Top ten questions everyone should be asking about Michael Jackson

by Brenna Chase Pop Shifter - 30th July/2009

Rather than keep your eyes glued to your favorite news channel for the latest intrusive development or read another biased career retrospective on the recently deceased King of Pop, ponder these conundrums, posed by a true (frustrated) fan who pays attention to what’s really important.

10. How is it that Michael Jackson is sexy?

Admit it, he is. His appearance(s) may be odd, but with all the different faces/styles/versions of Michael Jackson, there has got to be something there for everyone—just pick whichever one suits your particular fancy. He’s got the whole masculine/feminine, black/white, borders-all blurred-and-undefined thing going on, and he pulls it off, turning it into something ethereal that just draws you to him. He may have been a shy, seemingly asexual recluse in real life, but on stage, he will always be pure sex. The supernatural flow of his form is so completely attractive and captivating. He possesses magnetism that can’t be explained, because it can’t be compared to anything else. It’s like his public persona and bizarre behavior are the challenges, and he overcomes them when he performs by forcing you to forget about everything else.

Perhaps a better question would be: if you had never seen or been told anything about Michael Jackson before, and just heard his music, what would your first thought be upon hearing his voice? How about, “Michael, will you marry me?” He has recorded some of the sexiest songs ever made in the history of popular music. Close your eyes and listen again to “Liberian Girl,” “In the Closet,” “Human Nature,” “Heaven Can Wait,” and “Butterflies.” Pay careful attention to the words and how he phrases them. Michael Jackson is a perfect vocalist. Just as he’s playfully floating above the harmonies on his dance songs and spitting with anger in the intense ones, he is oh-so-convincingly romantic on every ballad. His last album, Invincible, is more R&B-tinged and, though often overlooked, is actually sexier than all his earlier works put together. On the smooth track “Break of Dawn,” Michael Jackson, the same guy who’s had more than his fair share of nose jobs and believes he is the modern day Peter Pan, is telling you that he wants to make love to you all night until the sun comes up, and you are more than okay with that.

Forget Justin Timberlake, forget Prince, because the King of Pop can lure you like no other. Why is everyone freaking out about if he is actually the biological father of his children, or what drugs were in his system when he died? “Michael Jackson is sexy—how and why?” should be the headline frozen at the bottom of the CNN screen which only the most qualified professionals will discuss until they’ve got some substantial answers.

9. Why does Bono get all the credit for saving the world?

Michael Jackson’s the one who implored us to heal the world and showed us how. Universal love, giving, and making positive changes are recurring themes in his songs: “Man In The Mirror,” “Heal The World,” “We Are The World,” and “The Lost Children,” just to name a few. He began contributing to charity in 1979 when he provided Public Library’s Young Adult Section with new books to encourage reading. For the next three decades, his generosity grew to incredible proportions as Michael donated to hospitals, orphanages, educational, and employment institutions in countries all over the world. He contributed to large scale causes—AIDS research, Nelson Mandela’s Children’s Fund, The International Federation of Red Cross, and UNESCO—as well as smaller: his MJJ Productions office once provided 200 turkey dinners to needy families in Los Angeles at Christmas.

Michael donated the profits from several of his hit singles and tours to charity, including his entire share of profits from the Jacksons’ Victory Tour to the T.J. Martell Foundation for Cancer Research, The United Negro College Fund, and the Ronald McDonald Camp for Good Times and $100 million from the “Heal the World” single and tour to USA for Africa. He set up the Heal The World Foundation in 1992, which brought underprivileged kids to the theme park at Neverland and also raised millions of dollars for children threatened by war and disease all over the world. In 2001, he founded Heal the Kids, an international program that helps parents rededicate their lives to raising their children with love and attention.

Perhaps most importantly, Michael Jackson visited victims of famine, illness, war, and natural disasters throughout his lifetime, traveling as far as South America, Africa, and India to personally connect with the suffering and bring them happiness and hope. He would often coordinate these trips with his tours in foreign countries so he could meet with people in hospitals and impoverished villages anonymously in between show dates.

He holds the world record for the “Most Charities Supported By a Pop Star” in the 2000 Guinness Book Of World Records. Charity isn’t a competition, so I won’t list how much money Bono has raised compared to MJ, but feel free to look into it. The U2 front man has somehow become the high profile archetype of humanity while Michael has been the living definition of good will for decades. He just does it without needing credit or praise. In your FACE, egotistical Irish guy! Michael Jackson raised hundreds of millions of dollars and donated $50 million of his own personal fortune to try to make the world a better place. . . why didn’t more people take notice?

