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Home » Culture and Criticism

The bitter end

Submitted by on June 25, 2009 – 11:00 PM63 Comments

jacksonIt all happened very fast — within a couple years of the Motown special. But even at the time of the "Motown 25" moonwalk, fame was old hat to Michael Jackson. He hadn't even turned 25 himself, but he'd been a star for more than half his life. He was given the nickname the "King of Pop" — a spin on Elvis Presley's status as "the King of Rock 'n' Roll" — and few questioned the moniker.

But, as the showbiz saying has it, when you're on top of the world, there's nowhere to go but down.

— "Michael Jackson, pop music legend, dead at 50,"

I used to have a crush on Michael Jackson. For my eleventh birthday, Troop got me the Off The Wall album on cassette, and throughout the evening, my whole sleepover party took breaks from such important business as gorging on candy and painting our nails to bug out to "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" on my parents' ancient 30-pound cassette deck. Jackson looked so foxy on the cover: cool, in control, ready to dance and then have a nice quiet talk about horses. Tween-nip, he was.

Almost everyone has a story like this about their relationship with Michael Jackson, at least one story like this, and not just "everyone in the Tomato Nation readership." Everyone in the world. Girls' Bike Club jokes aside, it will take a few days for all of us to sift through our histories with Michael Jackson and figure out just how large he loomed for all of us, culturally; whether we can separate his work from his celebrity, the latter putting him in some exclusive company (Elvis, Princess Di, Babe Ruth), and whether we should; what a superstar forged in radio and MTV meant in a blog-and-Twitter world. And his face, how to make sense of that face — "those faces," really, each one of them instantly recognizable.

Mr. Stupidhead and I somehow found ourselves discussing Jackson a few weeks ago over a couple of pints. I said then that, as icky as Jackson usually made me feel and as much as I couldn't foresee a normal life for his kids, mostly he made me sad — that, really, he never had a chance at learning how to relate to other people normally, that he looked like an anorexic fortune-teller with doll hair, on purpose, still wearing those military-inspired jackets from his heyday that hung on him like he grabbed them off a rack at TJ Maxx without trying them on. And of course he must have known what we said about him, about the tawdriness that couldn't even manage a southern-gothic type of grandeur, although I suppose his collapsing nose is a sort of equivalent to the family manse taken over by mildew and vines.

Imagine existing in that funhouse body for ten minutes, living with the irreclaimable warping, knowing that you're a part of history, and doomed. I don't apologize for liking his music, or excuse anything else he did, but I have to wonder what the autopsy will say about his heart, and if it just broke, in the end.

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  • Luna says:

    Thanks,Sars. You always hit the nail on the head.

  • Amanda says:

    You always say what I'm thinking way better than I could. Thanks for that.

  • Amie says:

    I agree with Luna. Sars, you always get it.

  • JenK says:

    Lovely little tribute here, Sars. I can remember singing along to Thriller with my parents' record player every Halloween, and in sixth grade I even put it on cassette and took to school for my teacher to play. And then I remember sitting in my living room when he had the video on TV…oh, what was it? When he was jumping around on cars and there was a jaguar stalking around and he kept grabbing himself? My parents were horrified by the crotch-grabbing and dried to redirect my attention whenever his hand wandered down south. (Not that I was that young, but it just wasn't what they expected to see.)

    Not that I would wish death on anyone, and I know that he was young…but when I heard the news, it was almost like a relief. His life was just such a mess over the last five or ten years. He just seemed…sad. I know that the smiles celebs flash at the camera don't necessarily mean that they have happy, well-adjusted lives, but Michael just sort of quit trying even to fake it there at the end. He was an incredibly talented young man and a huge part of musical and pop history, but where he ended up in life…it's hard to imagine that he had any kind of peace or joy these last few years.

    Thanks, Michael, for the good things you gave to the world.

  • rayvyn2k says:

    Sars, I had a picture of Michael Jackson, age about 11, from Tiger Beat magazine, taped to my bedroom wall alongside Donny Osmond, David Cassidy and Bobby Sherman. I loved the Jackson 5, and when Michael had his solo success, I loved him all over again.

    I didn't know what to think about what he did to his body…it seemed to me like a cry for help…but as I said to hubby earlier tonight…like Elvis, who would ever tell MJ he needed help? And he did need help…

    I've felt sorry for him more than anything in the last few years. It didn't seem like he had any real friends in spite of being surrounded by people. If only someone had been brave enough to tell him some of the things he was doing were NOT alright.

