Talking About The Sexuality In Michael Jackson’s Music And DancingFebruary 28, 2011
Music & Dance
Right On, October 1972
“When I say ‘love for singing,’ I hope that doesn’t sound corny or anything. Because I really mean it. Singing is one of the most important things in my life. It’s the way I’ve found to get all my deepest feelings across to the people I love.”
Rock With You
The original title for “Rock With You” was “I Want To Eat You Up,” but it was quickly changed to fit Jackson’s image.
Will.I.Am has said: “Michael Jackson told me what rock ‘n’ roll meant. He said, ‘Rock ‘n’ roll means having sex. That’s what they used to say in the 1950s.’”
Michael Jackson, Moonwalk
“Two of the biggest hits were “Off the Wall” and “Rock with You.” You know, so much up-tempo dance music is threatening, but I liked the coaxing, the gentleness, taking a shy girl and letting her shed her fears rather than forcing them out of her.”
Working Day And Night: “[It] is very autobiographical in a lot of ways, though I did stretch the point to playing the part like I was married to this person and she’s got me moving. But its not work like slavery. I love it, or I couldn’t have survived it this long.”
”I have all kinds of tapes and music people would probably never think were mine . I love Some Girls [by the Rolling Stones].”
It’s probably the nearest thing to a mean statement the man’s made. You wonder how someone so sweet and shy and childlike gets to be such a demon onstage.
“I just do it really. The sex thing is kind of spontaneous. It really creates itself, I think.”
So you don’t practice being sexy in front of the mirror?
“No! Once the music plays, it creates me. The instruments move me, through me, they control me. Sometimes I’m uncontrollable and it just happens – boom, boom, boom! – once it gets inside you.”
Quincy Jones, OTW-Bad
Quincy Jones says you can learn a lot about Michael through his lyrics. He describes Michael as a “truth machine.”
MJ, Thriller, 1983
“Of all the songs on the Thriller album I think I’m more happy about Billie Jean than any of them because there’s a lot of truth in the song.”
“Dancing is really showing your emotions through bodily movements,” Michael reveals. “When I dance, I really feel it and I just let my instincts take over.”
‘Billboard’ mag from July 21, 1984
How will Michael stand up to the pressures and temptations of a fast-lane world that has claimed so many victims?
For answers, you have to turn to the people around Michael. He has declared a moratorium on interviews. He feels he responds so openly to questions that he feels uncomfortable leaving himself to the whims and interpretations of writers and editors. He prefers to speak directly through his music.
Teen Beat, Summer 1984
“When I hit the stage it’s all of a sudden a ‘magic’ from somewhere that comes and the spirit just hits you, and you just lose control of yourself.”
Smooth Criminal, The Groaning Sequence, Moonwalker, 1988
What is the meaning of the section about 3/4 of the way through the long-form video of “Smooth Criminal” where the music stops, and MJ and the other dancers are making groaning and screaming noises as the music builds up to the chorus?
A video clip from behind the scenes during the making of “Smooth Criminal” shows Michael talking to the director on the set about the “groaning” scene. He explains that he wants the feeling to build and build until everyone’s voice reaches a climax. He says, “It’s gotta have that feeling, gotta have that emotion.” He shows the director how he wants the dancers to put more of their bodies into the scene.
Vince Patterson talking about how this scene came about,
At the very end of the film you saw a group from South Africa called LadySmith Black Mumbaso and the reason that they’re in that film is because, you know that really strange part in the middle of Smooth Criminal where everyone’s doing weird shit?
Well, what happened was… people kept appearing on the set all the time. Herme’s Pan (sic?) who was Fred Astaire’s choreographer appeared one day, Elizabeth Taylor appeared one day, Jimmy Stewart appeared one day, all these amazing people.
One day we were having lunch and these guys (Ladysmith) showed up on the set. They heard Michael was there and they wanted to meet him and they came on and I was talking to them and hanging out and they just started singing and I said, “Oh my god, why don’t you guys get behind the set.” Because we always do these little improvs, I do these improvs with Mike and the dancer’s before we start dancing.
So I said, “We’re gonna do an improv today,” and I started counting everyone off and start to breathe and start to move. Then I went behind the set and I said to the guy leading Ladysmith Black Mumbaso, “Okay, start to sing.” So he started to sing and this whole dance happened and when we saw it in dailies, we rolled cameras and went and saw it on dailies, and Mike flipped out and went “Oh my God, this is the coolest thing, I’ve never done anything like that in improvisation before, let’s work it into the film.”
