The moment -- pop culture. Popular culture has shoved Obamaism, uprisings, wars, health care and gainful employment out of the public's consciousness and off the airwaves. Pop music. Popular music -- the poetic, lyrical and melodious spirit of pop culture. Pop culture is too readily critiqued as superficial and shallow. It is as if we cannot trust the great spirit and sentiments of the majority. One man embodies what I would term the deep power of pop culture/music as no other before him.I wanted to avoid writing anything else about the King of Pop. I didn't want my readers to think that I was taking the easy way out. However the extended "nowness" of this pop icon's death moment is powerful, pervasive and saturated with meaning. How does the King of Pop define this moment in time? What does his intercourse with mass culture mean? His fellow icon, Prince, offers this meaning through the experience of his song "Pop Life." Here's the hook:
Everybody needs a thrill
We all got a space 2 fill
Everybody can't be on top
But life it ain't real funky
Unless its got that pop
Prince draws us into the exciting, egalitarian, meritocratic and soulful promise of popular culture.
The King of Pop fulfils the promise of popular culture. Born into a black family of 11 in the steel town of Gary, Indiana. He never learned to read music nor play an instrument but still becomes one of the greatest forces in music industry history. Motown taught the brothers how to step in sync while they performed but God taught the King how to dance. The highbrow music and dance lessons of the higher classes -- music and dance lessons that his parents could not possibly afford because of America's tragic history of discrimination and the classism created by racism -- lacked soul and were much too carnal for one who was learning to walk on the moon.
Popular culture didn't guarantee him fame but it did guarantee him fun. Popular culture offers accessibility to the masses. Education, wealth and pedigree are not required to experience the promise of pop culture.
The King of Pop is a child of the Civil Rights era. Civil Rights are about access, opportunity and the leveling of inequality in society. Popular culture is the tidal wave that washes away the lines and sand castles of exclusive and elite cultural norms that only a few can enjoy. Popular music is about evolution.
He evolved from child prodigy; to teenage heartthrob; to grown man; into a living, breathing colorless icon. America is still a pigmentocracy however our most popular icon was not post-racial but trans-racial. He evolved into a being that transcended color.
His look began to confuse and frighten. His behavior became suspect. The pauses between albums became longer. He sold out 50 tour dates in minutes. He died the death of a pop icon -- mysterious and shocking. His global fandom is reignited. Rumor has it that seven persons have committed suicide because of his death. He is more popular dead than alive.
Surreal isn't it. So is this moment. So was he.