by Joanna Orland
You’d have to have been in a pretty deep coma for the past 40 years to not know Michael Jackson and his music. What’s beautiful about MJ is that he had the widest reach of any modern artist. He broke genre barriers to reach across to fans that are interested in Indie, Folk, Urban, Pop, Punk; he has influenced everyone. He is the King of Pop. And even after his passing, he is still the reigning King of Pop and I can’t foresee anyone taking his place for a long long time.
THIS IS IT, the documentary of the preparation for his comeback staging of the same name hammers home this point. It is obvious from the rehearsal footage, planning talks and all the extra DVD special features that this would have been the greatest live show to have ever been staged. Combining 3D, world class dancing, visual effects, wardrobe, and Michael’s music and voice, this would have been hard to top.
What’s really heartbreaking about Michael’s death is that his fans never got to see this show. Instead of THIS IS IT being a great alternative to that, it actually leaves a bigger void as the fans can now see exactly how amazing this spectacle would have been and it hurts to think that Michael’s vision will never be realized for us to witness.
The film starts last April with the show’s very emotional dancers being interviewed about what it means to them to be in MJ’s comeback show. Then BAM. The pyro, the cinematic visuals, “lightman” crazy robotic suit, and there is MJ slowly revealed behind the costume. AGH! Cue screaming fans (if this weren’t just the rehearsal).
Unlike Whitney Houston’s crack-induced-vocal comeback recently, it looked like Michael Jackson’s talent was still intact. His vocals were spellbinding. His moves were a bit stiffer and robotic than we’ll remember, but the man was 50 years old and still in progress of training to get back in top form! Oh yeah.. and a total drug addict… So considering all that and the still awesome dance moves he was showing, older MJ can still dance the sequins socks off of most people half his age!
Lots of HEE HEEs, lots of OWs, and a select few HOOOOOOs…. this was ALL Michael Jackson. Against popular belief, the man was not incoherent, unintelligible or erratic. He had FULL creative control, even with show director Kenny Ortega by his side. It was the Michael Jackson show. He was a man who knew what he wanted and a man in charge. This was his creative vision and he was an artistic genius.
THIS IS IT blatantly showed that it was not only his children that he lived for, but his music. In the DVD’s special features, his acquaintances often said that the reason Michael chose this specific time for his comeback tour was because he was only 50 so still young enough to do what he does, but his kids were old enough to appreciate it. He appeared to have so much passion for the art that he loved. He was laughing, joking, dancing, singing, directing, choreographing all on great form.
The show itself was going to be the greatest live show to date. What made it so was the innovative approach Michael wanted to take with the creative direction. First of all, the visuals. A number of short films were shot to enhance the stage antics. Including the use of 3D. Thriller was to be a full 3D film that converged to the live stage action, combined with ghostly puppets that were to wander the aisles in the audience. Awesome. Also for Smooth Criminal, Michael shot loads of footage of himself inserted into old classic gangster films with some of Hollywood’s greats. Classic late 80’s style MJ.
The costumes were also key. The backup dancers had an array of great duds. Especially all the silly Thriller zombie outfits. But that aside, the special features section had “The Gloved One” which was all about MJ’s costumes that he was going to wear. A lot of the outfits were reminiscent of classic MJ outfits like the red Thriller jacket, the black-sequined Billy Jean jacket (apparently he originally stole it out of his mum Katherine’s wardrobe??) and some newer outfits based on his military style, and encompassing his love of Swarovski crystals. To the max.
One of the coolest costume ideas was for Billy Jean actually. Not just the homage to the classic black sequined jacket, but fashion designer Zaldy was working with Phillips’ light technology to recreate the classic Billy Jean video sidewalk lighting up, but on Michael’s wardrobe instead. SO COOL!
What’s a Michael Jackson show without world class dancing! Michael held auditions with the best dancers from all over the globe and had a personal hand in choosing the best to join him onstage. Amazing. What enhanced the dancing further was the classic Sound Effects that accompanied some key moves. Think back to the BAD video with all those WHOOSH sounds. ACE!
The voice. Michael’s voice. There has never been one like it. There were key moments in the set list that accounted for this and let Michael’s voice alone be the focus. These moments were beautiful. Even his colleagues were enamoured with his talent. The dancers would always be in the audience watching him up close when they got a break from the stage. The girl singing I Just Can’t Stop Loving You as a duet with Michael, obviously was in awe of him and looked like she was hypnotized by his vocals by the end of the song.
Man in the Mirror was the finale. The film ends on a freeze frame captioned “Michael Jackson King Of Pop Love Lives Forever”. Roll Credits.
Either I zoned, or we’re missing Heal The World and Bad in this? Oh wait.. here we go. After THIS IS IT in the credits, they play the recorded track of Heal the World. Still no BAD tho. Hmm….
After all the spectacle, his songs and voice are so good that I would have been more than happy to have sat through a minimal acoustic gig with Michael singing his tunes raw. He was that much of a natural talent. Even though that’s the case, I must say that This Is It would have been the most amazing show of all time. R.I.P. Michael.