8. What’s so bad about dangling a baby over a balcony?

Clips of Michael Jackson holding up baby Prince Michael II (Blanket) from a Berlin hotel terrace in 2002 for a crowd to see are still being replayed on countless television shows. Let’s watch it one more time and examine just what a terrible, crazy father this man must have been to commit such an act. What about the famous scene in The Lion King where Rafiki holds Simba up over Pride Rock to proudly show the king’s newborn son to his kingdom. . . now was that so wrong? A bizarre act of questionable parenting, or one of the most genuine, emotional expressions of love ever executed? Watch the Disney movie again and reevaluate your answer.

7. Why is everyone so shocked by the possibility that Michael Jackson had health problems?

All typical celebrity addiction clichés aside, it’s been pretty clear that Michael Jackson was dealing with serious ailments for years. For those of you shocked by the disclosure of his dependence on painkillers, listen to “Morphine” from his album Blood On The Dance Floor. It’s clearly about the sinister addictiveness of Morphine and Demerol. Yes, he wrote the song and put it on an album for all to hear in 1997, and yes, it’s a fucking good song. Why weren’t more people listening then?

Remember when the media—and anyone who believed the reports—was convinced that Michael’s claim of having a skin condition was a fabrication to cover up the fact that he was obsessed with bleaching his skin? He wrote “Black or White” and promoted the universal love of all races; he disclosed to the prying world his personal health condition of vitiligo, a disease involving the loss of skin pigmentation; and made multiple public statements declaring his pride of being African American. Still he was assailed as a liar. And to this day people still doubt the validity of him really having the disease.

Michael Jackson’s personal doctors, including longtime friend and well-respected physician Deepak Chopra, have now come forward to report on the singer’s struggle with vitiligo. Yes, he really had the disease. He was always incredibly self-conscious about his appearance, so he wore pounds of makeup to cover up the uncontrollable splotches on his skin. The condition made him literally allergic to sunlight, which would explain him always carrying around an umbrella. What a crazy person, right?! Dr. Chopra has also revealed that Michael suffered from lupus, a chronic autoimmune disease that caused the vitiligo, and that it is believed to have developed from the trauma of severe emotional abuse and stress he endured as a child. MJ never publicly spoke of the lupus, probably because he never owed anyone more of an explanation for his skin abnormalities than he had already given.

Despite the “evidence,” there will always be some who remain convinced that Michael Jackson bleached his skin for the hell of it. These skeptics are like Thomas the Apostle. You know, the guy that missed out on Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and told the other disciples, “Unless I put my finger into the nail marks of his hands and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” Yes, I just quoted The Bible in reference to Michael Jackson. For all the Thomases out there who doubt him, read this article or search for invasive pictures like this:

6. Why is the media not making a bigger deal over the evilness that is Joseph Jackson?

His first on-camera interview since Michael’s death, filmed on the red carpet at the BET awards ceremony-turned-MJ-tribute-show, reveals Joe plugging his new record company mere seconds after he is questioned about his son, deceased as of three days at that time. CNN anchorman Don Lemon totally lets him off easy, not questioning his stoicism or shamelessness under the somber circumstances. The news frenzy covered this shady interview for a short time, mentioning it as a sort of afterward to the BET Awards before moving on to the next story. A week later, good Grandpa Joe told Good Morning America that two of Michael’s children, 11-year-old daughter Paris and 7-year-old son Prince II, are showing potential for future stardom. Still, no one screamed in his face. Isn’t it the media’s job to probe further into interesting and suspicious subject matter? They spend a hell of a lot of time speculating over who could be the biological father of Michael’s children and tracking down Bubbles the Chimp. (Bonus question: what’s weirder, Michael Jackson having a pet chimpanzee or news stations obsessing over his existence 25 years after they first created headlines about it?)

