Monday, November 2, 2009

He Was It (abridged version)

by Shardae Jobson

June 25, 2009 was one of the worst days of my life. This day has become a dark one in my twenty-two years because it was the day the music died once more. Michael Jackson was declared dead. I was working at my part time job at Urban Outfitters and having just clocked out for my half hour break, I heard the devastating news. I immediately called my mother and checked the Internet, and in ten minutes tears cascaded from my eyes. I wouldn’t get off work until roughly 11:00, and all I wanted to do was go home and watch the news reporting over and over again of the shock and watch montages of his brilliance. I talked to my sister on the phone, hearing her heartbroken cries over the line and I would follow suit, going on to cry off and on for the following days. I felt so sad for him. I was one of those that always dreamed of seeing in concert. I would have even taken a crappy balcony seat just to say I was there. Maybe if I even got successful enough I would also get to meet him with a full battery charged digital camera in tow.

In conjunction to being in between tears and disillusionment, I was in wonderment of how saddened I was by his death. For so many, Jackson wasn’t some lame-brained bumpkin that hit it big. He was the epitome of the "it" factor--and while we all know in recent years his image was tarnished by vicious lies and deception, fans and those with open minds held on to the golden days of his career and the unparalleled talent he possessed.

When it was shared that footage of his rehearsals from his latest and deemed last concert tour This Is It was being made into a documentary film, I knew I was going to be in a movie theatre to show Jackson some love. To watch the concert that could have been and what I was already planning to watch on YouTube from fan videos.

My mother was real quick to buy pre-sale tickets for This Is It. This past summer, depressed from too many honorable deaths and constant disconsolate weather in the east coast, I said I just wanted the fall to get here so that the nightmare of Jackson’s death would be behind us. As always, when looking back it seems that time flew by and October 27 was here. My mother and I were ready to see the midnight screening of This Is It.

We got to the Boston Common Loews Theatre a little before eleven o’clock and already there was a line. The line grew and the cheerful motif of the premiere was adorning your outfit with a touch of Jackson such as a glittering white glove; a black or red military jacket; a black hat; white socks and black shoes; even a simple past concert or fan T-shirt did the trick. One girl, also a designer, joined the line in a self-made varsity jacket with Jackson’s face in its many appearances. A pair of girls, clearly good friends, finished off their outfits with pale blue surgical masks. A photographer for the Boston Herald was there to capture King of Pop devotees and I felt like a part of something, happy to see that Jackson had a family in Boston.

We all filed in one by one into the theatre two, and after some fun trailers for movies like Have You Heard of The Morgans?, the theatre went black. Upon the huge screen in front of us in white letters, going upward was a brief prologue of the purpose behind the film. It was a somewhat uncomfortable start because it was so abrupt. Then actual footage of the film began to play. In sweet and touching words, the dancers of the show discussed how much of an amazing the opportunity it was to be on stage with the gloved one. The mood of the audience was lightened a bit and music then boomed from the speakers with the chorus of “You Wanna Be Startin’ Something” reminding us that we were there to celebrate his life, not mourn his untimely passing.

This Is It is a concert film, a look at the process of putting on a grandiose show. Whether on stage or in a studio, we witnessed the King of Pop just as Michael, or better yet as MJ. This film is a true look into the progress and stress of putting on a terrific show. Everyone who took part in making This Is It, though working hard, seemed ecstatic and anxious. Performers rehearsed and engineers and producers rebooted until all was perfect. “This is why we have rehearsal!” became a common quote said throughout the film, encouraging everyone to give their best every time.

As a viewer of the film I saw Michael in such a natural element while being on stage; all I could keep thinking of was that the man was truly blessed. The supernatural ways his feet moved were so quick and intricate it reminded me of how famed film director Martin Scorsese remembered Michael. Back in 1987, he directed Jackson’s mini movie and music video for “Bad”. In an admirable statement after June 25, Scorsese said that working with Jackson was like “watching quicksilver in motion”. While watching This Is It, I could see that Scorsese was on point with that comment and it was clear Jackson was still the golden child of music.

I really enjoyed This Is It. I am glad to report that for a film that wouldn’t have existed if Jackson were still alive and had already completed all sold out fifty dates at the O2 Arena in England, there were funny moments that solidified why Jackson felt more like a friend than an ungrateful celebrity. While working with the musicians, he was insistent on one of them getting a small but nonetheless major note towards the end of a song. Even though the musician attempted, Jackson after singing along and practicing walks away with his back to the camera, arms in the air exclaiming in an exasperated tone, “You gotta let it simmer!” The musical genius was at work again. I didn’t even know musical notes could simmer. The scene was hilarious and showed a perfectionist but charming side of his character, and I got a laugh out of seeing him wear a Popeye T-shirt underneath his sharp black blazer.

There was never a moment of braggadocious behavior from Michael Jackson. In one scene with the lead guitarist Orianthe, while rehearsing her solos, Jackson incited her to play her guitar at its best and highest note possible because when done live, it would be her moment. He repeatedly told her it was “[her] time to shine”. My personal favorite moment was the full recount of his pop-rock classic “Beat It”, which for sure would have been one of the most marvelous specific productions of the whole show. The music and Jackson was of course fantastic, but it was the dancers during “Beat It” that caught my applause as they were identical to their musical hero in movements. His solace in “Human Nature” was also a definite capsule of the tenderness and strength in his voice while singing.

His life and legacy has been a bit overwrought since his death because of the media feeding themselves and what they think the fans want to know of the enigma that was Jackson. This Is It sheds necessary light: Jackson wasn’t the freakazoid some nearly craved him to really be. The man never claimed to have his hands so clean; he wasn’t invincible, but his talent was. To all the haters out there for Michael Jackson, who still want to crack malicious jokes about his nose, skin color, unfortunate issues and a media- made “Wacko Jacko” persona, let it be known, that with the release of This Is It, you and your two left feet have just been had. Three cheers for sweet musical revenge that is represented in This Is It. Michael Jackson was the real deal if you didn’t already know.

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