Michael Jackson was my first love. Anyone who knows me could tell you that. My first memories (sometime between the ages of 3-5) are of my biological father playing Michael on the living room stereo. I would run the loop that connected our living room, dining room, and foyer, singing and dancing like a maniac. Whenever he was on TV or on the radio, my whole world would stop.
My first album–the first one that I really related to, really felt like I owned–was Dangerous. It was the first album that came out when I was old enough to understand (most of) the lyrics the first time that I heard them. I learned that there were several sides to Michael. He wasn’t Heal the World all of the time. He was Give in to Me, Dangerous, Why You Wanna Trip on Me, Who Is It, and a range of other songs that weren’t just rainbows and unicorns. It made me appreciate him even more. I was six years old and I felt like a grown up listening to Dangerous through my dad’s expensive headphones.
Should I mention that I fell madly in love with those curly bangs. Ohmygosh.
The media got nastier and I couldn’t listen to his music or see his image without a growing amount of frustration. I didn’t know him. Never met him. But I hated all of the controversy surrounding him, someone that I felt like I knew so well. My family knows that I can take things very personally and I must admit that the lies, insults, and jokes felt personal. I kept my fandom to myself. As an honor roll student and all around goodie-two-shoes, I didn’t want to bring up his name around someone who thought less of him. I didn’t want to have to backhand someone and ruin my perfect record.
I am still a strange fan. I only buy albums that contained his new releases; I avoided Best ofs, Collections and Remixes like the plague. I don’t like to buy a song twice and I certainly don’t like to buy someone else’s interpretation of his songs, or reorganizations of his works into some new album. I feel like he got it right the first time.
Another oddity: I never tracked his personal life in much detail. I knew general things: number of kids, his monkey’s name, spouses, tours, and stuff like that mainly because they were in bold in the headlines of magazine articles at grocery store registers nationwide. But I never dug into the details. I knew enough about him to know that he saw his fame as a double-edged sword. He loved making music but didn’t love the constant prying into his personal life. Out of respect for him, I never put time and money into tabloids or photographs from his stalkers. I rarely even visited gossip websites. Not obsessing over him or his family was my way of showing my appreciation for him, as odd as it sounds.
Over time, it became harder and harder to recognize him. I don’t know if any other fans felt the way that I did. There were images of him that popped up that just didn’t seemed familiar. I understand that people change and his decisions were completely his own right yet I must admit that the changes made me feel a bit more detached. Who was that? I was still a fan and a supporter but I wished that I knew what was going on. In some strange way I even wondered if there way anything that I could do to help…
On the day that Michael passed, I was in denial. I was one of those people. I figured it must be some crazy promotional stunt for the upcoming tour. Days passed and I cognitively understood that he was physically no longer here but it still seemed unreal. He’s been making music my entire life. I’m still here so, naturally, he must continue to provide the soundtrack for my life and grow with me 🙂
The posthumous albums sort of tricked me into thinking that I had a few more years with him. Again, I’m sane enough to know that wasn’t exactly true but the sentiment was real. It made me feel better. Xscape was the first posthumous album that felt final. I think it’s the original versions of the tracks at the end of the album; the songs are pulled from different points in his career but there is something about those recordings that just feels raw and finite.
Xscape is the antithesis of Dangerous for me. Dangerous woke me up and pulled me out. It gave me a point in his career when I can say that I was his fan by my own right, not an offshoot of my parents’ fandom. Xscape is the album that has given me the peace to let go.