"KEEP BUSTIN'."

Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour

tn_immortalWell I’m not gonna start reviewing circus acts in my opinion but last Thursday I did go see the Michael Jackson themed one that’s touring around like a monster truck show so I thought maybe it would be worth writing down a few thoughts about it.

I’ve never seen a Circus of the Soleil before. Of course I’ve heard good things. But it seemed like if I was gonna ever see one in my life the one entirely based around Michael Jackson would be the one for me. ‘Cause I doubt they’ll ever do one on Clint Eastwood. The tickets were way more expensive than I’d usually spend for entertainment, but I figured it was cheaper than if I wait and have to go to Vegas to see it. So I took the plunge and sat in the third from last row in the Key Arena, in the section that’s not even usually open for Storm games except during play offs.

Cirque du Soleil definitely seems like something Michael would’ve been into, and a collaboration between them seems pretty natural. Apparently they had talked about it before, but I’m sure he talked to alot of people about doing alot of things that he never would’ve ended up doing. So it’s too bad it couldn’t happen until he died. But it does seem to me like a sincere and worthy tribute, a hell of alot more interesting to me than these tribute concerts they’ve had in Europe with modern not-as-good pop stars doing their own shitty versions of his songs. And the title is very appropriate: Michael’s songs, his iconic dance moves, his imagery, his fashion, and his “heal the world” sentiments all live on even though the poor guy doesn’t.

mp_immortalI’ve thought about that alot in the last couple years. I never saw the guy with my own eyes, he never even played a show in Seattle. But it took me a long time to get used to him being gone. It still makes me sad to think about it. One time I was listening to “Unbreakable,” the first track on his last album Invincible, and it was bumming me out. It’s one of his defiant “quit fucking with me” songs, and he sounds so strong saying “I know you hate it and you can’t take it / but you’ll never break me, ’cause I’m unbreakable.” And he works up to this peak and then changes the melody to sing “You can try to stop me, but it won’t do a thing / no matter what you do, I’m still gonna be here…”

But of course I was listening to this, and thinking that he’s not here anymore. And I’m not trying to make him into a victim for his own choice to medicate himself in reckless ways, but I definitely feel like all the hatred directed at him put his life at the place where it was that he felt he had to do that. When Kaddafi died and I was trying to see what was going on I stayed on Fox News longer than I could MSNBC because Martin Bashir was on and part of me can’t help but blame that dick for that sleazy fuckin hit piece he did that led to the accusations and everything else. Everything else that broke Michael.

Or that’s what I was thinking, but then Biggie comes on for a rap verse. And this album came out several years after Biggie died. He had met Michael but he didn’t know he was gonna be on this song with him. But there he was on Invincible.

So that’s when I understood it. The tragic death of Michael Jackson, the human being, made Michael Jackson the worldwide phenomenon “more powerful than you could ever imagine” or whatever the guy from Star Wars said. Suddenly the negative things that everybody always said when talking about Michael in those days mostly went away and people began to think of him as what they had loved about him at some point in his long career. He’s no longer a weird guy holed up in Las Vegas doing mysterious things, he’s a piece of our memories, so he can be the “King of Pop” that he wanted to be. He’s literally a shapeshifter, because we remember him with different faces and skin tones. He can dance and he can sing like a motherfucker and it makes kung fu sound effects when he whips his hands around. He’s a super hero. He’s ageless, timeless, in some ways faceless. He is unbreakable, and he’s immortal.

The concept of Michael Jackson: The Immortal is to sort of bring that Michael to life on stage. It has the loud sound and bombastic big screen visuals of Michael’s concerts, with a live band playing along with his recordings and a troupe of dancers of course doing the untoppable choreography from the videos to “Thriller,” “Beat It” and “Smooth Criminal.” I’m not sure if any of the dancers or musicians were gonna be in the This Is It shows, but I know that show’s choreographer Travis Payne worked on this. It feels like there’s a continuity.

