Monday, March 11, 2019

Music And Me: Can We Still Listen To Michael Jackson?

I’m not going to watch the Michael Jackson HBO documentary. I guess I’m weak. I can’t watch harrowing stories involving children, I just don’t have it in me. I have no doubt that it makes a compelling case, but that’s what documentary filmmaking is. If Orson Welles’ F For Fake has taught us anything it’s that any point of view can be credibly enforced or reinforced by the power of images and editing.
It doesn’t matter what I think, or what anyone thinks. The man has become beyond indefensible. Whether he did it or not, and even if he hadn’t been dead for a decade, there is no defending Michael Jackson anymore. There are no facts, just hunches and contradicting testimonies.

He has had his day in court. Several, in fact. Everything has been exposed. People (yours truly included) will only cling onto whatever is out there that can comfort a position they already have. Nobody is getting swayed one way or another until something new comes to light, which is unlikely.

So can we keep listening to Michael Jackson and enjoying his music? In one way it’ll be hard not to associate his output with the awful accusations that have plagued the man for over a quarter century. But then again, he is dead and the notion that you might be supporting a predator by enriching him when buying his records is null and void.

My favorite author was a nazi sympathiser. It’s hard to reconcile your love for someone’s art and the evil they’ve helped spread into the world, especially when they are so intricately related.  Louis-Ferdinand Céline’s writing is powerfully informed by his anti-semitic opinions and nihilistic world view. Thankfully, Michael Jackson’s songs objectively contain no hint of reference to the behavior he’s been accused of. Our music collection is going to feel very empty once expurgated from the works of everyone who's been guilty of criminal behavior, never mind just the accused.

But one thing’s for sure: songs like Wanna Be Starting Something and Rock With You, however innocent they may be lyrically, however brilliant they may be musically, can no longer remain the insouciant good-time dance-pop anthems they once were.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Feel free to comment on this post: