• Michael Jackson Academic Journal

    The Michael Jackson Studies Academic Journal is a peer-reviewed online academic journal which aims to bring wider attention to Michael Jackson as artist, creating and implementing an academic model for the study of his multi-modal art.

Recent Articles

Das Phänomen Michael Jackson

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JochenEbmeier

Das Phänomen Michael Jackson was the first ever academic book written on Michael Jackson. On behalve of Jochen Ebmeier, we publish the links to the chapters of his just re-published online book from 1997/1999. This book is a biography that places Michael Jackson in a broader context and at the same time it is a short history and aesthetic of modern entertainment art.
Jochen wrote: ‘My ambition has been to write a book for the 16 year old fan as well as for the 60 year old professor of Philosophy. They all should read it with profit, i. e. learning something new and being amused, too.’ (Language of the book is German)

Das größte Comeback aller Zeiten sollte es werden. Der Meister blieb sich treu bis zum Schluss: Das ist es geworden – indem es ausfiel.

Titelblatt der Erstausgabe
Einleitung zur Erstausgabe
Wo, bitte, geht’s nach Motown?
Black & white
Opferlamm und Goldesel
Zwischen den Stühlen
Größter Star aller Zeiten
Jacko!
Kitsch, Kunst und Unterhaltung
Moonwalk to Neverland
The Jackson Chase
HIStory continues!
Der Hexer
Magical Child

#Jacksonism Week 4 – Chapter 2

Music II

Free Course Liz

Reproduced here with the explicit permission of the author, Elizabeth Amisu.

(c) 2014 E. Amisu

Author of the upcoming book, The Dangerous Philosophies of Michael Jackson (Praeger, 2016)

Chapter 2 – Music

‘Music is a teacher/That can teach you right from wrong/If you listen closely/There’s a lesson in the song’ – The Jacksons

Last week asked you to start a deep reading of Michael Jackson’s solo works. Due to the limited time frame of twelve weeks we won’t be able to delve into the earlier albums created at Motown and Columbia, but they are still very important because they give an excellent sense of context to Michael Jackson as a child prodigy who transformed himself into an accomplished composer.

There is a musical plumb-line which links ‘I’ll Be There’ with ‘You Are Not Alone’ and ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ with ‘Threatened’ so if you do have time this week, I suggest taking a trip down memory lane and listening to all the Jacksons’ and Jackson 5 albums. A list of relevant works can be found here: http://michaeljacksonstudies.org/comprehensive-references/primary-sources-albums/

Hopefully, by answering the questions set last week you have gained a new sense of perspective on the music which typified Jackson’s twenties and the eighties in general. If you did have a chance to listen to Tchaikovsky you may have noticed the layering of instruments in ‘Billie Jean’ luring the listener into Jackson’s sonic fictional space, creating a driving sense of narrative through sound.

This is the last in our two weeks dedicated to Jackson’s musical creations. Again, you will be required to “read” a range of albums, song-by-song and use your MJ Diary (see last week’s set task) to note your thoughts and feelings on the music, its tenor, its creativity and any ideas that it brings to mind for you.

As always, all readings are indicative. Read as much or as little as you wish. Feel free to skip ahead to chapters that resonate with you and come back to others later. Though this course is designed to take twelve weeks, some may choose to complete it in five and others in a year. It’s the art that matters. Not the time you take.

In addition to the core reading I have provided some extended reading for those who would like contextual background for Michael Jackson’s work. This was a tumultuous time for Jackson as false allegations added to the burden of his fissured personas. However, in his own words he did create his ‘best work under pressure’.

The next set of albums: ‘Dangerous’, ‘HIStory (Disc 2)’, ‘Blood on the Dance Floor (Tracks 1-5)’ and ‘Invincible’ showcase Jackson’s transition into adulthood and fatherhood as he becomes a fully-fledged activist and human rights campaigner. In the nineties his pleas and cries for change become shouts and screams and he transforms his own trials and tribulations into sounding boards for the voiceless.

I have included an entire book as secondary reading for this week. It is also freely available online and was most probably the only truthful account of the extortion debacle of 1993, which as we all know, was successful. But where it succeeded in tarnishing his reputation and adversely affecting his health, it did not dampen his spirit or his ‘will to survive’.