Joe Jackson can pretty much be blamed for all the negativity and downfalls his superstar son faced throughout the years. The intense emotional stress attributable to his father’s abuse when Michael was a child manifested itself in physical ailments (you know, the ones people thought he made up). He also developed Body Dysmorphic Disorder, obsessively altering his appearance to avoid any outward resemblance to the man who raised him, mistreated him, and told him he was ugly. The singer’s traumatic youth generated his obsession with childhood and innocence, eventually leading to molestation charges that drove him physically ill with stress and despair and dependent on anti-anxiety and sleeping pills.

No matter what directly caused Michael Jackson’s death, it is clear that the origins of all his life problems can be traced back to the scars left by his father’s emotional abuse. I’d think the media would jump all over this source of evil, with paparazzi hounding Joe far worse than they ever bothered his son for the past 30 years. “Joe! Joe! Tell us, do you feel bad that you indirectly caused the death of the most talented and compassionate individual in your family? Say something for the camera!” Why don’t the police raid Joseph Jackson’s home like they did Neverland, for evidence that he’s a permanent ASSHOLE?

5. Was it that absurd for his children to wear the masks?

Now everyone in the world knows exactly what Prince, Paris, and Prince II look like, so they can be followed everywhere and photographed in every different outfit and environment imaginable, all the time. Move over Lindsay Lohan, TMZ’s got some new favorites! Paparazzi have hounded Michael Jackson his entire life, snapping photos of him at every opportunity since he was ten years old; it’s not like that turned out badly. I’m just confused as to why he wouldn’t allow us to get a really good, long look at his kids before. He should have sold the infancy pictures to Us Weekly when he had the chance. We could have started this whole crazed speculation over their true biological parents waaaay earlier instead of in the wake of them losing the only parent they’ve ever had. That way they could have started doubting where they came from at much earlier ages while the man who worked so hard to raise them in a normal, loving environment was still alive. The media was right all along in its depiction of Michael Jackson as a frightening eccentric; he attached way too much importance to the concept of privacy—and costume accessories.

4. Who the hell is buying Thriller in 2009?

Right now, Michael Jackson albums are selling like, well, Michael Jackson albums in the ’80s. At the time of writing this article, over two million people bought his albums in the first three weeks following his death. The third week alone accounts for 1.1 million of these sales, which literally tripled compared to the first week. This staggering number also includes 349,000 copies of Number Ones and 264,000 copies of Thriller sold in the third week. The top 12 positions on Billboard’s top pop catalog albums chart are currently held by MJ-related albums, both solo and with the Jackson 5.

Physical albums make up 90 percent of his sales in the third week, with 966,000 people buying the physical CD versus 110,000 downloading albums. Physical purchases are increasing significantly each week as more physical product becomes available in stores. Before now, no single artist had ever sold even one million digital tracks in a single week, but in the first few days following his death people downloaded nearly 2.5 million digital Michael Jackson songs. In total, 6.1 million digital MJ tracks have been bought in North America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand in the past three weeks. As time progresses (and media coverage fails to subside), sales continue to escalate.

Don’t worry about all these impressive figures, though. The fact is that Michael Jackson album sales are not only breaking all kinds of records, but he has posthumously breathed life into the long-time suffering music industry. Interestingly enough, when Thriller was first released in 1982, it single-handedly resurrected Epic Records, and the music industry as a whole, as they had been in a major slump for the past three years. History is repeating itself, and Thriller continues to maintain its title as the Best Selling Album of All Time in the Guinness Book of World Records as people are once again going out in droves (to real, physical stores, too!) to buy Michael Jackson albums.

I’m just a little confused. Who just realized that Michael Jackson is amazing but didn’t have any of his albums? Who doesn’t already own Thriller? Surely, anyone who was alive bought their first copy when it came out in 1982. It remained in the American Top Ten for 80 consecutive weeks, spending 37 of those at Number One. That means everyone in America who ever bought music had to own Thriller. Then they all gradually bought it on CD as the new format became prevalent; a new generation discovered the album, and it was just like discovering it all over again for those whose records and tapes had worn out.

By the time the 25th anniversary edition came out last year, I sure as hell hope that anyone who had lost their copy, or was too young to buy it the first time around, came to their senses and realized that any MJ album, but especially Thriller, is a life necessity. Surely anyone with a TV has seen Michael’s famous moonwalking performance of “Billie Jean;” surely we’ve all danced to “PYT” at weddings; and involuntarily bopped along to “Beat It” or “Wanna Be Startin’ Something” whenever they’ve been played occasionally on the radio?

