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Favorite Michael Moments, Part 25: A promise is a promise.

7.20.2009

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14, Part 15, Part 16, Part 17, Part 18, Part 19, Part 20, Part 21, Part 22, Part 23, Part 24.

Remember when I sorta promised that when I got to post 25 of my Favorite Michael Moments series I'd do the Motown 25th Anniversary performance of "Billie Jean" when Michael first debuted his Moonwalk to the public? I sort of figured that I'd be ready to move on to Thriller by then. I know I've posted about Bad and a little bit from Dangerous, but have overall stuck to Michael's younger work before Thriller made him the greatest selling African American artist of all time (with the greatest selling album EVER). It's just this kind of looming huge deal. I'm not ready! I've still got scores of stupendous Jackson 5 and Jacksons material to last us to my 125th post (you laugh, but...actually what you might be doing is forever removing my address off your blog roll)! Can't we wait and do it then? No, dear readers. A promise is a promise. Technically it was more an idea than a promise, but whatever. An idea is an idea.

What I can't promise is that this will bring the onslaught of Thriller posts that I know you've either been waiting for with bated breath or mildly curious about in relation to their total absence from this series. They're there, waiting for me with their timeless dance moves and legendary sounds and detailed back stories and iconic places in the History of Music For All Time. I'm coming for you, baby, I swear! I just have this strong urge to round out the circumference of The Masterpiece, you know? What came before and after. Oh, the amount of thought and planning I put into my obsessions. If only I'd become endlessly fascinated and concerned with the intricacies of mathematics or computers, a far more useful and richer person I would be today. Though I think I could do worse than the awesomeness we are about to revisit. Let's set the scene!

Pasadena, March 25, 1985. (Or May 16, when it actually aired on NBC. Either way.) Motown's greatest acts have reunited in front of a live studio audience to celebrate the anniversary of the famous label, titled Motown 25: Yesterday, Today and Forever (does this remind anyone else of that worship song? Yesterday, today, and forever! You are the same! You never change!). We've got The Temptations. Marvin Gaye. Diana Ross and some version of her Supremes. Stevie Wonder. Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. Also in attendance: The Jackson 5. Dun-dun-dun!

I'm totally intimidated by the vast "Billie Jean" wikipedia page, and I suppose that's where my avoidance of the Thriller canon comes from: it's all been said, and by much stronger and more knowledgeable writers than I. I mean, it's fucking "Billie Jean." What can I say? I wasn't even alive when this song was recorded and released. It's considered one of the greatest songs EVER. Don't even get me started on the official video with the light-up sidewalk. *Sigh.*

So here's how the evening goes down. Michael joins his brothers for their usual Jackson 5 medley that was their signature cover-the-hits rendition at The Jacksons concerts, containing "I Want You Back," "ABC," "Never Can Say Goodbye," and "I'll Be There." Lucky Randy, who as we know by now was a regular member of The Jacksons, got to join in. Michael has his single white glove, and is in more than fine form. His energy is off the charts. They bring the crowd to their feet. And when he holds hands with Jermaine! And all of them at 2:18. I know he better be good to you. Oh, sweet moses. At the end they hug, they embrace, there's a semi-standing O...

The brothers exit stage left. Michael remains. He chats a bit about how much he likes the old songs. But then he pauses, puts his microphone in its stand and says "But especially I like...the new songs." FREEZE. Keep in mind that when this performance was recorded and aired, "Billie Jean" was well into its 9 week reign at #1. I'm not sure, but I believe the video--the first by a black artist to be shown on MTV--was already in heavy rotation. Un-freeze!



The crowd erupts, the drum beat starts, and on goes the fedora--history in the making! He's lip-syncing, but who the hell cares? His stage presence is at once commanding and mesmerizing. He's owns the audience and knows it. The whole section between 3:35 and 3:45 is so jam-packed with his signature moves. It's only ten seconds in time. The Moonwalk itself lasts maybe 3 seconds. I think I'm even more impressed whenever he goes up on his toes (mostly because unlike my weak moonwalk, I still can't do that). He was a freaking force.

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