Also, when reading ‘HIStory (Disc 2)’ be aware that the album is in fact, a musical autobiography so Jackson’s use of lyricism here is of particular importance.

Finally, make sure to answer the questions in your MJ Diary.

Week 4 Readings:

Primary Readings – Essential

  1. Michael Jackson. Exec. Prod. Michael Jackson, CD, 4951742000 (2001)
  2. Blood on the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix.Michael Jackson. Prod. Michael Jackson, CD, 68000 – EK/ET/EM (1995)
  3. HIStory Past, Present and Future Book 1. Michael Jackson. Exec. Prod. Michael Jackson, CD, 59000 – E2K/E2T/E2M (1995)

Secondary Reading – Advised

  1. Fischer, Mary A., Was Michael Jackson Framed? The Untold Story That Brought Down a Superstar (CreateSpace, 2012)

Extended Reading – Optional

  1. Vogel, Joseph, Man in the Music: The Creative Life and Work of Michael Jackson (Sterling, 2011), pp. 130-249

Questions

In the light of all the reading you have completed this week answer the following questions in your MJ Diary:

  • In your own words, what is the core message of the ‘Dangerous’ album? (100-500 words)
  • In your own words, what is the core message of the ‘HIStory’ album? (100-500 words)
  • In your own words, what is the core message of the ‘Blood on the Dance Floor’ album? (100-500 words)
  • In your own words, what is the core message of the ‘Invincible’ album? (100-500 words)
  • Describe Michael Jackson’s musical transition between ‘Dangerous’ and ‘Invincible’? (100-500 words)

Back to the Contents Page

#Jacksonism Week 3 – Chapter 2

Music I

Free Course Liz

Reproduced here with the explicit permission of the author, Elizabeth Amisu.

(c) 2014 E. Amisu

Author of the upcoming book, The Dangerous Philosophies of Michael Jackson (Praeger, 2016)

Chapter 2 – The Music

‘we’ve been together for such a long time now music… music and me…’ – MJ

Last week asked you to start looking beyond the myth of Michael Jackson towards the man, the artist who created his short films and albums. Hopefully, by answering the questions set last week you have gained a new sense of perspective on the issues and traumas which surrounded Jackson’s life.

The next two weeks are dedicated to Jackson’s musical creations. You will be required to “read” a range of albums, song-by-song and use your MJ Diary (see last week’s set task) to note your thoughts and feelings on the music, its tenor, its creativity and any ideas that it brings to mind for you. 

In addition to the core reading I have provided some extended reading for those who would like contextual background for Michael Jackson’s work. The world was a very different place when he recorded and released ‘Thriller’ than it was when he released ‘Dangerous’ and this fundamentally affected how his music was received in those times.

As always, all readings are indicative. Read as much or as little as you wish. Feel free to skip ahead to chapters that resonate with you and come back to others later. Though this course is designed to take twelve weeks, some may choose to complete it in five and others in a year. It’s the art that matters. Not the time you take.

The following reading for this week focuses on Michael Jackson’s early solo works: ‘Off The Wall’, ‘Thriller’ and ‘Bad’. It is a little known fact that the music which is so synonymous with a jubilant, carefree perception of Michael Jackson coincides with a time in his life he described as particularly painful and lonely. It was during this time that he struggled most with how others perceived him. It was also during this time he suffered with severe burns and the progression of vitiligo.

So it is important to bear in mind that music, although incredibly expressive, does not always reveal the person behind the song. For example, Jackson’s transformations in ‘Thriller’ may have more in common with physical changes he was forced to accommodate in his own body rather than ones he chose to undergo.

Also, when reading ‘Thriller’, excellent companion reading is Tchaikovsky’s ‘Nutcracker Suite’, one of Jackson’s most beloved musical pieces and the work he was thinking of closely when he formed ‘Thriller’.

Finally, make sure to answer the questions in your MJ Diary.