There were definitely moments where it felt like all the hoopla of a Michael Jackson concert but missing the one main element that is not available. But luckily it’s not just a pretend concert, it’s a circus show, and they have a whole weird storyline going. The show centers around 5 weird mumbling dancer/mime dudes who I guess are supposed to just be MJ fans. They’re all wearing different types of Michael fashions, like one guy looks like teenage Jackson 5 era with an afro, one guy’s got a crazy horn-hairdo like one of the guys in the Ghosts video, and there’s a fat dude with a “Beat It” jacket carrying a boombox. (By the way the crowd reacted I thought these might’ve been repeated characters from other Cirque du Soleil shows, but after asking people about it it sounds like they’re not.)

The other two main characters are a guy who’s white from head to toe (I guess he’s called “The Mime”) and Bubbles (a guy in a chimp mask wearing overalls and a striped shirt – he moved like a real ape and somehow seemed to position his legs to look like they were short).

Anyway these guys go from a circular stage in the middle of the 1% seating section up to a main stage where they interact with animation on a screen and eventually come to a big 3-dimensional prop of the Neverland entrance, where cherubic statues come to life as performers in stone-colored costumes. And then various weird shit happens to the tune of many Michael classics (and a couple lesser knowns). The weird shit involves lots of great dancing, acrobats, aerialists, amazing costumes and optical illusions.

The various huge video screens sometimes flash imagery from Michael’s body of work (videos, performances, a cartoon snake from the Jackson 5 cartoon) but mostly new imagery designed to work as backgrounds to the performers. For example at the beginning the 5 fans interact with a cityscape, and animated water spraying from a fire hydrant causes the fat guy to be lifted in the air. Then the others are also suspended by cables and create illusions of running along a moving subway and flipping through animated backgrounds.

In another scene aerialists waved around costumes that implied some sort of exotic fish fins, and the screen was sort of a water background that then doubled them from other angles so it looked like there was a whole school of them. Probly the best use of projecting the live performance onto the screen was when The Mime danced on stage and his gigantic image was on the screen with animated musical notes shooting out from his feet every time they hit the ground.

From the nosebleed seats we had a bird’s eye view of the computer people overseeing the video, lighting, pyrotechnics and all that. It looked like a mission control room at NASA.

Because of the multiple stages and the elaborate production there were a bunch of times when I was watching something and almost missed something new popping up somewhere else. During the great “Smooth Criminal” number I was watching the fedora-wearing dancers on the stage and almost didn’t notice the whole other row of dancers above them until right before they did the famous leaning move. For “Beat It” one of the fans was playing the part of Michael’s glove (yes, he was inside a giant sequined glove and making it move like a disembodied hand) and didn’t notice for a while that two other guys were on the center stage playing Michael’s shoes. In another scene with just The Mime dancing I was startled by the LED lights that revealed the forms of several bodies curled up on the stage right at his feet. They had been there for who knows how long covered head to toe in black. Then they performed an aerial act to “Human Nature” while the lights on their bodysuits changed colors.

Some other highlights;

* “Smooth Criminal” incorporated some of that great black and white footage they made for This Is It. Michael’s character is referred to in newspaper headlines as “Polecat Cane,” something I don’t remember hearing before. One headline says “The Glove – too smooth to catch.”

* During “Beat It” a female guitarist and a woman playing some kind of crazy electric standup bass type deal traded off on an excellent version of Eddie Van Halen’s solo. The guitarist had a giant mohawk and from where I was sitting looked like the woman that toured with Michael in the ’90s, but it turns out she’s some 18 year old prodigy.

* For “Can You Feel” some dudes were swinging back and forth on rings and doing flips and shit, and I can’t understand how they were able to do it all on beat

* An “Is It Scary/Threatened/Thriller” horror medley not only had stylized mummies coming out of graves to do the “Thriller” zombie dance, it also had crazy bat people flying around. They had glowing eyes and when they lowered their heads I could see that the lights were attached to grey Michael-style fedoras.

still_immortal1
* One of the dancers that the crowd flipped for was a guy with one leg who did all kinds of acrobatics on crutches. During “Thriller” he used big skeleton arms as crutches.

* “Dangerous” was a woman doing a crazy pole dance act. It seemed almost like Cirque du Soleil saying “Fuck you, I know you’ll bring your kids anyway” because I can’t believe how clearly you could see this woman’s crotch even from the cheap seats. But I guess the painful looking contortion took away some of the lust factor and made it more family appropriate?

