Amid the outpouring of sadness for Michael Jackson’s death today, I saw this Facebook status by a friend that asked if people would stop updating the site with MJ condolences. But there were so many other friends who felt otherwise.
We who grew up in the 80s and 90s…forget Nirvana, forget GnR, forget New Wave Pop. There was only one pop megastar and MJ towered far above everyone else, defining music for millions and dance moves for generations thereafter.
Millions of words are being said now and in days to come about MJ, about how great he was, about how eccentric he was, and whether he really looked like Diana Ross. His life was a tragedy for everyone to observe, and we who loved his music knew he didn’t really want to go down this route of self-destruction either. We knew, because where he was too shy to talk about it in his real life, he wrote it down in his music. He thought he could be Peter Pan and never grow old (hence his ranch being called Neverland), but the world forced him to live otherwise. Accountants, record executives, lawyers and many more wanted a piece of MJ, and look where that ended up.
I don’t know the man, but I know where and when his music first touched me. I know and have most of his songs, but these are the ones that I grew up with.
1983 – “Thriller” was on SBC television and it scared the hell out of me. I was only 7 then. How did zombies dance so well anyway? I remember “Beat It”, but to be honest, Weird Al Yankovic’s spoof “Eat It” was more catchy.
1985 – “We Are The World” ushered in a whole new type of MTV for me – seeing loads of singers in the same studio warbling away. I didn’t get to know most of these artistes until I was in my teens.
1988 – I sat quietly in my mother’s car early in the morning as she sent me and my sisters to school. “Man In The Mirror” and “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” played constantly during those rides. I often wondered to myself, who was this Siedah Garrett that sang with him? Didn’t matter, because the songs were all that mattered.
1989 – Was Moonwalker the first movie that I watched by myself? I can’t remember… It had an incredible poster (I stood at the lobby of the now defunct President Cinema in Balestier staring at the poster for a long time, and decided to buy a ticket), and even more incredible transformation sequences (MJ turned into a car and huge battle robot). This is one of the movies many people never watched but should have for its collection of great dance sequences and special effects.
1991 – Dangerous was arguably MJ’s career peak, and was the first MJ CD I ever bought (just loved the intricate cover artwork!). I became friends with Darren Chua this year, and we shared a love for MJ’s music. Three years later, we would go to the MJ concert in Singapore together. Life-shaping songs from this period were “In The Closet”, “Remember The Time”, “Black And White” and “Jam”. This was the album that also introduced face-morphing CGI technology in Black and White and stands up there with Terminator 2 as two of the most influential CGI products in history. We would stay up late at night to watch MTV Asia and one could never get sick of watching any video from this album because of the sheer technical brilliance and the fact that MJ’s skin was so bloody white! MJ’s career started going downhill after this.
1994 – MJ’s concert in Singapore. I don’t attend many concerts, but this was a must-see and I didn’t regret it.
Late 1990s – I finally got around to buying Off The Wall, largely due to the strength of “Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough” and “Rock With You”. By this time, MJ had become sex scandal fodder and many fans deserted him. The saddest thing was that he never bounced back to produce another album worth his reputation ever again.
I’m sorry you had to go through so much, MJ. I hope you’ve found your peace and thank you for the music that will last many generations.