know why he didn't do more covers; the covers are collaborative (they are done in conjunction with the artist). Maybe MJ didn't want to do them. Maybe he had conditions they were unwilling to meet. Who knows?

What I do know is that huge numbers of artists credit him as a major inspiration. Take a music modern history course, and it will emphasis over and over the influence of MJ, and his videos, on modern music. Huge numbers of critics will compare any pop star exploding in popularity to MJ, and consider him to be the modern MTV+ benchmark. Many people still remember where they were, or under what circumstances, they learned of his death. It was massive news for a long time. His music is widely considered to be some of the finest pop music made in its time, and -- especially the first two -- those albums are widely considered to have aged very gracefully.

In fact, in Pop music I find it hard to think of an artist who is not more looked upon as being important to the development of the genre.

So where is all this naysaying? Sure there will be some (hell, some people deny the moon landing), but implying there is widespread disrespectin' is just ridiculous; a strawman erected to drive home a point about racism. Racism exists, and is a serious problem, but to pick as your example the man with the bestselling record in the world and who had massive eulogies dedicated to him is picking the wrong example.
posted by Bovine Love at 12:28 PM on February 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


MJ was marginalized and criticized as an artist and a person from basically the start of his solo career

I don't actually remember this. I mean there were all the weird rumours about sleeping in a oxygen chamber and the elephant man's bones and a monkey and stuff, but he actually encouraged that stuff at the time. Can you expand?

I fail to see how he was that much greater than, say, Stevie Wonder.

Good, cuz he's not greater than Stevie Wonder. Not even close.
posted by Hoopo at 12:30 PM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Is anyone saying that MJ is better than Stevie Wonder? It's sort of a curious position to take - does one black artist has to be better than another black artist to talk about how racism has affected their critical acclaim?
posted by muddgirl at 12:33 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Again, why do we care? Why do we even feel it necessary to discuss whether or not MJ wanted to be 'white'? (which is really impossible - skin tone and nose shape do not determine race)

muddgirl, the question is not "Did Michael change his actual race?", but "Did Michael want to appear as if he'd changed his race?". This isn't about genetic typing; it's about social camouflage, and rejection of self.

And I'd say the parallels with Elvis are pretty strong, and belie the "MJ is being treated differently because he's black" thesis. Amazing talent, spanning multiple genres, success across several entertainment media, a global sex symbol, but known for acts of personal charity and role-model-worthy behavior, ultimately deteriorating into sad and openly ridiculed sexual deviancy and drug addiction, leaving behind a middle-aged*, battered corpse.

*Just checked: both were age 42.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:34 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


And I understand if you feel uncomfortable, but why does that have to be how everyone is supposed to talk about Michael Jackson or look at his career?

I don't think that's the only thing people talk about, especially now he's passed. There's been a lot of reassessing of his career since then. As I recall, the New Yorker had a whole article by their dance critic just analysing that one aspect of his art. But in terms why 20 years of being a weirdo affected how people saw him....it's like that old joke with the punch line "you fuck one goat...." The allegations about the kids, especially, people are going to have a difficult time getting past that. Because it wasn't just an accusation -- it was the accusation and the amusement park, and his voice, and the sleepovers. You're right, nothing was ever proved in court. But what proof is there in such cases, but the word of a child? And how many parents wouldn't be tempted to take a couple million and move on with their lives rather than put their kid through the three ring circus of a trial? The Scots have a formal legal verdict in their system --- "not proven," meaning, it's possible they did it but the evidence we've seen is not sufficient for us to convict. And I think that's where most people are with MJ. After all, the majority of the molesters that do get caught exhibit many of the same patterns --- surrounding themselves with kids, etc.

Stuff like that inevitably affects the public's affection for you --- and legacy is just another word for "how well you are remembered."
posted by Diablevert at 12:36 PM on February 13, 2012


This is a bad article, and one which clearly started with a kind of ridiculous conclusion and then worked backwards, getting crazier from there.

1. Michael Jackson is not and was not underrated. He was the biggest pop star in musical history.

2. Rock critics maybe just could have had other reasons for dismissing MJ's pop output other than race. Like, for instance, the fact that they were ROCK critics evaluating dancy-poppy music.

3. And this one might just be my own personal thing, but I think MJ wasn't viewed as "black" so much as "alien." He was fully individual and in many ways deeply unsettling, especially as the years went on. Part of the tragedy of Michael Jackson is that we had roughly twenty years of deteriorating mental and physical health between Dangerous and his untimely death, and that said deterioration was very much in the public eye. That will always be a huge part of his mythos.

More to say when I compose it in my head, but there's a conversation worth having in here, somewhere, about race and pop-cultural influence, but this article is a shit way to start it.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:37 PM on February 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


So, if anything, I'd say people make too much of a big deal out of him.

Saying he was not "that much greater than, say, Stevie Wonder" is making way too much of a big deal out of him - but that's because of how great Stevie Wonder is, not because of any failing of Michael Jackson. There is no Michael Jackson equivalent to Innervisions, for example.
posted by The World Famous at 12:37 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


He was the biggest pop star in musical history.