* As the last act ended, before a “Man In the Mirror” curtain call, Bubbles left the center stage to go to the backstage area. The lights were up on the stage drawing your attention to other performers and he was in the dark, but I happened to watch him run off still in character as an ape, using his hands to run, and he ran under a rope like an out of control animal and ran up to some viewers on the floor. Not like he was gonna rise of the planet of the apes, it was cuter than that. But I appreciate that Disneyland type attention to offstage detail.

(Since I mentioned Disneyland I should note that there is a remixed version of “Another Part of Me” in the show, but no Captain Eo imagery.)

* Oh, and “Billy Jean” used light-up suits like in STEP UP 3!

still_immortal2
A few times toward the end they actually had a guy wearing Michael’s sequins, his hat tilted over his face, holding a microphone and standing in the middle. For me it didn’t really work, it seemed like all the performers around him had already established Michael’s presence in their own ways, and to try to portray it that literally was not convincing. I was much more impressed by the climactic Michael silhouettes that appeared in the center of the stage, as if he’s behind there watching, or his shadow is projected down from wherever he is.

I read a while back that they hope to have a holographic Michael in the permanent Vegas version of the show. Maybe that will work better. I’d like to see it.

So it was a great show, and probly even better immersed in it down in the rich people seats, where people fly above you and monkeys could bite your face off. My only real complaint is the disconnect I felt back there. Not really the fault of the show, and might not happen at all the dates, it was just this particular crowd, Seattle, November 10th. Every once in a while somebody would scream “We love you Michael!” and there were a couple isolated incidents of dancing, but almost everybody remained politely in their seats. Maybe I wanted some kind of wake atmosphere, but that wasn’t gonna happen because many or most of these people just went to see Cirque du Soleil and not necessarily to have a group welcoming of Michael Jackson to Immortality.

So that’s fine, but the show was so much modeled after a huge, exciting rock concert that it felt wrong, like they were putting on a show and nobody was very into it. There’s even a part where they simulate excitement by playing a recording of the audience at an actual MJ concert, and most of the crowd didn’t take the cue to join in the chant of “Michael! Michael!”

Other than that I got what I wanted out of the show. It paid tribute to Michael’s music, his obsessions, his ideals (“Earth Song” and “Heal the World” are in there, all kinds of corny Lion King animal shit during “Ben,” etc.) It gave me a small piece of the spectacle I would’ve liked to see if I ever got to see him live. I felt pretty sure that Michael would’ve loved it if he could’ve seen it. He would’ve been the guy in the crowd wearing a fat suit disguise, dancing like James Brown.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, November 15th, 2011 at 2:02 pm and is filed under Blog Post (short for weblog). You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

49 Responses to “Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour”

  1. Sounds awesome, Vern. Kinda sad and bittersweet, but mostly awesome, especially the “Billy Jean” part. Your use of the exclamation point there warms my heart.

    I’ll be getting “rich people seats” for this at a future date in Vegas. I do not fear the monkey.

  2. wow, sounds amazing, I’ve always wanted to see a Cirque du Soleil show, but you say MJ never once played in Seattle? that’s surprising

  3. Vern – Did they use “Sunset Driver”? Anyway good review, thanks dude.

    (Oh and don’t forget CAPTAIN EO. One of these days…)

  4. Grim Grinning Chris

    November 15th, 2011 at 10:46 pm

    Vern,

    You really should check out WHO’S BAD… I’ve had them at my club twice and they put on a fucking fantastic show.
    Not the spectacle of this, sure… but still a great night of great MJ music played by total pros with two interchanging “Michael”s that are both amazing dancers and great singers.
    It’s an internationally touring act- in the states they mainly do clubs and House Of Blues/ Hard Rock type/size venues. Apparently they kill in China and do huge theaters there.
    It’s also obvious from working with them twice that this is not a callous money grab… these guys really do love MJ and really do want to try and keep his music and spirit alive and give people that never got to or could never have afforded to a chance to feel just a sliver of what it must have been like to be at a real MJ concert.
    Here’s a montage clip from their China tour last year. The show is a bit pared down from this state-side as they play smaller venues here than there… but you get the idea of the care that goes into their show.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xE7xcXQyBnI

    Not sure what tickets for their shows would be like in Seattle, but they generally average $15-20 in the SouthEast and its worth every penny. They tour constantly, so I am sure they have to hit Seattle from time to time.