    Such a waste.

    At lease now, he finally has peace.

  • Kristina says:

    I didn't realize I would have this reaction, but I find it equally painful to see the footage of him as a kid, knowing what he was going through, and what he would turn into, as it is to see the footage of him looking like your rather brilliantly accurate description of him as an "anorexic fortune-teller with doll hair." Both versions are just so heartbreaking in their own way. You manage to put the most difficult things into words and this is no exception.

  • penthilisea says:

    I suspect his heart broke a long long time ago and we're just now seeing the crumbling of the remnants of his genius.

  • Alexis Lennon says:

    Thanks for this. It helps make sense of how I feel about it, in a way. Didn't think much of him as a person, in the end, but his (young!)passing kind of makes me feel like the door to my childhood has shut for good, and I can't get it back. Both strange and sad.

  • meltina says:

    I hope wherever he is now, he is not longer hating himself and struggling with what happened. I'm being wholly serious here.

    I never really was a fan, I guess I was just young enough not to notice him until after Thriller. But by that token, I was never repulsed by him either, even at his lowest point (I believe that was when he collapsed when faced with going to court over yet one more child abuse scandal in 2005). I don't know, I saw him as someone who hated himself so much that he had to erase everything that made him look like himself, and even after that he probably was never happy with what he looked like. What sadness and tragedy, just that part.

    The other day while driving around I heard "I'll Be There" on the radio, and it inexplicably made me sad. Maybe it was the lyrics, maybe it was just the thought that not everybody had that. I hope someone was there to make him feel loved in his last moments. Maybe not, though. He lost so much to the circus that was his life that I wouldn't be surprised if even his loved ones had to go through bodyguards and barricades just to get into the hospital.

    I think I was trying to figure out if MJ was already lead singer of the Jackson Five by that point. And then I was like "Yeah, that's clearly MJ. Man, he was barely a teenager, and he was already awesome". Maybe the parallels of his life and to Elvis' will help him from here on after. Hardly anyone remembers Elvis's last years these days, the ones during which he was lost to every excess and he had similarly faded. They remember his at his best. Let's hope that time will be similarly kind to Michael Jackson.

  • Todd K says:

    @Sars: "(M)ostly he made me sad — that, really, he never had a chance at learning how to relate to other people normally."

    My sentiments exactly. A sad, caged, damaged little boy who pretty much remained that into middle age — only the body around him changed (often horrifically, above the neck). Kind of a male/pop version of the fragile, stunted Barbara Jean character in the film Nashville, but more disturbing and lurid in the details. I was sad for him a long time before today. Still…a phenomenal natural talent of the kind we're lucky to get a few times in a generation in any popular art form, so the music will endure. As I was saying to a friend, the challenge is to try to separate the best of the music from the queasiness that comes with the bio.

  • Ron says:

    Local talk radio guy here in San Diego said "We'll be playing the 'Where were you when you heard that Michael Jackson died?' game even more than we did for John Lennon or Elvis Presley. This is much bigger." Maybe it's a generational thing (I'm 54), but as sad as this is, I have a hard time believing that. Is it really even close?

  • Isabel says:

    I perked up, if you could call it that, when I saw the TN notice on my RSS reader and realized what the post was about, because I knew you'd have exactly the words the situation called for, and you didn't disappoint. Thanks for the wisdom.

  • JeniMull says:

    Very well said – thanks. As soon as I got home, I started playing "Don't Stop Till You Get Enough" on my iPod. And we danced.

    That poor guy was just so tragic, in so many ways. But wow – what a legacy of music he leaves. One of the local stations played a 30-minute mix of various MJ tunes, and I was stunned to really experience so much great music together like that.

    I hope he has peace now.

  • Chrissy says:

    Ron, I agree with you. I think the difference between Michael Jackson and John Lennon/Elvis Presley is that they were both still in the game with their music and careers when they passed away. Michael Jackson, while a huge music icon, had not for the past 5-10 years really been known for anything other than his crazy, sad life outside of this music.

    I think it will be interesting to see, in the next couple of weeks, how he will be remembered and if it will be possible to remember and acknowledge his contribution to music separate from his plastic surgery/molestation charges/money issues/masking wearing persona. In a way I hope that it is possible, but I'm not sure if its fair to celebrate only a part from the whole.

