When I was 7, it was the song Black or White.
Quite apt and highly relevant to my life today cause all I do is think about ethnicity and race cause I am Filipino and this is what I need to be thinking about everyday all day, minute, and nanosecond.
But the hook for me as a 7 year was his homeyship with Macaulay Culkin, whom I had watched over and over on Home Alone, trying in earnest to sync and understand his “reality” in suburban snowy all-white Chicago with my reality in not-as-clean Mexican, Filipino-ed apartment-only-living, rain only LA.
Macaulay was the man of the house against those robbers, something that was not lost upon my dad and mom. They used him as a way to parent me. My dad kept telling me that I myself needed to become the “man of the house” all throughout my preteen and teen years. My mom borrowed the phrase “le incompetent” to describe me one time when I was just watching her carry groceries and not helping. Macaulay appearing with Michael Jackson made Michael Jackson OK, clearing the way for me to enjoy my very first favorite musical artist.
Michael Jackson himself looked kind of cool in the music video; I had no idea how to describe him, he didn’t look like any other human being I knew cause he couldn’t really fit into the typical human black, white, or Chinese mold. He seemed to be kind of a hybrid, which I thought made the song kind of cool, yet weird. He also looked extra cool in Smooth Criminal and that Sega Genesis Moonwalker game.
Largely on the strength of Black or White, one of the first albums I bought was the Dangerous album on cassette tape. It was alright, I didn’t know the other songs, but I totally loved black or white and I had no understanding of its multiculturalism and globalism. Years later on 92.3 the Beat in LA on some Sunday morning show where they wanted to talk about “issues”, some black lady listener said quite poignantly, “I’m sorry but Michael is wrong, it DOES matter if you’re black or white.”
The height of my favoritism with the original MJ (at least for me) was when my dad taped a VH1 Special about his Dangerous Tour back in 1992. It was quite the marathon, featuring THE full-length music videos of Remember the Time, Bad, and Smooth Criminal, and surrealistic oddities such as Ben, Speed Demon, and Leave Me Alone.
The man’s songs instilled some of my first sense of pride and source of consciousness or at least from what I can recall. I may not have understood all his words, but they all instilled in me some kind of thought and emotion. I remember blasting the volume to Remember the Time while my 2nd grade teacher (now my sister’s ninang BTW) was trying to talk to my parents about how I had made the honor roll. That’s one of the first few times I remember myself trying to look cool.
Michael Jackson’s downfall from my peak of favoritism came when I watched a TV special about Michael Jordan Air Time, and how the two MJs met. After the segment ended, the last statement went something to the effect of “the king of basketball beats the king of pop.”
I thought…”hmm…he’s taller, he’s bald, he looks like he could kick someone’s ass.” That’s the only MJ I really like!
Things didn’t really get better when Michael Jackson was involved with all this foolishness after 1993. From the little boy stuff, the marrying Whoever (Elvira?) Prelsey, the baby dangling, the nose operations, I couldn’t look at him as an idol anymore. I still liked some of his post-93 music, but it wasn’t anything to blast on winamp or the car stereo, at least proudly.
I’m somber that the physical human manifestation purveyor of creative pop music is gone, but that person, or at least the productive person that I “knew” so well through VH1, was gone a while anyway.
I’ll always remember him as his peak, not as the Black and White conversation starter, nor the Egyptian Reminiscer, but as the moonwalking Smooth Criminal.
(God, I hope he didn’t think of that song when he got off trials. Luckily, I won’t know, unless he tweeted or blogged this shit somewhere)