  5. I always thought it was weird how fans embraced Bubbles. It always seemed like something a comedy writer would come up with for a Michael Jackson parody.

  6. Great review Vern. Your take on Michael becoming more powerful in death than he was in life made me think about how the modern age consumes celebrity after the real thing is gone. Look at the Steve Jobs response. Utter rapture for a week, and then a whiplash reversal when his biography lands and reveals he was, you know, kind of human. I think Michael’s death sidesteps a lot of this fallout because his life was so much weirder than Jobs. It lends itself better to his absence; we don’t have to wonder anymore how a real person lives inside that Neverland; it’s enough to know it shares a neighborhood on Sunset Boulevard. All those broad strokes he made to shield himself from public scrutiny never really helped him lead a normal life, but they enshrined his posthumous fame in a weird sheeny aura that eludes people like Jobs, who formed a family, raised a titanic company, and in general did the sort of things that can crumble into uniformity once their makers no longer around to keep it going.

    Anyway, food for thought.

    Also, I gotta call bullshit on this. “The tragic death of Michael Jackson, the human being, made Michael Jackson the worldwide phenomenon “more powerful than you could ever imagine” or whatever the guy from Star Wars said.”

    Whatever the guy? Man, you know damn well that it was Morpheus. Let’s keep it real chief.

  7. I am actually more comfortable with MJ being dead than I was with him being alive the last 10 years or so. At least I know that he can’t molest any little boys. This whole Sandusky thing has stirred up some bad memories. The things Sandusky says are so reminiscent of what MJ said during and after the Martin Bashir “hit piece” that it’s creepy. I guess it is possible that MJ ws completely innocent of any crimes. Maybe someday somebody will make a detailed documentary that can convince me that he was falsely accused. If it has been done, please let me know. I would like to see it, seriously. Until I do though… Well, like I said. When he was alive I couldn’t ever listen to his music and enjoy it 100% because it always had this huge asterisk hanging over his head. Now that he’s dead for some reason I can appreciate him more as an artist without having to think that maybe he’s off somewhere getting away with grotesque shit because of his money and fame.

    Sorry Vern, I know you love MJ. I didn’t want to ruin your talkbacks with nasty stuff but I felt the need to get this off my chest. And I really do think in death MJ’s legend and power will grow and the nasty allegations will fade some, kind of like nobody cares any more all that much that the “Great Balls of Fire” dude married his 13 year old cousin or whatever. Eventually it will just be the music left.

  8. Jerry Lee Lewis is similar to Johnny Cash: his public scandals have been woven into some vague idea of outlaw credibility that music journalists and marketing teams seem to find so compelling.

    Now, James Brown: there’s a motherfucker that laughed in the face of public scandal. His response to one scandal was to perpetrate an even more outrageous scandal, replete with high speed chase.

  9. Never underestimate the public’s capacity for selective amnesia when a man can sing. Look at R. Kelly. Everyone’s back to inexplicably praising his autistic sex gibberish even though they know full well the panties he’s singing about have Hello Kitty on them. Or Chris Brown. Sure, he’s a violent narcissist who somehow turned the fact that he beat his girlfriend’s face to a pulp into an excuse for self-pity over the persecution he faced. But hey, he can dance! He’s just trying to be the black Justin Timberlake, who was just trying to be the white Usher, who was just trying to be the new Michael Jackson. Why you gotta hate? She was probably asking for it anyway! (I have actually heard this last bit direct from the lips of a fairly famous video vixen who shall remain nameless.)

  10. Oh well, at least sometimes the world doesn’t forget. Just ask Gary Glitter.

  11. James Brown’s wife-beating/car-smashing-combo incident which ended in a high speed pur-suit (as Jackie Gleason would say) was a true classic example of superstar mentalness.

    After his arrest, Brown apparently explained that he had “bull’s testicles”.

    I still love the randomness of that statement.

    I sincerely hope he was wearing his cape at the time, too.

    But yes, you guys are right – the masses pick and choose who gets forgiven and who gets vilified.

    Truth be told, I grew to hate MJ a little in the end, but I felt pity for him, too. He’s certainly the only public figure who’s ever made me feel that way about them.

