Abstract: In this interview, Andreas Ardanic discusses his Master Thesis and how Michael Jackson influenced him and what he envisions for his future with Michael Jackson.
Ardanic, Andreas. “An Interview with Andreas Ardanic.” Interview, The Journal of Michael Jackson Academic Studies 5, no. 1 (2017). Published electronically 03/10/17. http://michaeljacksonstudies.org/an-interview-with-andreas-ardanic/.
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An Interview with Andreas Ardanic by The Journal of Michael Jackson Academic Studies
Q1 – Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I have completed a master’s degree in English and French language teaching at the University of Graz in Austria and am currently in my teacher training year. In the course of my studies, I became extremely interested in Literary Studies and dealt with various forms of anglophone and francophone literature. I have also been a hobby guitarist and songwriter as well as an avid explorer of music for over ten years now.
Q2 – What inspired you to write your thesis on Michael Jackson’s ‘Media Critical’ songs? What was its genesis?
During my studies, the focus of a course was on The Beatles, their music, their lyrics and the cultural impact of their oeuvre. I was truly amazed by the vast amount of academic research on them. Michael Jackson did not have that. I asked myself: “How is there so little academic research on the most successful artist of all time?” I wanted to change that and contribute to the growing field of Michael Jackson Academic Studies.
I also remembered how the media used to bash the King of Pop and how as a consequence too many people still only know about the rumors and scandals. I wanted to put a spotlight on the artist and his works again… but most of all I wanted to discover how Michael felt about the attacks of the media and how he defended himself, thus a lyrical (and musical) analysis of his ‘media-critical’ songs seemed like a good way to get a glimpse of Michael’s mind.
Q3 – How was your thesis received in the University, did you have full support when you proposed it?
To my surprise, the thesis was extremely well received. My mentor, who is a professor of Literary Studies and also an expert on the analysis of pop lyrics, supported me through the whole process of this project and was very pleased with the outcome. In fact, it was him who encouraged me to find someone to publish my thesis because he felt that my research needed to get more coverage. I am very thankful for the support he showed me.
Q4 – In your opinion, how can Michael Jackson Studies be effective in schools and universities?
I think that it is crucial that we continue scrutinizing Jackson’s art academically. With more and more valuable research emerging, Jackson’s works cannot continue to be disregarded by academia. I thus believe that the study of Michael Jackson will find a way into the curricula of universities with the years to come. The foundation for this can already be laid in schools by introducing Jackson and his art to the younger generations. For instance, we can look at the cultural and historical significance of Jackson’s career; however, it is also important to show how MJ is present today and to talk about him with regard to current issues. One example I can think of right now is the ongoing debate about “fake news”: we could, for example, discuss the influence of the media on our perception of the world, or the concept of the objectivity of journalism by examining current pieces of news and comparing them to the articles about Jackson.
Q5 – Which subjects do you find, suit Michael Jackson Studies best?
I think that with Jackson the possibilities are endless: his lyrics could be discussed in poetry lessons; his music, dance choreographies and cover art could be explored in music or art lessons; his videos could be examined in lessons focusing on cinematography. With a bit of creativity, it would also be possible to analyze Jackson in science lessons, for instance by taking a look at the anti-gravity lean or the moonwalk.
Q6 – What are your feelings about the attempt to appropriate Jackson into academic circles now?
I am very pleased that research on Jackson is gradually being accepted in academia as he has shaped entire generations just like Elvis Presley and The Beatles. His cultural significance is uncontestable and must not be ignored.
Q7 – If you had the chance to meet and talk to Michael Jackson what three questions would you ask him?
- “Could you please take a look at those songs I have written? What do you think about them? How could we make them better?” – I’d really love to be involved in a songwriting process from the conception to the production of a song with the King of Pop. I wish I could see how Michael worked and how much dedication went into finishing a song with my own eyes.
- “How do you feel about the world?” – Michael wanted to make the world a better place and I am very curious about what he would have to say about where we stand now as humans.
- “Do you want to jam?”
In addition, I’d also love to know his opinion on my thesis.
Q8 – There is often a “low culture” stigma attached to studying Michael Jackson at a high academic level. How do you think this affects those who wish to complete research in Michael Jackson Studies?
The fact that studying Michael Jackson is often stigmatized as being “low culture” definitely keeps many academics from conducting research on Jackson. Even I was not sure about writing my thesis on Michael Jackson due to this “low culture” stigma: “would my university accept such a thesis?”, I asked myself. But then I thought: “Why is there so much research on The Beatles? Why should I not be able to write a thesis about Michael Jackson? Who decides what is ‘low culture’ and what is ‘high culture’ anyway?” Today I know that very often those two categories are very subjective, arbitrary and temporal anyway – what is considered as “low culture” today could be considered as “high culture” tomorrow.
Q9 – What, if any influence did Michael Jackson have on you? Professionally? Personally?
My view of Michael Jackson used to be negative and biased when I was a kid due to growing up with Michael Jackson in his “late” years when his image was tainted by media scandals and his art was overshadowed by the People v. Jackson Trial in 2005. Dealing with Michael Jackson in my adult years has taught me to question everything and not to swallow everything that is handed to me on a silver platter. His life has taught me to work harder than possible in order to achieve my goals. His music has taught me to write more dynamic, less stiff music. Last but not least, his dancing has inspired numerous failed attempts at doing the moonwalk.
Q10 – What do you think the legacy of Michael Jackson’s art is?
Love, compassion, healing, altruism, help, good deeds, making the world a better place, catharsis, dedication, hard work, experimenting, (self-)innovation, self-defense, …
Q11 – What do you think will be the view of Michael Jackson, in say a few hundred years?
His negative image will be forgotten and people will be able to focus on his art again. Today, too many people still see Michael Jackson through their shades of bias created by negative media reporting (although there has been a shift to a more nostalgic view of Michael after his passing). Future generations will see Michael Jackson without those filters and rediscover his music.
Q12 – Final thoughts: After you completed your thesis, do feel you want to conduct more research and write further on Michael Jackson, or are there other artists you have your eye on for future research?
I definitely want to read more on Michael Jackson, his life and his music, so my next research project might have something to do with Michael (particularly his lyrics again, which are ignored to a large extent by academics), as I think that there is still a lot to be discovered. On the other hand, I am also considering swimming into more uncharted waters and focusing on my passion for underground music. For example, I would love to analyze the lyrics and music of my favorite band Architects.
Thank you Andreas for taking the time to talk to us
Andreas Ardanic has completed a master’s degree in English and French language teaching at the University of Graz in Austria and is currently in his teacher training year. He is extremely interested in Literary Studies and dealt with various forms of anglophone and francophone literature. He has been a hobby guitarist and songwriter as well as an avid explorer of music for over ten years now.
Read Andreas Ardanic’s thesis here
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