I dunno. Did he win multiple Super Bowls?
posted by Edison Carter at 12:38 PM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


I mean, if you want to talk about racism in which R&B artists get promoted, we can do that.

Did Michael want to appear as if he'd changed his race?

And my question still stands - let's posit that Michael Jackson (who had a very fucked up childhood) wanted to engage in misplaced social camoflage and reject his black self, or whatever. Why is that something that we should mock, rather than feel pity and compassion for? When I see someone who hates themselves as much as Jackson allegedly did, I don't think "Wow, that guy is wacko! What a freak!" I find it profoundly sad that someone has to live in a world where they feel the need to subject themselves to such pain.

He was the biggest pop star in musical history.

...except for Justin Timberlake, apparently.
posted by muddgirl at 12:39 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


And I should confess that, when I was a young thing in the 90s, I mocked Jackson as cruelly as anyone else. But I hope I grew out of that.
posted by muddgirl at 12:41 PM on February 13, 2012


This is a bad article, and one which clearly started with a kind of ridiculous conclusion and then worked backwards, getting crazier from there.

...

More to say when I compose it in my head, but there's a conversation worth having in here, somewhere, about race and pop-cultural influence, but this article is a shit way to start it.
Of the 3 points you made, the first two are directly (and IMHO, sufficiently) addressed in the article. The third points covers events that largely occurred after the racism that marred his career from the beginning had already taken place.
posted by Critical_Beatdown at 12:50 PM on February 13, 2012


does one black artist has to be better than another black artist to talk about how racism has affected their critical acclaim?

Nope. I think the point was that a lot of us don't think Michael Jackson is a good example of racism affecting critical acclaim, since he's kinda has the best selling album of all time and has enjoyed tremendous critical and commercial success over his celebrated career. Whereas Stevie Wonder, whose pop career has also been very long and successful, may be a better example of someone who's legacy and influence isn't as recognized as it should be and maybe serves as a more illustrative example of the phenomenon the article is trying to draw attention to.
posted by Hoopo at 12:51 PM on February 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm not talking about tabloid rumors, I'm talking about how he was thought of as a musician. he wasn't taken seriously by many people, and many circles. Some people feel his success and contributions lie only in his ability to sell lots of records, but it's more than that. People didn't believe he wrote his own songs. People thought everything he did, musically, was because of Quincy Jones.

Is this all soul-crushing? No, but I think it's worth discussing. Many people keep saying Michael Jackson couldn't possibly be underrated because he sold so many albums, but that's not really the point.

You're right, nothing was ever proved in court. But what proof is there in such cases, but the word of a child?

There's frequently proof.

And in the first case, it's probable that the kid's allegation were heavily influenced by his father. In the second case, the family were in a previous trial where it was proven that they lied on the stand.

Both the FBI and the LAPD followed him for years and they never found anything.

how many parents wouldn't be tempted to take a couple million and move on with their lives rather than put their kid through the three ring circus of a trial?

Conversely you could ask how could parents take millions of dollars and let their child's molester walk free?

Child molestation is a serious and horrible crime, but I don't agree with treating people who went through the system and were acquitted as if they were convicted, no matter what the crime was.
posted by girlmightlive at 1:00 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Did Michael want to appear as if he'd changed his race?

No, if you take him at his word, no. He was asked in an interview if he changed his skin because he wanted to be white. He said no, he had vitiligo, and he was proud of being African American.

That's if you take him at his word, which I don't think people are willing to do.
posted by girlmightlive at 1:02 PM on February 13, 2012


I'm talking about how he was thought of as a musician. he wasn't taken seriously by many people, and many circles.

I would think you have to play an instrument (in public) and/or actually sing to be taken seriously as a musician?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 1:10 PM on February 13, 2012


They had a Stevie Wonder themed concert at the White House. Does he really not get recognition or attention as the genius he is? He's universally beloved musically, as far as I can tell. I don't think the Wonder/Jackson comparison holds up.

I would think you have to play an instrument (in public) and/or actually sing to be taken seriously as a musician?

Yeah, and I never agreed with that viewpoint that only real musicians play instruments in public.

But now I've been in this thread far too long and it's time to go do something else. Have a good day.
posted by girlmightlive at 1:15 PM on February 13, 2012


I think the point was that a lot of us don't think Michael Jackson is a good example of racism affecting critical acclaim, since he's kinda has the best selling album of all time and has enjoyed tremendous critical and commercial success over his celebrated career. Whereas Stevie Wonder, whose pop career has also been very long and successful, may be a better example of someone who's legacy and influence isn't as recognized as it should be and maybe serves as a more illustrative example of the phenomenon the article is trying to draw attention to

Bingo. Basically, after you pass a certain threshold of "stardom", how popular you become has less to do with the quality of your music and more to do with how you manage (or fail to manage) your image. This isn't to say that MJ wasn't innovative, or his music wasn't great. He was enormously influential, and had incredible reach. But how much of that reach was due to inherent talent, and how much of it due to the star-making machine?

Live by the machine, die by the machine...

