Tuesday, January 26, 2010

MJ's "This Is It"

"This Is It" came out today, so naturally I picked up my copy right away. I just finished watching.

The film is a documentary of MJ's 4 month rehearsal period just before he died on June 25 of last year. The film puts together rehearsal footage attempting to give an idea of what the London concert would have looked like completed. Footage of Michael practicing all his major songs and dance moves are included.

Obviously Michael Jackson was a complex and tragic figure. Many artistic geniuses seem to be tortured souls. I have written about this aspect of Jackson's personage before.

When viewed solely with a focus on his talent and genius, he truly was unparalleled- a "king" of sorts. In addition to the constant barrage of amazing dance moves and tricky vocals, two features struck me as I watched the film-

1. Jackson could still dance and move at an incredible level for someone who was 50 years old. Despite all the footage being from rehearsal, he seemed to out dance professionals half his age. It truly is an amazing thing to behold. Still, you get a sense he was holding back a bit, being practice and all.

2. Jackson was incredibly involved in the overall creative process. The show was going to be the most complex in history. A combination of dozens of dancers, special effects, 3-D interactive movie footage throughout, and all sorts of crazy life-sized props rolling on stage, also making this the most expensive stage show ever produced. Yet, as rehearsal unfolded, amidst the seeming chaos and commotion, there was Jackson tweaking and coaching the dancers, musicians, and sound technicians with exacting detail.

My favorite part of the film was the footage of Michael Jackson practicing "Billie Jean". There's a portion of that song where he breaks out in to a dance solo. He has provided many epic performances of this dance sequence since it's release in 1982, but none in the last 13 years. So here is MJ at age 50 dancing to Billie Jean like it was he was still trying to perfect it. Empty stadium, practice stage, just him and the drummer for the solo spot in the song as he danced. It wasn't the best Billie Jean dance sequence I've seen him do-keeping in mind it was just practice- but when he finished his small audience made up of back-up dancers erupted with applause and didn't stop. He seemed genuinely embarrassed and even a bit confused as to why they thought his practicing was so standing ovation worthy. Only fans from way back will understand what an amazing part of the film this short sequence is. It dawned on me afresh- the guy really didn't understand how good he was.

Simply put, God just gives select people something He doesn't give everyone else. I don't know what it would have been like to be in a private audience while Mozart played or Michelangelo painted, but witnessing Michael Jackson dance a few days before he died has to be on par. To say Jackson was a rare talent seems too trite.

As a Christian I am ultra conflicted when I consider a figure like Michael Jackson. While I would not presume to know the content of the man's faith, most signs pointed starkly to a spiritually confused and personally mis-directed person. There was no explicit fruit of a saving relationship with Christ manifested in his life that I have been able to discern which grieves me greatly. Nevertheless, the talent he possessed was not derived from himself or his DNA. Michael Jackson's ability was a gift from God. Misused talent? At times, for sure. Thus is the dilemma of human fallenness. Still, even in one who appears to be unregenerate and lost, the glorious creative imprint of God could be seen in the moves he improvised and the vocals he mustered.

I do not find it hard when viewing the unique talents and rare abilities of people like Jackson, Presley, Hendrix, Jordan, Gretzky, Woods, etc., to give praise to God, and really, God alone.


Rick Calohan said...

Well said!

Woody Woodward said...

I remember many years ago, I think it was 1982, just after Billie Jean and his Thriller album went to the top in a couple of days. It was at one of the Hollywood ego award ceremonies, and as Barbra Mandrell gave MJ his award, she made a statement something like this, “What comfort we all can feel, knowing that Michael is such a positive role model for our children.” Wonder what she would say today? He was a great talent, I will give him that.

Zach said...

Nice review and commentary, Tony. I think I was in second grade when Thriller came out. It was the first secular album that my parents let me own, and boy did I wear out the tape in that cassette. I can still see the picture on the liner notes--Michael in his white suite posing with his white tiger.

I also remember all my little buddies at Christian school thinking how permissive (cool?) my parents were for allowing me to own and listen to bona fide "rock music".

Brother Titus said...

I hear what you're saying, but I don't understand people's rapt fascination with MJ. While alive, he was a bizarre, deeply troubling and seemingly, deeply troubled individual, a human being who made some enjoyable records. Yet, he was worth a reported 1/2 billion dollars, but was he known as a philathropist? One look at him and anyone could see he'd had lots of unclaimed surgery on his person, but did it find a cure for any known catastropic disease? He claimed to be helping children, but we all know where that led (proven or not). He was only a man who lived too short a life and died a tragic death, probably because of a combination of personal choices and a medical miscalculation. So, I wish people could get passed MJ, because without Christ, he went the way of all unrepentant sinners, even with his God-given talent.

Malcolm said...

Shortest post ever from Rick! Ditto, Tony. He was a rare talent and that fact is difficult to ignore.