    I hope that he has finally found peace and wish his family and children the best.

  • B says:

    I've been very much !!! about this till now. Reading your post and the comments brought a lump to my throat and a tear to my eye. Thank you.

  • Kelsey says:

    I am really glad you wrote this up; it helps me articulate a lot of what I'd been thinking. Oddly enough, I was at UCLA (right by the med center where Jackson died) right at the moment he died, and it was incredibly surreal: lots of paparazzi helicopters just hovering over the hospital, people getting out of their cars and walking over to the med center and sobbing, a whole student gym full of people who'd stopped riding the bikes and were glued to CNN…it was all sort of astonishing.

  • Karen A says:

    "…and if it just broke, in the end."

    Ok, that just made me tear up a little. I've never been an obsessive fan or anything, but Black or White was the first album (on cassette!) I ever bought. I too always felt kind of bad for him; even during the child abuse trials, I never thought he seemed malevolent in any way, just misguided.

  • FloridaErin says:

    Really beautiful, Sars.

  • Linda says:

    @Ron: I think it may be. It's not just the talent; it's the fact that he was, for a REALLY LONG TIME, almost indisputably the most famous person on Earth. There are a lot of people for whom the entire era of the mid-'80s is essentially defined by the unimaginable dominance of Michael Jackson. When you combine that with the fact that he was basically the first black artist to get any kind of play on MTV — and the fact that there's a decent argument that he was the most important single figure in the rise of MTV — you get a situation where, irrespective of actual merit, somebody just looms so large that it feels like a *huge* cultural moment. I am just now reaching the point where I see the words "Michael Jackson died" and don't have that "WHAT?" reaction just a little. And that's even after watching the great big news organization I work for go through the process of reporting it. When I first started writing about it yesterday afternoon, I sort of couldn't believe it was real; I couldn't believe I was sitting down to write about Michael Jackson being dead.

    So I don't think anybody can know for sure how a guy will be remembered until he's being remembered with a little more distance, but is there a good chance that this is going to feel like Elvis or John Lennon to a lot of people? I think there is.

  • McKenzie says:

    Aptly put, Sars. It also made me realize – the first cassette and the first cd I ever owned were both Michael Jackson. The Thriller tape and the music video were my FAVORITES as a kid.

    I was a toddler when I first saw the music video and my mom tells me that the wolf transformation in the beginning scared me but I danced along to the rest. (Sort of makes you wonder what my parents were thinking – hehe) I had a Michael Jackson doll in elementary school – complete with sparkly socks and one glove. Love! My dog chewed it's legs off or I'd still have it today.

    For Christmas during 4th grade I got the Dangerous album on CD – for my brand spankin' new cd player boom box. hehe I didn't get all the adult themes but I loved dancing to it.

    My interest in his music lessened as I got older and he got weirder but I always watched with interest and cringed. He was such a broken man. I hope now he has some peace.

  • It is such a great loss that a man with great talent like Michael Jackson dies. RIP King of POP

  • Ash says:

    Thanks Sars. My feelings have found a voice in your words.

  • LA says:

    Nicely said. You captured the conflict I think most of our generation is feeling.

  • Rachel says:

    I'm still trying to figure this all out too. Thriller was the first record I ever remember having (as it was with so many people my age), and I vividly remember watching the Thriller video premiere on MTV.

    And whatever MJ became in later years, the fact still remains that he could sing, dance, write, produce, and entertain better than almost anyone out there.

    He was a major superstar from the time he was about 9. So he never really had a time in his life where he could just walk down the street as Mike. He has always been MICHAEL JACKSON, and that's sad. He never got a chance to learn to be normal. Even in the later years, with all the legal stuff, you just wanted to shake him and say "knock it off! Act normal, dammit!" But he never learned to do that. He never had 'normal.'

    I was watching some of the Dateline thing (world record for speed-editing, I think) and I forget who said it but someone remarked that all the plastic surgery could have been a way for MJ to eradicate his dad from his life. Whoever it was said that everytime MJ looked in a mirror and saw Joe staring back at him, it made him want to get as far away from that as possible. It's sad what parents can do to their kids.

    His funeral should be interesting, and after that, I hope we can let him lie.

