Text and Meaning in Michael Jackson’s Xscape (part 5 of 5)

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“In more ways than one, his status as a ‘superstar’ served largely as a vehicle that allowed him to render as much service to humanity on as many levels as he could.”––Article Excerpt (Aberjhani) 


The lucky number seventh track on Xscape, “Blue Gangsta,” is the perfect musical metaphor for the would-be thug of steel who discovers he is as vulnerable to the anguish of a broken heart as anyone else. The L-O-V-E giveth and the L-O-V-E taketh away. 

The menacing progression of chords and scheming vocals that made “Smooth Criminal” so irresistibly sinister is brought to its knees in “Blue Gangsta.” With atmospheric rhythmic tension generated by snare percussions, violins, and anxious horns, Jackson’s voice with impeccable delivery creates a brooding drama of the heart:

“No where to run, no where to hide
All the things you said
And the things you’ve done to me
You can no longer make me cry…”

The song extends the album’s theme of love as a multifaceted adventure through great joy and sometimes equally great pain. In “Blue Gangsta” we view it from the painted perspective of a realist, as Jackson has done before in compositions that explore love’s less euphoric side. The title also gives a nod of respect to the musical genre most famous for lamenting shattered hearts: the classic Blues themselves.  


Xscape and Guerrilla Decontextualization

Tempo-wise, the title track of Michael Jackson’s second posthumous release holds its own with such fever-driven classics as “Don’t Stop ‘til You Get Enough, “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’,” and “Tabloid Junkie.”  That Rodney Jerkins worked extensively with Jackson on the original recording from 1999-2001 and was able to revisit it more than a decade later makes it easier to accept the contemporized version as something the megastar himself might have done.

Lyric-wise, the song “Xscape” documents the King of Pop’s nonstop battles with the forces of guerrilla decontextualization. As a black man who defined and redefined pop culture with virtually every album released during his solo career, Jackson was a prime target for those who used guerrilla decontextualization

to portray him in the media as a “whacko” or “pervert” rather than as the brilliant creative artist and exemplary humanitarian that he was.

For the full post by Aberjhani please click this link:

Text and Meaning in Michael Jackson’s Xscape part 5 of 5 – National African-American Art | Examiner.com.

 

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Text and Meaning in Michael Jackson’s Xscape (part 1)

 

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“He talked always about giving love. It was never about how much love he got back.”––Antonio “L.A.” Reid discussing Michael Jackson, Xscape Documentary DVD

Any announcements of “new music” from Michael Jackson must necessarily and rightly be met with a healthy amount of skepticism.

Important questions have to be answered: Is this new music going to be something dug out of once-private vaults simply because of its guaranteed ability to stimulate cash-flow for all those who manage to attach their names to it?  Or will it emerge and stand as a true representation of Jackson’s certified brilliance and successfully extend the incandescent legacy of soul-nourishing rhythms and altruistic service he spent a lifetime creating?

The now much-discussed 17 tracks on the “deluxe edition” of the Xscape album allow listeners to consider such questions in depth. Eight “contemporized” versions of songs first recorded in the 1980s and 1990s are followed by original versions and a bonus track featuring Justin Timberlake. Critics have been close to unanimous in proclaiming the album’s musical excellence. How well does it serve the greater purposes established by Jackson himself in regard to his vision of his music and his life?

Visual Metaphors for the King of Pop

One thing was made very clear by early looks at the album’s cover image, by Mat Maitland of Big Active, and the poster, by Mr. Brainwash, that comes with some editions of the album. Both recognize Jackson in a way he often said he wished most to be remembered–– as a great artist. The poster by Mr. Brainwash (a.k.a. Thierry Guetta) gives us MJ rendered in a neo-expressionistic pop style reminiscent of works by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol, and Banksy all rolled into one. Surrounded by the titles of songs in different fonts against a seemingly shredded and splattered background, Jackson emerges as both a creator of enduring art and an indestructible force of it.

The ultra-modern image created by Mat Maitland for the cover drew boos and cheers when first revealed but it may in fact represent one of the better metaphors for the King of Pop ever offered. The upper portion of Jackson’s head extends out a slanted golden ellipse that could be a satellite dish, part of a speaker, a halo, or a portal.  To enjoy the complete post by Aberjhani please click this link: Text and Meaning in Michael Jackson’s Xscape (part 1) – National African-American Art | Examiner.com.

King of Pop Michael Jackson and the World Community – The Journey and the Rainbow

          Michael Jackson with Spanish translation of quote from article by Aberjhani.
(graphic art poster courtesy of Facebook Group Blues Away)

The book Journey through the Power of the Rainbow, Quotations from a Life Made Out of Poetry, contains a full chapter of quotes on Michael Jackson as well as the short essay which follows. Anyone interested in winning a free copy of the book is encouraged to check out the Goodreads widget at the end of the essay.

At least part of worldwide reading audiences’ growing familiarity with my work has to be attributed to the late “King of Pop” Michael Jackson. Although I started writing about Mr. Jackson’s life and legacy after in his death in 2009, I did not understand just how many people around the world had been taking note of those writings. Then it was brought to my attention that several full articles had turned up on multiple websites in the form of unauthorized translations into German, Italian, French, Spanish, Greek, Portuguese, and other languages. Given the ease with which Internet technology makes it possible to accomplish such linguistic feats––precision of the translation notwithstanding––I told myself it had been inevitable.

Technological ease was only part of the reason. Another very significant part was what I had sensed myself and what author and Minister Barbara Kaufmann had identified as the “spiritual emergency” into which Jackson’s fans around the globe had found themselves plunged upon his death. They had discovered little to no consolation within a mainstream media and sideline tabloid press that continued to employ guerrilla decontextualization to sensationalize and capitalize off distortions of the megastar’s image even as the worldwide community he left behind flailed about in a tsunami of unrelenting grief. 

Please enjoy the full post by Aberjhani at this link:

King of Pop Michael Jackson and the World Community – The Journey and the Rainbow.