Genrefication of music, which was kind of cool and fun in the '90s when we had industrial, darkwave, rockabilly, space lounge, ska, big beat, alt.country, etc, etc, etc... has now ossified into a structure where music must meet certain prerequisites to be properly categorized and marketed to the appropriate demographic. [...] I'm kind of concerned this trend is being reinforced with online music services, iTunes, Amazone, Last.fm, Pandora, etc, recommending only similar music...

Actually, I'd credit all those services with encouraging people to branch out more. For example, Pandora and Spotify (the two services I use) serve up this sort of all-you-can-eat buffet of music from every genre. So it's a lot easier to "try out" a new genre now than it was back in the day when you either had to buy an album or wait for something to come on the radio.

Speaking of radio .... radio is fucking weird now. I listen to it about once a month when I have to take out a Zipcar for some errand or another. It seems like, for all intents and purposes, there are three stations now : (1) Shitty club music (2) Extinct classic rock and (3) Hip Hop. Having mostly exhausted classic rock in my teens, I find myself turning to the hip hop stations more and more. Is it just me or has hip hop gotten more ... interesting? ... in recent years? I feel like they're putting more effort into the music/backing tracks now. Hate that auto-tune shit, though.

The music that I'm really into -- the post-rock/droney/shoegazey stuff -- will never be played on the radio, yet I would have never even heard of it had it not been for Pandora, grooveshark, Spotify, and that hoary old standby, Youtube.
posted by Afroblanco at 1:17 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


But by all means, let's leap into a thread about the devaluation of black artists with complaints that some white guy doesn't get enough attention.

Just for the record, I reject this framing of what I said, which was really race-neutral and not at all reverse-discrimination grar as that rejoinder suggests.
posted by darkstar at 1:23 PM on February 13, 2012


I have this theory about innovators, and it may well have been proposed by brighter minds than my own though I've not heard other people discuss it.

I believe that the reputation of innovators suffers because of the work of the people they inspire regardless of the quality of the work of the people they inspire.

To whit, you have artists like Gram Parsons or Alex Chilton/Big Star. Their music is excellent and highly influential, but many of the folks they inspired built some even more amazing music off of the innovative foundations they laid. When you go back and listen to Big Star after listening to (for example) The Replacements, Big Star doesn't sound all that innovative.

On the other hand, with somebody like Madonna or Michael Jackson, people are selective in their imitation. The grand ambitions that both of those artists (and the quality of the material they were producing) were unlike what anyone else was doing at the time and immediately spawned a slew of less interesting imitators (and, big picture, a few excellent artists who built on their foundations). When somebody listens to Michael Jackson after listening to any of the hundred or so pop artists that tried to sound exactly like him in the 80's, perhaps they think "wow, he's pretty good, but listen to all this crap he inspired."

The crap ends up getting associated with the gold, in an aural sense.

(This is not to say that Madonna and Michael Jackson weren't borrowing from earlier musicians in their own right - just to say that, to the general public, their influences were less obvious, particularly in the 80's)

Then, of course, the innovator suffers when he or she continues to release new material. Perhaps they spend an album or two exploring their earlier innovations, in which case they seem to be treading water. Or their forced to put out a record due to the demands of the label before they're really ready. Or their moment passes as 18 years pass between albums. Or their ego gets in the way and they become convinced they can do no wrong and they release the pop equivalent of Metal Machine Music.

Anyhow, my point here is that its possible to simultaneously recognize that Michael Jackson was a genuinely innovative musician and be completely dismissive of him because he spawned Rockwell and made Eddie Murphy think he should be a pop singer. The rock is not the ripples it creates in the water, but it is the cause of them.

Similarly, it is possible to recognize that he changed the face of music (sic) from Off The Wall to Bad and then maybe starting losing his artistic compass. Dismissing Thriller's influence simply because Invincible was dreadful is silly. Thriller changed pop music. Jackson and Jones created that (and ignoring Jones' contribution is to do a grave disservice to him just as giving him all the credit is doing a grave disservice to Jackson).

/ramble
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:23 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thriller changed pop music.

Did it really change pop music as music? I'm honestly not convinced it did in any deep or meaningful way. It's a great album, musically speaking, and the production, songwriting, and arrangement are brilliant. But how did the musical landscape of pop change as a result of Thriller?
posted by The World Famous at 2:03 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Whereas Stevie Wonder, whose pop career has also been very long and successful, may be a better example of someone who's legacy and influence isn't as recognized as it should be ...

I dig Stevie, but unrecognized he is not: Awardss (sic)--25 Grammies, Best Song Oscar, numerous ASCAP, songwriting, and U.S. government awards ... just nitpicking.

I'm sticking with Allen Toussaint.

Thriller was crap. My2c.

But how did the musical landscape of pop change as a result of Thriller?

Yeah, I don't buy it either. (I'll just say I disagree with the "great" and "brilliant" qualifiers.)
posted by mrgrimm at 2:17 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Really show me where I can see MJacksons fingerprints on musicians today?

Dancing, dancing, dancing.

Dude was an amazing dancer.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:20 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm sticking with Allen Toussaint.

