On February 7, 1989 Michael Jackson visited every classroom at Cleveland Elementary School in Stockton, California. It had been just three weeks after a gunman had fired 100 bullets into a playground, then committed suicide. Five children were murdered & 39 injured during the attack. Michael had just returned from his Bad World Tour. He arrived at the school to comfort the surviving children by giving them confidence to view the world more positively after such a traumatic experience.
Eight year old Thahn Tran, who had lost his younger brother during the massacre, spoke about the effect MJ’s visit had on him: “I didn’t want to go back to school, but Michael made it all right again. If he goes there, it must be safe. Michael is my friend & I’m very glad.”
Another student Elizabeth Pha on Michael’s visit, “His presence made me feel like, ‘Oh, wow, the world is safe, & it is possible to dream, & there is hope after all.’”
What about the times you lied to me What about the times you said no one would want me What about all the shit you’ve done to me What about that? What about that? What about the times you yelled at me What about the times I cried, you wouldn’t even hold me What about those things? What about that? What about that? What about the times you hit my face What about the times you kept on when I said “no more please” What about those things? What about that? What about that? What about the times you shamed me What about the times you said you didn’t fuck her She only gave you head What about that? What about that?
The other real powerful lyrics:
Don’t wanna live my life in misery Don’t tell me you did it ‘cause you love me I don’t believe I’m sick and tired Your deceptive games Wonder where You have been I can’t live life wondering
The intensity of that last frame. How many people have sang about about domestic abuse on a VH1 fashion show? This was using the stage for storytelling, social issues, and artistry. I think this was her strongest vocal performance to date and you hear ever single word coming out of her mouth. She didn’t have to have the biggest voice around but in that moment she demanded your attention. She didn’t even give you complicated choreography. She let her words and the pantomined violence of her dancers show you she wasn’t even playing. She sat her ass on that stage and made you listen, powerfully sashayed up that catwalk, and just silently smoldered.
They really rewrote Janet’s history off as some aging bubblegum pop star that tried to pervert children with the exposure of her body (even though she was framed). They foisted causations from who her family was, her sexually bold lyrics, her nipple piercings, and even tired black women stereotypes as weapons to vilify her. Somehow the constant images of rape, sexual assault, and violence are completely admissible on primetime but a bare breast is the worst thing seen by young eyes. The communities that were supposed to be on her side threw respectability politics in her face. If anything should be considered offensive, it is that this was a very public, historic moment of abject systematic victim blaming. This woman was scarlet lettered and probed for an act committed by a consenting adult male. The creator of YouTube openly at admits that he wanted to use his new product to make that moment of humiliation easily accessible. Does any one not see how disturbing that is? Men using scopophilia to make parts of her body that she didn’t want revealed in the first place constantly and globally. She really had her body and privacy violated on a scale no one should ever experience and was kicked for years from a stupid term that entered the collective lexicon: wardrobe malfunction.
I really wanted to her to write an angry, angsty musical response to how badly she was treated by the media. I wanted her to combine the independence of “Control”, the social awareness of “Rhythm Nation”, the emotional nudity of “janet.”, the intimacy of “The Velvet Rope”, and the angst in “All for You” into one big manifesto and a fuck you to that entire incident. I really hope she isn’t gone for good. I want her to have the artistic equivalent of having a last hoorah. She has a social conscience void to fill.