Kaddish

Update: Jason King: “In the end, wanting to be neither/nor means you can end up being nothing to anybody, and that is the recipe for an alienated, lonely life. No pop star in history, with the exception of Madonna, has ever been so open or willing to completely reinvent themselves over the course of their career in the public eye. But Madonna managed to commit to her identity reinventions without ever fully inhabiting any one for any length of time. She also seemed to understand that at the end of the day, some semblance of normalcy is desirable. Jackson did not. That Jackson used his body, not always his art, as a canvas to effect his transformation is what is ultimately so disturbing and fascinating about his career.”

Shamelessly biting (but citing!) Oliver Wang’s list of great writing on the death of MJ:

Mark Anthony Neal: “That boy spent a lifetime seeking a meaningful freedom, perhaps from the tyranny of family, but later from the tyranny of celebrity. And yeah perhaps Mr. Presley, Ms. Monroe and those four British mop-tops could relate, but when that young boy was hitting his half half of them were dead—and they never had to deal with MTV and 24-hour cable networks in their prime.”

Hua Hsu: “Jackson was one of the last figures of our time who could, in his very presence, describe the possibilities of pop. He wasn’t just the King–he was the entire domain, the rules and regulations, the dream-horizon of the citizenry, the place where the land met the heavens. Jackson was one of the first (and last) artists whose new videos, tours and albums were actual, global events…This was the cultural history of the pre-digital age: simultaneity, mass worship, millions sitting in front of their TVs at the exact same moment. (The closest analogue now: millions around the world, sitting in front of their computers, carefully recomposing Michael’s Wikipedia entry the moments after his death was made official.)”

Jeff Chang: “Long before anyone could read into Michael Jackson’s cubist, etiolated face a work of performance art, the wounds of internalized racism, or the excess of boredom and wealth, all those things that would make us either look away or gawk, there was his voice…And for that voice, he lost his childhood. Or more precisely, he gave it to us. Many of his most affecting performances were about distance and displacement, the desire to be somewhere else, the inability to return to a lost past”

Ann Powers: “I remember the inner sleeve of the Jackson 5’s 1971 release “Maybe Tomorrow,” one of the very first vinyl records I ever purchased. It was full of pictures of the brothers, their Afros shaped into hearts, their boyhood turned into a charm suitable for sticking onto a schoolgirl’s notebook. In reality, Jackson was a black steel-mill operator’s son from Indiana, no one a white accountant’s daughter from Seattle would have ever met. The teen idol machine turned him into a dream friend that any girl or boy could have.”

Ta-Nehisi Coates: “I remember when this came out, and all the kids who’d been lucky enough to stay up and see Friday Night Videos came to school bragging about it. You couldn’t get cable in Baltimore back then. Fools were like, “Yo, every time he took a step the stones would glow! And then when he went invisible the stones kept glowing!!” We thought Mike could save us all. We hadn’t heard BDP yet.”

Ernest Hardy: “He was Blackness and maleness, soul music and pop culture, all forged pre-hip-hop, pre-Reagan, pre-crack, pre the implosion of short-lived Civil Rights-era idealism and hope. That’s an incalculably important point to understand the thick strands of optimism, possibility, aesthetic & political vision that ran through his work. And that makes the darkness and paranoia that marbled so much of his later work all the more heartbreaking, especially as it roughly paralleled the shifting tenor of the times. He never lost his humanitarian streak or his belief in the overall goodness of humanity, but the evolution of his own relationship to the world and his feelings about how he was treated darkened noticeably.”

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