Favorite Michael Moments, Part 29: When he told everyone how dirty they are.


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, Part 25, Part 26, Part 27, Part 28.

Hold onto your fedoras, we're going to 1995 (so actually, let them go. Hold on to your...wigs). A time of controversy. A time of victimization. A time of lesser appreciated Michael Jackson music (...with good reason).

The HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I album has two discs: one of hits, the other of new material that Michael chose and wrote for its 1995 release. At best, the new material is bitter, angry, and miserable in lyrical content, and mostly under-produced to the point of demos or over produced to the point of anything Barbra Streisand recorded from 1990 on. But I don't want to get into why I feel like I'm being charitable whenever I listen to the majority of the album, but rather to talk about one of the songs off it I really do enjoy listening to.

Sometimes when you're angry there's nothing better than rocking out to a song that provides a furious catharsis for you, creates a mood and a tone to match your own. It's not necessary for the cause of your anger and the cause of the song's to be the same. But if they're too different, you can have issues. "Money" is a song that is angry at anyone who is willing to act unethically for a buck. Now don't get me wrong, I know that those people are out there, and I don't like them, but I don't find myself needing to sing about their greed. I'm just not that passionate about it. And it's hard when the singer--no matter what his financial hardships might have been--was known for his own tendency toward materialism.

The point of the song is that people give up their values for money, and I don't think Michael could be blamed for that. And he did have a lot of experience with tabloids and exhortation cases, so he definitely had more brushes with money-grubbers than most. Who knows who he's singing to at any given point in this song? His family? His 'people'? Politicians? It could be anyone. But that's just it. Even though I enjoy listening to this song for its beat and cadence, it feels very inaccessible and exclusive. I don't feel invited in by Michael to join with him in the music, but instead I feel he wants to push everyone away.*

So! Who still wants to hear the song? Who's still even reading this? Ok! "Money" is almost a rap, half-sung, half-spoken (something that he's good at, but I believe tended to over-do towards the 90s and on. Ok, seriously, I promise to stop with the criticism now). The beat is great. I couldn't tell you anything about it beyond that. Tambourine? Snare? Who can say? But there is this cool deep swishing sound that's great for dancing to. The chorus almost sounds cheerful and melodic, but don't be deceived. The background vocals are probably Michael, but they're awfully deep and gruff, so if it was him then kudos. The real winning combo is the beat with the timing of the lyrics (does that make sense?). They're just cleverly spaced to create memorable moments throughout the song. Listen to it and I'll share some of my favorites.

- At 0:57 he sings a stripped down verse that sounds like a piece of perfectly punctuated poetry (alliteration, whee!):

You're saluting the flag your country trusts you
Now you're wearing a badge you're called the 'just few'
And you're fighting the wars a soldier must do
I'll never betray or deceive you my friend but

If you show me the cash then I will take it
If you tell me to cry then I will fake it
If you give me a hand then I will shake it
You do anything for money

The transfer between the "I'll never betray" line and the "if you show me the cash" line lies in the but. Snorfl! But seriously, the way he says it. His pronunciation of the 't' puts Julie Andrews to shame. Plus it immediately ushers back in the rest of the instruments. Love it.

- 1:37 has the same kind of thing, and instead of the 'but' he ends it with a I don't think so. The sound of someone breathing out happens right before it. It's pretty sick.

- The ultimate of these moments though (can you tell they're my favorite?) is at 1:55.

Are you infected with the same disease of lust, gluttony and greed?
Then watch the ones with the biggest smiles, the idle jabbers
'Cause they're the backstabbers

He almost whispers the last line, but gives a full punch to each syllable. I hit repeat over this section again and again.

- And then towards the end of the song he just keeps singing you're dirty over and over, hence the post title.

Sometimes in the song I hear a little guitar or bass line reminiscent of his 80s songs. But the thriller's gone, you know? (Sorry.)

*I've been thinking about this a lot lately. Obviously later in his career Michael was obsessed with the hounding media and his mistreatment by...hell, everyone it probably seemed. But it's clear that he still had fans--so was his music really the best place to take out his aggression and paranoia? In interviews, sure, spread the word that you're pissed and hurt and want to be left alone. But when you create music, guess who's going to listen to that? People who support you. And by making songs that sound so defensive and unique to his experience, I think he kept so many people out. But is that not the point? Does an artist need to create art that people will want to be a part of and connect with or do they create out of their own deepest issues, not caring if (or at least hoping that) it will still have a personal impact on listeners? Because I felt for Michael and what he went through, but I also didn't relish always being me and him against the world.

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