Michael Jackson – 10 years on

To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible’ – Thomas Aquinas

So yesterday was the 10-year anniversary of the day Michael Jackson died. I had planned to do a nostalgic post about how much he meant to mean as a child, how influenced my eventual music taste would become because of him, how he inspired my love of dance, and the funny little tale of how Janine and I were so excited about seeing him in concert in London, which was going to be an absolute bucket list event.

Then the Leaving Neverland documentary came out in February and blew this whole thing wide open and left me at a complete loss as of where to take what was supposed to be this sentimental trip down memory lane next.

So, in the interest of balance and honesty, I’m going to write about both. The first part of this post is essentially the original blog post I had planned to write. If you’re not interested in this part, then scroll down to read my thoughts on the Leaving Neverland documentary and how that’s left me feeling as a lifelong fan.

So, strap in lads, it’s going to be a bumpy ride…

This is It tour

So, as I said, I grew up as a huge Michael fan as a kid. Bad was one of the first albums I ever owned, and I loved every track on it, so much so that I didn’t know which songs were singles and which were album tracks – I loved them and knew them all equally. The Dangerous album followed in the early 90s and my love only grew. Musically he was the right mix of urban r’n’b and pop and was an absolutely mesmerising performer.

He was the artist that bonded me and Janine and cemented what is now a lifelong friendship. When we were in middle school, while the other girls where busy chasing boys around the playground and generally being nasty to each other, Janine and I were at the back of the field with a smuggled in Walkman listening to Michael Jackson songs.

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When the This Is It tour was announced in 2008 with an initial run for 10 shows the following summer we knew we had to get tickets. And tickets we got; for the second week of the run. Trains and hotels were frantically bought and we patiently awaited concert day.

Of course, we all know that the two-week run soon escalated to a 50-show residency. In fact, there were strong rumours that Michael was quoted as saying he went to bed doing 2 weeks of shows and woke up doing 50. There are things I’ve read surrounding the organisers of that tour that don’t sit right with me, but I’ll go on to that later.

A few months before the original run in July there were stories starting to circulate that Michael wasn’t doing so great and as a result the original first week of shows got rescheduled to the end of the 50-date run. In my eyes that worked perfectly for us, we were now the first week of shows which meant all he needed to do was hee-hee and shamon his way through the first week and we were golden. Dream fulfilled.

Then he died. Drat.

There had been stories going around for a while that all was not rosy up on Jackson mountain; reports of Michael looking frail and tired in tour rehearsals were big at the time. I venomously refute this as if you watch the This Is It tour documentary the guy (and pardon my French) is built like a brick shithouse and looks in full control of his movements, it also doesn’t take a genius to know that you don’t always go full out in tour rehearsals so as not to tire yourself out. The footage of him looking ‘tired, lazy and unmotivated’ is actually just him hitting his marks for staging purposes rather than busting a full move.

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There was also a rumour that he never planned to do any shows at all. That the promoters just wanted to sell a shedload of tickets, bank the cash, earn a load of interest, then refund people when the time was right. Whether that’s true, who knows? Seems like a lot of effort just to make a bit of interest.

Absolutely concert selfishness aside, I was genuinely, genuinely gutted when he died. Not because he was still releasing great music and not even because he died before I got chance to see him live, but mainly for what he represented and the impact he had so deeply on one of my greatest friendships. When I moved here and was the kid with the funny accent, it was him that Janine and I bonded so closely over when no one else wanted to know me. It was his music videos I would record off MTV to try and learn the dance routines and him who would go on to influence all my future favourite artists (Backstreet Boys, Usher, Justin Timberlake etc). And all that was gone.

We still went to London that weekend as planned because we had non refundable train and hotels booked. We saw Thriller Live on the West End instead. Which, although would never be as good as seeing the man himself, it was at least a celebration of his music instead. In face the woman I was sitting next to had flown over from Texas as she had tickets for the original show as well. It felt like a fitting tribute.

Up until that point all the accusations and the oxygen chambers and the chimp worrying meant nothing to me. I largely ignored most of it because whatever he did in his private life (for which he was yet to be convicted at that point) was of no interest to me. Especially when I was young and before the more serious accusations started, he was just ‘Wacko Jacko’, which is something I was never interested in entertaining. It was all about the music.

Leaving Neverland

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I’ll start off by saying that the reports of the things he allegedly did are absolutely abhorrent and if he is guilty then the victims should be compensated in whatever way possible.

I’ve agonised over what to say about all of this because I genuinely don’t know how I feel or who to believe. For every explanation for him guilty I hear one against and vice versa. I talked with my lush sister-in-law Ruth about this at length and she told me about cognitive dissonance which is the discomfort you feel when you hold two or more contradictory beliefs. Which sounds pretty much spot on to what I’m feeling.  I can’t speak for everyone on this but I get the impression this is how a lot of people have been left to feel; can you separate the artist from the art?

When the documentary came out all of a sudden it felt like you weren’t allowed to even utter his name let alone say you were a fan of his music because that makes you at best prone to comments like ‘well you would think that because you were a fan and are blind to what he was doing’  and at worse some kind of abuser sympathiser.

I watched the Leaving Neverland documentary twice, which is something I like to do if I’m reviewing it, so as to make sure I haven’t missed something vital the first-time round. There is something about Wade Robson that I just don’t buy and for the life of me I can’t put my finger on what it is. It may be the fact that he only came out with these allegations after he’d been turned down to choreograph the MJ Cirque Du Soleil show and was flat broke is really sketchy. My theory, for what it’s worth is that he heard about James’ experience and jumped on the bandwagon – just my opinion guys. Just. My. Opinion.

James is a different kettle of fish altogether because I find him much more believable. He appears to be a real tortured soul and has much less to gain from telling the truth, other than perhaps some closure if these awful things did happen.

I guess what doesn’t sit all that brilliantly with me is that either way, they’ve lied. They’re either lying now and making up the abuse. Or they’ve lied under oath. And the guy’s dead now so how are ever going to get to the bottom of all of this? If it was possible to know who was right and who was wrong, we wouldn’t need to have a documentary about it because it would have already been settled in court.

Did Michael put himself into precarious situations with young boys? Absolutely. Having boys sleep over in your bed as an adult, no matter how innocent you may think it is, does not a good reputation make. I also read stories that he would fire anyone who tired to intervene and tell him that these sleepovers probably weren’t a great idea, and that doesn’t help your case either.

In all the court cases he had he was found innocent. He was found innocent of abusing those boys. Does that mean he’s innocent of abusing any boys? No.

So really all I can think to do is use the little blonde woman shrugging her shoulders emoji. It all goes back to that cognitive dissonance thing I guess. I really hope that I’m not just turning a blind eye to the allegations because I’m a fan, I’m intelligent enough to know that our heroes aren’t always angels, they can hurt us and disappoint us. After all when you buy into an artist you’re 99% of the time buying into the whole package, not just the music. To be put bluntly you don’t want to be a fan of a child molester.

Will I continue to listen to his music? In all honesty, yeah I probably will. Because we’ll probably never really know what happened. He’s not here any more to release new stuff and most radio stations have stopped playing his stuff anyway which will go someway to appease people who believe he’s guilty. I don’t seek his music out as much as I used to, possibly because I feel guilty, or worry about what people will think about me doing so. I haven’t taken his music off any of my existing playlists though, because the girl who wrote the first part of this blog post still wants to listen to the music that bonded her with one of her best friends.

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