Also Ike Turner.
posted by Hoopo at 2:20 PM on February 13, 2012


Not to mention: hat other black performer was regularly in rotation on MTV at the time?

You apparently did not watch much MTV. I watched too much.

Ronnie, Bobby, Ricky, and Mike? (and of course Ralph)

And Prince (which, as per, is non-youtubeable).

And Tina Turner (shoot me)

And Lionel Richie. (shoot me again)

And Billy Ocean (one more time)

And the Pointer Sisters

And Peabo Bryson

And Ray Parker Jr.

And Rockwell.

And Stevie Wonder, of course.

Oh yeah, and, uh, Whitney Houston?
posted by mrgrimm at 2:35 PM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


But Bad itself kicked ass. Quincy Jones produced an album that was a worthy followup to Thriller.

Honestly, I've never heard anyone make this claim before. Cheers!

"The early albums were the best" is practically scripture for any artist/group.

Except the Beatles.

And the Stones.


And Radiohead.

I think it's wrong to treat people who were acquitted as guilty.

What about when they aren't acquitted (or tried) and pay $15.3 million to settle child-molestation charges? Perhaps not "guilty," but perhaps "very suspicious"?

Is anyone saying that MJ is better than Stevie Wonder? It's sort of a curious position to take - does one black artist has to be better than another black artist to talk about how racism has affected their critical acclaim?

No, but I think it's pretty clear (or agreed on by members here) that Stevie Wonder is a better musician and songwriter than Michael Jackson. And yet Michael Jackson gets much more commercial and critical acclaim. Maybe I'm wrong about that.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:52 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Not to mention: hat other black performer was regularly in rotation on MTV at the time?
You apparently did not watch much MTV. I watched too much.
No, he was watching it. You're remembering it wrong. Thriller was 1982, and in 1982 nobody black was on MTV.

"All Night Long" was October of 83.

Prince's Purple Rain was 1984, as was Tina Turner's MTV hit Private Dancer, Billy Ocean's hits, the Pointer Sister's hits, Rockwell (featuring MJ on background vocals) and Ray Parker Jr.'s "Ghostbusters".

Whitney Houston didn't come along until 1985.

The correct comparisons to M.J. in 1982 where Rick James and Kool and the Gang - who had one of the years biggest pop hits with "Superfreak" - and never got played on MTV.
posted by Critical_Beatdown at 3:12 PM on February 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Did it really change pop music as music?

Quoting from here:
From the distance of a quarter-century, the release of Thriller looks like … the most significant event in popular-music history in the past quarter-century. It is the record that ended commercial pop radio's de facto apartheid, that ushered in the modern music-video era, that turned a former kiddie star into a new generation's equivalent of Elvis and the Beatles. Thriller sold 40 million copies during its initial run, and today the worldwide sales stand at 104 million. Those numbers may well represent the last great moment of pop consensus. At a time of intense musical fragmentation, it is charming to remember a record that seduced seemingly everyone: blacks, whites, grade-schoolers, grandparents. Even metalheads found their thrill on Track 5.

Today, we know Thriller so well that it is hard to hear it—to remember, for instance, the mind-bending novelty of hearing Eddie Van Halen shredding on a Michael Jackson hit.
It wasn't just MTV that changed their playlists. "Beat It" was one of the few songs that got play on both my local rock station and my local pop station.

And then, perhaps more importantly, there's this Billboard article:
As Jackson moonwalked his way into music history, "Thriller" set a new benchmark for blockbusters that changed how the music business promoted and marketed superstar releases. It also changed MTV, breaking down the cable network's racial barriers and raising the bar for video quality.

From the beginning, Epic intended to live up to its name. The label made "Thriller" the first major release to debut worldwide simultaneously, the first album to be worked for close to two years instead of the usual six or eight months and the first album to spin off seven singles to radio-more than double the normal number.

Along the way, "Thriller" redefined the expectations for blockbuster releases. Starting in 1984, Columbia released seven singles from Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A.," all of which landed in the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100. Around the same time, Warner Bros. sent to radio five singles from Prince's "Purple Rain." Mercury found seven singles on Def Leppard's "Hysteria," all of which went to the pop chart. All three albums eventually sold more than 10 million copies each in the United States alone.
So Thriller opened the doors for other mega-pop acts of the 80's and beyond. There's several pages to that article and worth reading.

Other folks have mentioned the quality of dance and the quality of video, but Jackson (with the help of some major strong arming from CBS records president Walter Yetnikoff) broke through some pretty major barriers. Its hard to see that today, since the barriers were changed, but if you lived through the release of the album, you heard it.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:30 PM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


The most interesting discussion I remember after Jackson's death was when Jesse Thorn had Oliver Wang and J. Smooth on his interview show.
posted by gen at 3:44 PM on February 13, 2012


Anyone trying to deny Jackson's huge influence on pop music simply wasn't alive then or at anytime since. Elvis was never that big.

When it comes to the music, opinions on his personal life (from gushing pontificators) are non sequiturs. I can go dig up crap about the life of hundreds of famous musicians over the past century, none of it means a thing. Put on the cans and listen.

