With the wave of posthumous interest in Michael Jackson subsiding, books about his life and legacy are becoming sparse – but also, on average, more carefully put together. New book “Xscape Origins” by Damien Shields deservs to be reviewed as it is dedicated to the subject that has long been almost elite in the realm of MJ-related press – Michael’s music.
In the Michael Jackson world, year 2014 was marked by the release of a collection, named Xscape, of eight previously unreleased Michael Jackson songs remixed by modern producers. The release was heavily promoted in the media and enjoyed commercial success.
A small but cozy room inside the underground-style Fish Fabrique club in St. Petersburg is almost dark. The only light is coming from a laptop screen. The beat-up walls are decorated with the portraits of the most famous man on the planet, and there’s his cardboard lifesize silhouette standing in the corner near the stage. The room is filled with the achingly beautiful clear tenor supported by nothing but a guitar and a drum machine. It floods the room up to the roof, and the walls seem to disappear leaving everybody one on one with this voice and the sparkling magic granted to the singer by Mother Nature. Sixty people from all corners of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine greedily hang on every sound coming from large powerful speakers. Tears are running down the girls’ cheeks, some cover their faces with their hands to muff their sobs a little. Twenty four years later, we’re witnessing the birth of a masterpiece. This is just one of many special moments happening at In the Studio with MJ, a Brad Sundberg seminar, and the voice coming from the speakers belongs to Michael Jackson.
I’ve dreamt about attending this seminar since the very first day I heard about it. Partly it was because of rare demos and videos, and partly because I always wanted to talk to the person who worked with Michael so close for so long. So, when Elena Zelikova announced that Brad Sundberg was coming to St. Petersburg, I knew I could not miss the chance. What I did not know then was that the heavens prepared another surprise for me – I would not just be a guest of the seminar. I would be Brad’s translator.
This article from Dangerous Zone fanzine, 2001, tells the story behind Michael Jackson song “They Don’t Care About Us,” and the music videos for it. It also offers an analysis of the meaning of the song and the videos, and their importance in Michael’s career.
And yet another scandal. “They Don’t Care About Us” even managed to break the controversy record previously set by “Black or White” – because this time there were two scandals at the same time. First, the US Jewish community was disturbed by the lyrics because it allegedly contained anti-Semitic words (the lyrics to this song is being discussed to this day). Then the Brazilian government did exactly what the good old Communist governors in the USSR used to do – “we maintain that everything is fine in our state, and whoever doesn’t think so will be silenced.” And even Pele, a nice man, a great football player and a national hero, supported this point of view. Perhaps, the most irritating thing for everybody was that Michael Jackson, who had been indifferent to politics up to that point, suddenly released a song that manifested his views very directly: “You know I really do hate to say it, the government don’t wanna see…”
While we are waiting to see what Michael Jackson will tell the world in his upcoming Invincible album, let’s recall one of his boldest works that suddenly displayed a clear and simple public stance of the “most apolitical” performer on the planet.