Daily Archives: July 4, 2009

Patriotic David

Happy 4th of July, everyone! 

David singing the National Anthem during his Homecoming at the Utah Jazz game:

David singing God Bless America at the Red Sox vs. the Rays game in Florida:

Learning from David: The Not So Essential Michael Jackson

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I remember, last weekend, when David tweeted, “Woah, I’ve never seen the intro to the Bad music video. I didn’t even know it existed,” I laughed out loud and, had he been in the same room with me, I might have patted him on his cute head (before he trimmed his hair) and offered him my memory of 9th grade when so many of us tuned in for the world premiere of that video.  Of course, I had to check myself and slow my roll since it seems to me that lil’ David, in all his 18 years, could school me more on Michael Jackson than I could teach him.

I was reminded of the time when David had recommended as “Song for the Day,” in one of his blogs, Michael Jackson’s Stranger in Moscow.  To my surprise, I was unfamiliar with this song, included on his underrated HIStory album.  Thanks to David, I had an opportunity to rediscover Michael Jackson beyond “The Essential Michael Jackson,” which includes his biggest hits – “Billie Jean,” “Thriller,” “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough,” “Smooth Criminal,” or “Man in the Mirror.”  What is fascinating to me, and also what I think is revelatory about David’s diverse musical tastes, is a certain artistic side of Michael Jackson that was consciously global in perspective.  Yes, MJ became a global phenomenon and had universal appeal, but his later music seems to develop from a world consciousness that is both personal and political.  “Stranger in Moscow” is a sad ballad about the universal experience of loneliness, but specifically, it’s a song about exile – the displacement of the soul, the isolation of the heart, and yet, there is a certain salvation that he discovers: “Kgb was doggin me / Take my name and just let me be / Then a begger boy called my name.”

What does it mean to sing of someone in a foreign country recognizing your name, especially when that name is world renowned?  So much to unpack and deconstruct, so much to contemplate.  Thanks, David, for cluing me into a “non-essential” Michael Jackson song even before the hoopla surrounding his untimely passing.  On the same album was another intriguing song, and I’ve since discovered (I tell ya, I’ve been asking myself – where have I been?) the music video for “They Don’t Really Care About Us,” directed by Spike Lee on location in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro:

The song is about racism and, in particular, the public and legal persecution Michael Jackson himself has experienced.  What the video does is to globalize his personal struggle into a transnational connection between African Americans and Afro-Brazilians.  It’s truly a provocative song and video, and the drum line kicks serious booty.  I love his musical genius in blending so many different global sounds and styles here.  And, since discovering this lovely gem, I’m equally excited that the world has a chance to rediscover “They Don’t Really Care About Us” with the recent release of his final rehearsal, featuring this song.  

So many styles, sounds, and artistic creativity.  There will never be another Michael Jackson.  However, I am comforted to know there are up and coming music artists, like David, who freely admired the artistry of the man and did so well before his passing.  I think a more relevant litmus test for Michael Jackson’s “true fans” is not to ask the question, “Which is the better album – Thriller or Off the Wall?,” but to actually ask which of his less popular albums is perhaps the most self-revelatory?  For surely, only a hardcore die-hard fan can answer this question. I perhaps cannot, hence why I need to check myself, but I wouldn’t be surprised if David could.  I expect to learn more from him.