Monday, July 13, 2009


I'm working on my Michael Jackson reflections (and will get back to Killa Caaaaaaam after that), but I just wanted to call your attention to this profoundly disturbing piece on The Root. It's called "The New King of Pop is a Queen: Why Beyonce is the only plausible heir to Michael Jackson's sparkly glove." I've offered my inchoate arguments for why I feel Beyonce is essentially the devil on numerous occasions, so I won't elaborate on why this is so insane, but really, Beyonce? Could you imagine two more unlike artists? Michael Jackson, the epitome of crazed sincerity, every nutty line of every song deeply felt, and Beyonce, pure phoniness. Jackson, whose music revolves around paranoia, loneliness, love, violence, and Beyonce, whose great themes, when she's not uncorking some bullshit ballad to keep the older members of her audience content, are (a) snagging a baller whose pockets are full-grown, (b) her aching desire to be fucked by a baller with full-grown pockets, and (c) the ass-shaking rituals required to snag the full-grown-pockets baller. That's it! No really, that's it, and it's not even like her vocals have any personality to them or like the music she sings this shit over is any good, a Rich Harrison beat here and a 'Single Ladies' there aside. And she's the heir? JT is a callow MJ imitator who's basically copied all the superficial details of Jackson's music while sucking out all the life and weirdness from it and replacing them with a mildly charming, mostly dorky vanilla void, but at least he's made two pretty good albums and a handful of great songs. (He's still not my choice for MJ heir though; that would be... well I'll get to that.) What has Beyonce done? Anyway, just for kicks, Ms. Olopade's reasons, word for word, Beyonce is the closest thing to an MJ heir.

  1. Her work ethic.
  2. Her daring musical choices.
  3. Her chameleonic artistic presence.
  4. She is already one of the most famous people on the planet.
  5. She too was a child star in a kiddie group, and she too forged a solo career. So their biographies are similar.
  6. 'Crazy In Love' was a great song. [It actually was.] The infectious hook and horns produced a sound completely unexpected in mainstream pop or R&B. [Yes, but then Rich used the same sound to better effect in 'One Thing' - okay, maybe Crazy's the better song, judged in isolation from the fact of Beyonce's disgustingness and Amerie's limited but real appeal, but the point is, you can't give Beyonce that much credit for one smart decision a producer made.]
  7. Her style is outrageous, she wears a gold-plated bodysuit in her new video. If Michael were a woman he'd probably be doing the same thing. [You know what, I can play this game too. Kanye dresses ridiculously and, like MJ, his sexuality is a matter of some debate. MJ got a lot of plastic surgery and essentially killed himself; Kanye's mom killed herself getting plastic surgery. Kanye has sold many records, and though he wasn't actually a child star, I'm sure he won 3rd place in some talent show in 4th grade and proudly displays this award next to his cherished life-size Jeff Koons sculpture of a teddy bear. Jackson recorded a lot of crappy songs (and a few good ones) about the evils of tabloid journalism; Kanye has continued in this fine tradition with the witty "ugh, the paparazzi/I hate them more than the fucking Nazi," and sundry other bits of garbage. Michael made 'Billie Jean,' best pop tune of the past 30 years; Kanye butchered it on the 25th Anniversary Edition. Kanye, the heir to Michael Jackson! Shit, I bet Brandon Soderberg has already written some totally serious piece about it.]
  8. There's "the magnitude of her fame." The magnitude, admittedly, isn't as great as MJ's magnitude; "frat boys look but don't buy." [Because, unlike the women who love her music, we're not busy using it as an instruction manual for how to become a diva or snag a baller, nor do we lean on it as a justification for our slutty actions. Sans some kind of relationship to Beyonce's lyrics on a fairly specific lifestyle level, why would anyone want to listen to her crap? Musically it's just not very good music.] But it's pretty big magnitude nonetheless. She's sold a lot of records and people went to see Obsession. That she can't act doesn't matter; "the point is that she's out there." She also endorses makeup and does disingenuous PSA's for hunger with Hamburger Helper. That is, she endorses Hamburger Helper.
  9. She's been to the White House four times. She performed at the inaugural ball.
  10. She has a high level of confidence. In her 'Ego' video, she lip-syncs to her disgusting big dick joke song in fishnets. And there you have it, ten sound reasons for why Beyonce is the new Queen of Pop. No homophobic pun intended.


bding7 said...

Jackson recorded a lot of crappy songs (and a few good ones) about the evils of tabloid journalism; Kanye has continued in this fine tradition with the witty "ugh, the paparazzi/I hate them more than the fucking Nazi," and sundry other bits of garbage

While I'm not going to argue that "Tabloid Junkie" or "Why You Wanna Trip on Me" are memorable MJ moments, I think songs like "Leave Me Alone," "Scream," or even "Invincible" are a bit more complicated than simply complaining about the press. MJ was terrified of his father as a kid (and adult?), and there's no way he could ever match up with him in any sort of physical confrontation. The more I listen to those three songs, the more I hear him challenging his father. They also work as anti-paparazzi songs, but I think there's a bit more under the surface.

tray said...

