05 July 2009

Manila Times column for 05 July 2009: "Rewriting culture with the King of Pop"

they spelled my name wrong. sa online at least. ewan ko sa diyaryo. titignan ko bukas.

anyway, just to deviate a bit. i had to write about MJ. anyway, ngayon lang. sa susunod, back to regular programming na.

original post here.

By Ay Linsangan Cantor
Rewriting culture with the King of Pop

I’m sure the people of my generation—and the other generations that Michael Jackson influenced—are all mourning and grieving his death. The King of Pop is dead. But still, long will the king live—through his music, his dance performances and his visual innovations. He got me on all counts.

As a filmmaker, I was awed by how his music seemed to have “mini-films” to promote them whenever they showed it on TV in the 1980s. Some singers just had clips of them singing in a stage lighted with the usual lights, dressed impressively and smiling with charms turned on high in front of the camera. Michael was different. He had those, too, but he also had those innovative mini-films, which was to be called “music videos” later on. The Thriller album produced many of these music videos that now remain as classics of the genre: the ghostly but danceable “Thriller,” the teen angst-filled “Beat It,” and of course, the one that got to me, “Billie Jean.” I was so intrigued by how the things he touched and the areas he stepped/danced on lighted up. The moment I saw that, I began wondering how on Earth they did that lighting thing—and thus, my love for cinematography was born. This is part of the reason why I pursued filmmaking in school. I liked how he pushed the limits and experimented with new ways of presenting the visual image, to the tune of his catchy music.

Like my parents, I was an avowed music lover. Growing up, I listened to whatever they listened to. They had their own set of favorites that also became my favorites, like the Beatles and Abba. Of course I was hooked to the pop music of my generation by default. But our tastes all merged when it came to Michael Jackson. We all liked him, since the day he was with Jackson Five when he was small, up to the time he came out with thought-provoking songs like “Man In The Mirror” and “Heal The World.”

These days, savvy marketing makes an artist known throughout the globe, artists with less than stellar talents but have huge publicity machines. With Michael, talent came first before the marketing, before publicity, before any hoopla. Those days, pure talent made an artist shine, and the universe just automatically picks them up and puts them in a constellation for all of us to see, admire, and hopefully use as inspiration in doing good work like he did. Yes, he did that, despite the negativity that surrounded his later life. But that’s just part of being human, I think. The man rewrote music, in a way, and he definitely redefined pop culture as we know it. So take it from his words: “Heal the world. Make it a better place for you and for me and the entire human race.” We all need that now. Thanks, MJ.

Comments? Suggestions? E-mail libay.scribevibe@gmail.com. She is also at libaycantor.multiply.com.

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