Week 3 Readings:

Primary Readings – Essential

  1. Bad. Michael Jackson. Prod. Quincy Jones. Co-Prod. Michael Jackson, CD, 40600 – EK/QET/EM (1987)
  2. Thriller. Michael Jackson. Prod. Quincy Jones. Co-Prod. Michael Jackson, CD, 38112 – EK/QET/EM (1982)
  3. Off The Wall. Michael Jackson. Prod. Quincy Jones. Co-Prod. Michael Jackson, CD, 35745 – EK/FET/EM (1979)

Secondary Reading – Advised

  1. Moonwalk (London: Doubleday, 1988), pp. 144-272

Extended Reading – Optional

  1. Vogel, Joseph, Man in the Music: The Creative Life and Work of Michael Jackson (Sterling, 2011), pp. 30-129 (Off The Wall, Thriller, Bad)

Questions

In the light of all the reading you have completed this week answer the following questions in your MJ Diary:

  • In your own words, what is the core message of the ‘Off The Wall’ album? (100-500 words)
  • In your own words, what is the core message of the ‘Thriller’ album? (100-500 words)
  • In your own words, what is the core message of the ‘Bad’ album? (100-500 words)
  • Describe Michael Jackson’s musical transition between ‘Off The Wall’ and ‘Bad’? (100-500 words)
  • Extension Question: Choose one of the following themes (lust/betrayal/anger/love/joy/charity) and discuss them in Jackson’s first three solo adult albums. (300 words)

Back to the Contents Page

#Jacksonism Week 2 – The Man, Not The Myth

‘study the greats… become greater’ - MJ

Free Course Liz

Reproduced here with the explicit permission of the author, Elizabeth Amisu.

(c) 2014 E. Amisu

Author of the upcoming book, The Dangerous Philosophies of Michael Jackson (Praeger, 2016)

‘study the greats… become greater’ - MJ

Before doing anything else you must study. In Jacksonism that means watching films, listening to albums and reading books, articles and journals. This is because the defence comes in the form of a learning tool. The maestro’s scope is too wide, his canvas too broad to be tackled with a small blurb and some extended platitudes. You have to see it and experience it for yourself. I can’t tell you how Billie Jean sounds any more than I can explain the moonwalk.

So the first thing to do is to keep a small diary, an ‘MJ Diary’ of the art and discourse as you encounter it, week-by-week, song-by-song, page-by-page. This will be your own personal patchwork of discoveries and ideas. It should be unbridled, unconstrained and brutally honest.

All readings are indicative. Read as much or as little as you wish. Feel free to skip ahead to chapters that resonate with you and come back to others later. Though this course is designed to take twelve weeks, some may choose to complete it in five and others in a year. It’s the art that matters. Not the time you take.

There’s an odd preconception that Michael Jackson didn’t write much about being himself. This is thoroughly untrue. The reference list at the back of this book boasts at least 120 sources of books, notes, albums, short films, films and interviews which form the essence of who Michael was. Often painfully honest with himself and his fans, he always responded to questions with both humility and grace. He was the reason he became so successful. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that he had a rare wisdom and an equally rare ability to put himself in other people’s shoes. When we study Shakespeare, we look at his words. When we study Jackson, we will do the same. If you look for it, you will always find a primary source. That is always the first place to start.

The following reading for this week focuses on Michael Jackson, as person. Its aim is to present to you, the academic, the idea that Michael Jackson’s representation fissured over time. Now, where we lay blame for this fissuring will forever be up for discussion. However, one thing was true. In opening several doors for people of colour and musicians in many ways, he also found himself embroiled in the most swift and severe backlash in recent media history.

How this happened is of great concern to you. How you understand the artist will fundamentally determine how you perceive the art. Before you go through the online readings, print them out and annotate them, say what you agree and disagree with and make sure to answer the questions in your MJ Diary.

Week 1 Readings:

Primary Readings – Essential

1.     Invincible. Michael Jackson. Exec. Prod. Michael Jackson, CD, 4951742000 (2001)Speechless, You Are My Life

2.     Blood on the Dancefloor: HIStory in the Mix. Michael Jackson. Prod. Michael Jackson, CD, 68000 – EK/ET/EM (1995): Morphine

3.     HIStory Past, Present and Future Book 1. Michael Jackson. Exec. Prod. Michael Jackson, CD, 59000 – E2K/E2T/E2M (1995): Earth Song, HIStory, Stranger In Moscow, Tabloid Junkie, Childhood

4.     Dangerous. Michael Jackson. Exec. Prod. Michael Jackson, CD, 45400 – EK/ET/EM (1991): Heal the World, Why You Wanna Trip On Me, Keep The Faith