Oh yeah, Leave Me Alone is definitely a good song, even a great song, as I think everybody would acknowledge, that was in my (few good ones) category. And actually, looking at the lyrics, it isn't about the press at all, aside from the video. Though I don't quite see it as a comment on his despicable father (if anything I'd say it's more about his allergy to women), who reportedly is trying to get Mike's kids to join/become a "Jackson 3." Besides, like, the hope that as an old man he might finally recognize the error of his ways, doesn't he realize that he could get so much richer doing a book and media tour? In the unlikely and tragic event that he should get custody of the kids and force them into recording, who would be interested? Even crazy diehard fans would be grossed out.

bding7 said...

He could always bring back 3T, instead. Of course, the only reason they sold any records was because their uncle was on their single.

Badmon3333 said...

It's impossible for either Beyonce or JT to measure up to MJ, because they're pretty much both possible BECAUSE of him, as musical children.

I don't know that there's ANYone who can really take up the mantle of "King/Queen of Pop" right now. I can see the argument that Beyonce is one of the few who has exhibited staying power, unlike 95% percent of the one-and-dunners out there.

I had high hopes for D'Angelo, but he smokes too much weed to have Mike's work ethic, and is a little too groove-oriented to truly cross over on a massive scale.

tray said...

I think that anyone suggesting someone like JT, to say nothing of Beyonce, as Michael's heir must fundamentally misapprehend what was good about Jackson's music, must see him as a guy who sang catchy pop ditties and nothing more. Because that's all a JT or Usher or Beyonce is, albeit with varying degrees of success. Michael Jackson operated on a vastly more profound and often pretty disturbing level. It'd be like someone saying 7 years ago that 50 was the next Biggie or Ice Cube, or suggesting that the Lox were the new Mobb Deep. There are differences in talent, but more importantly they're fundamentally different artists. If Justin Timberlake died tomorrow there'd be a ton of press coverage but you wouldn't see Newsweek covers about "The Meaning of Justin Timberlake" and the like, because there really isn't any.

JoJo said...

This might sound really stupid, but it would be cool if Lloyd developed a cough-syrup problem that fueled a Weezy-like urgency to make as much music as possible with some dabbling in various genres. It wouldn't be very important I'm sure, but Lloyd is cooler than JT. Sorry for wasting your time.

tray said...

No, I don't mind at all. Lloyd's a fun artist on the rare occasions he puts music out; I was just saying to someone the other day, "where's Lloyd?" This summer could've used a Get It Shorty. Now that I look into it, it seems he's leaving his label and recently put out a mixtape with a limited number of new tracks.

Badmon3333 said...

MJ's music was the result of a massively-talented kid who grew up a Jevhovah's Witness, was terrified of his father, and never got a chance to have a childhood, so you're right, he was coming from a very dark place much of the time, and it's a testament to his ability that he could create such masterful music in spite of it. He helped to pave the way for modern pop music, particularly modern black pop music. Even Motown, who he also helped put on the map, couldn't match Michael's crossover ability. So really there's no way that any new artist can measure up to that.

MJ is right up there with Dylan, the Beatles and maybe a few select others.

tray said...

Um, though extraordinarily influential (but not necessarily in a positive way - how many obviously MJ-inspired artists do you really like, and how many are just slavish imitators of various aspects of his style without engaging, how to put this, the substance of his music), I'd really hesitate to put him up there with the Beatles and Dylan. Four good-to-great albums doesn't really put you in that sphere, and though I know next to nothing about 80s and 90s pop, it strikes me that Bad and Dangerous, though very interesting and underrated records, aren't really among the best works of their periods. Secondly, about your comment that he came from a very dark place and made great music in spite of it, I think that's an apt way to look at Off the Wall or the stuff prior, you know, how did he manage to make these deliriously joyous records about love and sex without having much or any of either in his life. But from Thriller on, the music becomes increasingly dark, and that's primarily what I mean when I say that artists like JT imitate him musically but don't begin to deal with what's really going on there. Between 'Rock With You' and 'In The Closet' you can account for, musically, 80% of JT's discography, but JT's never recorded anything a quarter as angelic and romantic as the former or as creepy as the latter. Instead, he alternates between making his "I'm in the club and see someone I'd like to, and will undoubtedly get to, fuck" songs - songs which are always devoid of any interesting sexual tension - his "I will now pretend unconvincingly to be in love with an unspecified girl named 'you'" songs, and his "haha, you shouldn't have dumped me" songs, which at least offer some small sense of genuine malice.