Jackson was a genius. Whether the popularity of his music or anyone's will stand the test of time is impossible to know. Heard much Bing Crosby lately?
posted by Twang at 3:55 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I get and agree that it changed the business and that it was super popular. But how did it audibly change music, aside from maybe making more popular its particular brand of pop dance music that already existed in the mainstream in an already popular but not quite so popular state?

Its hard to see that today, since the barriers were changed, but if you lived through the release of the album, you heard it.

I lived through the release of the album. It was more popular than the music of prior years that sounded like it, and the post-Thriller charts saw greater frequency of music that sounded like it, but Thriller wasn't a ground-breaking sound as much as a ground-breaking commercial hit and market movement.

There was no sense at all that Thriller was a new sound that nobody had really been hip to before. For example, comparing the number one singles for 1979 (when Off the Wall was released) with 1983 (to be fair to Thriller, which was released at the end of November 1982), '79 was a way bigger year for MJ's genre than '83. Notwithstanding the huge sales numbers for Thriller, the longest-running #1 single of 1983 was "Every Breath You Take" by the Police. Thriller represented the culmination of a decade-long marketing effort, resulting in the hugest commercial success ever - not a ground-breaking, influential sonic experiment. The sonic experiments had already been done both by others and by Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones themselves. And that's not a bad thing.

On the other hand, I must concede that the two worst musical elements pioneered by Thriller did end up nearly ruining pop albums for decades: The cheesy metal guitar solo on a pop dance song and the horrible theatrical voiceover. If I had a nickel for every otherwise-listenable hip hop album virtually ruined by vocal play acting apparently inspired by Vincent Price on Thriller, I'd have at least like twenty dollars.
posted by The World Famous at 3:59 PM on February 13, 2012


Heard much Bing Crosby lately?

Well yeah, every Christmas.
posted by hermitosis at 4:00 PM on February 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


The banter with Sinatra are the best bits.
posted by Artw at 4:04 PM on February 13, 2012


Ridiculous. I can't believe people still think this is true.

I agree that trying to buy a man's bones is ridiculous, but the chief administrator of the Royal London Hospital confirmed it, didn't he?
posted by Hoopo at 4:18 PM on February 13, 2012


"You just bought Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's bones, and he's not even dead!"
posted by Artw at 4:30 PM on February 13, 2012


The sonic experiments had already been done both by others and by Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones themselves. And that's not a bad thing.

We're talking about a different set of things here. One can innovate in a field in many different ways. Jackson and Thriller changed things first and foremost in cultural terms - the "ending musical apartheid" thing.

Whether the album itself changed the sound of music is, of course, a subject up for debate (though I would argue that this was a significantly different way of approaching pop music than this. The two sound a decade apart and that is, perhaps, because Jackson and Jones invented the sound of 80's pop - and cemented it with Thriller).

That said, the quote you pulled from my last entry does come across as sounding like I'm referring to the music itself. What I was actually trying to communicate was that there was stuff you could hear on certain radio stations that you'd not previously heard on those same radio stations - the musical apartheid thing, again. I should have phrased it better.
posted by Joey Michaels at 5:06 PM on February 13, 2012


I agree, for the most part, Joey Michaels. Michael Jackson was the conduit for more mainstream popularity of that kind of music, and it was a big deal.

Musically, Billy Jean might not sound quite like Don't Stop, but Wanna Be Startin Somethin' sure does. And Billy Jean's beat and overall sound are straight out of 1977.
posted by The World Famous at 5:15 PM on February 13, 2012


"Thriller" redefined the expectations for blockbuster releases

And that was probably one of the worst things about it. The 'mega-pop' artists were unavoidable after that. They release something and you are going to hear it for the next three years. Great, if it is up to the quality of the Thriller singles, but few things come close to those singles. Not even MJs subsequent work comes close.
posted by borges at 5:27 PM on February 13, 2012


Hmm. You know, I still think there's a significant aural difference between "Staying Alive" and "Billy Jean." Its kind of hard for me to put my finger on, but there's something about "Staying Alive" that sounds dirty and funky and something about "Billy Jean" that sounds clean and cool.

That's not an expression of "one is better than the other," mind you (though I thinking "Staying Alive" beats out "Billy Jean" just in terms of pure music sex, if that makes any sense). Just that there's something about "Billy Jean" that sounds precise without sounding sterile.

I know this comparison has been made a million times, but "Billy Jean" almost more musically in common with this. I think that's a reflection of the extreme perfectionism of the artists involved.
posted by Joey Michaels at 5:33 PM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


And the rhythm section.
posted by Joey Michaels at 5:34 PM on February 13, 2012


Also, who knew that Donald Fagan was Weird Al Yankovich?
posted by Joey Michaels at 5:34 PM on February 13, 2012


It's too soon for "legacy." I spend a lot of time with kids, white and black, and regardless of what their parents might think, they all love Michael. They weren't alive when his scandals and personality were what "Michael Jackson" meant. All they know is his music, and they love it.
posted by that's how you get ants at 5:42 PM on February 13, 2012


Eminem's contributions have definitely been maximized because of his skin color. Same for Christina Aguilera, and on and on. DUH
posted by Flex1970 at 6:03 PM on February 13, 2012


The Girl is Mine was the first single from Thriller and the critics said the album would prove to be an enormous flop.

