JACKO, THE HUMANITARIAN HACK-O
No one in the world of pop music has been given more opportunities to save himself, save his fans and, in fact, change the world than Michael Jackson. Despite all the accusations of pedophilia, baby-dangling, hobgoblin plastic surgery and overall subpar musical output, the King of Pop still receives an audience of millions every now and then. Two years ago it was in front of viewers of the MTV Awards, dancing with the boys in *Nsync, looking a bit barrel-chested but still exhibiting the moves that those white boys copped from him.
The most recent instance was at the Radio Music Awards last week, where, for seemingly no reason at all, Jackson was presented with a "Humanitarian Award" that was invented for him. Presenter Beyoncé Knowles said something of the singer's contributions to helping the world, but the created award came off as a parting gift from an industry that views the singer as a wash-up. Nonetheless, there he stood in front of millions, dressed as though he were the starting catcher for Captain EO's baseball team.
The "humanitarian" could have said anything, about the state of the world, about the industry that created him, the one that he helped expand around the globe, the one that is suffering immensely right now. Instead, he addressed the tragedies of Sept. 11, saying, "We will never forget," and dedicated his new song and video, "What More Can I Give," to lift the hope of "those who need it most." And his "heartfelt" sentiment was twice broken, not by tears, but by the pop star telling a fan that he, in fact, loved her more than she loved him. Then the world-premiere and probably only broadcast showing of the "What More Can I Give" video aired.
While images of fellow pop stars like Beyoncé, Celine Dion and Justin Timberlake faded in and out on the screen, lines that reeked of false sentiment and political ambiguity (benchmarks of Top 40 politics) were delivered by pop stars able to turn emotion on and off like they would a light, or a sump pump.
The most concrete statement came with the lines, "How many times can we turn our heads/ And pretend we cannot see/ Feeling the wounds of our broken earth/ We're one global family." These lines hint at an antiwar sentiment but are coated in so much feel-good Disney-movie schlock that they don't mean anything at all. Just like "We Are the World," the video's big sister, Jackson's latest doesn't say anything clearly, except "I, Michael Jackson, am a humanitarian."
After a crying Celine Dion thanked Jackson for writing "such a beautiful song," the film clip ended. The audience applauded. Jackson thanked God and Clear Channel (the entertainment mega-corporation that organized the event and owns more than 1,200 of the stations that gave Jacko no radio support for his latest album, Invincible.) Then he walked away, his fake award in hand, leaving the audience with nothing to talk about except how stupendously huge his cheekbones looked: "Do you think he got them done again?"
LIKE A STEEL BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATER
During the Portland stop of Simon & Garfunkel's reunion tour Sunday night, Art Garfunkel announced that he and Paul met when they were 6 years old, and that they were celebrating 50 years of friendship. Paul Simon then took the mic, strummed his guitar, and told the crowd that they actually met when they were 11 and were celebrating 47 years of arguing. Scripted stage banter? Maybe, but the capacity crowd at the Rose Garden loved it. Young and old alike filled the venue displaying peace signs and cell phones, and even a few tie-dyed T-shirts. The highlight of the duo's multimedia show was a collection of scenes from the 1967 film The Graduate, before the duo belted out "Mrs. Robinson" from the film's soundtrack. The Everly Brothers made a surprise guest appearance, coming out to sing a couple of songs with and without the headlining duo.