i'm not really into music but... i'm a huge Michael Jackson fan.
this song is my first real musical love, and i think it laid down a solid foundation for what it is that i look for in an artist now - creative conviction and generosity.
not just in music, but in any field that serves as an influence on how i continue to build my own creative identity.
essentially, i think, fighting for our ideas and ideals has never been more difficult... or rather, more easily bastardized (and monetized) than the social environment we currently occupy.
every creative freedom comes with a price, and the cost is something that scares me constantly.
"i wish i was braver," i lamented to my cousin the other day over drinks. there's only so much rebelling i feel like i can do and then i hit a wall. then i want to cross over to the other side, but the toll is unknown and the uncertainty leaves me terrified. all the more reason why i draw energy and ceaseless inspiration from those souls who are far braver and by extension, more generous, than mine. Michael Jackson was the first one, i think. i idolized him long before i even knew what that was or what that meant.
his HIStory concert back in 1997 was the first show i've ever attended, and remains a highlight of my life.
fast forward to this day, in spite of every controversy, i've quietly supported him because of some sort of kinship (imaginary or otherwise) i feel with him as a fellow creative. people who are eccentric or difficult to understand are by far the easiest to vilify... and Michael was a strange one indeed. in terms of his art, though, there is no one who comes even remotely close. amid the cries of hopeless wannabes who arose in his wake, they wail about wanting to be taken seriously as "artists", as he stands alone on his own transcendent level. he nothing short of transforms when he's onstage into something electric and unearthly, and it's plain to see how he comes alive in the applause of tens of thousands. the creature he is in the glare of the public eye could not be more opposite in stature and in confidence.
this is nothing new - artists thrive when they're doing the work that they live for. it is the spaces that take them away from it that creates discomfort and deer-like uncertainty.
while Michael is the extreme example of this, it pains me that the scrutiny was as such that he was portrayed as a mere parody of a human being. he was tabloid fodder, he was public property. people so often forget that he was human, too. just as flawed, just as wonderful as any other has the capacity to be. just because we can lay claim to his music, his ideas, his style cues, whatever... somehow apparently some of us equate that with ownership of his person; or at the very least, his persona.
it's horrifying, because the fact remains is that we know nothing. absolutely nothing about him or the kind of person he is.
the success and the unprecedented creative freedom Michael has had throughout his creative life is one that inspires and something i personally strive for, but with it comes with the heavy weight of envy and eventually, if his later years are anything to go by, outright derision. everything good and meaningful that he has ever had to offer and/or contributed to the world, his heart and soul was completely erased in a red haze, a smear of black ink right across his name.
it simply told me that there's nothing more frightening than having bits of your heart and soul in the hands of something as fickle and callous as people. therein lies the ultimate price for pursuing creativity, i think. the work can only be done so well, the ideas so unique, and the message so well-meaning/controversial/nonexistent... because the end result, be it the euphoria of success or spectacular failure, lies in the hands of people.
i'm well aware i may be blowing this out of proportion, but there have been far too many instances in which the only truly brilliant artistic contributors this world had to offer were stolen early. even worse, said contributors are in a better place than here.
all of this being what it is, what still strikes me to the core about Michael Jackson is his unwavering faith in the said fickle and callous creatures who call themselves people. "nothing but love," he would say. i'm far less forgiving, but he is a huge part of why i think i've still retained a lot of the empathy i possessed in excess as a child.
my cousin and i agreed the other night that a certain measure of masochism is kind of an unspoken requirement/characteristic of creatives. i certainly still think so. whatever it is that's produced from somewhere in your brain or your soul that you put out into the world for someone else's judgement, at risk of being torn to pieces. and when it is, what then?
whosever idea it was to romanticize tragedy was a real dick. it's not fun or flowery, it's just sad.
however, it remains a beautiful thing. the very aspect of human nature in all of its ugliness and horror is an equal capacity for great beauty and empathy. the trouble is mixing up the two, maybe.