The weakest song on Off the Wall, Girlfriend, was written by Paul McCartney. Hmm.


I must be the only person in the world who likes both of those songs.
posted by reenum at 6:06 PM on February 13, 2012


It's never too soon.
posted by clarknova at 6:58 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


clarknova: I think it might be.

But coming back here, I have to agree with Bookhouse way up at the top of the thread that a more reasonable discussion about racism in regards to how we view pop-culture legacy would start with Prince. Prince is an artist who I think fits much more comfortably within the genre classification of "rock" than Michael Jackson ever did, and who was/is similarly insanely talented, but far more prolific, and far riskier with taking "rock" into weird and new places and succeeding at it.

But we never think about the dirty guitar solos or other clearly "rock" elements Prince brings to his tunes, because (I believe) his race makes us latch onto the funk and R&B elements (which are definitely there) and classify him as something other than "rock."

Now, "Rock" is a label which has very welcomingly received bands and artists in the past as diverse as:

Bruce Springstein
The Beatles
Radiohead
Megadeth
Red Hot Chili Peppers
Dave Matthews Band
Pink Floyd
Creed
The Ramones
Steely Dan
Four Non-Blondes
Elvis Costello
The Clash
Big Audio Dynamite
Counting Crows
Elvis Presley
Smashing Pumpkins
Buddy Holly
TV on the Radio
Nine Inch Nails
Drive-By Truckers

and on and on and on. But the list of African-Americans (or Blacks from other cultures) fully considered to be "rock" is considerably shorter. Off the top of my head, I'm coming up with:

Ike Turner (who incidentally probably invented the genre)
Jimi Hendrix
Lenny Kravitz
Living Colour

(Yes, most of Dave Matthews Band and most of TV on the Radio is black. But they do have white front-men which I contend makes a difference here.)

Now, look at that first list and see just what a broad range of musical attributes that covers. Then look at the second list and see how narrow the range is. Who else would one instinctively add to the second list? I think rationally Otis Redding, for one, but others might place him elsewhere. Fishbone I'd think for sure, but some critics might be tempted to label them as a "funk" band, as if that distinction means anything when we're including the Chili Peppers in the "rock" classification without another thought.

P-Funk and all it includes? Forget about it. Unclassifiable, I think most would immediately think. And that's my issue. I don't think the "rock" cognescenti discredit Prince, or P-Funk, o Michael Jackson, or many other black artists who shaped "rock." But I think that for some reason they are wary to put them in the same pantheon. Listen to this and thisand this and then this.

All of those fall under what we call "rock," and yet there is some hesitation in putting George Clinton or Prince under that same heading. Because they are "something else." And they are. They are outstandingly talented beyond most musicians regardless of race, but "rock" has a way of jumping to include envelope-pushing into new styles and innovations from white artists and respecting the same from black artists while still not quite letting it into the community.

I feel like Nick Hornby had it right in High Fidelity when he just referred without worry to friends who liked "black music" or "white music." Maybe this will change in the near future, but check out your local music megastore now before it closes, and see how the CDs (they do still exist) are categorized. It will be mostly based on race, which is a fact that gets weirder and weirder every day.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:16 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


People always forget Bodycount...
posted by Artw at 9:24 PM on February 13, 2012


And Bad Brains.
posted by Hoopo at 9:57 PM on February 13, 2012


CHUCK FUCKING BERRY?
posted by entropicamericana at 10:33 PM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Chuck Berry
Thin Lizzy
Ben Harper
Little Richard
Billy Preston
Cee Lo
Fishbone
Wilson Pickett
Booker T. Jones
Hootie
Stevie Wonder
Sly & the Family Stone
and yes, Prince, who is unequivocally rock and roll.
And I would add all of the rest of the Motown artists and most of the Stax artists.

Michael Jackson? Sure, he did rock and roll occasionally, when he brought in guest rockers to do the rocking for him. And the Motown stuff is rock and roll.

Fishbone I'd think for sure, but some critics might be tempted to label them as a "funk" band

What? Fishbone is unequivocally a rock band with ska roots.

All of those fall under what we call "rock," and yet there is some hesitation in putting George Clinton or Prince under that same heading.

Where George Clinton is concerned, I suspect the main issue is his constant insistence that he is a funk artist, his evangelism of funk, using the word "funk" in most song titles and lyrics, and general self-definition as "funky."
posted by The World Famous at 10:37 PM on February 13, 2012


24-7 Spyz
posted by mrgrimm at 10:39 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Veldt
posted by mrgrimm at 10:39 PM on February 13, 2012


Psychefunkapus
posted by mrgrimm at 10:45 PM on February 13, 2012


Okay, okay, I said I was going off the top of my head.

And I'm going off of what radios, critics, etc. consider "rock." Ben Harper, Hootie, Chuck Fucking Berry, obviously I missed those. Cee-Lo, well, it depends. Is he working with Gnarls Barkley or on his own? Because I think we see a similar dividing line there. Stevie Wonder, Booker T., Sly & the Family Stone, all get filed in the "other" category by most, I think.