    It’s a shame his father, arguably the cause of it all, didn’t give two shits about him, outside of seeing what a little money generator he had in him.

    The child is the father of the man, as they say.

  12. Counterpoint: Pete Townsend, whose alleged consumption of child porn singlehandedly short-circuited the brains of anyone who grew up on the baby boomer narrative of The Who being some sort of really loud diety.

  13. Also, “autistic sex gibberish” is the greatest phrase ever. Thank you for putting in the hard work and not settling for a tired joke about pee.

  14. I almost succumbed to the easy allure of a piss joke, but then I said, no, Majestyk, you’re bladder than that.

  15. Urine a dignified elite who do not squat to conquer.

  16. Jareth: As far as I remember Pete Townsend could prove that he was doing research for a book about his traumatic childhood. Yeah, it’s a stupid excuse, but at least something that is more believable than “it wasn’t me”.

  17. How did the Bashir show start the accusations? I watched it years back, I don’t remember much about it though. I wasn’t much of a fan of Jackson’s, or a hater.

  18. Ike Turner is one exception, but I guess that’s because his victim was a better singer than him. Or wait, that doesn’t account for the Chris Brown factor. I don’t know but it seems like Chris Brown became more famous by strangling his famous girlfriend. I had heard of him but only because he was nominated for a bunch of awards on a BET show or something. Wasn’t he one of these prepackaged TV show singers they have now? I would check his Wikipedia but I’m afraid that would support domestic abuse.

    Rainman, I know what you mean. I have gone back and forth over the years. I have even changed my opinion since writing my piece on MJ’s death. That’s because somebody linked to this 1994 GQ article:

    http://www.buttonmonkey.com/misc/maryfischer.html

    which is all kinds of information I had never heard about the original abuse allegations and to me makes a convincing case that he was innocent. The article portrays the kid as repeatedly denying that Michael had done anything until his father, a dentist, put him under sodium amytal for questionable reasons. You know Anthony Pellicano, that infamous private detective with the wiretapping scandal that Seagal was connected to? He actually questioned the kid and believed his denials that Michael had ever done anything. He was convinced that it was a case of extortion and had taped conversations he felt proved it.

    In later years the son did not get along with the father, who committed suicide a few months after Michael died. The father also, I just read, wrote Robin Hood: Men In Tights. Not sure if that is relevant.

    I never knew any of the details about that case before and like most people started to at least kind of believe the allegations, but I never believed the second one. The reason I said that about Bashir is because after the first case Michael’s people felt he had to open up and not be so secretive so that people would believe him. They convinced him to do a documentary and unfortunately didn’t choose Louis Theroux, who was also interested. The kid in the second case was a kid with cancer whose family had been helped out by Chris Tucker and later Michael. I read somewhere that Bashir suggested that Michael have some of the kids he helped in the special and sitting in bed with him to show how much he cares about kids. You may have seen the special that Michael’s people put out that showed Bashir kissing Michael’s ass about what a great father he is, all edited out for Bashir’s version which sensationalistically attacks him.

    After the special aired, kids at school made fun of that kid for being in bed with Michael, and only after that did the mother start saying he was molested. There are plenty of articles around about the background of the family and why they might be untrustworthy and portrayed by the defense as “a family of grifters.” Apparently even the biased-against-Michael media felt that the mother was completely crazy. Clearly the jury felt that way anyway.

    So that’s why I can’t stand Bashir. It is a fact that he deliberately set out to ambush Michael in a sleazy A Current Affair manner, it is my belief that that led to the second trial, and it is my speculation that the stress of that part of his life led to the irresponsible drug use that killed him. But even if I’m only right about the first one, fuck that guy. I still can’t believe he interrupted Michael while he was spontaneously singing at Neverland.

  19. 13 GOING ON 30 has 2 nice Michael Jackson Thriller dance scenes.  It’s not spectacular, but it captures the spirit of why MJ’s music is better than 99% of other dance/party music and what happens to human beings (except Martin Bashir?) when they hear MJ — they have to move, have to dance, have to smile.  

