Michael Jackson Forever

Michael Caylo-Baradi

Sometimes it’s not easy to locate the child prodigy and genius musician in those transformations, as though what constitutes a stellar career is only prelude and financial support for his body’s desired transformations.

He may have given something to language, to assist language in imagining somebody who can somehow simultaneously authenticate the many terms and descriptions that can be used to talk about that person: strange, ridiculed, brilliant, innocent, utterly humane, angelic, outrageous, tortured, mystical, mysterious, generous, pure, genius, love, and much more. He wasn’t a god, but more personification of myth; indeed, it’s not easy to imagine what he could do, did, had, and would’ve yet been through.

The way the media-saturated eye watched his physical transformations was not mere fixation, but rather qualifies as public meditation on the human body's possibilities -- through one person’s life-span -- a meditation through awe, that, because of fame, tissues of courage to transform his face evolved and were nourished, courage that had filial alliances with pop-stardom’s restless sense of vanity. Sometimes it’s not easy to locate the child prodigy and genius musician in those transformations, as though what constitutes a stellar career is only prelude and financial support for his body’s desired transformations.

Questionable or not, there’s proof that a skin condition had changed the color of his complexion. But almost simultaneously, as his skin-color lightened, his facial structure and features went through transformations as well. And because of this dual and concurrent physical evolution, critics accused him of doing what should’ve been impossible for the human body: morphing the body’s appearance to the point where he was accused of somehow changing the race in which his body was once categorized.

And yes, he couldn’t ignore the insinuations and blunt accusations leveled by critics for this perception of him, and he was very hurt. But the depth of these opinions was no match to his understanding of the plasticity of human form -- that, by any means, it can be modified and made to obey one’s will. On the other hand, these physical changes may not be mere modifications, but can be viewed, I think, as attempts at composing and tirelessly sculpting a visage, a face that suited not his moods, but rather an ever-changing sense of himself in his performances, on-stage, his music.

In this regard, he understood how the public eye and its senses had perceived him. He understood the illusions and fantasies the public wanted to imagine and become a part of in his art, especially the shocks and surprises that public eye wants to be thrilled by, because of the way he raises entertainment beyond the limits of mere performance. There are many pop-stars who can elevate entertainment to higher levels of theater, but for him entertainment aspired to religious ritual of sorts, ritual that could be translated into public spirit itself.

In many ways, he aspired to be catalyst for world peace, and we understand he meant the world that contains billions of people. But no doubt, this aspiration also underlined the world of conundrums in his life: aspects in his childhood he couldn’t escape, public perceptions about his relationship with children and animals, his family life, his lifestyle, the molestation charges, and, certainly, the forms and deformations his face had been through.

Because of this chaos, we can respectfully say, "May he rest in peace now," but if we view ‘rest’ in a different light, we may have already witnessed him resting in peace, before our very eyes, when he was still alive, in his years as artist. The stage, his music, his art, and his performances all constitute spaces of restful peace for him, because in them he found his center, and soared high in harmony with himself, as music itself, for and in the world. And then off-stage, of course, was his other stage: realities he had to go through which gave his art and music dimensions that hit some of the highest notes of universal accessibility. That’s why there is no final resting place for Michael Jackson, because the world cannot afford him to go there, because the world cannot stop playing and being in his music.

Michael Caylo-Baradi works in Southern California. His other works have also appeared on Mannequin Envy, Galatea Resurrects, Otoliths, Daily Californian, Daily Bruin, Los Angeles Daily News, PopMatters, and elsewhere.


The Best Indie Rock of 2017

Photo courtesy of Matador Records

The indie rock genre is wide and unwieldy, but the musicians selected here share an awareness of one's place on the cultural-historical timeline.

Indie rock may be one of the most fluid and intangible terms currently imposed upon musicians. It holds no real indication of what the music will sound like and many of the artists aren't even independent. But more than a sonic indicator, indie rock represents a spirit. It's a spirit found where folk songsters and punk rockers come together to dialogue about what they're fed up with in mainstream culture. In so doing they uplift each other and celebrate each other's unique qualities.

With that in mind, our list of 2017's best indie rock albums ranges from melancholy to upbeat, defiant to uplifting, serious to seriously goofy. As always, it's hard to pick the best ten albums that represent the year, especially in such a broad category. Artists like King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard had a heck of a year, putting out four albums. Although they might fit nicer in progressive rock than here. Artists like Father John Misty don't quite fit the indie rock mold in our estimation. Foxygen, Mackenzie Keefe, Broken Social Scene, Sorority Noise, Sheer Mag... this list of excellent bands that had worthy cuts this year goes on. But ultimately, here are the ten we deemed most worthy of recognition in 2017.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

Keep reading... Show less

It's ironic that by injecting a shot of cynicism into this glorified soap opera, Johnson provides the most satisfying explanation yet for the significance of The Force.

Despite J.J. Abrams successfully resuscitating the Star Wars franchise with 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, many fans were still left yearning for something new. It was comforting to see old familiar faces from a galaxy far, far away, but casual fans were unlikely to tolerate another greatest hits collection from a franchise already plagued by compositional overlap (to put it kindly).

Keep reading... Show less

Yeah Yeah Yeahs played a few US shows to support the expanded reissue of their debut Fever to Tell.

Although they played a gig last year for an after-party for a Mick Rock doc, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs hadn't played a proper NYC show in four years before their Kings Theatre gig on November 7th, 2017. It was the last of only a handful of gigs, and the only one on the East coast.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.