In life there are three inevitables: Death, taxes and Michael Jackson.
Since his tragic passing on June 25, 2009, the Gloved One has been stuntin’ something hard from his record-breaking return to Billboard (Last summer, MJ held nine of the top 10 spots on SoundScan album charts.) to the global box office takeover of the concert documentary This Is It (that’s $259,315,980). If that wasn’t enough, MJ currently boast the #1 selling DVD in the country as This Is It has pushed more than 1.2 million copies, a first week sales record for a music film. Show off. With seemingly every award breaking its neck to serve tribute to the King of Pop, the latest being the Grammy’s rather plastic MJ commendation—Celine Dion …really???—you almost expect the pedigreed canines at the upcoming Westminster Kennel Dog Show to trot out to the sounds of “Beat It” while wearing red, spiked, zippered leather jackets. Hey, you read it here first.
On the surface, such posthumous adulation is as shocking as For The Love Of Ray J. Elvis, John Lennon and Tupac are just some of the celebrities that have become larger-than-life deities after death, often times pulling in more annual income than they did when they were alive and raising hell. But watching the marathon wave of the Michael Jackson love fest has been an awesome and at time laughable exercise in hypocrisy.
Now, I’m not going to front. Being a throwback MJ fan (From ‘78 to ‘83 Mike could do no wrong in my eyes), I’ve had my share of beef with the great man. I shook my head as he systematically mangled his beautiful black face; I became dismayed with his obsession with eclipsing Thriller’s biggest-selling-album-of-all-time 50 million plus mark, giving some critics ample ammo to unfairly dismiss the raw greatness of his 1991 Dangerous album and later the hauntingly brilliant “Stranger In Moscow;” I was disappointed at the constant lip-synching that betrayed this once-in-a-lifetime talent; I was pissed that he would allow himself to be caught up in a series of child molestation accusations (for the record, I don’t think he did it; but his actions, public and private, bordered on stupidity). Indeed, it hasn’t always been easy to openly root for MJ.
But even with such career-killing hits, I never forgot one important fact: He’s still Michael “Motherfucking” Jackson.
No matter what train wreck tabloid shit he was on, this was still the same prodigy who had more soul in his big 12-year-old voice than grown ass men. He still made the greatest artistic transition from a teen star to an adult ever recorded in modern music history (Off The Wall). He is the same one-man savior of an early ‘80s music industry on the brink of extinction (sounds familiar?). He is the same ambitious artist that made the public take the music video genre as seriously as a Martin Scorsese film (Fuck MTV. Mike was so sick that they were premiering his videos on prime time TV. Where were you when you first saw “Remember The Time?” ) In short, Jackson was and still is the biggest entertainer to ever walk the earth.
Which is why I find his overall comeback amusing. Remember the critics who were all-too excited to dance on MJ’s early grave when he “only” sold 8 million copies of his uneven Invincible album? Now they are praising his dominance as king of the charts, outselling his very much alive peers. Do you recall how MTV (the house that MJ built) tried with much disrespect to make him look like a delusional has-been in 2002 after he “mistakenly” thought he was getting an “Artist of the Millennium” award as part of his 44th birthday tribute? Seven years later, the music network was kissing the man’s ass on the 2009 MTV Awards with the type of 21-gun salute that should have been given to him when he was still breathing. And then there’s the parade of hack bloggers lead by the biggest hypocrite of them all, Perez Hilton, who prematurely declared This Is It a box office bomb, only to do an about-face when the figures and critical praise started pouring in.
I guess it’s just as well, since MJ had become a slave to the bigger-is-better formula over his own understated genius. The superficial Hilton’s of the world have always admired Jackson for the wrong reasons. They are the same folks who pissed in their pants when “Mike” flew out of stadium in a jet pack during his half-time show at Super Bowl XXVII in the early ‘90s. They are the unimaginative music acts who lazily continue to copy his otherworldly dance choreography not understanding that the true magic of Jackson has always been his infectious gift for melody (Usher, Chris Brown and all you other dancing fools, take note).
As the obscure yet stingingly brilliant Prince gem goes, they dig you better dead, Michael. But I’ll always remember your unfiltered brilliance like this.
With all apologies due to Mick Jagger, Keith “Murph” Murphy may not be a man of immense wealth, but he does have taste. For over a decade, the Chicago-born journalist has sparred with brazen hip hop moguls (Jay-Z); Hollywood royalty (Quentin Tarantino); political powerbrokers (Rev. Al Shaprton); redemption-seeking pugilists (Mike Tyson); R&B divas (Mary J. Blige); and lyrically great white hopes (Eminem). His work has appeared in such publications and sites as VIBE, Essence, The Root, and KING, and he is a frequent commentator on CNN, Fox News, VH1, and A&E Biography.