      If Vern ever wanted an excuse to watch that movie, there’s one.  Also, it’s a really funny combination of BIG & HOT TUB TIME MACHINE and Jennifer Garner insults a woman by calling her “mean, rude, and frizzy.”  

    For some reason I laughed at that line way more than my ladyfriend, who loves 13 GOING ON 30 but also seemed disturbed by the depictions of adolescent bra-stuffing.  She said that if guys’ style required us to wear tight pants, that if that were the trend in our society, then we’d be stuffing our fly area all the time.  I disagree, of course, but concede she may have a point.  Maybe.  Not really.  

    She wanted to pick a fight about this, or maybe share confessions about stupid stuff we did when we were 13 years old, but instead I started singing MJ and made her forget what we were talking about.  

  20. Whoa whoa, we’re naming douchebag singers and their public doucheyness, but not mention Prince?

    Even Chris Brown knows better than to sue his own fans over their websights dedicated to him.

  21. But he’s never been accused of beating anybody. Except at basketball.

  22. Didn’t Sinead O’Connor claim he beat her up?

  23. I seriously doubt that Prince could beat up Sinead O’Connor.

  24. I sincerely doubt that Prince could beat up Justin Bieber.

    Just sayin’.

  25. I don’t know, Prince beat up Apollonia in Purple Rain. Although I heard that he has a bad hip now because of all the dancing he did wearing 5 inch heels. So Sinead could probably take him now.

    Michael comes off as one of those guys who was just too nice and trusting for his own good. I doubt he saw any of this coming (the molestation charges, media backlash, etc.) and would genuinely take people at face value. He was very child like himself and its too bad that the world basically chewed him up and spit him out. He tried to create his own little perfect world with Neverland Ranch but even Neverland couldn’t keep the real world out. Too many evil and greedy people in the world for a genuinely caring individual like him to survive very long.

  26. Prince albums make me happy. Just sayin.’

    I fear it will take his death for people to remember how awesome he was. But i hope not.

    That guy from The Roots remembers, at least.

  27. Cracked.com had a great article today, “Insane Celebrity Conspiracy Theories (That Make Sense)”, which argued among things that MJ’s life was as screwed up as it was because he was inadvertedly chemically castrated. Wow, that actually made sense.

    http://www.cracked.com/article_19552_5-insane-celebrity-conspiracy-theories-that-make-sense.html

  28. anthony4545 – I’ll speak heresy in this thread, but I prefer Prince over MJ. I think Mr. Nelson was a better lyricist, took more creative chances, more thoughtful, prolific. (MJ only released two albums in the 80s, Prince released nine) MJ had the music videos hands-down though. He also stage performance too, though Prince was a very close #2 there. They were split on vocals however. MJ certainly (to my knowledge) never fucked anyone out of songwriting credit and royalties, so point to him.

    The biggest difference (well one of them)between the two perhaps was that MJ came off as pitiful in his failed attempted to recreate the childhood he never had. Prince, nobody feels sad for him. Why would you? He just comes off as a pretentious douchebag who refused to let the reformed Morris Day & The Time tour and record under that name only because he needed to fill out his ’11 Douchebag Quotas.

    Anyway I wish he would quit being an assclown and get that WB catalogue of his remastered. The idea of a remastered DIRTY MIND or AROUND THE WORLD IN A DAY playing on my bigass stereo gives me a music boner.

    ThomasCrown442 – I remember that reported anecdote that Prince made that actress live on his strict diet during that shoot, that “diet” being only soda pop and candy.

    Fun Fact: Prince was the first major artist to release an album on-line, all the way back in 1996. Oh the irony.

  29. Sinead O’Connor looks like she’s put on a bit of weight in recent years, possibly in anticipation of a re-match with Prince. But also possibly due to the fact that she’s had a bunch of kids.

    She also acquired a massive tattoo of Jesus on her chest at some point.

  30. RRA: I’ve come to dread announcements that an artist’s body of work is going to be “remastered.” Nine times out of ten this simply means that the “remastered” versions are going to strip the recordings of all dynamic range in exchange for unnecessary loudness. It usually also means that the product will be packaged in one of those crappy cardboard sleeves that fall apart within six months.

