Who was your favorite singer as a child? Did you have one? I did. And for me, it was without question, hands down, no contest, undeniably, no doubt about it, MICHAEL JACKSON. I was obsessed with Michael Jackson, Michael Jackson’s music was everything, and needless to say, Michael Jackson was my all-time favorite singer. I can’t emphasize enough how much I loved MJ. I was totally obsessed. Did I say that already? Because I was totally obsessed. I was. Fanatic. It was MJ all day, every day, “Michael Jackson this” and “Michael Jackson that.” It was watching the videos, learning the songs, scratching the hell out of my CDs because I was listening to the music over and over again, and annoying my family and friends and anyone who came across me with talk about The Gloved One. No kidding. I mean anyone. If you didn’t know about me and Michael Jackson, at the end of our talk, you sure did.
But the chances are, if you knew me from the period beginning in late elementary school until halfway through high school (which is a pretty good chunk of time), then you already know this, and you probably have some
embarrassing epic stories about my fascination with Michael. You know that I, bodega express, was the Unofficial Official President of The National Michael Joseph Jackson Fan Club. (That’s right he has a middle name, and of course I know it! It’s Joseph after his father, Joe Jackson. But anyway.) I was it. ME. If there was a universal organization for fans of The King of Pop, then I was probably running that shit, too.
- You know that I used to wear black, fingerless gloves to school during the winter
and even a little into the springjust because they reminded me of MJ. (My brother got me those.)
- You probably got me a Michael Jackson CD for my birthday or Christmas, just like I asked for. (Thank you to my other brother and my friend for those awesome gifts.)
- You still make fun of me about the day I cried at the end of watching the entire Dangerous tour. (I’m looking at you, Hassy!)
- You took me to this random flea market in the city where they were selling vintage MJ items; that’s where I found a signed copy of his autobiography Moonwalk and
the greatest album ever madethe Thriller record. (Double score!)
- You remember being in class with me that day in the 7th grade when I did my first book report of the year on said memoir. (And you sucked your teeth cuz you already knew by then that I loved MJ having announced this bit of information in the 6th grade.)
- You tried to get me tickets to the 30th Anniversary Concert Special at MSG as a graduation gift in the 8th grade. (Mom)
- You yelled at me when you found out I skipped school to go to the Virgin Megastore in Times Square for the Invincible autograph signing in the 10th grade. (Mom, again.)
You are totally freaked out by any of the above
confessions statements. (You. Yeah, YOU.)
And on and on and on.
I’m sure you’re probably wondering why the fuck I was so obsessed. And with Michael fucking Jackson of all people. Or maybe you are curious as to how it came to be that way. I totally understand. Except, I don’t really understand. Um, you see, I can only offer a half-assed explanation because I’m not entirely sure about it myself. About the latter in particular. Things are pretty much clear-cut when you’re a kid. That time of life, although layered with complexities, isn’t difficult to comprehend. And that’s part of the beauty of childhood. This is basically what it comes down to: I heard a song one day, and I liked it, I asked about it, and I haven’t stopped listening to it since.
The story goes like this: One afternoon someone in my building was blasting music (a rare occurrence when you live in the projects) and they were playing Michael Jackson. That was noticeable because it was a different take on the music people would usually blast, but what caught my attention was that this person kept playing the same song over and over and over, for an extended amount of time. Like, if I had to guess, I’d say they played the same thing for almost an hour. That may not seem like a long time (because an hour is really not a long time in itself) but if you think about how many times you can replay the same damn song over in 60 minutes, that’s a long time. At least a dozen. And this was non-stop. Just one repeat after another and naturally I became drawn to the music very quickly. I sat by the kitchen window, because that’s where the beautiful noise what coming from, and just listened until it stopped playing. I didn’t know whose voice it was, or what song they were singing, but I knew that I liked it and I had to know what it was.
So, as has been my long-standing tradition, and my God-given right as the “little sister,” to 5 brothers and sisters, I bugged the nearest person I could find, which was my big brother, about the song and asked him to figure it out for me until he finally caved.
That’s when I found out it was Michael Jackson.
And this was the song he was singing:
It’s still one of my favorite songs, ever, to this day.
From there I worked my way backwards, and started learning the music. I knew who Michael Jackson was, obv. But I def did not know much about him. In fact, and the funniest thing about this whole situation, is that he actually really terrified me when I was a kid. Before I’d heard “Earth Song,” I thought Michael Jackson was totally scary looking and strange. All I knew was that Michael Jackson used to be black and then he turned? made himself? white. And I didn’t get it. It’s all so ironic. Anyway, that same brother bought me my first MJ CD, which was a double-disc set called HIStory: Past, Present, and Future Book I with one disc being a greatest hits compilation, and the other a cd with brand new songs. I enjoyed them both greatly. And the more music I listened to, the more I loved what I was hearing. Off The Wall was genius unvarnished. I was stunned by Thriller. Bad was rad. And Dangerous was cool. Blood on the Dance Floor and Invincible were released towards the end of my long-standing MJ phase, but I bought those, too, and still found new songs to enjoy in them.
