Monday, June 29, 2009

Michael Jackson, the Phenomenon : An Eternity of Music and Dance; Energy and Enigma

Michael Jackson (1958-2009), the King of Pop, is no more. Yet, as universally acknowledged, his captivating music and mesmerizing dance will not merely survive him but keep growing in popular esteem, for the sheer vibrancy and versatility. Though he has not been cutting music albums and conducting public shows for the last several years, the spontaneous groundswell of acclaim, post-his sudden demise, for his unique genre of pop music demonstrates that truly original music never ebbs in its charismatic appeal.

The unbelievable progression of Michael Jackson (MJ) from a child singer who bloomed at a tender age of 6 to a global pop icon by the age of 21 has few parallels. MJ’s life as a public performer, however, contrasted enormously with his life as a private person. His pristine creativity was accompanied by pathetic eccentricity; his unmatched ability to connect with his audience was contradicted by an inexplicable refusal to communicate with the society; and his innate ability to institutionalize his originality was eroded by an overt inability to be bound by any established cultural consonance. MJ was mighty and maverick in his music, dazzling and dumb-founding in his dance, lofty and lavish in his living, and encompassing yet elusive as a global citizen.

The enthralling fusion of music and dance that he characterized demonstrates that true originality and genuine artistry do not stay static in time; they are dynamic and inventive, always changing over time. If his initial albums such as Off the Wall (1979), Thriller (1982) and Bad (1987) reflected the social dynamics of an American Street of the times, his later ones such as Dangerous (1991), HIStory (1995) and Invincible (2001) reflected a more universal, even if esoteric multi-cultural tapestry. From beating the norms to healing the world, his music encompassed myriad patterns of social and human behavior.

MJ’s voice had a rare range that few in the western music industry possessed. From high-pitched vocals that characterized most of his musical works to mind-soothing wafts like Heal the World that underscored his musical versatility, MJ covered it all. It is however his dance movements that remain to date truly iconic. Whether it is his virtually patented, inimitable moon-walking or lightning body movements, there has not been, and would not perhaps be, any other dancer who combined such vigorous stylistic dancing with rhythmically pulsating music in a completely harmonious and soulful manner.

The life of MJ, however, has its lessons too. The first and foremost lesson is that while the human body and mind can be pushed to unimaginable limits of performance and endurance, any endeavor to drive it with medicines comes at a huge cost to the very life itself. Second, as a person grows in public stature personal life can never be separated from public posture. Third, as one epitomizes universal art, one’s heart and brain as well as mind and body must collaborate rather than conflict with each other. Fourth, as a public performer turns recluse, creativity is often overshadowed by eccentricity and purposive actions are often tripped by bizarre behaviors. Fifth, compensating a painful past by a perverse present can only lead to a fractured future.

Over the last few years, mystique and mystery, charity and charade, sophistry and scandal co-existed in a quixotic manner in MJ’s life. Whether MJ was child-like or childish and whether he was intriguing or had intrigue in him would perhaps be never known. Leaving aside these sad and complex facets of his life and personality, history would certainly remember MJ for what he is best at – his musical genius and dancing sprite.

From the point of view of transforming an intrinsic skill into a cult phenomenon and channeling superlative passion into mind-blowing performance, MJ had few parallels. Yet, it would have been difficult even for MJ to have generated that kind of impact, were it not for his astute association with brilliant music producers such as Quincey Jones and world-class global music distributors such as Sony on one hand, and the pioneering use of contemporary technologies in stage-setting and videography, on the other. Had MJ continued to pursue creativity, technique and technology as enablers, instead of relying on pharmaceuticals and fantasies, he would have perhaps lived on to score and stage another 50 years of scintillating music and dance.

MJ as a phenomenon would live forever in the hearts of music and dance lovers. Whether one likes his unique, and occasionally ribald, form of music and dance or not, it is impossible for one not to acknowledge and be mesmerized by MJ’s sheer musical brilliance and dancing prowess. MJ will remain as an icon of trend-setting creativity, boundless energy and consummate artistry albeit with avoidable enigma, in the global music and dance space, eternally.

Posted by Dr CB Rao on June 29, 2009

1 comment:

Chinowsky said...

Very nicely said. Your post (like many of your other posts) should be forwarded to broader news groups.

No doubt there will be a generational gap in how Michael is remembered. Those of us growing up in the 70's and 80's and/or before will no doubt hold on to the image of Michael in his younger years the ever optimistic, soft speaking, ever gyrating "King of Pop" (much like those growing up in the 50’s and 60’s think of Elvis). Sadly (but understandably) those growing up in the 90's and more recently will remember Michael as nothing more than another eccentric star gone bad (a.k.a. Britney Spears, O.J. Simpson, Lindsay Lohan, Mel Gibson).