It's not right, but that's my point.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:50 PM on February 13, 2012


Your point is totally valid, Navelgazer.
posted by The World Famous at 10:53 PM on February 13, 2012


Copronymus: Kanye West references Michael constantly and can barely stop talking about how important he was to Kanye's life. R. Kelly's most recent album had a song that he'd written for Michael in anticipation of a collaboration before Michael died. Here's LMFAO talking about how much they love Thriller. More examples upon request.
This reminds me of an anecdote about Nabokov and Dostoevsky. Now, Nabokov despised Dostoevsky. When he was teaching at Cornell, a grad student who didn't realize this approached him about supervising a dissertation on Dostoevky's influence on modernist Russian writers. Nabokov was appalled: "Dostoevsky has no influence!" he declared. The student countered by asking if it were not true that Leonov had been influenced by Dostoevsky. "Poor Leonov! Poor Leonov!" Nabokov said. The student showed himself out.

So, in the spirit of Nabokov, I'm simply going to say: "Poor Kanye! Poor Kanye!"
posted by Sonny Jim at 1:27 AM on February 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


What's interesting is that before there was "rock" there was "rock n' roll", which was exclusively a black thing, until the white boys caught on and started copying their black heroes. And then at some point, it changed. I don't know if it fragmented or what. But at some point, "rock n' roll" became "rock". And I think that's when it became primarily a white thing. Of course even then, it's super debatable. For example, where does Soul fit in? Sam Cooke invented soul music, but many of his hit singles are undoubtedly rock n' roll. And what about Motown, and Doo Wop, which arguably are more closely-related to rock n' roll than, say, Pink Floyd. And while you may argue that Funk is its own thing, George Clinton was following in the footsteps of James Brown and Little Richard, who were solid rock n' roll, through and through. And what about Ray Charles, who married Gospel to the Blues to create music that, once again, was undoubtedly rock n' roll? And what about the girl groups? And what about Phil Spector? Was the Wall of Sound rock n' roll?

Anyway, I can't pinpoint with any degree if certainty what happened to rock n roll. But it seems like at some point in the 60s or 70s, rock went one way, and roll went the other way, leaving people such as myself to ponder the question, "What the hell happened to the roll?!"
posted by Afroblanco at 1:52 AM on February 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Of course, I have Whitney on the brain. And in the 80s and early 90s, when we weren't giving Michael the love he deserved and she wasn't high as a kite, she could do no wrong. Her How Will I Know video ('85) has white dancers and suggests she's an object of desire across racial categories - pretty unusual back then. At least for the male-dominated music critic culture I think it was less threatening to embrace a black woman than a black man, especially one who mixed/transcended so many styles. And all the weird habits. Put that together and MJ was TMI, at least back then.
posted by Hellebore at 4:30 AM on February 14, 2012


I have to quibble with P-Funk; that's not rock, that's prog rock.

Re Michael Jackson's influences, I think that the correct way to judge it is to look at the gestalt of his work, the music in combination with the dancing, the videos, even the promotion. MJ pioneered the modern, multimedia pop star where it is just as important for a Britney or a Justin or a Kylie to be able to dance well as sing well, to have kick ass videos as well as awesome live shows.

Video killed the radiostar, but it was Michael Jackson who pulled the trigger.
posted by MartinWisse at 5:18 AM on February 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


Anyway, I can't pinpoint with any degree if certainty what happened to rock n roll.

I blame Eric Clapton. He was the first guitar god. While he himself has been open about he reverence for and indebtedness to the blues, I think he started the trend of guitar worship in rock n' roll that led to hard rock, which is mostly a white dude thing.

On the other hand, while rock n' roll was born of the blues, there's also a strong folk strain that started pouring into rock through Dylan, and the folk revival was pretty white. Not folk music itself, but the popularisers of folk in the 50s, the lefty, collegiate, Joan Baez coffeehouse crowd, that was a pretty pale phenomenon. Dylan came from that and brought a lot of that high brow cred into rock, and a lot of the California crowd of the late 60s and 70s goes through there, too --- Crosby stills Nash and young, Joni Mitchell, onto the eagles and fleet wood mac and that. The Beatles, too, to some degree with the psychedelia and the ragas and so forth, brought a lot of influences into rock which weren't from the black American experience.
posted by Diablevert at 7:21 AM on February 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have to quibble with P-Funk; that's not rock, that's prog rock.

Not always. Listen to the first 3 Funkadelic albums. It's straight up rock and roll, and some of the most outstanding rock of the late 60s/early 70s at that, yet no one ever talks about it. Later in to the 70s perhaps, but on Funkadelic, Free Your Mind and Your Ass Will Follow, and Maggot Brain we're talking rock and roll with a touch of funk and acid with songs that wouldn't be out of place on a Hendrix album.

And while you may argue that Funk is its own thing, George Clinton was following in the footsteps of James Brown and Little Richard, who were solid rock n' roll, through and through.