    Were the first generation of Prince’s recordings on compact disc particularly bad? I mean, I can see why they’d want to remaster the Ronettes or the Crystals with the latest technology (ie. because CD technology has never been able to capture Spector’s production in the same way that vinyl did), or really old stuff like Robert Johnson where the source material is so spotty, but stuff from the 1980s onwards doesn’t really require the same renovation, does it?

  31. The world is ready for another Prince movie. PURPLE RAIN is flawed, in the story’s execution and in the weirdness of the characters, but the music performances in it are almost* unmatched in post-THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG/THE YOUNG GIRLS OF ROCHEFORT cinema.

    *STREETS OF FIRE, of course

    Michael Jackson’s videos & mini-movies never achieved in my opinion the kind of adult-level awesomeness we get when Prince gyrates, climbs & straddles speakers, and assumes the man’s position of cowgirl-sutra for “Darling Nikki” & “The Beautiful Ones.” I’m straight, but I appreciate a great performer when he’s at the top of his game like this, and the filmatism is magnificent.
    UNDER THE CHERRY MOON is a weirder movie with less awesome musical scenes, but Prince’s absurd confidence & confidence game is remarkable for making him both more freak-like and more accessible somehow. His wardrobe is out of control; good thing the movie is in black & white, or else our eyes would burn.

    I mean, I love the Moonwalk and everything else MJ did onstage, but Prince is the only performer who somehow makes me understand why an ugly, small, misshapen freak-looking guy *can* get girls to want him like his sperm is the cure for mortality. His stage presence & aura is amazing, and he has the occasional moves to back it up.

  32. I think Michael’s prime was better than Prince’s, but Prince’s lasted longer and produced a wider variety of good songs. Plus, I don’t think there’s anything in Michael’s catalog I like as much as the death metal double-bass drum breakdown in “Darling Nikki.” I could listen to that part for an hour and not get tired of it.

    However, I think my favorite entire Prince song is “I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man.” He gets all Bruce Springsteen small town angst on that ass and somehow makes that kind of sexy.

  33. RRA:

    I prefer Prince. I was afraid to say so, tho.

    I fear banishment.

  34. Jareth – As someone who owns alot of Prince’s 80’s work on CD, i’d have to say that those CD’s seem to be recorded at a very low volume so you have to crank up the stereo about 4 or 5 decibels above the normal volume you play your music at. This sometimes introduces a little distortion. Also, those albums tend to sound pretty tinny on the whole. That said, its never been a huge distraction or anything and while I would welcome remastered versions of his albums (Dirty Mind and Controversy especially), i’d be perfectly happy with my current ones. Michael’s remastered albums sound pretty incredible though. I used to own Thriller on SACD and compared it to the remastered CD and the remastered CD held its own.

    RRA – If that’s true about her diet during that movie, wow. From now on I’m feeding my future girlfriends only soda pop and candy.

  35. Oh, and quick shout out to Morris Day & The Time. I’ve seen them 3 times in concert and its the most fun I’ve ever had a concert. Who knew The Time would spawn Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, two of the most profilic music producers of all time.

  36. Thanks, ThomasCrown. I know some remastered recordings can be a real revelation (that Columbia box set of Billie Holiday, for example), but there are enough shoddy cash grabs out there to make me wary. And I certainly know that some of the first generation CDs sound pretty awful.

    Also, I believe that Paula Poundstone once said that she drinks diet coke in an attempt to counteract the effect of her pop tart-only diet. Probably she was joking. Prince, on the other hand, was probably serious.

  37. Funny, I was just looking at the Nevermind 4 vinyl boxset on Amazon, and apparently it’s awful sounding. There wasn’t a single reviewer who said it sounded good. It’s awfully expensive, too.

  38. Jareth – I know what you mean (notorious offender: George Harrison’s ALL THINGS MUST PASS), but I think perhaps ThomasCrown442 explains the basic problem. Had a friend who had a turntable and still had his dad’s LP copy of 1999, which we spun for shitz and giggles. Except we found that somehow that vinyl came off as having much more musical depth than the CD I have did.

