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On the pop of the King and Michael Jackson's artistic legacy, unity, plurality, posterity

Why would Michael Jackson be an artist more essential than the others, more striking than his peers, more innovative than other Kings and Godfathers before him, whether it be rock'n'roll, soul, blues or funk? Who will be the "new", the "next" King of Pop? So many questions that sing badly and falsely (because they are often provocatively insistent) to the ears and that, when they are answered by too many fervent lips, make the arguer look like an obtuse lunatic.

@ Harry Benson, 1997

Obtuse, we could not be, as he was not. To be closed would be incongruous. "Open your mind and put your heart on the line". If intelligence consists in integrating all the fields of possibility while rejecting none, then he was supremely endowed with it.

The field in which he has been "confined", the mainstream "pop", has nothing of a tunnel, even if this term, popularized for a time by Liz Taylor, widened the ways, and with reason. It is not funk, nor soul, nor gospel, nor rock, nor rap, nor jazz. It is all that. It summons within itself an eclecticism and a diversity of references which reject, at the source, the enclosure on oneself, but, on the contrary, do not cease to throw bridges, musical, artistic, towards the other.

Michael Jackson's pop music is, in a way, made of that. Woven, sculpted, sketched, painted and colored, it is, like its creator, one, and just as plural; authentic, and just as moving; visionary, and just as respectful of know-how.

"We are dwarfs on the shoulders of giants" said Bernard de Chartres. Michael Jackson, whose humility was one of his most striking traits - and even, naively for the uninitiated, the most unexpected, even incongruous - knew how to remain small in the face of the greats to whom he was indebted, and modest in the face of the novices whom he accompanied and to whom he opened up possibilities of which they themselves did not suspect they were the blessed bearers.

He had that piercing look that scrutinizes, analyzes and extracts the best of the other without long speeches, with just the right amount of advice and confidence to guide and at the same time leave the other free to be himself and to become what he did not yet know, that is, the best in his specialty. The eclecticism of his pop or, shall we say, the plurality which characterizes it, enters in resonance with this entourage from which he was enriched and which offers, with the wire of his opus, angles of attack disarming sometimes, far from a confinement in an autoproduction which would have been, all in all, navel-gazing and undoubtedly doomed to an ineluctable repetition or sterility. It also enters in resonance with its own artistic personality chameleon.

But since we return unceasingly and inevitably to these terms, let us note that unity and plurality are only the two faces of the same being. To create a unique personality, authentic, that is to say personal, identifiable, recognizable, although elaborated around the aggregation of multiple references, there is the Jacksonian particularism. A multiple personality because already, to begin with, multidisciplinary. It is well in this heart that a voice dances while the body sings; it is well in this den that combine then merge music and image, clip-video and 7th art, scenographies, fine arts, history and symbolism. Its plurality, its capacity for openness and innovation are already in this.

His image of pioneer, as for it, does not hold only in his faculties of widened and even visionary perception which made him catch, by anticipation, the expectations of the public of today and tomorrow; it holds just as much with a deep faculty to borrow what he judged to be the best, or the most effective in others, what touched him, the most, to reinvest it, to remodel it in his way, according to his own vision of the world.

This plurality, therefore, comes from several sources. Educational and cultural, formative, but above all, affinities. Because it would be very artificial to believe that everything is only a commercial strategy in the Jacksonian loans. To believe that his emotional involvement in his interpretations is only pure acting. In this, moreover, he distinguishes himself from his peers... The scenic implication, the artistic particularity are prolonged, in him, in the Real life, by an extremely advanced human conscience and a particularism of personality which disconcerted.

A being similar to us, but powerfully different. A visionary being, Barnum-like, who understood where the real power was and tried to master it. A being who, because of his otherness, this strangeness wanted, allowed to hover, then suffered, turned against himself - as soon as the media exchange was no longer given - was locked up in the narrow columns of greasy papers and dry brains, pitifully imprisoned within sensationalist columns.

The other is scary. And he was other. Special, particular, singular, different. These are the adjectives that most REALLY describe him in the mouths of those who know WHO they are talking about. But in a society that prides itself on its openness to otherness and difference, the very person who embodied it, much more unwittingly than by staging, was rejected. Not of this world. Neither martian, nor deranged, just him, just other. This right to be, this right to uniqueness may seem paradoxical when one artificially belongs to everyone. So this beautiful society has mocked him as much as it has adulated him, making him the easy and unavoidable target of its morbid and twisted projections, without ever shamefully questioning its own inability to integrate the otherness that makes up its mawkishly and hypocritically humanistic and charitable window dressing.

But let us return to the music, to the musician, to the dancer, to the artist...