Besides, who says a funk band can't play rock music?
posted by Hoopo at 9:36 AM on February 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also everyone always forgets Love

And Fugi

And Black Merda

And Death

And...well yeah. Point is a lot of these guys don't get their due.
posted by Hoopo at 9:42 AM on February 14, 2012


I blame Eric Clapton. He was the first guitar god. While he himself has been open about he reverence for and indebtedness to the blues, I think he started the trend of guitar worship in rock n' roll that led to hard rock, which is mostly a white dude thing.

On the other hand, without him all those old blues guys never would have got any acknowledgement and certainly no money.
posted by Artw at 10:08 AM on February 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


"A radio programmer just said to me, "We can't play the first single because it has horns in it. Is it rock and roll? Yes. But we don't do songs with horn stabs." Now there's instrument bigotry?"

They don't give a damn about any trumpet-playing band. It ain't what they call rock-and-roll.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 12:12 PM on February 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Listen to the first 3 Funkadelic albums. It's straight up rock and roll, and some of the most outstanding rock of the late 60s/early 70s at that, yet no one ever talks about it.

That's certainly true. The problem with those three albums though is that it may be fine rock, but they can be a bit of a slog to get through, especially compared to Parliament at its finest (Chocolate City up to The Motorbooty Affair). I takes effort to get through those first Funkadelic albums and I'm not sure it's always worth it.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:38 PM on February 14, 2012


Really? I find just the opposite--the first 3 Funkadelic albums are the only ones I can sit through from beginning to end. Oh well, I got a thing, you got a thing, everybody's got a thing
posted by Hoopo at 12:00 AM on February 15, 2012


And he was pointing out that quantization does tend to suck the soul out of music in a way that is hard to replace in other ways.

That's ridiculous.

If you say so. You have a lot of experience with it, I take it?


I can only say that house music is extremely soulful, and is frequently quantized. Arguments are welcome.

(and that an appreciation for dance music brings a new light to MJ's oeuvre. Those basslines... shiet)
posted by flaterik at 2:54 AM on February 15, 2012


I can only say that house music is extremely soulful, and is frequently quantized. Arguments are welcome.

Yes, I agree, which is why I characterized Grohl's sentiments as meaning that quantization tends to suck the soul out of music in a way that is hard to replace in other ways.

I agree that some house music is soulful. As a songwriter, musician, and producer myself, my only real commercial successes so far have been in EDM and house. And, based on my own work in EDM, I stand by my general agreement with what I think was Dave Grohl's general point that quantization tends to suck the soul out of music in a way that is hard to replace in other ways. House music is an example of a style of music that sometimes overcomes those difficulties. At the same time, really great house music is very often made with samples and loops that are not strictly quantized, and I've spent a lot of time in the studio with well-known house music producers who put a lot of effort into moving various samples and other elements off the grid to make the groove work better.
posted by The World Famous at 10:38 AM on February 15, 2012


(By the way, I don't want anyone to get the wrong impression - I would not hold myself out as an expert on EDM or house. My own commercial successes so far have been incredibly modest, at best.)
posted by The World Famous at 10:54 AM on February 15, 2012


At the same time, really great house music is very often made with samples and loops that are not strictly quantized, and I've spent a lot of time in the studio with well-known house music producers who put a lot of effort into moving various samples and other elements off the grid to make the groove work better.

That is an excellent point/rebuttal/whateveritis.
posted by flaterik at 2:05 PM on February 15, 2012


Which is fair enough, on the other hand there's the emphasis on instruments.
posted by Artw at 2:12 PM on February 15, 2012


Artw, I'm assuming you mean that "rock" or whatever has more of a focus on instruments, rather than the other way around. Is a keyboard not an instrument? Is a sampler not an instrument? Most electronic music doesn't focus on vocals (though some does, obviously), if anything it has more of an emphasis on the instruments, while rock etc focuses on the person playing the instrument.
posted by flaterik at 2:40 PM on February 15, 2012


I don't have a transcript, but there was mention several times of learning instruments, which is fair enough, but some kinds of music you don;t need more to make than a laptop these days.
posted by Artw at 2:44 PM on February 15, 2012


That doesn't make it not a musical skill, it just makes it not realtime. You still have to learn how to use the instruments (I've tried. I'm a pretty good DJ, but I'm shit at producing. I'm sure I could learn given time, since I was not confused by the software, but I pretty much failed at teaching myself)

All classical composers needed was a piece of paper. It may be more akin to composing than playing in many instances, but that doesn't lessen it.
posted by flaterik at 2:51 PM on February 15, 2012


SOUNDTRACKER 4 LIFE!
posted by Artw at 2:53 PM on February 15, 2012


Really? I find just the opposite--the first 3 Funkadelic albums are the only ones I can sit through from beginning to end.

They're certainly not bad, but I found that with Funkadelic, the ones that I don't skip songs on are Let's Take It to the Stage, Tales of Kidd Funkadelic and Hardcore Jollies. Everything else, inlcuding One Nation Under the Groove (Promentalshitbackwashpsychosis Enema Squad (The Doo-Doo Chasers)) has something annoying on it.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:47 PM on February 15, 2012


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