OK, now this is just ridiculous.
Visionary, the 2006 edition of “A Means by Which to Repackage Michael Jackson Videos on the Likely Chance You Forget He Was the Thriller Guy”, is one of the silliest cash-suckers you’ll come across all year, garish and indulgent and unwieldy enough to have only sprung from the minds/machine surrounding Jackson, who is evidently disconnected enough now to not realize that, no matter how cool they make the package look, releasing a box set that comprises one video each on a hilarious 20 DualDiscs requires a great deal of getting up and down off the couch. We don’t all have trained rhesus monkeys to handle these kinds of tasks for us, dude.
Visionary: The Video Singles
US: 14 Nov 2006
UK: Available as import
We will put aside, for the purposes of this review, the whole Thing, with the child molestation charges and the bankruptcy and the moving to Dubai or Bahrain or whatever and the seven or eight recently promised tribute songs that haven’t been, whaddyacallit, recorded. And we’ll allow that in some parts of the world—many parts of the world—Jackson retains his ability to turn people into apoplectic rodents of a mind-boggling nature; his seconds-long walk-on in that London non-comeback (starring Chris Brown, whoever that is) generated a roar that, even by crappy YouTube standards, sounds like it might have altered the orbit of the earth.
But what is the point of such an exercise as Visionary? To remind us that Jackson’s videos were good? We’ll begrudge the man, and his monthly roster of bills, the need or desire to reclaim whatever parts of his sparkling HIStory he can; I suppose one could argue at this point that it’s surprising he hasn’t donned the red-zipper jacket and done a “Thriller Time History Tour” or three. It certainly can’t hurt to reintroduce to the marketplace that, at one time, this man was magic in slippery shoes, that you were into him, that I was into him, that untold millions of people thought he was pretty much the bees’ knees of popdom.
But in 2006, given the insane amounts of baggage and mud he’s dug up and thrown upon himself, what is the audience for a $150 brick of video singles—especially since half of them hail from Dangerous or after (Remember “In the Closet”, the sepia-toned dry-humpfest starring Naomi Campbell? Of course you don’t. Or “Remember the Time?” Bet you remember the Magic Johnson cameo before the song). So the question is: Are you gonna stroll over to the DVD player every 10 minutes to watch videos for tracks like “Stranger in Moscow”, which, according to the evidence herein, was once made?
Visionary looks cool. The 20 single sleeves are neatly authentic, and arranged together they form a picture of Michael’s face or something. The discs contained therein replicate 20 singles and either their 7-inch or 12-inch artwork. One side remastered audio (generally with a remix or related song of the main attraction), the other side video. And yes, “Thriller” is great. “Beat It” is great. You can even appreciate that “Black or White” was revolutionary for its time; remember the time no one had seen morphing before? (What it egregiously leaves out is the present; there’s nothing after “Blood on the Dance Floor,” which was 1997, which means 2001’s bomb “Invincible” is tellingly and wisely ignored.)
But even were it not for the carnival chaos surrounding Michael these days, implicitly begging people to acknowledge it as such in 2006 seems way beyond the pale; now he’s the needy relative who needs to be profusely thanked every eight minutes for the reindeer sweater. It is impossible to conceive of anything Jackson could do to staunch the bleeding at this point, but it’s entirely possible to conceive that he might want to start by recording some new, relevant music.