Monday, Sep 26, 2022

Why I am deleting Michael Jackson’s playlist

I am removing every Michael Jackson song from my electronic devices. It just does not seem right any more after what has come to light in Leaving Neverland. The four-hour documentary has literally been the last straw that has broken the back of this camel that was Michael Jackson’s fan.

Michael Jackson’s music partially blinded us to what he might have really been. (AP Photo/Suzanne Plunkett)

Let me get a few points clear at the very outset:

  • I love Michael Jackson’s music. In musical terms, the man is a legend
  • I have every single song that he sang on multiple devices, ranging from the Pixel 3 XL to an iPod Classic to an archaic Walkman (yes, it still works)
  • I was one of his fiercest supporters when he was first accused of child abuse in the 1990s
  • He has not yet been found officially guilty of any misconduct

Got that?

Right, well, in spite of all that, I am removing every Michael Jackson song from my electronic devices. It just does not seem right any more after what has come to light in Leaving Neverland. Yes, I do accept that Jackson’s defenders have a point when they say that those speaking against him (Wade Robson and James Safechuck) in the controversial documentary actually defended him in earlier scandals, and that Michael Jackson has not yet been actually found legally guilty of sexual misconduct.

But the stark fact is that the four-hour documentary has literally been the last straw that has broken the back of this camel that was Michael Jackson’s fan. Of course, this will simply raise that oft-asked question of should an artist’s art be kept separate from their personal life? Or if it is all right to praise a person’s work even if he is suspected of being an absolute jerk in other aspects of his or her life?

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I am not sure I know the answer. What I do, however, know is that a lot of Michael Jackson’s fans were increasingly suspicious of the behaviour of their hero ever since the first allegations of child molestation surfaced against him in the nineties. Yes, that storm blew over. But its revelations left many of us feeling very uncomfortable indeed. But then they often got overshadowed by the man’s work.

Those performances. Those songs. Those videos.

At his apogee when he recorded Thriller, Jackson was seen as a child prodigy who had grown into this incredibly gifted singer and dancer. He was one of those rare artists who was a performer in every sense of the word and seemed a little reclusive and shy but not abnormal. Rumours of his eccentricity however began to surface in the mid-eighties, not least when he surfaced looking several shades fairer in Bad, his 1987 album. And these only kept getting worse, from hearing about his sleeping in a special tent to having a house with all sorts of artefacts and toys. And yes, his tendency to being seen with very young children also began to be noticed, as was his increasing penchant for grabbing his crotch (something that was not very evident in his younger years).

Jackson hit back very hard at his critics, even writing songs (Leave Me Alone, Tabloid Junkie), projecting himself as someone whose only fault was being different because of which he was being misunderstood. It certainly helped him create this image of an eccentric genius capable of brilliant performances.

Those performances. Those songs. Those videos.


They certainly made many of us turn a blind eye to red flags that kept coming up. To acts that we would have considered well-nigh unforgivable from other people. When the allegations of child abuse first surfaced, Jackson admitted to spending a lot of time with children, playing with them, and even sleeping with them and insisting that nothing out of the ordinary happened – he was just a person who never had a childhood of his own trying to rediscover what it was to be a child. The best way to do it would be with children, wouldn’t it?

Would we have believed it from any other person? I am not so sure. Imagine a Hollywood actor saying the same. Or a politician. Or a celebrity writer. But with Jackson, we swallowed the logic, hook, line and sinker. The man had cultivated an image of innocent eccentricity, and had used his undeniable musical and theatrical talent to almost justify it.

Those performances. Those songs. Those videos.

Would we have trusted Michael Jackson’s version of events without them? Would we have been as patient and as understanding if he had just been another person living in a flat, but sleeping with children (and I use that term in its purest sense, with no sexual connotations) that were not his own? Would you easily accept such a person if he was living in your neighbourhood? Would we have treated Michael Jackson the way we would have treated anyone else, but for…

Those performances. Those songs. Those videos.


I do not know about you, but I certainly know that Jackson the artist overwhelmed Jackson the man, to the extent that his talent robbed us of our objectivity when it came to seeing him. I am not saying that he was guilty or otherwise – that is something we might never discover. But there is no doubt that his art – marvellous and magical though it was – made us turn a blind eye to a side that was potentially destructive. I am not sure we gave those who accused him a fair hearing, simply because we were so dazzled by our hero.

Michael Jackson was a great artist. But he was also a human being. And it was his artistic genius that made us forget that. It was the same genius that made us clutch at straws to defend him, to believe notions and arguments that we would have called half-baked from anyone else. Because his music partially blinded us to what he might have really been.

Was he a monster? Or just a misguided eccentric? I do not know. And I don’t think we will ever know, but there is no doubting the fact that we could have made him far more answerable to us than we did. We needed to. Because he was a powerful person. A person whose conduct could influence people. A person who needed to be a role model, simply because so many chose to follow him. Instead, we, his fans and followers, never really questioned him. We never hauled him up in the manner in which many of those accused in the #MeToo scandal have been. Call it loyalty. Call it blind faith. But would he have behaved in the manner he did – from those strange marriages to dangling babies from balconies – if he did not know he had the following of millions? All blindsided by…

Those performances. Those songs. Those videos.

Which is why I am deleting his playlists from my devices. This is not a vote in favour of those who accused him of molestation and a host of other things. Jackson remains innocent until proven guilty. It is my attempt to clear my mind. To regain a level of objectivity.

You were a Thriller, Michael. But you might have been really Bad. And that makes you Dangerous.

I will leave you alone for a while.


And remind myself that being a genius does not exempt anyone from being human.

First published on: 10-03-2019 at 06:59:07 pm
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