6.28.2009

MJ

I don't have anything interesting to say, but here are a few thoughts anyways:

1. While MJ's life and death provide plenty of food for thought for those that excel at theorizing the Modern/Post-Modern/Late Capitalism, what have you, I never enjoyed thinking about him in these terms. These sort of critiques need the media frenzy they lament, and many of them seem to forget that there was every any music involved in the first place. And it is the music, in the first place, that concerns me. Those Po-Mo professors gaining cultural or literal capital off of the back of the frenzy are sometimes just as cynical and debased as the creators of the frenzy itself.

2. K-Punk is right in calling "Billie Jean" one of the great artworks of the twentieth century. And I think, if there is a sense of MJ's death being the end of an era, it is really the end, at least to me, of the era of true convergence of talent in all aspects of recording. Think: what was the last album in which the best producers, engineers, studio musicians and artists all came together to create something of that calibre? Honestly, U2 might be the (very frustrating for many of you!) answer. Most of the great non-rock (ie self-contained bands) pop records have been made in the control room since and, only now, as the intense synth-driven Modernism of the super-producer era has drawn to an end (at least in terms of artistic innovation), can I feel a bit of nostalgia for the big-California-studio era of music that, after Thriller, grew so cynical as to deserve the dethroning it received at the hands of young kids from New York armed with low-resolution samplers.

2a. There are some interesting anecdotes here. If you can make it through the geeky aspects of this thread, you will find some great stories (including the recollection that Quincy Jones didn't think "Billie Jean" was strong enough to put on the album, whose nine songs, incidentally, were culled from a choice of 300 [!]) from Bruce Swedien, the engineer behind Thriller, and, along with drummer N'Dugu Chancler, the other genius behind "Billie Jean". Why genius? The beat played on that record is the most straightforward imaginable, the first rock beat ANY drummer would learn, and yet, between the disciplined performance of the beat, and the weight the bass drum was given by Swedien's techniques, this simple beat is not only instantly recognizable as the beat of that song, but also, sonically, matches the mood of the lyrics in a way that few drum recordings, at least to me, ever have.

3. "Baby Be Mine" is the most underrated track on "Thriller". Please give it your extra consideration in whatever nostalgic listening-fest you have or will be engaging in. Pure joy, the way I prefer to remember MJ and his music.

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