5.     Triumph. The Jacksons. Prod. The Jacksons, Vinyl, EPC 32366 (1980): This Place Hotel

6.     Destiny. The Jacksons. Prod. The Jacksons, Vinyl, EPC 83200 (1978): That’s What You Get (For Being Polite)

7.     ‘Heal the Kids’ Speech, Oxford Union. 6 March 2001

Secondary Reading – Advised

8.     Vogel, Joseph, ‘Second to None: Race Representation, and the Misunderstood Power of Michael Jackson’, Featuring Michael Jackson: Collected Writings on the King of Pop (Baldwin Books, 2012), pp. 7-14

9.     Colby, Tanner, ‘The Radical Notion of Michael Jackson’s Humanity’, Slate.com, 24 June 2014, ‘slate.com’ [accessed 25 June 2014]

Extended Reading – Optional

1.    Moonwalk (London: Doubleday, 1988), pp. 5-64

2.  Dancing the Dream: Poems and Reflections (London: Doubleday, 1992), pp. 14-15

3.    Amisu, Elizabeth, ‘Throwing Stones To Hide Your Hands: The Mortal Persona of Michael Jackson’, 11 June 2014, ‘elizabethamisu.com’, [accessed 17 June 2014]

4.     Carlson, Jan, ‘Case Study: The Caricature’, Words and Violence (3rd ed.) (2013), [accessed 28 June 2014]

5. Stranger in Moscow, dir. Nicholas Brandt (1996)

6. Childhood, dir. Nicholas Brandt (1995)

7. Earth Song, dir. Nicholas Brandt (1995)

8. Scream, dir. Mark Romanek (1995)

9.  Michael Jackson’s Private Home Movies (Fox Television Network, 2003)

10.  Michael Jackson: The Making of Ghosts. VH1. 1997

Questions

In the light of all the reading you have completed this week answer the following questions in your MJ Diary:

  • In your own words, who was Michael Jackson? (100-500 words)
  • What, if anything, was his message? (100-500 words)
  • If you had the opportunity for his level of acclaim, would you take it? If yes, why? If no, why not? (50-300)

Back to the Contents Page

“Dangerous” by Dr. Susan Fast

Book Review by Karin Merx

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Dangerous by Dr. Susan Fast

Dangerous by Dr. Susan Fast, volume 100 33 1/3, Bloomsbury, ISBN: PB: 978-1-6235-9; ePDF: 987-1-6235-6102-4; ePub: 987-116235-6156-7

‘Dangerous’ is a must read for every Michael Jackson fan, non-fan, critic or music lover. Dr. Susan Fast meticulously researched Michael Jackson’s 1991 album in a way that has never been done before and in doing so she puts Jackson back where he belongs; in the spotlight as the highly talented black musician and artist he was… and he was dangerous too!

The book also makes readers want to re-listen to the music and re-watch the short-films again and again.

Francesca Royster – Hee hee hee: Michael Jackson and the Transgendered Erotics of Voice

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(c) DePaul University

On behalf of:

Francesca Royster. ‘Hee hee hee: Michael Jackson and the Transgendered Erotics of Voice.’ Originally published on the National Sexuality Resource Centre. 28 July 2005

‘Throats are part of the erotic act, commanding, whispering, swallowing. Through his cries, whispers, groans, whines, and grunts. Michael Jackson occupies a third space of gender.’ Through his cries, whispers, groans, whines, and grunts. Michael Jackson occupies a third space of gender.’ Francesca Royster explores the sexualisation of Jackson’s voice throughout his earlier solo works, ‘Off The Wall’, ‘Thriller’ and ‘Bad’ while contextualising his voice within the wider concept of African-American sexuality and its representation.

Read Full Article Here

Marta Miquel-Baldellou – A Tell-Tale Thriller

An Intertextual an Structural Insight into Poe's Pop

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CSP

On behalf of

Miquel-Baldellou, Marta. “A Tell-Tale Thriller: An Intertextual and Structural Insight into Poe’s Pop.” De-Centring Cultural Studies: Past, Present and Future of Popular Culture. Ed. Jose-Igor Prieto-Arranz et al. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2013. 89-117.

