“Sentimental music has this great way of taking you back somewhere at the same time it takes you forward, so you feel nostalgic and hopeful at the same time.” Nick Hornby (High Fidelity)
Thursday evening, June 25th, I joined my friend Kelly (and two others who shall remain nameless to protect their reputation) at a local pub for dinner and a beer. Michael Jackson, the undisputable “King of Pop,” passed away earlier the same evening, inspiring conversation of his life. I believe I opened the can of worms by stating, “I can’t believe Michael Jackson died. He was a weirdo but I cannot think of another more influential, more iconic entertainer
. Maybe Elvis?” One nameless friend (whom I’ll refer to as "Betty" from here on out,) chimes in with, “Glad he’s gone. I never liked him.” The other nameless friend (whom I’ll call "Fred,") agrees with "Betty,"stating,“Yep, one less pervert in the world.” Completely appalled, I am immediately defensive, “Yeah, okay, again he was a strange duck but he contributed a great deal… more than anyone I can think of… to pop music. He paved the way for a ton of artists. The man was an amazing entertainer. Elvis (whom I don’t care for) holds a candle, but name another.” Prepare and brace yourself, sit down even, for THE all-time stupidest of stupid retorts ever uttered in the history of wasted words: “Rascal Flatts.” Yes friends, my friend said Rascal Flatts were better, more influential, more revolutionary entertainers. She also included “Keith Urban.” Uh huh. A person cannot invent this kind of stupidity, and I am stupider (intended blunder) for having the conversation.
I’ll allow a moment for the laughter (and disbelief) to subside.
Kelly and I were mortified, stunned speechless. This may have been more unbelievable than Jackson’s actual death. After the “wow” wore off I responded with, “Okay. I’m embarrassed to know you. You don’t have to like Michael Jackson. You don’t have to be affected by such a profound musical loss, but denying his obvious and unarguable effect on pop culture is just, well, dumb. His abundance of Grammy’s, #1 Singles, staying power (45 years,) and achievements (Google his name on Wikipedia and reserve an hour of your time to read the awards section, oh which includes “ MOST SUCCESSFUL ENTERTAINER OF ALL TIME” per Guinness World Records) prove more than an opinion-- which everyone is certainly entitled to possess.
The nameless female (whom I’ll no longer refer to as “Betty” as I've decided she's not worthy even a surname,) tosses in “The Beatles.” First, we’re discussing “entertainers,” not “musical geniuses,” (though I feel Michael was this as well.) Talk about apples and frickin’ oranges. And secondly, Michael was savvy enough to outbid Sir Paul McCartney, obtaining the rights to a great deal of the Beatles music. Don’t even get me started on the Beatles. My mother loved The Beatles like I love John Mayer and…well, The Beatles. Naming the Beatles in the same conversation as Rascal Flatts (who do I like, by the way) is like covering a turd with glitter. Your turd-like comment still lingers. A glitter-covered turd is still a turd.
My two nameless friends, “Dumb and Dumber,” also challenge me when I mention Michael wrote his own music. He certainly didn’t write all of it, but he wrote “Thriller” (you know, the #1 selling record of all time,) “Billy Jean,” “We are the World,” “Beat It,” and “Black and White.” He invented the “Moonwalk,” one of the, if not THE most well-known dance move in pop history. Well-known but not easily done. His notoriety alone sorta says a lot. Everyone, and I do mean everyone, black, white, young, and old, know who Michael Jackson is, e-v-e-r-y-o-n-e. Now, take a poll and see if everyone knows the Rascal Flatts. I challenge even the original commenter to name the full names of the three men who form the Rascal Flatts. They write a few of their own songs, like one per album and it's usually the shitty song everyone skips. Hell, again, I like Rascal Flatts, but the comparison was idiotic.
The “Thriller” video continues (and was while Michael was alive too) to be the "Godfather" of music videos. It’s the first video I recall ever seeing. I was young, three maybe, and my uncle Charlie had it playing on the TV. I watched, mesmerized. I recall it vividly, like yesterday. At age seven, I purchased my second cassette (first was George Harrison,) the Michael Jackson “Bad” cassette. My neighbor and I danced in the backyard, listening to the cassette over and over (in the days of “rewind” versus “repeat.” I am prepared for the “older” audience to tell me about remembering albums and eight-tracks. I remember those too.) Jackson's song, “Human Nature,” still remains one of the most nostalgic songs for me but “We are the World” is a real doozy. I recall listening to it in the car, with my mom. I was five. My parents, I presume, recall listening to "The Jackson Five" when they were young. And that’s the point, he was successful for 45 years, 90% of his life.
He was an icon.
Like him or don’t, but don’t you dare compare him to the Rascal Flatts while giving RF more credit. Don’t or next time, I’ll use your name. I opened (and will conclude) this blog with a Nick Hornby quote from a novel infamous for noting “lists,” more specifically “top five best and worst…”
Top (two) Five Most Absurd Responses to the Question, “Who is a better, more iconic entertainer than Michael Jackson?”:
1. Rascal Flatts
2. Keith Urban
“…and it’s no good pretending that any relationship has a future if your record collects disagree violently, or if your favorite films wouldn’t even speak to each other if they met at a party.” Nick Hornby (High Fidelity)
Upon talking with my friend, "Betty," (and may it be quite publically known, I love and adore her,) she said this blog was a bit confusing and somewhat hurtful. She said she mentioned Rascal Flatts as being great performers (they are) and does not feel they are "better" or more revolutionary than Michael Jackson. She further stated, "Now I understand why you acted so strange at the time it was mentioned. I thought we were discussing great performers period. By the way, I mentioned Elton John too. I still think he is an example of an iconic performer (and I agree,) and though I am not a huge Jackson fan because I am not a huge fan of this particular genre of music, I certainty can't contest of his influence on music." May I also firmly state this was written in jest with intention of humorous undertone and definitely not as a means for personal attack. Those who know me well know I would never use this forum as a place to hurt (or misquote) anyone I care about, period. And exclamation point. Hoping I've offered deserved clarification. Might I also add ('cause I always say too much,) "Betty" and I share a mutual love for music and often times, the same music. Part of the joy of friendship is the common ground and even more special is the uncommon ground, so long as the ground is shared (common or not) by respecting adults. "Betty," thanks for your grace and desire for resolve. Therein lies the real tribute.