10 December 2009

Hand in Glove

When in the summer i was thinking about Beyonce's single Sasha Fierce gauntlet as an homage to Michael Jackson's single white glove, I was really intrigued to discover their shared debt to Bob Fosse as a choreographer. This edit of Fosse's routine in The Little Prince is pretty extraordinary, a template for almost all of the moves and tics which we now consider to be characteristically MJ:

And then there's Beyonce's debt to, or rather deliberate homage to, Fosse in -- let me finish -- one the best videos of all time. I can't embed it but you can watch it here.

And this synchs up Fosse's original routine, devised for his wife Gwen Verdon, with Single Ladies:

The Fosse-MJ-Beyonce triangulation is so gloriously odd, the way it crosswires certain assumptions about gender and race, subverting projections like the idea that Jackson's performance of Billie Jean at Motown 25 'encapsulated a long tradition of African-American dance movements in one performance' (a view ascribed to Ian Inglis in the wiki for the moonwalk).

While I'm on the subject, I don't think I've ever linked from here to this post about Beyonce, the Sashe Fierce gauntlet as cyber-prosthesis and the etymological roots of cyborg in the concept of slavery.

08 December 2009

This is how we walk on the moon

MJ as classic child star -- identity fixed at moment of first success, unable to achieve a viable adult identity because unable to ever leave this persona as a) wunderkind and b) object of desire behind. Frozen in this pre-pubescent mindframe. This compounded by father's violence and philandering: horror of adult sexuality. Career produced then torn apart by the tension created by this as he ages. Androgyny and surgery as attempt to evade post-pubescence, to remain like a child: asexual and, as a universally worshipped image-vessel of pure potentiality, deracinated too. Surgery as refacialization, denial of his father's paternity and the genetic reiterations of repro-futurism. Billie Jean as apex of this -- rejection of paternity, of sex and its reproductive logic -- (see also Dirty Diana). Then the decline as age renders these contortions impossible to sustain. Atonement for the blasphemy against holy ideology of the child in Billie Jean etc... has children w/out sex, has sexless intercourse w/ children...

The moonwalk as attempt to reverse flow of time/space back towards 1969, year of the real moon walk and moonlanding, the year he debuted w/ J5 and was date-stamped, ID-stamped, Id-stamped irrevocably. A survey of the Jackson 5's records could work here too -- as a sort of lost future, an image of the child MJ could not continue to be.
An outline for a piece on Michael Jackson that remained unwritten. I'm glad I never fleshed it out, it was more a ground-clearing exercise in working out what I actually thought MJ was, before then writing something a little less obvious (and I do think a lot of it is obvious), or at least less pop-psychological. I still like the moonwalk idea though: the choreography of nostalgia, a literalization of a will-to-return, the longing to go backwards though time to a prelapsarian safety. Is the 1969 moon landing / J5 debut connection overstated? Maybe, but then why is it called the 'moonwalk'? It's not as if there's any similarity between Jackson's slip-slide reverse (both feet stuck like glue to the floor) and the big, slow-motion forward bounces which everyone knows low gravity imposes on the normal human gait. [The move, as is well-documented, was not invented by Jackson, but Jackson does seem to be responsible for the name by which it's now universally recognised.]

One (and not the only) way that this sketch is superfluous/redundant is that there already is a survey of the Jackson 5's discography by Barney Hoskyns in the latest volume from Zer0:

It also features Mark Fisher, Steven Shaviro, Dominic Fox, Owen Hatherley, Alex Williams, Reid Kane, Geeta Dayal, Charles Holland, Tom Ewing, Joshua Clover, Marcello Carlin, Ian Penman, David Stubbs, Mark Sinker and more. I shouldn't big it up personally as I'm in it, but in the Times Bob Stanley says it's 'one of the year’s best books' and has 'fresh, allegation-free perspectives on Jackson’s life.' Available to order here.