By Brian D. Johnson - Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - 0 Comments
Exclusive: A candid interview with the new king of pop
Everyone’s waiting for Justin Bieber. It’s mid-afternoon in Washington, on the eve of the presidential election, but for the hordes of young girls gathered outside a downtown arena, there’s only one leader who can bring salvation. Hours before the 18-year-old Canadian pop star will hit the stage, fans have mobbed every entrance, ready to scream at any hint of movement. They shriek as one of 11 tour buses sits idling outside a garage ramp, as if sheer lung power could shatter the tinted windows.
Inside the arena, Bieber’s bodyguard, a soft-spoken man named Kenny Hamilton, shows off a party trick: he opens a door, revealing his face to fans on the sidewalk. They go berserk. In Bieberland, even Kenny is a celebrity: he has more than a million Twitter followers, which puts him neck and neck with Paul McCartney. Bieber has 30 million—second only to Lady Gaga—and gains a new one roughly every second.
The first superstar child of social media, Justin Bieber recently became the first to score three billion hits on YouTube, where an amateur video led to his discovery at 13. However, as his Believe tour burns across North America—he plays Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto and the Grey Cup in the next few weeks—being the world’s hottest teen idol is still not enough. In an exclusive interview with Maclean’s, he makes it clear he wants to be nothing less than the next Michael Jackson, the new King of Pop. “That’s where I want to be,” he says. “I don’t just want to be a teen heartthrob.” Continue…
By Colin Horgan - Saturday, September 15, 2012 at 10:20 AM - 0 Comments
Colin Horgan explains what made Michael Jackson so endearing
What does a perfect album sound like? If one were to have taken Michael Jackson at his word in 1988, we would only have had to look upon the album he released one year prior. Bad, he wrote in his autobiography, Moonwalk, took “so long” to make – it emerged five years after Thriller – because he and producer Quincy Jones decided it “should be as close to perfect as humanly possible.” It came close. Bad rocketed to the top of the charts, eventually went on to sell somewhere between 35 and 40 million copies, spawned five number one Billboard hot 100 singles, and solidified Jackson’s reputation as the King of Pop.
But Bad, the subject of a new documentary from acclaimed filmmaker Spike Lee, which is set to debut at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 15, also marked something else for Jackson. It was the beginning of a long, slow, and often bizarre personal and professional decline that lasted the better part of the next two decades until his untimely, drug-induced death in 2009 – the unfortunate end of a life spent forever yearning for perfection.
“It was after Bad had run its course that we began to look upon Michael Jackson as something of a tabloid topic,” says Alan Cross, music expert and host of syndicated radio show, the Secret History of Rock.
In the years following Bad’s release, the public perception of Jackson switched from that of a musical wunderkind to massive weirdo. “We heard more about Bubbles, we heard about the Elephant Man bones, we heard about Elizabeth Taylor’s friendship with him. We heard about the hyperbaric chamber that he had at home. All that sort of stuff… seemed to come out after Bad,” Cross remembers. “Once that album had gone through its cycle, he was never able to achieve those heights ever again, nor was he ever able to achieve that level of respect ever again. And it was a slow deterioration after that.”
So, there might be something slightly strange about marking the 25th anniversary of Bad, as Lee’s film sets out to do with rare new footage and commentary from those who worked on the album with Jackson, along with some contemporary stars discussing its influence. That is, it’s a second place finisher on the Jackson record podium, destined forever to take a backseat to the best selling album on the planet, Thriller. Despite Jackson and Jones’s lofty goals, it was not, in the end, perfect. It did not prove to be a catalyst for cultural change. It did not mark a shift in musical history. But it was very a good record.
About a year after Bad was released, Jackson bought the property upon which he would eventually build his home and miniature amusement park that he called the Neverland Ranch. In the years to come, this would be ground zero for some of the weirder and worrying stories about Jackson – including the ones he released to the tabloids on his own. The Ranch was where he would hide out from the world. It was also where, in 1993, he was alleged to have had inappropriate contact with a young boy (it came to nothing, but the episode haunted him).
It was where he died.
But Neverland was also “his fantasy brought to life,” Jackson’s longtime friend and former personal assistant wrote in his book My Friend Michael: An Ordinary Friendship with an Extraordinary Man. “He knew exactly how he wanted every element… He was an artist and a perfectionist in everything he did.”
It’s telling to look back now on Jackson’s desire to create a perfect album with Bad, given how it would become a theme. The pursuit of perfection acted as the underlying narrative that propelled his philanthropy and personal life as much as his music, where the vision of perfection would come up again and again, including on his Dangerous album, in songs Black and White and Heal the World. With hindsight, Bad becomes more than a very good also-ran in the discography; it is part one of the soundtrack for a desperate, ultimately unrequited, existential quest.
Because it was, and is, Jackson’s desire for perfection that ultimately made him so endearing to us as well as so tragic. We sympathized with his wish for the childhood we understood had been denied to him, loved his drive for his art, measured our own lives against his tabloid persona, and, in many ways, supported his more altruistic goals. Whatever it was, the question seemed to be that if Michael Jackson couldn’t do it, then who could? We, too, wanted – needed – him to be perfect, again and forever. Clearly, some of us still do.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, July 7, 2009 at 11:48 AM - 11 Comments
Jackson was loud and clear about his fears, hopes and delusions
Billie Jean first appears in the third verse of the opening track of the record for which there was no precedent. “Billie Jean is always talkin’,” Michael Jackson sings in Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’. “When nobody else is talkin’ / Tellin’ lies and rubbin’ shoulders.”
In many ways, the song is little more than a bouncy nod to the dance club, a simple bridge between the exuberance of Off The Wall and the grandeur of Thriller. Each line of the chorus ends with a refrain of “yeah, yeah” from the backup singers. The final verse invokes truth and belief and Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ plays out to a seemingly joyful chant in an African dialect. But this is unquestionably, if you take the time to read the lyrics, a horrifying song. Continue…