03 July 2009

Pop goes the king

It would be far too easy to make a cheap joke at the demise of Michael Jackson (but then I never claimed to be expensive), but I think all those had made the rounds, via SMS, within about 5 minutes of his death being announced. Instead I prefer to concentrate on one of the unchallenged facts in the examination of his life - the King of Pop.

It's a curious nickname, but one repeated without question by all sections of the media (The Times's main headline the day after read: "Michael Jackson, King of Pop, dead at 50"). Not really a thing that sounds like it was born of affection - "The King", "The Boss", "The Godfather of Soul". A bit too much of a PR ring to it you might say. I'm also not sure it's really much of a moniker to strive for - who would want to be the king of "pop", a byword for artifice, superficiality, throwaway bubble-gum nonsense? It's not Soul, Jazz or The Blues.

That's probably because it was a PR fiction dreamed up by Jackson's cronies. Back in the day when journos and the public would hang on his every word, before he lost it completely, somewhere between "Bad" and "Dangerous", Jackson's PR team insisted the press referred to him as The King of Pop as the price for granting access. Every interview had a stipulated number of times it had to use this nickname - it was a deliberate ploy to implant the term in the public consciousness. To me this seems one of the more desperate acts of attention-seeking (even more than becoming a pop star in the first place), so insecure in your status, so needing of affirmation that you have to make up a nickname and demand people use it of you. That's even before you get to the fake noses, fake marriages and unsired children. It makes you wonder what lengths he would have gone to if he didn't have any talent.

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