Despite some initial hesitance, more scholars have increasingly established links between the
Bostonian writer Edgar Allan Poe and contemporary musicians like Lou Reed, Allan Parsons
Project as well as Bob Dylan. More recently, Michael Jackson has been added to the list,
especially since the King of Pop chose Vincent Price, the actor featuring in most of Roger
Corman’s films based on Poe’s tales, to participate in the highly acclaimed song and album
Thriller. Likewise, Michael Jackson admitted that he intended to play the role of Edgar Allan
Poe in a big-budget biopic entitled The Nightmares of Edgar Allan Poe, a film which was never
released. Actually, both Poe and Jackson share important biographical details such as the
pervasive influence of a tragic childhood, a tempestuous relationship with their respective
fathers, their ludicrous depiction by the press, their assumed eccentricity and popularity as
American icons, their misunderstood marriages, their financial debts, and even their untimely
death. This paper presents an intertextual analysis of Edgar Allan Poe’s tales and Michael
Jackson’s songs and videoclips with the aim to underline the narratological structures shared
between both authors’s works as representatives of contemporary popular culture.

Read Full Article Here

De-Centring Culture Studies sample

Elizabeth Amisu – ‘The Isle is Full of Noises’

Revisiting the Peter Pan of Pop- Dangerous Philosophies 3/19

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By Elizabeth Amisu

 

Adapted and abridged from the chapter, ‘Michael Jackson: Peter Pan, Passion and Pathology’ from The Dangerous Philosophies of Michael Jackson by Elizabeth Amisu (2015)

Abstract:

The artist, Michael Jackson has oft been given the epithet, Peter Pan of Pop, however, this article presents his association with fictional characters as far more complex. It also discusses Jackson’s parallels with Shakespeare’s Ariel and the authors, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Oscar Wilde.

Read Full Article Here

or
Read Full Article Here

The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain

“I know my race, I just look in the mirror; I know I’m black.”-Michael Jackson

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MJ

This article is placed on behalf of Raven Woods. Raven Woods is a professor of literature and composition at Alabama A&M University and JC Calhoun Community College. Her publication credits include “AURA/Literary Arts Review,” “Cedar Hill Review,” “Bogg,” “Lucid Moon,” “Black Bear Review,” and many others. She was a recipient of the 1998 Hackney Literary […]

‘Bad (1987)’

Genius. The Short Films of Michael Jackson 1/24

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Michael Jackson starred in and produced upwards of forty films in a career which showcases many of the most watched short films of all time. The four-minute sequence often perceived to be ‘Bad’ (dir. Martin Scorsese, 1987) is in fact the epicentre of a much longer narrative. Parodied in ‘Moonwalker’ (dir. Jerry Kramer, 1988) in the spirit of ‘Bugsy Malone’ (dir. Alan Parker, 1976), it is nevertheless targeted towards adults. Richard Price’s screenplay was inspired by a 1985 shooting and explores several complex themes. This essay de-constructs ‘Bad’ for its cinematic significance, discussing its cultural relevance and artistry through a shot-by-shot analysis which interprets the film through mise en scène, cinematography, performances and wider context.

On Michael Jackson’s ‘Dancing the Dream’

The Dangerous Philosophies of Michael Jackson 2/19

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Michael Jackson’s words were disseminated in liner notes, magazines and even a blog. His first published book was a 1988 autobiography, Moonwalk; the second, a children’s storybook based on Moonwalker (dir. Jerry Kramer, 1988) and the last, a 1992 publication called Dancing the Dream. ‘On Michael Jackson’s Dancing the Dream’ contextualises this collection of ‘poems and reflections’ within its author’s career and positions a work which Jackson described as ‘more autobiographical than Moonwalk’ as a pivotal moment in his career. The essay poses and answers, using emerging academic study of Jackson’s art, the following questions: ‘what exactly is Dancing the Dream’ and ‘how is it significant’?

Throwing Stones to Hide Your Hands: The Mortal Persona of Michael Jackson

The Dangerous Philosophies of Michael Jackson 1/19

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Drawing on the emerging scholarly study of ‘Jacksonism’, a movement typified by the study of the multi-modal art, political impact and cultural significance of Michael Jackson, this article de-constructs the mythological personas of the artist by exploring both his cultural deification and many subsequent attempts to degrade his deified status.

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