“I love to accent movement. The eye goes to where the glove is. And, the feet, if you’re dancing, you can put an exclamation point on your movement if it has a bit of light on it. So, I wore white socks. And, for the design of the jacket, I would sit with the people who made the clothes and tell them where I wanted a button or buckle.”
Michael Jackson T.V. Guide Interview 1999
UNDERSTANDING MICHAEL AS A DANCER AND A PERFORMER IS CRUCIAL TO UNDERSTANDING HIM AS A SINGER AND SONGWRITER.
Michael takes the lyrics and goes inside of them in such a way that if you are a vocalist, you study Michael Jackson, IT’S MANDATORY.”
“When he was on stage he was so powerful he could make grown men cry and women faint.”
Michael Jackson was a dancer to his core. His body was his most instinctual canvas. (Joseph Vogel) He danced for exercise. He danced during recorded performance. Bruce Swedien put a mike at his feet so as to pick up his movement sounds while recording. Michael said, “I am a slave to the rhythm. I am a palette. I just go with the moment. PERFORMING IS NOT ABOUT THINKING, IT’S ABOUT FEELING.” To Michael, his choreography was like the lines in a painting. He explored and expressed within those lines. He became the embodiment of the piece. “When you’re dancing you are just interpreting the music and sounds and accompaniment. If there’s a driving bass, if there’s a cello, if there’s a string…YOU BECOME THE EMOTION OF WHAT THE SOUND IS.” He had the ability to occupy the music. That sets Michael apart from any other dancer. IT IS BODY AS CANVAS.
Musically, Michael could stitch together many genres to create his own unique style of music. His albums are unique in that each piece is a departure from the last, making listening a new experience each and every time. Michael takes his listeners on a journey and that journey holds in it pop, rock. soul, R&B, Motown. gospel, classical elements and more. Michael’s vocals ranged from angelic to hard edged to gritty to sensual to RAP to choral…cascading the listener into many worlds of sound. Beatboxing moves to new levels with Michael…it is iconic. Since Michael is a songwriter, an arranger and producer…sings lead and background vocals, beatboxing and movement sound…tracks are layered with unique and compelling sound. Gulps, grunts, gasps, cries, exclamations, scats, twisting and contorting words in an effort to make his audience FEEL the song as a sense impression rather than focusing only on lyrics. Michael’s voice brilliantly conjures emotional extremes, injecting unparalleled pathos releasing the audience from emotional prisons. Joseph Vogel IT IS TRULY SINGING BEYOND LANGUAGE. A natural tenor, a baritone, pitch perfect, Michael transitioned from a gifted child singer to an adult vocalist. MICHAEL WAS A DANCER AT HEART. HIS VOCAL PROWESS EXPRESSED ITSELF PLAYFULLY WITHIN AND AROUND THE RHYTHM. Michael’s voice could be a rhythm instrument, a percussion instrument. His repertoire included falsetto ecstasy, subtle warmth, primal and percussiveness, jazz improvisations, vulnerable crooning, soaring in gospel anthems, gritty, rough and scratchy, spoken raps and beatboxing. This massive array of vocal sound, along with years of work, created unparalleled variety. Quite simply, albums possessed the feeling that many artists were at work delivering the sound.
THE DEMOS: Since Michael’s passing, his massive vault of artistry has been cracked open a bit. BAD 25 brought forth 10 tracks Michael had left, all in various stages of development. XSCAPE recently revealed eight more. Fans know that Michael wrote 60 or more songs and demoed them when working on any one of his seven studio albums. He was a perfectionist who liked to allow the songs to reveal themselves over time. Matching what he heard in his head to what was on a track for Fans was always the tough part for Michael, often taking years before he reluctantly released a song. He wanted Fans to know that he had put every ounce of blood, sweat and God-given talent into the piece of music they laid down their hard-earned money for…for Michael, it had to be as close to perfect as possible. Would he have released these demos…pretty sure NOT…at least…NOT YET!
For the listener, they offer a peek into the mind of a musical genius. The listener is brought into the studio with Michael as he works, hearing songs at different stages of development. Few would disagree, that ANY of Michael’s demos would be releasable recordings for other artists. What is apparent is the pure joy felt during those sessions…a sense of freedom and play, creating and experimenting, discovery…and, MAGIC.
AL CAPONE: Matt Forger…”This is an example of a song where a part of it inspires the next version of the song. There have been many cases where Michael has done that, where he would dwell on a song and refine concepts or lyrics or melodies. The bass line of AL CAPONE, you can see how it evolved into SMOOTH CRIMINAL. And, the whole gangster theme carried over, though as it evolved it became less about a particular figure and more about a situation and a story. You can also hear Michael experimenting with this staccato-type of vocal…this rapid word play that he would later use.”
BLUE GANGSTA: The listening experience is greatly enhanced by two things: the use of a good set of headphones. Michael’s albums are meant to be listened to with headphones whenever possible. The second is to listen in a darkened room. If that isn’t possible, a blindfold is the next best thing. Michael recorded in a darkened studio because he said we use our sense of sight predominately. When listening, that sense of sight interferes with the emotive process. I have even discovered that I HEAR better when in public performances if I close my eyes. Of course, we would NEVER do that with Michael’s performances! BLUE GANGSTA offers an opportunity for the discovery of many, MANY artistic elements, many recorded performance elements and opportunities for THEATRE OF SOUND.
With headphones on and blindfolded, these discoveries await the listener: Michael’s creative intros and outros, an arrangement that conjures up the BIG BAND SOUND of the 1930’s, the drama of good storytelling, the enormity and richness of Michael’s lead vocals rich with sonic imagery, textures of background vocals, vocal range moving from gritty to sublime to crash and burn, emotion without language, non-verbal vocalizations, the tightness of sounds, a theatrical bridge with layered vocal purity, staccato vocals, layers and layers and LAYERS of voice and instrumentation. Be mindful that ALL the vocals are Michael. The listening experience requires multiple visits if one is to catch every nuance, every vocal layer, every beatbox, every element of the story. But, that is the fun of it all. WE SIMPLY WANT MORE AND MORE AND MORE. If we allow our minds to be set free, we are released from our emotional prisons and become part of the flow.