  • Lauren says:

    What Luna said. Pitch perfect as you always are. Thank you.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    The Elvis comparison is actually probably apt, in that, yes, Elvis was touring, if you can call it that, and was making the gesture of going into the studio occasionally, but for the last few years there with him, it was increasingly and sadly about maintenance of his drug addiction. I was 4 when he passed and I have no memory of any perceptions of the event at the time, but I am ashamed to say that I've read many many Elvis bios, and to call him relevant musically past, say, '71 is not really true. He'd become this thing that people averted their eyes from.

    John Lennon, I don't know if it's analogous, but my perceptions of the last quarter of 1980 are tangled up with other stuff that may not translate.

    @Linda: "unimaginable dominance" is exactly it, and he dominated from so many angles — the music, the dancing, the style. (Y'all go read Linda's obit at Monkey See: /06/about_michael_jackson_1.html. Everything I forgot to say, she covers.)

  • Never been a fan (I was _maybe_ a little young when Thriller came out – although I remember being scared to death of going over to my next-door neighbor's house after dark because of it – and have just never been into the childhood "craze"-es), but I've always been surprised with how together and alert he seems in his music videos compared to the rest of the time (I'm also always surprised with how good the music is).

    Maybe music video life was the only "real" life for him.

  • La BellaDonna says:

    It sounds strange, but I was actually happy for him, when I heard. He went quietly and quickly, not expecting it. He was looking forward to a huge tour, starting in the UK, believing that his life was in an upswing. After a difficult, awful life (I don't care how rich and famous he was, it was an awful life – he was so sad, and it was absolutely visible), he has some peace. My God, he has peace and privacy. It's not that I wished him dead, far from it, but it seems to me as if there was much worse that happened to him in his life. Whatever else happened, I always thought he spent so much time with kids because he was trying to find his own childhood. His normal emotional and psychological development stopped at five – the age he was when he was first put on stage.

    He went without tubes, without photographers hanging over him. He went with a dignity seldom granted him when he was alive. R.I.P., Michael, together with the other icons you totally overshadowed: R.I.P., Farrah, and R.I.P., Ed McMahon.

  • Jaybird says:

    One of the saddest things about MJ's death–and that of Elvis–is that we're left with the memories of them as self-parodies, and that ain't right. (And I'm not purporting to speak for anyone else, here.) Each had his heyday, and each fell from grace, perhaps inevitably.

    Back in my teens, when I had an inexplicable crush on the long-deceased James Dean, I used to wonder why or how anyone could think that dying young was so glamorous. It's easier to understand now. This is not to say that MJ or anyone else "should have" died young; it's sad when anyone dies. But there's a huge difference between, say, the persona of someone like James Dean or River Phoenix, who never saw 30, who never grayed or wrinkled or paunched, much less endured accusations of pedophilia, and…well, this.

    I hope this doesn't come off sounding disrespectful of the dead or anything. It isn't meant that way at all.

  • Margaret in CO says:

    He's always made me wonder about the nature of talent & fame…must there always be a sacrifice? Can someone be famous & talented & truly happy? Do the personal demons drive the talent, seek the fame? I'm glad I'll never know…

    (RIP, Mr. Jackson. Say "Hey" to Farrah & Ed for me.)
    Been a helluva week, celebrity-wise.

  • Chris says:

    Sars, your memorial posts are always amazing. This one is no different. Thanks, for saying it when the rest of us can't find the words.

  • Deirdre says:

    The nicest comment I've seen today was "God's choir just got a boost."

    I don't think this is bigger than Elvis or Lennon, but equally big, in terms of a pop culture moment? Yes.

    I agree that the Elvis comparison is particularly apt: both he and MJ had an overwhelming influence on the music that came after them, but had pretty much lost it by the time they died. Lennon's death, leaving aside the horror of how it happened, was in a sense bigger, because one wonders how the music and politics of the 80s might have been different had he still been around. Maybe it all would have played out the same, but I'd like to believe not.

    Anyway. I was not a huge fan of Jackson's, but I still think the "Thriller" video is the best example of the art form ever made, and I definitely feel like a little part of my youth is gone forever.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    I often wondered, about both of them, how things would have gone if one influential person in their lives had sat them down at some point, maybe in their twenties, and said, "Look, guy: you need to get your shit in order, and don't try to bribe me with a car to avoid this conversation." I think that, past a certain point in fame that huge, it's no longer possible to threaten them with turning your back on them, because they'll find someone else, but I have wondered about that, if those situations could have been…re-railed somehow, at some point.