But I’m sure for many of you seeing this group at the end you though, Who are they, what are they doing there? Actually, that’s what they were doing there. They were on the set that day.
“Everybody has many facets to them and I’m no different. When I’m in public, I often feel shy and reserved. Obviously, I feel differently away from the glare of cameras and staring people. My friends, my close associates, know there’s another Michael that I find it difficult to present in the outlandish “public” situations I often find myself in. It’s different when I’m onstage, however. When I perform, I lose myself. I’m in total control of that stage. I don’t think about anything. I know what I want to do from the moment I step out there and I love every minute of it. I’m actually relaxed onstage. Totally relaxed. It’s nice. I feel relaxed in the studio too. I know whether something feels right. If it doesn’t, I know how to fix it. Everything has to be in place and if it is you feel good, you feel fulfilled.”
Black or White, Panther Sequence John Landis, Rolling Stone, 1st March 1992
“He wanted it to be even more sexually explicit,” says Landis, adding that some of the dancing they shot was even more extreme. “It wasn’t so much what Michael was doing but the juxtaposition of simulated masturbation with the violence. And of course, the fact that it was Michael. I don’t know that we discussed his intention. It was simply, “I’d like to do this,” and me giving him what he wanted.”
Commentary About The Panther Sequence, Black or White, 1991
History repeats itself. Nijinsky danced the premier of the ballet of Debussy’s “Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun” and caused a scandal. The reason: in order to convey the awakening sensuality of the animal, he mock-masturbated with a scarf on stage. So, now, 80-odd years later, Michael Jackson tries to convey the untamed nature of the panther and once again we have a scandal.
Nijinsky and the scarf (Afternoon of a Faun, May 29 1912); reaction to Nijinsky in newspapers
Reaction to Black or White panther sequence, November 14 1991,
Dangerous deposition, 1993
Attorney: Have you ever used a theme of love is dangerous or a woman is dangerous or a specific woman is dangerous?
MJ: (Michael giggles) Using that word?
Attorney: Not the word necessarily but the theme.
MJ: Yes I’ve used it several times. A song I wrote called Dirty Diana which is about girls hanging backstage and things and another song I wrote called Billie Jean.
MJ, 2001 USA Today interview
Q: Do your religious beliefs conflict with the sexy nature of your music or dancing?
A: No. I sing about things that are loving, and if people interpret it as sexy, that’s up to them. I never use bad words like some of the rappers. I love and respect their work, but I think I have too much respect for parents and mothers and elderly people. If I did a song with bad words and saw an older lady in the audience, I’d cringe.
Q: But what about your trademark crotch-grabbing?
A: I started doing that with Bad. Martin Scorsese directed that short film in the subways of New York. I let the music tell me what to do. I remember him saying, “That was a great take! I want you to see it.” So we pushed playback, and I went “Aaaah!” I didn’t realize I was doing that. But then everyone else started doing that, and Madonna, too. But it’s not sexual at all.
And not only that, you have to work out all the camera angles. I direct and edit everything I do. Every shot you see is my shot. Let me tell you why I have to do it that way. I have five, no, six cameras. When you’re performing–and I don’t care what kind of performance you are giving–if you don’t capture it properly, the people will never see it.
It’s the most selfish medium in the world. You’re filming WHAT you want people to see, WHEN you want them to see it, HOW you want them to see it, what JUXTAPOSITION you want them to see. You’re creating the totality of the whole feeling of what’s being presented, in your angle and your shots.
‘Cause I know what I want to see. I know what I want to go to the audience. I know what I want to come back. I know the emotion that I felt when I performed it, and I try to recapture that same emotion when I cut and edit and direct.
Quincy Jones, Thriller 25, 2007
“Michael’s songs, even if it’s on a abstract base to me, were somehow always autobiographical, you know? It always felt that way of knowing him really well and the complexities in and out of his life. They always felt autobiographical even if it was something he was resisting. You know? It would come out in the song”
Ed Alonzo, magician discusses Dirty Diana for This Is It, 2009
For a splashy version of dirty diana, Jackson wanted a flaming bed with a pole-dancing aerialist “playing the part of the fire,” alonzo said. For the elaborately plotted stunt, jackson intended to be pursued around the bed by the “fire woman,” and each time she touched the stage, flames in the form of fluttering crimson fabric would shoot skyward. After she caught him, she would lash him to the bed’s tall posts with gold rope and a sheet of red fabric would billow before him, illuminating his struggling silhouette. When the sheet fell, the magic trick would be triggered – the woman would be revealed as the one ensnared, and jackson would materialise on a stage in the centre of the arena.”