Case in point: I've been wondering if Michael Jackson could still cut a hit album. Don't know why I should be concerned about this, but for whatever reason I spent an hour thinking about it in the early morning one weekend. (Could be that a True Hollywood Story on the Jacksons had some influence in that).
I've been a Michael Jackson fan since I was in elementary school. I was about 5 when Thriller came out, didn't like the title track to Bad but enjoyed the rest of the album, hated most of the material since (although that lead single off the last album was alright), and Off the Wall's been a constant fave since my late teens. It might be nostalgia, but I still think Mike's still got it, and it's been helpful to know everyone from Gondry to the Neptunes (it's widely known that many of the Neptunes' tracks on JT's first album were originally written for MJ) to Ian Brown to Cornelius to...the list is endless, really (well, not Paul McCartney).
It's easy for me to say that I think Mike's still got a hit album in him, then, but it's another thing for me able to say that it'd actually happen. It ain't true that there's no such thing as bad publicity, and he's the prime example (that said, the R Kelly issue never really got resolved, but folks are leaving him alone 'cause he's been racking up hits since, even if "Trapped in the Closet" is just about as bonkers as anybody could ever get this side of Napolean - I particularly like when the midget is trapped under the kitchen sink).
The worst thing that ever happened to Michael Jackson is Michael Jackson. Dude's his own worst enemy, and, criminal charges aside, his egomaniacal nature hasn't helped his image or his music any. From those crazy statues to self-producing the last batch of albums (save for Teddy Riley here and there), he ain't helping himself out, and it's time someone else stepped in and did it for him.
Thus, here's my plan for
1. Mike, stay out of the press for a year! The SPCA can take care of the Neverland animals, the lawyers can take care of, um, the lawyers, and the money stuff can be dealt with outside of the press (if Enron could do it, so can you). If you could do this and leave the Howard Hughes setup you got going in Bahrain, all the better.
2. Mike, let some one else produce your album! If the last few albums are any indication, it's that Mike either ain't in the know or he's over-estimating his own talents. This isn't uncommon - Prince could do with a little third-party-editing himself. Hits are needed, and there's nothing that says "hit" these days like Kanye, the Neptunes, Timbaland (though I doubt Mike could pull that off), Just Blaze, Richard Harrison. Maybe throw in a Quincy track for old times sake. If you really want to do it up, go for the hit AND spare yourself from the critics, do NOT hook up with DawG-Unit.
3. Mike, don't do publicity! Like I said, the worst thing Michael Jackson can do is associate himself with Michael Jackson. Stay out of the press shots, don't do interviews, and stay out of the videos! You got Gondry on your side, use him!
Voila - easy as pie. This had me all in a tizzy last weekend, and I emailed my friends (all two of them!) about it for their opinion, and noticed that Okayplayer had a coincidental post going on their boards a few days later.
Here's what Frank had to say:
"Thriller was the pinnacle of his career because the paranoia was in his lyrics and nowhere else. If he's gonna do an elvis '68, then he's gotta get some hypnosis to forget all his problems 'cause he's got mo' problems than Cobain ever did. (Not to sound racist, but why do them black artists attempt/commit fewer suicides than their white counterparts? overdoses are one thing, but hutchence, ian curtis, kurt, gahan, et al., well, you get the picture.) He needs to forget the bankruptcy, the custody battles, the lawsuits, disintegrating nose, clown makeup, etc. and get focused on actually getting women preggers, knife fights and halloween. Hire the best hip hop producers promisory notes can offer. Thriller the sequel = hit. Bad (or subsequent record) the sequel = miss. And then maybe he can get another monkey.
"It's almost a no-win situation for him. Maybe Gondry can make his video, maybe Jonze, Matt Groening (!), or even Herb Ritts (from beyond the grave) with nothing but nude supermodels. But you're only as good (bad) as your last boneheaded move or self-inflicted controversy, which people seem to remember with greater clarity than the music or his voice. While other artists have the ability to let these things slide, MJ puts it in his music. "Leave Me Alone," "Scream" and other blunders do not help. Forget what the press says, forget what the people think. Write songs from the perspective of a regular joe, and not some hounded celebrity. This may be a little bit of a reach for him, but i'm thinking they've got mood-altering pills nowadays for whatever's ailing him, and hypnotherapy may just get him out of (or into) his funk just one more time. And for God's sake, keep that surgeon's mask on!"
For the record, I really liked "Leave Me Alone." I think it was the Elizabeth Taylor montage in the video.
Here's what Marco thought:
"MJ is (now) irrelevant. Music these days is all about image, and his is f'd. I don't think the general public would support his music, no matter how good it is."
I asked my sister too, who's a publicist, for her professional opinion. She sez:
"Are you bored or something?"