Michael Jackson’s definitive record, “Thriller,” was released in 1982, when I was 14 years old. Teenagers all over the world went crazy for the record, but I didn’t. Why? Because I was all self-consciously wrapped up in the indie/new wave scene. I was pretty full of myself, as 14 year olds tend to be, and I thought MJ was way too “mainstream” to be of any interest. Although my friend BBK and I loved listening to early 70s Michael Jackson stuff as teenagers, for me, I always listened in a sort of affectedly ironic way. I loved “ABC,” but I loved it as hipster kitsch.
Fast forward 25 years. I still love music, but now I actually get the genius of “Thriller,” and when I listen to a young Michael Jackson sing “I Want You Back,” I listen in awe, as a grown-up and a mother – recognizing that Michael Jackson was a true, honest-to-goodness child prodigy – rather than listening as a cooler-than-thou adolescent.
What a tragic life. And if anyone has ever created a more perfect pop song than “Billie Jean,” I’m not sure I know of it.