    Thanks for the kind words, everyone. I tried to hustle that piece up ASAP so I wouldn't overthink it; there's just so much STUFF, as Linda's fine piece said, that it's easy to just sit in front of the story all, "I…don't even know where to start."

  • Kristina says:

    I think that MJ's death is just giving everyone a chance to publicly mourn the little kid who was basically worked to within an inch of his sanity for his family's gain. But I agree with La Bella Donna, wholeheartedly – his death makes me glad that I don't believe in heaven, because I cannot imagine an afterlife other than simply non-being that would…qualify, I guess, as being a "heaven" for him.

  • This was beautifully written – thank you. MJ was a pioneer and an incredibly messed-up human being. I hope he is at peace.

  • Emerson says:

    Thinking about Michael Jackson makes me think of the complicated ways music gets to us–
    When I was five, I was mouthing the Vincent Price speaking part of “Thriller” and making scary faces at myself in the mirror. It was playing off my mother’s cassette. And everyone I knew was listening to it too.

    Then someone came up with oldies stations, and Jackson 5 stuff was playing on the radio station I listened to all the time. I think that the sample used in the song “OPP” probably got to me before I realized there was an original, though. And the Mariah Carey version of “I’ll Be There” beat the original, too. I had to grow up to realize how good the original music was: “OH, baby, I was blind to let you go! (Letyougobaby!)” Maybe, like Tina Turner, he was actually terribly unhappy while he was singing these things, but they’re just so great.

    Probably around the same time, or shortly afterwards, a very different MJ brought out the “Black or White” video, and it had to have premiered on network tv, because we didn’t have cable. Again, everyone watched it and talked about it, but I only saw it multiple times after the first one because my friend and I watched MTV at her house. Things were starting to get less…universal.

    And then the Internet.

    Michael Jackson had a great ability to adapt and be a star within certain limits, but there are some changes you just can’t see coming. I wish MJ could have used his immense and proven talent to come up with something new and innovative using today’s delivery modes, animation, etc. And his immense ego to come back in a way that was not self-parody, which, God knows, we have had enough of.

  • RJ says:

    @Jaybird – "One of the saddest things about MJ's death–and that of Elvis–is that we're left with the memories of them as self-parodies, and that ain't right. (And I'm not purporting to speak for anyone else, here.) Each had his heyday, and each fell from grace, perhaps inevitably."

    I agree with you completely. I think in large part, their "falls from grace" was significantly accelerated by the people around them (enablers, users, leeches, etc.). Elvis was long before me, but Michael Jackson – I was 7 when everywhere you went, leather pants, zippered jackets and single, sequinned gloves were in the stores. I think my all-time favorite song of his will always be "Billie Jean."

    I can't get over the photos, the way he changed from such a good-looking young man to someone who actually looked like a wax version of himself. I can't imagine living like that. At least now, he's at peace, and he leaves behind an incomparable musical legacy.

  • attica says:

    It always struck me that Jackson maintained a career as an adult in a manner that Donny Osmond could not. I mean, they were of equal draw back when they were kids (although the J5 were of a higher musical caliber), but DO committed the cardinal sin of puberty — his voice changed. MJ's did not; his record-selling career could continue! That child's voice, that showbiz instinct, was both his blessing and his curse.

    I think he was given credit for pop instinct largely due his producers Rod Templeton and Quincy Jones, and when he outgrew the discipline they imposed, the quality of his output fell and fell fast. That he managed to wring a few more hits out the formula wasn't to his credit; it's just how that goes when you're that popular.

    I can't even imagine what's to become of his children. I hope they get the stability he had always been denied.

  • Emerson says:

    I also agree with Rachel here:

    His funeral should be interesting, and after that, I hope we can let him lie.

  • Princess Leah says:

    The biggest price of fame is the loss of anyone willing to say 'no' to you.

    Sars, your decision to not overthink this piece has resulted in simple perfect.

  • Judi says:

    Thank you for writing this.

  • Anlyn says:

    I think Jamie Poniewozik encapsulates my feelings best with his twitter remark:

    "Never an MJ fan, didn't own any albums. Yet suddenly find I have all these personal memories connected to his music. That = stardom."