And it was clear to me from the beginning that Michael Jackson was a man of many facets. Obv. No two eras of his reign were alike; each look, sound, and character are distinct and singular. In the most basic form, there is Disco MJ, R&B / Soul MJ, Rock MJ, and Pop MJ. He’s a musical Ken doll if you will. Nonetheless, it wasn’t hard for me to choose my favorite “MJ.” I mean, I like them all, but for me, “BAD Michael Jackson” was the best. He was a total badass. Just take a look:
Oh, yes. I definitely had a crush on “BAD Michael Jackson.” It may be hard to believe that MJ was actually good looking at some point of his life, given the excess cosmetic surgery and the drastic transformation of his face over the years, but that’s why I like this era the best. I think this is him at his peak. A deft synthesis of charming little Michael Jackson of The Jackson 5 and Michael Jackson, the fierce, electric, superstar phenomenon. BAD is my favorite MJ record. I like it better than Thriller (yeah, I said it) and I think this was the album to cement his status as an icon. Bad. The Way You Make Me Feel. Man In The Mirror. Dirty Diana. Smooth Criminal. All soild records, all great videos, all set the standard for music, even today. All I have to say is, “the lean” is still one of the coolest shits I’ve seen, ever.
But while I am a fan of the well-known stuff, what I listen to most often and appreciate over everything else, are the unknown, and unpopular, and the “flops” within Michael Jackson’s discography. Those songs that were never released as singles, or if they were, they didn’t become chart toppers, or they were the songs that caused the most uproar. Songs that are both radio friendly and songs that present that tragic, lonely, controversial side of MJ. I find nothing disingenuous about Michael Jackson, and he’s legit in my book (among other things) for writing, playing, and creating all his music. He was a true artist. But I will say, that these songs that I like so much appear to be vocalized by a truer Michael Jackson, Michael Jackson the person, not the performer. What they may lack in showmanship, they more than make up for in personalization. Some of them are driven by anger (bet you didn’t think MJ ever got angry or cursed in his songs, right? Well he does, and sometimes he’s mad as hell! LOL). And some of them are admissions of utter loneliness and devastation. Some are efforts to create anthems for those who experience the ugliest sides of humanity, and some are just pure blatant displays of his musical talent, a conspicuous reminder that he is Michael Jackson. . .the King of Pop, a legend, and the G.O.A.T.
They are, in order, my Top 12 All-Time Favorite Michael Jackson songs:
12. Speed Demon (Bad)
11. We’ve Had Enough (Unreleased, Ultimate Disc Collection)
10. Xscape (Unreleased, from the Invincible sessions)
9. I Can’t Help It (Off The Wall)
8. They Don’t Care About Us (HIStory)
7. Streetwalker (Unreleased, from Bad)
6. Who Is It (Dangerous)
5. Liberian Girl (Bad)
4. Stranger In Moscow (HIStory)
3. Earth Song (HIStory)
2. Cheater (Unreleased, from Bad)
*1. Money (HIStory)
Did you know Michael Jackson wrote a song called “Money”?
I did. Duh. I bet this song never even came out on the radio. I bet there were a lot of people who didn’t even want that song to make it one the final cut of that album. I fucking love it. Majority of people probably know the hits like “Billie Jean” or “Remember the Time.” They’re classics and all, but they are so clichéd now, it’s annoying. I hardly ever listen to those songs. Thriller is an amazing album, one of the greatest ever, for sure, and the biggest selling album of all time, but I can only listen to it every now and then. My thing is, and I would hope that the real fans enjoy these quieter tunes just as much as the greatest hits. I like them better. There are those who like MJ because they think that makes them cool, or old school, or I don’t know what. And there are those who are worse because they only started to like him after he died, or claimed to be a fan when the news struck of his sudden death.
Fuck those people. I was a fan before it was cool. I was a fan when it mattered.
I didn’t buy a fucking t-shirt or some special poster when he passed away. I wasn’t at one of the many vigils all over the world showing my “public support” for his family and friends. I could barely get through watching that God awful fucking memorial service they put together for him where all these asshole celebrities put on a face and pretended to be hurt and at a loss for their “friend Michael.” I was totally disgusted by the rehearsed, contrived display of emotions. Fuck Brooke Shields, she was the fakest bitch there. How long was it since she last saw / spoke/ reached out to MJ before he died? Shove those fake tears up your ass you two-faced cunt. I love Queen Latifah and I respect May Angelou, but those two bitches reading a poem at MJ’s funeral didn’t mean shit. Ugh. A poem? How “nice.” Fuck whoever the fuck thought it was a good idea to have that bullshit funeral / memorial / hybrid concert thing, too–even if that means all of his family. If you are a real fan of Michael Jackson, you should know that this man lived a lonely, tragic life. Not a true friend in the world. He was the ultimate performer and became lightening on stage, but off stage, and in real life, he was a quiet, painfully shy, introverted soul. He was self-loathing, and in desperate need of a solid foundation. He lacked confidence and he got angry when people ostracized him and overwhelmed when the public embraced him. Eccentric isn’t even the word to begin with. He was all things genius, good and bad. About one thing in particular (you know that whole child molester thing) I cannot say for sure what he was. My gut tells me he WAS NOT, but my mind tells me anything is possible because he was human. And a troubled human being. He was beautiful in many ways, and off-putting all at once. Michael Jackson was the epitome of paradox.
But he was also a legend. And legends never die. So long live the King.