Call for Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

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Wednesday, Jul 15, 2009
With his brown skin, button nose, and chemically straightened hair, it significantly matter that Michael Jackson was black not white, male not female, from a poor family, not rich one. Unsurprisingly, he sought to re-map the globe.

Please play more Michael Jackson. He is an original humanitarian. Michael Jackson was more than a pop star; he defined modern popular music. It’s basic ignorance that leads anyone to continue to discredit the way this artist lived. Fans, and anyone else listening to the words written, composed and performed by Michael Jackson would not be so greedy, angry and stupid of the sort that leads us to destroy the planet and divide people.


Earth Song, Heal the World, and of course, We are the World. This man clearly propagated ‘love’ as the way forward. This nation desperately needs to reconcile with Michael Jackson and come to terms with the fact that we created a monster. In spite of the self-mutilation, abuse of credit and addiction to “consumerism,”—you know, sex, drugs and rock-n-roll—we cannot deny that he was an apt mirror of this society. As a pop star, Michael Jackson mirrored the iconic status the United States enjoys in the world- and embodies the unreconciled contradictions as well.


I’m startin’ with the man in the mirror.
I’m asking him to change his ways.
And no message could have been any clearer:
If you wanna make the world a better place,
Take a look at yourself, and
Make that change.



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Monday, Jul 13, 2009
In praise of disco on the anniversary of the notorious disco demolition day.

July 12th, was the 30th anniversary of disco Demolition Day, a day when radio host Steve Dahl declared a cultural war on the aforementioned music by blowing up stacks of records in Comiskey Park in Chicago. It’s now generally accepted that the seething crowds were at least partially motivated by the subcultural and multicultural context of disco’s reign, seeing the gay, black, latino, and women-friendly movement as an affront to the ordained thrown of rock, which was at this point mainly a chauvinist enterprise. That this came at the height of radio’s racial re-segregation formatting certainly encouraged the backlash. In the aftermath, disco was declared dead, which was widely accepted as a historical platitude for years, and even still is today. “I think it was a fad and it was probably on its way out. This probably hastened its demise,” Steve Dahl said in 2004, reflecting on the incident on Keith Olbermann’s Countdown


While disco may have become a dirty word in mainstream culture after scores of alpha males began parading around in “Disco Sucks” and “Death Before Disco” T-shirts and the clubs began collapsing from the white lines snorted across broken mirror tables, disco continued to expand exponentially. Indeed, years later, the explosion in Comsikey Park seems to have scattered disco’s ashes across the globe, where it has manifested in myriad different vital forms. Ironically enough, the two teams playing that night, Detroit and Chicago, became the epicenters of disco’s revitalization in both house and techno music.


Below is a smattering of disco from its heyday through the present. It is by no means a complete representation, but hopefully you will agree that this is dynamic and exciting music, whose shelf-life has already far surpassed many of the rock dinosaurs being defended at the time of the disco demolition. 

First Choice—The Player (Philly Groove, 1974)



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Thursday, Jul 9, 2009

Before the international frenzy that Barack Obama commanded following his historic presidential campaign and win, Michael Jackson was the global face of black exceptionalism and achievement. His death at the age of 50 on June 25, 2009, almost succeeded in crashing the Internet and suspended social media mechanisms such as Twitter. In excess of 1.6 million people logged into a random lottery system in hopes to garner one of the 20,000 tickets needed to gain access into Jackson’s memorial service this past Tuesday. His face has graced the cover of virtually every major (and minor) international periodical, newspaper, and news program since his untimely death. Much has been written and reported about Michael Jackson from his impact on an impressively diverse and large demographic to his transformation from a beautiful, cherubic child to a grotesqueness unknown or unseen before him to his massive debts and legal troubles stemming from allegations of pedophilia. As a child of the ‘80s, Michael Jackson was the model for many of my own personal interpretations of Thriller, but for me it’s his role as the seminal figure in the integration of African American musicality into the global pop culture stratosphere that bears the seismic weight of his significance.


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Friday, Jun 26, 2009
by Jonathan Garrett

My mom only had two albums in her car when I was growing up—the Eagles’ Hotel California and Michael Jackson’s Thriller. And given how many soccer practices, guitar lessons, and tennis matches I was shuttled to as a child, I can pretty much hear these albums from start to finish in my head.  In fact, if I’m being honest, I’ve probably heard Hotel California and Thriller more than any other two albums in my life.


But at some point in my early 20s, Thriller vastly eclipsed Hotel California—and all others for that matter.  Rightfully so.


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