    I can't think of the '80s, especially early '80s, without thinking of Michael Jackson. I remember my friends and I trying to walk the moonwalk, and using him in the fortune-telling MASH game (Mansion/Apt/Shack/House, for those who don't know). He was one of the ones we'd list as "who will you marry", along with Lionel Ritchie. He is iconic. Say Michael Jackson, and everyone knows immediately who you mean.

    Like Poniewozik, I'm not a fan, and I personally never listened to or cared about his music, but boy do I have a lot of personal memories connected to him.

  • Amy says:

    When I was in about 6th/7th grade I wanted to marry Michael Jackson and Emmanual Lewis would be our son. Even though EL and I are about the same age. And yes, in the later years he made me feel icked out with the whole alleged child molestation charges and his having kids that wear masks… but that doesn't detract that a true entertainer has left the world.

  • Vic Mayer says:

    Yep…the king of Pop is gone….

    Good memories:

    I remember being 11 years old in 1992 when my parents were getting divorced. It was a pretty bad process for my mother, my younger brother (8 years old) and my self. We had no money and pretty much had to eat and survive with what ever we could. The big news in town (Mexico City) was that Michael Jackson was going to have a couple o huge concerts in the (Estadio Azteca) Aztec Stadium (150,000 people capacity). I had told my mom that it was only a dream for me to attend this concert; understanding the harsh economical situation we were going through.

    After a couple of weeks of coping with the situation I will never forget the day my mom surprised us with those 3 tickets to Michael Jackson’s concert. She had pawned her little jewelry to get those tickets for us. And what can I say; it’s the best Freaking concert I have attended in my life. Through the concert I could only think on how spectacular the show was. So, I kind of remember Michael Jackson as the person who cheered me up through my parents divorce and kept me going through rough times.

  • Lon says:

    Perfect Sars, just perfect. I was never much of a fan, but I remember him in "The Wiz" and on TV as part of the Jackson 5. He was cute and talented, how he ended up is indeed sad.

  • JenV says:

    The thing that really breaks my heart about MJ was that never in his entire life, not even as a *child*, did he have anyone who was an advocate for what was best for Mike, the person–which was very different from, and probably often at odds with, what was best for Michael Jackson's Superstar Career.

    Andrew Sullivan wrote a very moving and sad memorial that I think is spot on:

  • jive turkey says:

    So beautiful, Sars – especially the last paragraph. I've enjoyed reading everyone else's comments as well. I felt a lot like La BellaDonna up there when I heard the news: kind of relieved. I love rocking out to all of his Jackson 5 stuff, but it always makes me feel so sad to think of that enormously talented little boy and the 3-ring circus of a life he had ahead of him.

  • Todd K says:

    You have to have been just old enough and just young enough in 1983-84 to have a sense of how big Jackson was at his peak, and how widely loved. There already were jokes then about some of his mannerisms and eccentricities (even earlier, before Thriller, Eddie Murphy had poked fun at Jackson's effeminacy in a famous concert routine, including a pitch-perfect imitation of "She's Out Of My Life"). But he was as close as we have come since The Beatles to a great consensus figure in pop music. *Everybody* seemed to have Thriller; everything he said or did was news.

    So, I do think the Lennon/Elvis comparisons are appropriate. They were all iconic, instantly recognizable figures at their respective deaths, but all three were years past their point of being considered part of the musical vanguard. Elvis has already been discussed. Lennon had just released a comeback album after several years of retirement and domesticity (preceded by a few years of completists-only mediocrity), but Double Fantasy only became a sensation posthumously. Several critical pans were reportedly withdrawn after his shooting.

  • Pupkiss says:

    Perhaps this is overly profane, but:

    I imagine God lifting up His robes so that His ankles show, delightedly saying, "let's do it again!" while busting out a moonwalk across heaven's floor, while MJ glides along next to him.

    Hope they're both having fun.

  • Kelly says:

    Remember back in '84 or so, the whole "who's cooler, MJ or Prince?" debate that would rage on the playground? I was always Team Prince, but I could sing every song on Thriller if I needed to, to this day.

    I think that when you hit a certain level of fame, reality is the first casualty. And without the grounding of influence of people who truly have your best interests at heart, I think fame warps you something fierce.

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