<body><script type="text/javascript"> function setAttributeOnload(object, attribute, val) { if(window.addEventListener) { window.addEventListener('load', function(){ object[attribute] = val; }, false); } else { window.attachEvent('onload', function(){ object[attribute] = val; }); } } </script> <div id="navbar-iframe-container"></div> <script type="text/javascript" src="https://apis.google.com/js/plusone.js"></script> <script type="text/javascript"> gapi.load("gapi.iframes:gapi.iframes.style.bubble", function() { if (gapi.iframes && gapi.iframes.getContext) { gapi.iframes.getContext().openChild({ url: 'https://www.blogger.com/navbar.g?targetBlogID\x3d14981833\x26blogName\x3dDirtscapes\x26publishMode\x3dPUBLISH_MODE_BLOGSPOT\x26navbarType\x3dBLUE\x26layoutType\x3dCLASSIC\x26searchRoot\x3dhttps://dirtscapes.blogspot.com/search\x26blogLocale\x3den\x26v\x3d2\x26homepageUrl\x3dhttp://dirtscapes.blogspot.com/\x26vt\x3d-265751151725197959', where: document.getElementById("navbar-iframe-container"), id: "navbar-iframe" }); } }); </script>


Read. Suffer. Try to Enjoy.

The King Is Dead. Long Live The King.

Friday, June 26, 2009
Circa 1989. A grainy VHS tape on Cable ('Bad') was my first exposure to a performer who was so compelling to watch, that it left me really dazed. To put it frankly, hadn't seen anything like it before. This was a different kettle of fish when compared to ABBA, for sure.

What puzzled me most at the time, was why the dude was proudly calling himself 'Bad'? Wasn't that a you know... bad thing? I couldn't understand a word of what he was singing (WTF were Shamone! Owww! Cootchie coo! supposed to mean anyways?!). But there was something about the way he moved, and the way he performed, that demanded that you kept watching. He was the first point of entry into the big bad world of 'western' music for me. There was no MTV here, yet. He was the personification of what the west had to offer, music-wise. My only exposure to that stuff prior to 'Bad' was in the form of a couple of mixtapes filched from a cousin, full of 80s pop gems like 'We Built This City', 'Madonna's Eyes' and 'Party All The Time'. This guy's music was on another totally different class level, and it was evident that there was a lot more to pop than 'Love Touch'. Like good, bouncy music which didn't sound right off the bat cheesy, even to a kid in the third standard.

Add to that the dancing moves which seeped into my veins like Smirnoff Green Apple Twist does these Friday nights. They were emulated so relentlessly by yours truly, that when puberty really kicked in, my hand would go to my (*blush*) crotch every five minutes, do that patent grab and (gentle) twist, and my mouth would twitch and sneer, and go "Hee hee, Hee hee HEEEEE" all in one smooth, spinal-cord-controlled motion. It got to a point wherein I had to actually learn how to consciously control it in slightly more austere and public surroundings.

The moonwalk was a slightly more difficult proposition. Try hard as you would to perfect it, you invariably ended up looking like you were walking backwards trying not to step in something of animal/human origin. And of course, classmates at that age can be very ruthless in their criticism. Childhood innovations then included sprinkling the mother's Emami talcum powder in generous quantities on the floor, and then achieving markedly better results. This workaround lasted (quite gleefully, I must add) till that parsimonious lady suddenly found herself buying two tins a month. After that, it was trying it out with socks on feet, which was not exactly the same thing, but worked all the same.

I still remember watching Moonwalker - The movie with desperate devotion, and not caring a damn about niceties like plot, and such assorted blahs. He turns into a robot at the end of the movie, and a spaceship too. The way I looked at it, 'Hell, if he could do the moonwalk, and do that bend in the 'Smooth Criminal' video, he's entitled to do just about anything that he wants. I'm watching.

'Thriller' was yet another dose of pure childhood pleasure. Every bleeding song, was radio worthy - there was just no filler material on it. The sound was a little dated for me, when compared to 'Bad', but there was something very fresh about his voice on that record. A sure grower, and once hooked, 'Beat It' and the title song were on heavy rotation. My parents especially were very disturbed by that laugh at the end of the
title song.

'Dangerous' happened at the peak of my MJ obsession. I remember staring at the cassette cover for hours, while the cassette was blaring on in the background. The man released videos that single handedly took the scene to another level. At that age, a super sultry Naomi Campbell (phew!) in the mix definitely made things more interesting. 'Black Or White' even featured an Indian dancer! Yay! MTV must have made a sound fortune off the back of this album's videos alone... played in an endless loop, on the hour to boot. Of course, that was when you know, MTV used to play music videos (remember those?!) almost exclusively (gasp!). 'Smooth Criminal' remains one of my all time favourite videos. Ever.

Post 'Dangerous', I kind of outgrew my obsession with the whole thing, and gradually drifted off his music completely. Part of the whole growing up process, I guess. Add to that his personal woes which really affected his output as an artiste, and overshadowed his achievements to a large extent. To the point where the music was totally forgotten, and all that was projected was a freak in financial trouble. Of late, the odd iPod shuffle randomness would invariably hit me with a shot glass worth of nostalgia - think the intro of 'Wanna Be Starting Something' or 'The Way You Make Me Feel'.

His reach, and his popularity, at the peak of his powers, was a truly global phenomenon (tip - think of all those countless, milked-to-death-due-to-dehydration 'Mai Ka Lal Jai Kishan' jokes, in the best of Bollywood comedies on offer). There is no one today, to cut across barriers like he did, and achieve the same kind of connect with audiences the world over. Blame it on the shortened shelf lives of musicians these days, or the shorter attention spans of people in general, or maybe, just accept that there was no pop star even remotely in his league, once he faded from the limelight. Think boy bands and the unspeakable things they did to the pop music industry in general. All but killed whatever little hope you had of listening to something with a little more depth, even though it was labelled 'pop'. Everything these days is an ephemeral niche. He was a lot more than that.

Travel well, MJ.

posted by Tapan at 10:14 PM