Thriller set a precedent for blockbuster albums when seven of its nine original tracks became Top Ten singles on the Billboard Hot 100, and its individual singles reached Number One chart positions in the US, the UK, France, Italy, Australia, Denmark, Belgium, South Africa, Spain, Ireland, New Zealand, and Canada. Everybody’s got to know the songs, and if you know them, you can’t deny that they are the definition of good music.

Yet, the staggering numbers of CD sales in the past two weeks reveals that there are a lot of people who’ve heard Michael Jackson songs in their lifetime but somehow never felt the need to actively own and listen to them. I’m surprised to find that there are actually human beings out there who’ve caught “Thriller” on the radio during Halloween season and thought, “Man, what a great song; guess I’ll wait ’til next fall to hear it again.” I’m just curious as to how these men and women who suddenly feel the need to listen to Michael Jackson’s music ever lived without it as a constant in their lives. Oh, and if it’s going to take 30 more years until people realize that later Jackson albums like Blood On The Dance Floor and Invincible are just as amazing in their own ways, I’m going to be very upset.

3. Why hasn´t the world always celebrated Michael Jackson´s life and music?

Aside from the ridiculous media madhouse surrounding anything and everything related to Michael Jackson, and the regrettable fact that he is no longer living, this whole resurgence of interest in and love for his life and music is pretty fucking amazing. It’s strange to think that he has made such a permanent stamp on international pop culture, yet has been kind of forgotten about in the past decade. . . at least in America. Up until recently, it had become a semi-rare treat to hear his songs played on the radio or catch one of his performances replayed on TV. But now, since June 25, 2009, cars have been blasting Michael Jackson tunes at full volume as they drive down the street, and it’s no surprise to step into a store and hear the familiar, catchy strains of one of his songs. You can bet clubs around the world are now spinning Off The Wall multiple times a night, and its beats are guaranteeing full dance floors. Amidst all the negative reports, the media has started to bring to light Michael Jackson’s achievements and charitable contributions that they neglected to focus on for so long. We’ve gotten a refresher course on how he broke the color barrier on MTV, not to mention Grammy award and album sales records left and right.

So, to a true MJ fan like myself, the present environment is a bit confusing. His music should be playing everywhere, all the time, at any given opportunity. His impact on pop culture as we know it and his countless good endeavors to bring good to the world should be appreciated and revered every day, always, not just now because he is gone.

Michael Jackson’s memorial service was a tribute long overdue. It would have been especially valuable for him to have known just how many people still admire and support him in 2009. Now, people all over the planet are aware of his greatness as an artist and a person. The world should have established an international holiday celebrating this guy decades ago. (Who do I speak to about this? The UN?) Fuck the Elvis Presley comparison; Michael Jackson is more like the modern day Schubert or Mahler, known as a musician in life but truly acknowledged and revered as genius only after his death. Good job everyone; western culture has come a long way since the 1800s.

2. Has he ever made a mistake?

Despite all the courtroom allegations, financial woes, and social gaffes, I have never witnessed one instance of Michael Jackson actually messing up during a performance. Once he’s on stage, he is flawless. He committed his entire life to creating and practicing, practicing, practicing so he could give his fans nothing less than the greatest show possible. Always the perfectionist, he cried backstage after his legendary Motown 25 premiere of the moonwalk, because he felt he had not done his best. Only after a young boy stopped him in the parking lot as he was leaving and told Michael it was amazing, did he feel proud of the performance at all. The ridiculously high standards he set for himself mean that his audience will never see anything less than precision and magic. If you’ve found some shoddy footage on YouTube of Michael Jackson falling flat on his face in the middle of a dance or something, don’t show it to me. . . I’d rather keep on believing. To me, he always seemed inhuman: full of humanity, yes, but when it came to how he spoke, thought, created, and shared, he appeared to be not of this world. He was—and still is—magic.

1. The ultimate question surrounding his life is not how strangely he lived, or how he died, but how did Michael Jackson exist in this material world to begin with?
We were lucky to have experienced him at all.

*Author’s note: Some statements have been kept in the present tense though Michael Jackson is no longer living. While this may be grammatically and conceptually incorrect, it’s impossible to talk about this person and his art as if it is all a finite part of history that already happened and is no more. Hopefully no one is too confused by the inconsistency in tense, because to me Michael Jackson is timeless.