Michael Jackson, Prince and medias
Open letter to the press, an objective and verifiable source of information
22 April 2016
Ladies and Gentlemen of the professional press,
As a musician, music teacher and musicologist, I have been dismayed since the announcement of Prince's death last night, by the content of the comments you have been distilling in the written press and on television. The so-called enlightened critics and other specialists, or not, who take the floor in turn to evoke this death, have a growing tendency to turn their interventions - for lack of consistent analyses on his work, or of distance with regard to his contributions to popular music - only around a false comparison between Michael Jackson and Prince, and this, always to the detriment of the former.
You should know, since you are the instigators, that these comparisons, which are now very dated, have only been made and maintained for mythological and commercial purposes, and that it is completely absurd to compare what is not comparable. The objectivity that your profession requires would like you to make objective and circumstantiated remarks, even contextualized, rather than gossip and schoolyard gang fights. One does not compare Georges Aphergis to Steve Reich, nor even Mendelssohn to Chopin, because each one has contributed to the edifice of music, and all do not give in the same register. One should never compare by devaluing one over the other, whoever he may be. You should know a little, you don't need to be a musicologist to know that, Michael Jackson didn't make the same music as Prince. We like, we don't like, we prefer or not. But we are not interested in your tastes, your biases. One was essentially doing pop, a fluid and mixed label trend and the other essentially post funk and black rock. And this goes further. Behind these vague empiricist and commercial labels are very different working methods. The sophistication and long hours of studio work that the meticulous pop of a Jackson (also gifted in authenticity and immediacy) imposes is opposed to the strength of authenticity and immediacy of a brilliant (and equally meticulous) Prince. When one publishes 6 albums, the other publishes 30 (1979-2001). Do you think that this is only due to mutism and logorrhea? Please, please... let's be serious…
You take the liberty of comparing, always to the detriment of Michael Jackson, the house of the one and the other, the number of tweets from fans (is this really interesting? and objective, at an interval of 7 years?), the capacity of the one to play 25 instruments when the other, according to you, did not compose, did not write, did not play "anything". You will know, ladies and gentlemen in charge of information - and therefore of 66 million brains for which you are responsible, via your words, and which pay dearly the royalty to finance your programs - that Michael Jackson composed the essential part of his songs, wrote his texts, was a percussionist and a drummer and that his main instrument, much richer and multi-instrumentalist than what you can hardly imagine, was his voice, without even mentioning his body. No, Michael Jackson was not jealous of Prince the musician, contrary to what France 2 threw in the face of millions of French people this morning... Funny responsibility to instill this kind of lies... No, to take up the loan that was made to Gainsbourg, Prince didn't fuck anyone, and especially not Michael Jackson. Without doubt, this is another proof that good words and sensationalism take more and more precedence over truth and quality.
These two artists respected each other. They informed each other about their respective productions and, where you entertain fantasies of competition, they lived an emulation. An artist never produces anything "against" (don't we say "counter-productive"?). They met often, including shortly before the death of the first in 2009 and the legends about the refusal of the duet "Bad", the absence of one for the song "We Are the World" (but his presence, often forgotten on the album, anyway) or what I know, are only gossip for teen magazines and tabloid. Is it in this register that you play?
And speaking of colors... The anti-MJ racism that you profess, 7 years after his passing (from which you obviously have not learned any lesson) - because yes, it is indeed racism - seems to me to be of the same content as the mockery that children repeat among themselves in the parks without understanding what they say. Because you should know, finally, that behind this pseudo-competition between Prince and Michael Jackson, there are racial and cultural issues in the United States.
If you look closely, which should be at the heart of your investigative work, the evolution of appearance between the two artists in terms of androgyny, hair straightening, fine features and light color (the Caucasian type) is totally parallel. But, if Prince never posed problems in terms of racial identity in the USA, it is because he was born mixed race and fairly light skinned, and did not suffer from a melanistic disease. If, like Michael Jackson, he has always claimed to be a black American, he has always been considered as such, without discussion, by the media, unlike the other, whose health conditions have forced him to make choices about his appearance. Do you know the One drop rule? Find out more.
You should also know that these musical labels are very much linked, in the United States, to issues of racial belonging, pride or denial by one's own community. Prince's rock funk affinities are, there even more than elsewhere, synonymous with virility, rebellion and assumed sexuality, according to the prevailing clichés. He is a black pride because, unlike MJ who, according to these same clichés, would have been subjugated to a pop music considered as white and would have betrayed his own people by selling so much if not more to whites than to blacks, Prince brought rock music back to its black fold. Do you know about the Black Rock Coalition? Find out.
Finally, unlike MJ who was childish, secretive and mysterious on the subject, Prince has always had an adult image and a flaunted, even unbridled sexuality, meeting those same criteria of community pride, which even his androgynous aspects did not jeopardize.
Thanks to you, who take up, behind your distorted comparisons, clichés linked to ancestral racial cleavages, we continue to witness, in 2016, a grotesque circus of Barnum-like curiosities. A circus that hides, for several centuries but even more since financial interests are at stake, a vast identity and cultural battle of exchanges, borrowings, appropriations. You, who are so open, so tolerant, defenders of difference, of freedom of expression, of otherness and so on, are complicit and show an unbearable, cynical and shameless racism, which goes against the ideals you claim to represent.
You are the same vigilantes of social and racial equality, the protectors of the widow, the orphan and the handicapped, who continue to publicly lynch, 7 years later and under the pretext of erroneous comparisons, a pure and hard idealist, a child of civil rights, admirer of Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Gandhi, follower of equality, peace and true non-violence, certainly utopian, but who, better than you, put in agreement his acts with his philosophy. You have contributed and continue to do so, by desecrating his memory, to martyring and killing again and again one of those you say you dream of, wait for, seek in vain on this planet. You are against the death penalty and terrorism, but you symbolically kill this man 10 times a day, with a smile on your face, and you impose an ideological fanaticism that escapes you, and that your ignorance, or your false pretenses of open-mindedness and pseudo-analysis of the information, do not excuse in any way.
Prince was a genius. Michael Jackson was a genius. Obviously, you are neither geniuses of information nor geniuses of objectivity. And worse, you are irresponsible towards the world you are paid to "inform"...