    I just think those early CDs (which haven’t been remastered subsequently) with the newest digital stereo technology at times just come up short. Especially after spinning on them the recently remastered Beatles catalogue, which was maticulously and with precision. Not just louder, but that primitive 1960s recording 2-4 track equipment now come of with as much range as the newer contemporary released records. (At least from my perspecitive.) I would love for such great, time consuming care taken with the Prince catalogue. Of course knowing the Minneapolis Midget, he would edit out the curse words. (Which would take totally the fun out of sing-along to “Let’s Pretend We’re Married.”)

    Mouth – I like how you name the movies, and completely ignore GRAFFITI BRIDGE. Of course I don’t blame you. (Plus SIGN O THE TIMES was actually a decent “concert” movie, or glorified long music video.) I believe a Vern marathon-review of those movies are in good order.

    Mr. Majestyk – I always thought odd the guy made a msitake by not obviously issuing “Starfish & Coffee” as a single. Of course those singles were good picks (and hits too) so the point is mute.

    I suppose my favorite album was 1999. Or maybe DIRTY MIND. Depends whether I want to (musically) make love, or a quickie. Favorite songs? I dunno, I always thought “America” was pretty fucking awesome, including that false start. “When You Were Mine” is the best Cars track those assholes never made, and better than anything they ever did. I wish more punk bands would cover “Sister.” “Why You Treat Me So Bad?” is so cheesetastic. Also just like everybody else, I cliche liked “Mountains.”

  39. There is a well-documented trend in CD releases to make them louder and louder, simply because everybody else is doing it. If all the other CDs sound “THIS” loud and your CD sounds “this” loud, then yours is going to be quiet in the music store when they’ve got you on shuffle. So they’ll take you out of rotation or whatever. The problem is that by turning up the volume your CD loses serious dynamic range and your cymbal crashes sound muffled, etc. It sucks.

    Wikipedia even has an article, with a graphic showing audio from different releases of MJ’s “Black and White” as an example:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loudness_war

  40. rainman – thanks!

    In follow-up of that Prince/Time petty shit I posted earlier, apparently Prince at his recent concerts have been playing Time tracks, yelling to the audience that “I wrote them!”

    (Meanwhile the crowd has no fucking idea why he’s playing “Cool.”)

  41. Vern – have you read this? The alleged “Michael Jackson Curse” in boxing, where fighters’ using MJ as their entrance music end up getting bad luck in the ring.

    http://www.fightsaga.com/news/item/1633-Boxing-s-Michael-Jackson-Curse-Reality-or-Myth

  42. Have you seen this one?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WPv-VYgdokg&feature=related

    James Brown calls Michael to the stage during a show, Michael then gets him to call Prince to the stage. Can you imagine seeing all three of them at the same time?

  43. Vern – some scientists have pointed out that moment as being responsible for that blowing hole in the Ozone over the South Pole because the Earth just could not withstand that amount of awesomeness together in such short proximity.

  44. We were joking about Prince making another movie, but apparently he might’ve already secretly produced one years back for his 3121 album but never released it. Or was it a real movie or one of those mythical vault-locked music videos or is it a hybrid of the two like 3 CHAINS O’ GOLD was?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DBAAnbFj35o&feature=related

  45. Questlove (The Roots) in the latest Rolling Stone issue told a good story that alas I can’t find a link for online so I’m retyping it from the printed profile. (Yeah magazines still exist.) Anyway:

    “His parents were stick Christians, so he wasn’t allowed to have explicit albums in the house. To get around them, he used to hide albums under his mattress. “The more I rebelled, the more they tried to God it out of me,” he says. “I wasn’t allowed to watch cartoons. I wasn’t allowed to watch sitcoms. There was extreme hell to pay for anything Prince-related. Between ’82 and ’87, I went through about nine copies of 1999.

    One time, he was at Prince’s studio, when he accidentally let slip a curse word. Prince demanded he put $20 in the swear jar. “I was like , ‘For what?’ He said, ‘You cussed. You can’t cuss here.’ I said , ‘Motherfucker, do you know how much punishment I went through because of you? You taught me those words!'”

    Awesome.

  46. From CJ Holden’s homeland, a 2003/04-era TV documentary on Mr. Jackson. And Mr. Prince. (except he’s refered to as “Dr. Prince.” Why? Never explained.)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QgzpF1ydims&feature=related

Leave a Reply





XHTML: You can use: <a href="" title=""> <img src=""> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <b> <i> <strike> <em> <strong>