Beat It

Submitted by Andy on Fri, 06/26/2009 - 08:07

michaeljacksonA lot like most of the people on the Intertubes, it seems I was more affected by the death of Michael Jackson than I was really expecting considering how long he's been a non-entity on any sort of musical scene. Nonetheless, Michael Jackson was there when I was first becoming aware of music as a thing, although not in his Studio 54/Thriller/superstar phase but instead the Neverland Ranch/Dangerous/quasi-messianic phase. Looking back now it seems like each progressive album after Thriller degraded a little, although it wasn't until about halfway through HIStory that it crossed the line from great to alright. Excepting a bizarre Pizza Hut/Ninja Turtles promotional item, Dangerous was my first cassette tape which I proceeded to disavow and then only last summer really re-embrace. However, it was the inclusion of "Beat It" in Guitar Hero: World Tour made me realize what a friggin' good song it is. Eddie Van Halen's surprisingly angular guitar solo is canon already, but that bass line. Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaamn.

The particular tragic thing is that MJ was cut down before his planned reunion tour. I think that we all wanted him to redeem himself, but now it seems unlikely that he'll be remembered primarily for his music. There is no doubt that he was pretty damn weird. In public. His tunes, however, were always unflappable. Despite the numerous contributions by superstars on his level (well, maybe not on his level) as well as anonymous studio musicians, he owned the place effortlessly.

I was going to include a list of some papers musicologick about the King of Pop, but I totally struck out. They would have all been JSTOR links anyway. I'm just a bit surprised by this, but the murky gender and authorship issues likely scared off any likely takers. Angela brought up the lamentable fact that musicologists don't like dealing with subjects that can talk back, but hopefully we can start doing some study on a guy who was arguably the most important pop performer since the Beatles.

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You say you weren't influenced in the Studio 54/Thriller/superstar phase." I don't know, he was in pretty heavy rotation during your early MTV phase at the Dale School when you could Identify any current hit in three notes or less, although you never spelled his name out with your blocks.